Rock & Metal Circus Festival

Stoke Prior Club Bromsgrove – 22nd Sep 2013.

Thanks to Rob for Saturday’s round up, but today was my day and looking at the line up, the prospect was mouth watering. Although I’m absolutely knackered from the previous two days, with my hands, feet and back all hurting, I knew today’s bands were going to help me forget about my woe’s and just enjoy the music!

On slightly later than billed, which seemed a running occurrence but a teething problem that I’m sure they’ll figure out by next year, was the wonderful talent that is Esme and I can’t think of a more perfect beginning to a day of music. Those that managed to get out of bed were treated to an absolute spectacle of a performance, that left everyone’s jaws firmly planted to the floor. Being an acoustic artist, you only have two tools at your disposal, you’re voice and your guitar, so the artist must bring something very powerful to capture the imagination on the crowd, and something that Esme does very well as she sure did captured our emotions with her powerful vocals. Using all her own material, except for the last song, which was a Halestorm cover of “I miss the Misery” which is a powerful song, but Esme owned it and made the song her own! Expect to see Esme at a show near you soon.

Spiral Dive (from Kettering) were up next and after what seemed like an eternity of a change over, they finally got underway. These guys have a heavy guitar groove and are a charismatic bunch who put together a commendable set, considering their time got cut short. I hope to see these guys again, under better circumstances.

Schemata Theory took the stage next and having previously reviewed their album ‘Dry Lung Rhetoric’, I was curious to see how this bands music fared from recorded material to live performance. I’ll admit, I thought these guys sounded much better live and they produced one of the best performances, musically and photographically, of the day. I did feel a bigger stage would have given these guys the freedom to express themselves more though.

The Mariana Hollow, my how I’ve fallen in love with this band. After three days of photographing mostly hairy, sweaty men, it was an absolute pleasure to photograph the stunning Rebecca Spinks. Rebecca’s voice and appearance loosely resembles that of Amy Lee from Evanescence, and what a performer, so much emotion and feeling goes into every song, from her and the whole band aswell. Although their set was cut short, I managed to interview the band after their set, where I discovered, Adam (drums), tells really bad jokes.

Next on stage were Designs Of Chaos, from the South East of the country. These guys proved to be a popular hit with the crowd, bringing the majority of those catching the rays, back inside to watch their set. A true power house of a metal band, kings of the riffs with powerful vocals to boot and I really hope to catch these guys on the road again soon.

Silent Decent had also traveled a distance, all the way up from Dartford to be here today. Disappointingly, their set was also shorter than expected, but they made the most of the time they had. Falling under the genre of Trance Metal, these guys enhance their sound with the use of a keyboard, which produced almost a dubstep groove in some tracks. Over that you have some blistering guitar solo’s and vocals, courtesy of  Tom and Tom. With a massive following, that they’ve amassed since 2005, these guys are going places and this is defiantly a band worth keeping an eye on.

The half way point of my day was marked with a set from Splintered Soul, who provided yet more eye candy courtesy of pint sized Erica Mengod. She may be small, but has some pretty powerful vocals that I hadn’t anticipated and with Sally Jo on the Violin, yes, that’s right, a violin player in a metal band, this band certainly attracted a fair bit of interest. Also from the Dartford area, I’m wondering what is in the water down there, as the bands from this region are certainly pushing some great the boundaries in the metal genre!

Diaries of a Hero are classified as metal, and these guys stay true to the genre, producing a great mix of riffs, vocals which result in some really catchy tunes. With a great stage presence, Carlo is certainly a born entertainer. In fact, off stage, the band seem to love having a laugh, check out their Facebook page for their latest antics. These guys ain’t messing about all the time though, especially when it comes to their music, having supported Motorhead and Anthrax, this time last year, they can be serious and deserve your undivided attention, great band.

Today was my second encounter with Balls Deep, the craziest quartet of potters about (Stoke on Trent reference). With an emphatic stage presence, these guys rocked the show, and those that that watched them, truly witnessed something special, as for the rest, sat outside in the sunshine, you missed out big time. Saying that, the weather was great, maybe the organisers need to consider a partially covered stage next year? At one point Swampy called out to those sat outside, which made me chuckle, he was in fine leap frogging mood tonight, which is always great to see. Definitely check out their new album “A Thousand Nights”.

With Meta-Stasis next on the bill, these guys came on stage and for a minute I though we were getting Slipknot, but I was soon corrected when they started to play. These guys are mental, quite literally, mental. Falling under a truly unique genre, known to them as Extreme, Technical, Alien/Psycho Metal, the band members are as unique as their sound. Consisting of and I quote” Patient 01: Paul ‘Ripply Dipper’ McGarry : Bilateral Carpal Tunnel Stenosis, Patient 02: Dave ‘Heretic’: Tendinosis & Impulse Control, Patient 03: Benny ‘Rotten’ Green: Low Dead Pulses Department of Bass, Patient 04: Rich ‘The Head’ Grind-on: Extreme High Blood Pressure & Irregular Heart Beats, Patient 05: Solomon.J.Lucifier.Christ: Throat Disorder & Psychiatric S-scapes, decipher that, I dare you!  All I can tell you is the keyboard player wears a V (Guy Fawkes) mask, and appears to be the bands mascot. The lead vocalist can belt out some mind blowing vocals, with the rest of the band producing an absolutely mind blowing performance. These guys have a massive following, and from their live performance tonight, I can see why.

Lifer gave us a performance tonight that was nothing short of perfect, as ever, an absolute pleasure to watch live and I’m still playing their latest album in the car! Catching up with them later off stage, they seemed a little more subdued compared to previous encounters, the long drive from Wales must have been hell. However fresh from their appearance at Bloodstock 2013, I asked how it went, which bought it all back and got them elevated again.

Reign of Fury, are band I’ve read a lot about, but this was my first time catching them live and I assure you, it wont be the last. Bison, lead vocals, isn’t what you’d expect, with his thick, dark framed spectacles, on stage he’s like a mad scientist. Jon, lead guitars baffled the hell out of me, playing his ESP Explorer left handed, and when trying to take pics, I couldn’t quite figure out why my angles were all wrong, then it hit me, with a thud from the kick drum, thanks Dave! These guys also have a huge following, thanks to their classic 80’s (Iron Maiden) sound.

The last performance of the day for me were Skreamer, who were the life and soul of the party, always having the last man standing. These guys were so instrumental a few weeks prior in the antics at Beermageddon, that the organisers named a whole section of the campsite after them! This weekend, they weren’t messing about either, as they’d bought with them an entire entourage of loyal Skreamers, to cheer them on. Being one of the few bands that arrived at the start of the weekend and watched every act before them, I have to give them a massive round of applause for that, but they must have been itching to get up on that stage, to perform their own set and now that time had come. I’ve been looking forward to this for months, as I’ve heard and seen so many good things about the band and I was excited for them! With one of the few bands to pull in the entire audience at RMC, these guys blew my socks off from start to finish. Their stage presence was incredible, and they managed to lift everyone’s spirits, yet again, which must have been difficult, as we were all pretty knackered by then, but they did it, with their pure powerhouse of riffs! Skreamer are another band you have to look out for, trust me, these guys are going to be big, their current following of 25,000 fans on Facebook is an understatement to what these guys are set to achieve!

I must apologies to the remaining three bands of the day, Wretched Soul, Enemo-J and Collapse as I had to leave early, but I’ll look forward to the day we do actually meet.

All in all, a fantastic weekend was had, yes, it was hard work, but no pain, no gain and with this being the Rock & Metal circus’s maiden voyage, my god, this festival was incredible and I look forward to climbing aboard again in 2014.  I’d like to extend a massive thank you for inviting down to Stoke Prior to partake in this event. Peace!

Words and photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)

Rock & Metal Circus Festival

Stoke Prior Club Bromsgrove 21st September 2013.

Well, if you’re going to make a statement, make it a bold one! No sooner had Jett Black left the stage, taking with them their finely crafted, balanced, melodic rock (and a fair amount of the girls, too, it seemed!) than Sold For Evil exploded onto it in a blaze of noise and sampled soundbites. Self-labelled as ‘Death Hop’, here are five men, based in London, who are very angry/concerned about the current socio-economic climate, and preach their viewpoint through an abrasive mix of deathcore metal and hip hop. To be fair to them, while the style (and message) of the music pushes the boundaries of my personal taste, they do have some considerable merits. The rhythm section of Zolika Berente (bass) and Jan Poruban (drums) is pounding, forceful, relentless and tight as any I’ve ever heard. Throw Csaba’s 8-string Ibanez sleight of hand into the mix, and you’ve got a force to admire and respect.

When Seven Deadly turned up with a sampler, front and centre of the stage, I must confess I thought we were in for more of the same as before. I was wrong. Perhaps they should consider changing their name to F**kin’ Deadly! Armed with songs like ‘Allegiance’, ‘End Of All’ and ‘From This Darkness’, and also an album on the way, and with the vocal talents and stage presence of Archie Wilson in the line up, this UK thrash outfit have all the tools to go far. Certainly ‘ones to watch’, and I would gladly watch them again.

Mordecai were one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing live, having heard (and enjoyed) their recordings. They exceeded my expectations, and then some! They cite Alter Bridge and Shinedown as the direction they’re coming from, but I hear a much more southern blues vibe in there, more like Mos Generator or Clutch, with a pinch of Ozzy thrown in for good measure. Regardless of who they sound like, Mordecai kicked it live, putting in an awesome set. I am intrigued to know why Dan Hicks felt the need to wear woollen headwear for most of the set as it was bloody roasting indoors! My head was a tad moist under my recently purchased minion noggin topper! Mind you, by the time the set closer, the phenomenal ‘Simple Deal’, roared into life, his hat was no more!

The More I See have undergone a bit for a re-jig lately, with James Cluer moving up to take position behind the main mic stand, as well as continuing his guitar duties. Tonight’s set was a good mix of older material and brand new songs from their current album ‘The Disappearing Humans’. The new material seems to have a more ‘metal’ edge than the more punk influenced earlier songs, but they all sat well side by side here tonight. New track ‘Reversible’ next to ‘Near Extinction’… No problem. ‘Gizz’ Butt really showed his class and experience tonight, not only with his effortless playing, but by the way he worked with the crowd, some of whom I suspect were here mainly for this band. And why not as TMIS certainly convinced me to seek out more of their work during the short set tonight.

Stormbringer was a name I’d heard bandied about all day but so far, every band on the bill had put in a performance ranging from ‘very good’ to f**kin’ awesome!’. Well, I’m happy to report that Stormbringer definitely fell into the latter category! From the opening track ‘Welcome To Hell’, through the popular ‘Marc Antony’ and personal favourite, ‘Sanity’ to the single ‘Grinder’, the groove was so infectious, I thought I may have to visit a pharmacy on the way home! Mike Stockley’s vocals were unfalteringly perfect, even whilst covering the entirety of the stage, and working the thrilled crowd. I can’t single out a particular track or moment for special mention as I found myself involuntarily nodding, tapping or stamping throughout the entire set. Bloody marvellous!

We made a sojourn back to ‘challenging’ music with Plymouth-based band Huron. Their sound is brutal… relentless and when they announce “We are going to fuck you up!”, they mean it! They opened with two tracks which, unless you are well read, may require a quick look up on Wikipedia to understand! ‘Ark of Deucalion’ and ‘Bokanovsky’s Process’ were only vaguely known to me because I studied Greek mythology at school, and read a lot! Huron put on a great performance but they’re buggers to photograph, though! I’m all for a bit of dynamism, but please… give me a chance!

I caught Bane Holland recently at SOS Fest performing an acoustic set of covers, and pretty good he was too, so I was really looking forward to the full A Thousand Enemies experience. Again, like so many other times today, I was not to be disappointed. Opening with ‘Enemy Of Mine’ and straight into ‘Chaos State’, Holland then speaks to the crowd in his self-effacing, blunt way… “This one is fucking shit hot!” which is one way to introduce ‘And Nothing Remains’, I suppose. There is a surfeit of talent in this band. Mike Rees is the force behind the kit, coupled to Andy Goulter on bass, providing the foundations from which Dave Ward and Liam Johnson can work their 6 string magic. A glib term like ‘melodic metal’ doesn’t do these guys justice. They are A Thousand Enemies, pure and simple. Seek them out, if you haven’t already. You’ll thank me.

And so, after a long day filled with great performances from superb bands, we reached our ‘other’ headliner and the big finale – the main event. It was going to have to be something special to warrant the position at the top of this bill and you know what? Breed 77 only went and nailed it! They opened in fine style with a blistering rendition of ‘Drown’. Recent addition to the band, Rui Lopez looked like he’s always been there at the front. His voice is strong, he goads the crowd and he swings from the lighting rig aswell! Bearing in mind there is a new album out, with the new singer on it, tonight’s set list was a good mix of tracks from their whole back catalogue, with ‘Fear’, ‘Bring On The Rain’ and ‘Broken Pieces’ being the other new tracks that got an airing tonight, all of them going down well with the crowd, which was the biggest it’s been all day. Of course, there’s one track everyone knows, fans and otherwise… Breed’s fantastic cover of the Cranberries’ ‘Zombie’. Cleverly, they don’t end on the guaranteed singalong, instead choosing to almost bury it in the second half of the set. Obviously, it went down a storm with a mosh pit opening up in the process. Last track of the set went to a proper oldie, ‘La Ultima Hora’ from 2004’s Cultura album and to be fair, with the level of adoration coming from the crowd, they could have finished with ‘The Ketchup Song’ and pulled it off!

So there we had it. Day Two somehow managed to trump the sublime standard set by Day One! It was time to go to bed for a few hours, with ringing in the ears, beer on the breath and a smile on the face. What could Day Three possibly do to top this?…

Words and Photography by Rob Nankivell (Shoot Plymouth)

Rock & Metal Circus Festival

Stoke Prior Club Bromsgrove 21st September 2013.

If last night was the warm up party, then today was going to be blisteringly hot! Things got off to a promising start, with DeVIence opening proceedings. Yesterday’s teething problems persisted, with a guitar amp issue threatening to mar an otherwise strong performance, but quiff-topped singer Giovanni Spano held it together with a confident display backed up by a very strong voice. Surprise of the set, was the inclusion of a superb version of Toto’s ‘Hold The Line’.

Keeping the classic rock theme going were 3-piece, Toadstool. Bassist/vocalist, Alex Macaskill hiding behind his aviator shades, and guitarist Nick Ingram sporting a floral print shirt and knitted hair, their influences carry on beyond the music. It’s easy for a 3 piece to look lost on a bigger stage, but Ingram embraced the larger space, using every inch of the stage to twist, swoop and dive, always maintaining a far-away, dreaming look of a man lost in his music. A solid performance and a band I would really like to see again.

Anyone who had settled into the classic groove that had prevailed so far, was about to get a wake-up call in the form of a blood-curdling, Halford-esque wail! HeadrusH had just taken to the stage and they weren’t planning on taking any prisoners either as any vestige of shabbiness from the previous night’s revelries were blown clean out of the venue. HeadrusH aren’t a one-trick pony, though – Andy Law’s immense vocal talents were backed up by the equally talented, and animated Sideshow Bob impersonator, Dan Ogden (guitar) and human whirlwind, Josh Williams (bass), all held together by Tom Bevan’s tub-thumping. ‘Just Bring It On’ really stood out for me as a case of a good recorded track becoming an awesome live track!

In what became kind of a repeating theme of juxtaposition at the Rock and Metal Circus this year, HeadrusH’s wails and chugs gave way to the warmer vocal tones and guitar groove of Welsh rockers, Hangfire. Front man, Max Rhead has the look of Paul Rogers, but his sound is pure Coverdale! For the first time today, we saw some good old fashioned fun being had on stage, with banter passing between Rhead, guitarist Lee ‘Lizzie’ Evans and the crowd. The good feeling was enhanced by a collection of strong songs, all held together with the rhythmic superglue of Matt Blakout and Bobby Goo. ‘Faith In Me’, ‘Rising Sun’ and new song, ‘Hell This Time’, with their catchy hooks, bluesy riffs and soulful solos, all went down to well-deserved, emphatic applause, cheers and whistles.

The blues-influenced vibe continued with Pig Iron, a band who, I think, work well as album artists (or indeed as a full length live set), where the listener has time to soak in the groove. Today certainly wasn’t the day for that, as due to over-running timing issues, the set was unfortunately cut short. There are fair points of view from both sides but either way, a real pity.

If there’s one band who look like they know a thing or two about having a good time, it’s Knock Out Kaine! Pure Rock ‘n’ Roll of the dirty, sleazy variety! It may not be trendy, but by God it’s good! The KOK boys have been around for a while (in various incarnations), honing their skills, and it shows. Dean Foxx is almost a cliché of a rock frontman. Jet-black hair, aviators, leather strides… Every box ticked… but it’s backed it up by superb showmanship, and an equally powerful vocal performance. Almost inevitably, he broke out the acoustic guitar. It must be paint-by-numbers ballad time! But no – well, not quite yet anyway. An excellent version of Steve Earle’s ‘Copperhead Road’ was a real treat… as too, was the alluded to ballad, ‘I’m Coming Home’. You could liken it to any number of such songs that have come before it, but you know what? I couldn’t give a toss. I loved it! The tempo came back up for ‘Little Crystal’, complete with simulated drug injecting mime during the solo (in case the lyrics were a bit subtle for you).  A couple more tracks off the future classic album ‘House Of Sins’, and Dean, Danny, Jimmy and Lee were leaving the stage, the crowd well and truly rocked!

After a set of headlining calibre, I stood, almost concerned for who was to follow. but no need as Slam Cartel erupted onto the stage with just as much energy and self-assuredness, but a different sensibility. Giles Van Lane, very much the centre piece, topless, either draped over his mic, or contorting and twisting like a victim of some sort of possession! Conversely, to the left was Terence Warville, with his low slung, left-handed Les Paul, face partially obscured from the light by the brim of his hat, not moving quite so much, but making every movement count. All the classic rock god poses were wheeled out during the set! At the back, Steve Campkin had his head down, and was knocking seven shades out of his toms. Elsewhere, to the right, Marc Neudeck and Tom Hendriksen were solid in the semi-gloom and smoke.

One can hear nods to their influences throughout the set, from Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains to Nirvana and even Pink Floyd! The influences are there, but never blatantly ripped off… Except for when I heard a particular riff ring out. Cue an amazing, and much welcomed cover of The Cult’s ‘Wild Flower’. The set was (again for timing reasons) cut slightly short, and they were given a ‘last song’ warning. They didn’t mess about. They went straight into what was planned as the set closer… And what a closer! ‘Sundown’ is one of those songs with an opening which pleases, if you know it, or intrigues, if you don’t. The song builds slowly to a rousing crescendo of a chorus. Cue much singing from the fans, and jumping from the converts! Slam Cartel were new to me. Now the album, ‘Handful Of Dreams’ is on loop in the car! See them! Or at least hear them.

I don’t know who had the initial idea, but the Rock and Metal Circus organisers played the genius stroke of separating the ‘rock’ from the ‘metal’. This meant that, in effect, we were treated to two headliners. The honour of headlining the ‘rock’ aspect of Saturday’s running order was bestowed upon Jett Black. The first thing I noticed, as they took to the stage with ‘Slip It On’, was the sudden influx of attractive young ladies that seemed to fill the arena from out of nowhere! Had they been there all day and I just hadn’t noticed? Unlikely! Had they turned out specifically for these semi-naked young thrusters? Quite possibly! Whether they’re going to like the comparison, or not, Jett Black fall into the same category as Heaven’s Basement. Ballsy, well-crafted rock, heavily influenced by the days when rock and hair metal dominated the airwaves which was performed by good looking young men and based on the performance I saw tonight, Jett Black have a prosperous future ahead!

The catchy hooks and riffs came thick and fast through ‘Less Torque, More Thrust’, ‘Inbetween Lovers’ and ‘Black Gold’. Even John Dow’s amp failure (which was promptly replaced by the tireless stage crew) couldn’t taint a superb set, with Will Stapleton, Tom Wright and Matt Oliver carrying off their cover of Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ without missing a beat. ‘Motherfucker’ and ‘Prison Of Love’ followed, with all five playing as if they were entertaining Wembley stadium. Every joule of energy they expended was returned ten-fold by the singing, dancing, headbanging, horn-waving crowd. Let’s be honest, that’s all you want from a rock show, isn’t it? By the time ‘Get Your Hands Dirty’ rang out, complete with sing-a-long breakdown, everyone in the place was on the vinegar stroke! Hot, sweaty, spent, but smiling and satisfied.

Words and Photography by Rob Nankivell (Shoot Plymouth)