Saturday, April 4th, 2009
BRITISH STEEL FESTIVAL IV
Camden Underworld, London, United Kingdom
Outside, the weather looks just perfect. The sun shines brightly and people are happy, because we had to wait a long time for the spring to come. However, we decide to gather at the Underworld in Camden, in the Northern part of London. The fourth edition of British Steel is about to take place here. And for me, it will be a very special edition this year, because after twenty-seven years, I will finally get to see my all-time fave NWOBHM band: BITCHES SIN. US metallers ATTACKER were replaced by PAGAN ALTAR some months ago, and so the bill was packed for a fine day of good old NWOBHM.
We meet up with the bandmembers of BITCHES SIN outside the venue, right before the festival starts. And today it is up to CELTIC LEGACY from Dublin to get the thing going. They do this pretty well with "Live By The Sword" and "Guardian Angel". Their songs contain just that something special, which makes it sound a little bit outstanding, comparing to the more standard rock songs. Here and there, I even hear a folky, Celtic touch, which isn't strange with a bandname like that. And I guess, that the band has also listened to THIN LIZZY, when they were young. A great opener, and the public also enjoyed their show, judging by the loud cheers.
BITCHES SIN did what I expected them to do, meaning that they fully impressed me. The set, they played this evening, was a good mix of old and new stuff. They even played a brand new track, called "What Loving Means", which contains a Zeppelinesque touch and fits very well to the vocal sound of Tony 'Poppa Bear' Tomkinson. However, the band starts off with "Mr. Toomey", the perfect song for Ian Toomey, the lead guitarist of the band, to show his skills. "Overnight" comes from the long lasting past of the BITCHES SIN career, followed by "Metalize" from their most recent CD "Uduvudu". In "Strangers On The Shore", Mr. Toomey proved to be the guitar wizard, that I am fan of for so many years now. I'm sorry to say, but you don't even miss the presence of a second guitar player. No offence to Ian's brother Pete, who immigrated to New Zealand some years ago. Ian plays all the guitar parts by himself, rhythm and solo guitar. You should see the burn marks on his fingers after the show! It's very impressive to see how fast this octopuss pulls the strings. Guitar extravaganza to the max, and that's the way I like it!! After the newer tracks "Selling Paradise" and the relevant topics in "Red Skies", we get another demonstration of guitar excorsism in one of my all-time favorite BITCHES SIN tracks "Ain't Life A Bitch". Needless to say, this show was very much worth the wait of more than twenty-five years. The band lived up to my highest expectations, not in the least due to the marvellous input of the great rhythm section Dbasser on bass guitar (the first metal maiden on this festival!) and Steve 'Stixslayer' Turton on drums.
ELIXIR, with festival organiser Phil Denton on lead guitar, continues the magic. This band has never let me down, when playing live. They are a group of friends, that always have a lot of fun and joy on stage and this excitement easily reflects itself to the hungry people. The band is introduced by Steve 'Krusher' Joule of Kerrang fame in a very humorous way. They open their Underworld attack with "The Star Of Beshaan", followed by "Mindcreeper". "Iron Hawk" is on next, showing that both guitarists Phil and Norms are not willing to leave behind any survivors tonight. Their solos are phenominal and stretched out with every possible second. ELIXIR also treats us on a new song which is called "Midnight Messiah". The best songs are kept for last, and with "Knocking On The Gates Of Hell" and "Treachery (Ride Like The Wind)", the public is left behind in a knock-out position.
PAGAN ALTAR is about to play next. But due to very unfortunate circumstances, their drummer couldn't make it to the Camden Underworld in time. This resulted in a mini set by the dark doomsters from the NWOBHM scene. Starting with a fantastic version of "Pagan Altar" and closing thereafter with a stunning version of "The Lords Of Hypocrisy". So sad, that they could only play two songs, but the band was professional enough to not steal any time from headliners CLOVEN HOOF. Don't worry mates, these fifteen minutes were excellent and I really hope to see the band in the near future under better circumstances.
CLOVEN HOOF was the perfect headliner. Their eight song set started off with "Inquisitor", "Nova Battlestar" and "Astral Rider". The Hoof impressed me enormously, when they played at the pre-show of the third edition of this great festival. And it's not strange, that they were chosen to be headliners at this year's festival, after the smashing performance of last year. "The Gates Of Gehenna" marked the earlier days of The Hoof. During "Fugitive", I always feel the urge to sing along the lyrics of IRON MAIDEN's "The Prisoner", because of certain similarities in both songs. Best song of tonight was again a more recent song, called "Mutilator". What groove, what power! The set closed with "Mistress Of The Forrest" and "Laying Down The Law". Was it the traffic problems of PAGAN ALTAR, that made the band decide to leave out the song "Cloven Hoof" from their set? We heard the rumour, that they were about to play this song today as well. Hopefully, they will add this particular anthem to their set at the twelfth edition of the Keep It True Festival, three weeks from now.
The fourth edition of British Steel came to an end a little bit before ten thirty. So there was plenty of time left to spend some time with Ian Toomey in London. I am very excited about this edition and I am already looking forward to what Phil has in mind for us next year. I have my wants list ready for him here. What about BITCHES SIN, DESOLATION ANGELS and PAGAN ALTAR (this time a full set) at the warming up show. And for the fifth anniversary of the festival I would go for FLASHPOINT, ELIXIR, LEGEND, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, and ANGEL WITCH. But any other bands will do of course, as long as it is NWOBHM, I will be there. Our thanks go out to Phil and ELIXIR, Ian and BITCHES SIN and John and Lia Tucker for an excellent weekend. See you again in 2010, I hope.
*Written by: Toine van Poorten/April 2009
*Photos by: Rita van Poorten [www.metalmaidens.com]