As the Corporation came into view a modest but enthusiastic crowd could be seen lining the wall, stemming from the disappointingly closed doors, most of the characters sporting shirts representing the symphonic world, some even choosing to don shirts highlighting their love for the bands who were lined up for this small festival celebrating the existence of stalwarts of the genre, Aonia.

As we entered the venue it soon became apparent that the day was to be lived out in the smaller of the 2 corporation rooms, a more intimate and cosy abode for the eager swell which had congregated inside the friendly venue

First up was Soul Shredder and as the band emerged, flanked by 2 video screens depicting their logo, they threw themselves into the set. The six strings were technical and competent with ‘Stu’ and ‘Tom’ exuding detail and charisma throughout the whole set. The sound at times became muddy in places and the precision and detail was lost in the abyss causing the mix and sound to appear chaotic to say the least. The set then picked up when they launched into ‘Fire And Ice’, with new vocalist Marina truly exhibiting her talents, there was even some movement in the crowd at this point. ‘Fire And Ice’ was the pinnacle of the set and unfortunately the mix didn’t seem to be able to keep up with Marinas vocal range at points, the solos didn’t seem to suffer the same fate though and they became the supporting structures of this short but robust set from the openers today

I first caught this next band when they joined Delain on the Femme Metal Festival at the Asylum in Birmingham, then a year later as they opened for Delain on their UK tour. I’ve also caught them when they have played the legendary Bloodstock Festival, so to say I was interested to catch Winter Storm again would be an understatement. When they launched onto stage it was obvious that the stage was a little sparse and it became apparent that the drum duties were being completed by the regular keyboardist and the vacant key duties being taken up by backing tracks. As much as I had been looking forward to these, I felt a little deflated during the set. The power and execution just didn’t seem as slick as on previous encounters. The vocals seemed out of the mix and seemed to be treading a different path to the rest of the band. The band opened us up to a new track during the set, one which we can expect off the new album that they have conjured up. As the set came to an end, I still felt that the band had have left something in the dressing room tonight and I will certainly try to grab a ticket to one of their next gigs as I’m keen to see if this was a one off, or something to expect forever more.

Elusion entered the fray next and really stepped it up the entertainment and professional factor. It was obvious from the start that these Belgians were all about the image being as important as the artistry on stage. Pre-set the guitarist was found at the side of the stage setting up his go pro, positioned solely on him, in order to film his entire set, and between the positioning of the camera, he took valuable time tending to his locks and repeatedly brushing his hair whilst posing in front of the gathered few. The vocals were powerful from the off and these were intertwined with some male vocals which was a shame as these seem to detract away from the intensity. There were boxes strategically placed at the front of the stage for the guitarists to perch upon in order to create the traditional metal poses whilst flamboyantly exhibiting their technical skills. The six strings were definitely worthy of a mention as they were in unison throughout the entire set and were clinical and mesmerising in their deliverance. The female vocals switched pace mid set and became guttural and growling, switching from the beauty and splendour to demonic and dirty with pure ease. ‘This Drive’ was then opened up to the venue and has a symphonic intro and then morphed into the heaviest track on show so far, flirting with beauty and darkness throughout. Elusion definitely grew into the set tonight and by the time their set time was over, they were natural and comfortable within the confines of the corporation and had set a very high bar for the forthcoming bands to meet.

White Raven Down came out to a swelled crowd and they entered with some swagger. Their hard rock brand was delivered with technicality and precision which seemed to propel the frontman to command the stage as if he was born on this very spot in Sheffield. The vocals were crisp and clear and delivered with obvious passion and belief. The drums were an absolute trojan tonight and these were bolstered by both the four and six strings. Mid set the bass suffered an injury to one of its four limbs and saw the puppet master disappear from the stage in order to retrieve the substitute instrument. Once the bass was back in action, the band took off from where they broke and ended the set with a flourish and energy.

Fyre Sky probably had the most charisma and obvious imagery tonight. The bassist was adorned in crazy and artistic corpse paint, whilst the guitarist was more measured and clinical with her face paint. The singer was stage centre and as eccentric as the others in the band, yet in a more classic, understated style. The anthems being exposed to us tonight were comprehensive and robust and each layered in their styles. Each member of the band were more than competent and it’s obvious that each was loving every second of sharing their craft and art with us. The mix was good and each track was robust and delicate in the deliverance, yet they hit your timpani’s like a sledgehammer wrecking through the walls of a derelict mansion.

Lesbian Bed Death are auditioning for guitarists the following week so the lead guitars are all on a backing track which the bands mate Steve put together in a monumental effort in the run up to the gig. The band were therefore working as a 3 piece tonight with a charismatic frontwoman who literally morphs from one character to another during the set tonight, right in front of our eyes. The band were reminiscent of an 80’s band tonight and unfortunately this wasn’t executed with any degree of style. The crowd could be seen to be diluting during the set and this was in part to the confused and woeful sounds resonating from the speakers, tinny and flat with no real bite or substance. This may have been due to the band being fragmented and missing some facets, or the fact that they were surrounded by monstrous and technical ability in the other bands. One way or another though I feel that it is only a pre-existing love for the band that would have seen you enjoying their set time tonight.

There are some obvious technical issues for Chasing Dragons, with the drums not being able to hear anything from their in ear monitors, even needing the vocals to count them in at parts. The vocals were delivered with passion and energy and the crowd was commanded and controlled like a marionette with her puppets. The vocalist stalked the stage with attitude and venom, and the tracks which were punched out into the crowd were catchy and genuine with a groove which had eluded most of the other bands on the bill. This is a band which I will definitely be keeping my radar on high alert for in future, and I will be gracing the venue that has their name attached to it at the next available opportunity.

So the stage is set for the headliners and curators of the day, Aonia. How these guys aren’t bigger is a mystery to me. They took to the stage like a band possessed and each member seemed to be on a high from the event that they had helped mould and put their name to. The stage was obviously too tight for the whole band so whenever the vocals were on show, the 2 vocal powerhouses would take to the front of the stage, and when the instruments were prominent, the ladies would step back and take a moment in the shadows. The crowd were the biggest they had been all day, and the band were tight and technical throughout. Each song was sung back at the band and the tunes were clinical and as tight as they should be. This set was a success from start to finish bigger stages and spotlights definitely await this bunch based on tonight’s accomplished event.

Review and photos Phil Pountney