For the seventh year in a row the Midlands Metal Crusade returns to the Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton. The one day festival highlights the best in Midlands talent along with some big name showpieces. Previous years have seen he likes of Evil Scarecrow, Breed 77 and Raging Speedhorn headline the event. This years sees the mighty Orange Goblin headline following on from their main stage slot on the US Ozzfest just a few weeks prior. The day as a whole is shaping up to be excellent with its nine band strong bill.
Opening proceedings are Devil’s Playground. The six piece led by dual vocalists won their slot here as part of the prize fund from victory in Metal 2 the Masses competition earlier this year, a win that also saw them grace the bill at this summers Bloodstock festival. The double vocal mix provides an interesting sound, male vocals that flatter inspiration from Hatebreed whilst Leanne’s feminine touch provides the perfect contrast. Heavy, destructive riffs delight the senses as the band build on the reputation they built up over the summer.
SID are going from strength to strength following a recent name change and the subsequent album launch for the experimental progressive opus that is Path of the Don. In a short set, filled with tracks from the recent release the band highlight just how good they are. Roberts growling vocals deliver the sometimes dark stories portrayed in their songwriting. Mike and James also pitch in on vocal duty giving the band a more rounded feel, highlighted perfectly by the title track from their album. But the stand out of the set has to Berbalang, telling the tale of a Polynesian tribe partaking in a bit of cannibalism. The band has vision and drive and they certainly have the passion that provides another outstanding thirty minute performance.
Having missed Netherhall's set at Bloodstock this year I look forward with anticipation finally catching the lads tonight. The progressive metal outfit stand out as different from everyone else on the bill tonight, a differing sound and philosophy delivers a unique set. Tom's baseline underpins the whole Netherhall sound creating a foundation for them to build off. The melding of vocals from two players works well will the mix of heavy and more gentle riffs creating thought provoking progressive heaviness that's a joy to the ears.
The third of this years Bloodstock alumni grace the stage next as Torqued, all the way from Devon, take a bow. With Elliott from Cambion taking on guitar duties until a more permanent recruit can be found, you know you have the elements of a band with the reputation to deliver. The outfit have just 30 minutes to perform their metal offering but do so with style and gusto. Kurt's explosive drumming keeps the pace high as the angst ridden vocals hook you from the off. A wonderful all round offering that no heavy metal fan can walk away from without a grin from ear to ear.
To darken the mood somewhat is Master's Call, the midlands based blackened death metal outfit. Their menacing stage presence is palpable, ferocious guitars kick in and lift the intensity as the air is filled with horrific anthemic darkness. Vocalist Shayan, hooded and masked throughout, cuts a haunting figure as his brutal vocals are delivered on point. The throbbing backline of Adam and James on bass and drums respectively keep fast paced order as this tight nit group produce a magnificent set.
Fire Red Empress are the darlings of the midlands scene right now, flying high off the back of critical acclaim from their recent album release, Black Morphine. Front-woman Deihl cuts the figure of a rock goddess as she takes to the stage, with the band following behind. The guitars cut a tone of hard rock infused with blues, but with the volume turned all the way up to 11. The groovy riffs drive the band forward but its the vocals that steer the ship as Deihl delivers ferocious yet intoxicating lyrics. A set thats all too short, I highly recommend you check them out when they play your local venue!
With just three bands left, its the turn of Vicious Nature to take to the small stage. Not a band I've caught before but they do come highly recommended and with a certain pedigree as their ranks include former members of Marshall Law and Cerebral Fix. The four piece produce a fast paced attack from the off, not out and out thrash but not far off. In places they remind me of early years Prong and front man Andy Pyke certain has hints of that gruff Tommy Victor vocal style, which in my eyes is a good thing. Vicious Nature don't set out to be just another thrash band, they are producing something different that puts them head and shoulders above some of their contemporaries and long may that continue.
The last time I saw At Dawn We Attack they were the opening band on a five band bill, tonight they are main support to Orange Goblin. They have come a long way in a short period of time. The metalcore outfit are a bundle of energy, and early in the set frontman Hancox is off the stage and into the crowd. Angst-ridden riffs and a throbbing bassline produce an aggressively tumultuous sound that brings a smile to my face. A truly wonderful performance to usher in the headline act.
And what a headline act we are now faced with. Having watched eight bands over the course of the day so far we have been treated to the ultimate eclectic line up that bands from the Midlands and indeed further afield have to offer. From hard rock, through thrash and metalcore to some of the ultimate in progressive metal. All under one roof and for a staggeringly low entry fee. But now to top it all off we have British stoner rock behemoths Orange Goblin!
The band's career has spanned more than twenty years and eight studio albums, thet are about to hit the studio to record number nine, but before they do they have the small matter of this headline slot to content with. The room is packed as the lights dim and AC/DC's Its a Long Way to the Top blasts through the house PA. Martyn, Chris and Joe take to the stage under the lowered lights as the intro track fades before the entrance of the big man Ben Ward, pint in hand and manic grin on his face. Tonight is going to be a night to remember.
Opening with Scorpionica the band mean business, full throttle from the off, as Ben's throaty vocals kick in the fans get a soaking from whats left of his beer. Obviously having fun with the crowd, the banter level is high between The Devil's Whip and Saruman's Wish as he shows what a charismatic front man he is.
As ever, the back line of Millard and Turner, on bass and drums respectively, are the driving force behind this band. Birthday boy Turner's throbbing drum track the epitome of the Orange Goblin sound whilst Millard's bass reverberates around this small room producing a sound you can feel to your very core.
The Filthy and the Few, Made of Rats and Some You Win... are staples of the bands setlist and for good reason. Its not often a pit opens up at a stoner rock show, but tonight limbs are flailing as the band roll out their greatest hits.
They Come Back, as with many of their songs, is a dark, fearsome number. Joe's guitar licks low and heavy paint a haunting picture, much like The Fog does a little later in the set. For me though, the highlights include the all time classics Time Traveling Blues and Quincey the Pigboy both of which have me reliving my youth and the bands appearances across the road in the upstairs room of The Varsity pub nearly twenty years ago. To triumphantly close out the night the more modern classic Red Tide Rising floors those left standing in the crowd as we can all agree this was a perfect close to the magical one day festival.
Keep your eyes peeled for some exclusive interviews coming shortly!