Friday, April 25th, 2008
BRITISH STEEL FESTIVAL 3: warming up party
Bar Monsta, Camden, London, United Kingdom
The first two editions of the British Steel Festival were held in Milton Keynes. The organisation decided to move the festivities to Camden Town, in the Northern part of London. A good move, because for people from outside of Britain, it is much easier to get there. So we are gathered in the front rows during the third edition of this wonderful festival, promoting the NWOBHM. The official pre-party is held at the Monsta Bar in Camden Town, two streets away from our hotel. On this night, three bands would present themselves. The first two bands were a bit unknown to us.
DARK FORREST are dressed up in colourful spandex trousers. Their public consists of sixteen people, but this will grow out fast to a good filled Monsta Bar this evening. The band has only got half an hour and they close their set with the GRIM REAPER cover "See You In Hell". Definitely a nice opener!
The music of the next band, DESOLATION, is a mix of thrash metal and some more traditional hard rock. Sometimes, they even link to a more progressive sound. And ocassionally, we also hear some grunting vocals. Personally, they are not really my cup of tea, but the people who are present, are okay with their style.
CLOVEN HOOF is the main reason, we didn't want to miss this pre-party. We have seen the band in Germany, a couple of years ago. They really impressed me a lot over there, but somehow their great songs didn't really reach the big audience. Tonight they would play for a home audience and they were ready to raise the roof. From opener "Inquisitor" on, they spread a lot of enthusiasm and played a very dynamic show. There is a good mix of old and new material. And this new song "Mutilator" is a real killer! In fact, for me it's definitely one of the highlights tonight. There is a good contact with the audience, too. Which is inevitable in a way, because there is almost no space between the people and the little stage, that the band is on. CLOVEN HOOF closes their powerful performance with the encore "Laying Down The Law". At 22.30 in the evening, the party is over and we can finally get some rest after a very busy day of travelling down to the city of London. Tomorrow we will be meeting up with Ian Toomey, who comes over from the Northern part of England to promote his band BITCHES SIN. And in the evening the main festival will take place. We're ready for it!
Saturday, April 26th, 2008
BRITISH STEEL FESTIVAL 3: main festival
Camden Underworld, London, United Kingdom
Today we will invade the shopping centre of London and in the afternoon we will meet Ian Toomey and his wife. Together we will go to the Underworld to make sure that we don't miss a thing. REDLINE is the opener on the main festival. Consisting of two former members of BITCHES SIN, who played on the wonderful "Predator" album. The band is ready to show their skills. Their album "Ignition" is a killer, that has some powerful yet very catchy tunes. Perfect for a long ride on the highways in your country. It's a shame though, that in the end they have to cut short their set, so we don't get to hear their most impressive anthem "King Of The Mountain". At least, we heard this killer tune during their rehearsals in the afternoon and I am very glad of that. REDLINE can be seen as the mediators between the good olí NWOBHM sound and todayís rock music. And it was mighty fine to get to talk to Mark Biddiscombe and Martin Orum afterwards as well.
After this great performance, we were ready to get blown away by LYADRIVE. This band is a true killer machine, who stand firmly with both feet in the eighties and they leave us behind with a smashing impression. The different songs contain some mean guitarwork and itís quite obvious, that THIN LIZZY is one of their biggest influences. Guitarplayer Steve Jones stays in the same hotel as we do, and he came all the way from Anchorage, Alaska to join his former bandmates at this festival. Music leads to friendship and this is the perfect example, my good friends. The covers "Warrior" (RIOT) and "One Of These Days" (TRESSPASS) make my skin crawl. This is the real deal and a very welcome introduction to a band that seems to be very much alive and kicking. A very nice surprise! One of the first things, that I do after their show, is to buy their vinyl album and the CDs, that are on sale at their merchandise table. Not that I wouldn't have bought it sooner or later, but after seeing this terrific show, I didn't want to take the risk that their stuff would be sold out later in the evening.
After that, ELIXIR is on. And just in case you don't know it yet, mainman and guitarist Phil Denton is one of the organizers behind the British Steel Festival. With a band like ELIXIR on stage, nothing can go wrong. The joy of playing for a live audience can't be beaten and it reflects itself to the crowd as well. The band also has to speed things up at the end to play all the songs as planned in the small amount of available time. "Knocking On The Gates Of Hell" is one of my favorites of tonight, but I also hear great tracks, like "Treachery" and "Llagaeran". Great show, my friends and maybe see you next year!
PRAYING MANTIS are probably one of the highlights of the festival. It seems, that a lot of people especially have come to see this band play tonight. Their sound is a bit more melodic in a way, but we also hear a more rawer version of old school classics. Songs like "Turn The Tables", "Lovers To The Grave", "Children Of The Grave and especially "Captured City" are greeted with open arms and the crowd also sing out loudly with these all-time classics. Meantime, at the rear side of the room, there is a mini reunion going on of BITCHES SIN, the "Predator" line up. Besides Martin and Mark of REDLINE and Ian of BITCHES SIN, we also meet up with Tony Tomkinson, who sings in BITCHES SIN right now. Four signatures are on my vinyl sleeve of "Predator" right now. The signature of Pete is still missing, but hey, who knows what the future might bring?! I hear a lot of great stories from the old days. It's a shame, that I have to leave the guys after a while, but itís for a good reasonÖ
WITCHFYNDE is entering the stage and they are facing an almost empty room. Apparently, all the people, who came to see PRAYING MANTIS are gone and didnít want to wait for the last band. The empty space doesn't really have any effect on the enthusiasm and professionality, the band takes the stage with "Stagefright". WITCHFYNDE also plays a new song, called "Holy Ground" from their upcoming album "Play It To Death". Some technical problem involving the bassguitar sound makes the band decide to remove the title track of their brandnew album from the set. What a shame, because this new album sounds totally awesome and it is definately one of the highlights. But hey, you can't have it all. "Give 'Em Hell" is the encore of tonight. I don't think, they could have left the stage without playing this classic NWOBHM anthem.
After the show, there is an abrupt ending to this great evening. The cleaners have already gathered at the back of the hall, seemingly invisible at first. Right after the last note fades of "Give 'Em Hell", the lights go on and people are ready to sweep the floor and preparing for the after dance party to begin. What a cold shower, after a warm bath! This edition has surely been a great success, according to the people we spoke afterwards. Many visitors even came all the way from The Netherlands, Germany and Spain. A fourth edition has already been planned with CELTIC LEGACY, BITCHES SIN, ELIXIR, ATTACKER and CLOVEN HOOF. Last news: ATTACKER has been replaced by British NWOBHM band PAGAN ALTAR. We alrhave already booked our hotel, bought tickets and planned our journey to London in April 2009. We won't miss this magic event for the world! Our thanks go out to Phil Denton for keeping the fire burning and of course to Montalo, Ian, Vally, Martin, Mark, Tony and John Tucker for a great night. NWOBHM is still very much alive and after tonight thereís no doubt on my mind!
*Written by: Toine van Poorten/May 2008
*Photos by: Rita van Poorten