Rock & Metal Circus Festival

Stoke Prior Club Bromsgrove 20th Sep 2013.

Let’s just say that again. ROCK…and METAL…CIRCUS! It’s like someone put all the best words you can think of into a tombola and these were the ones that got pulled out! Stoke Prior Sports & Social Club, on the other hand, sounds like the complete antithesis to such an event – it screams beige! As it happens, we can’t think of a better location to attract a wider audience – slap-bang in the middle of the country and a stones throw away from the M5 motorway!

First impressions on arrival are that there is sufficient car parking, ample camping space among the obligatory burger vans, silly hat stall, tattoo parlour and merch stalls. The stage is indoors (wise, seeing as this event is being held at the end of September) and had a well-stocked bar! There’s little time to mooch around though, that’ll have to wait, as the Rock and Metal Circus party is about to get under way!

First up is… Well, it’s not who we were expecting! Raptorgeist moved across from their original Saturday slot to open proceedings. Opening a festival is never an easy proposition, and these guys had more than their fair share of technical difficulties to battle through, some of which appeared to distract them. They still managed to produce some good sounds, as the venue slowly filled.

Next up were Vicious Nature  whose pedigree is easy to see… and hear. What you get is balls out, straight up Heavy Metal from the old school, dripping in that Black Country sound, all served up by the quintessential Metal frontman, Andy Pyke. He screams, he growls, he prowls the stage, and engages the crowd. Messrs. Brown, Culley and Southwell deserve a mention too. Pyke, for all his showmanship, would be for nothing without this powerhouse around him. Good stuff!

The ‘classic’ sound continued with X-UFO. Having opened with two vintage UFO tunes, namely ‘Shoot Shoot’ and ‘Let It Roll’, Danny Peyronel wasted no time, telling the swelling crowd that this would be the last appearance under their current monicker, changing, from this day forth to House Of X. They then launched into, what I thought was one of the best songs on tonight’s set, ‘Back Door Man’. It’s a mid-tempo rocker, with a heavy blues riff. One you can’t help but tap a foot, or nod a head to. It also shows how tight a unit these veterans are. Clive Edwards and Rocky Newton provide a solid footing for Laurence Archer’s dancing fingers and extreme ‘chord face’ to take center stage. New song, ‘House Of Lies’ was next, followed by more reminders that X-UFO would be no more. Ironically, then, that their set ended with a UFO classic ‘Doctor Doctor’. I’ve got a soft spot for X-UFO/House Of X. They play to my blues-rock sensibilities, and have always put on a good show whenever I’ve seen them. I genuinely look forward to their upcoming EP.

From experienced vets, to well rehearsed new kids, Skarlett Riot. These guys (and girl – sorry Skarlett!) have been everywhere of late promoting their excellent debut album ‘Tear Me Down’. I’m going to start with the only less-than-positive comment I’ve got. The taped intro. For me (and not only me, from conversations I had with others), it went on too long. At first, there was an empty stage then the intro (from the album) and smoke started. The band walked on stage, and took their positions as the intro built. They stood, backs to the crowd… The intro continued to build. They looked at each other, waiting, ready to rock the RMC… The intro continued some more. You get the picture? Once ‘Faded Memory’ kicked in, all was forgiven.A great set, mostly lifted off the album, all delivered with confidence, energy and power but we were treated to one track not from the album, a taster of things to come, if you will, ‘Feel It In Your Bones’. On the strength of this song, the next album will be evolution, rather than revolution. That’s not a bad thing. Skarlett, Danny, Tom and Luke have embraced all of their differing tastes and influences and given us a collection of songs which contain all the things we rockers and metallers love… searing vocals, riffs, solos, chugging bass lines and double-pedal drumming… whilst remaining accessible to a wider audience. Tonight’s set ended with a personal favourite of mine, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen’.  Love that riff, Danny! The party had been simmering nicely. Skarlett Riot brought it to the boil. Could anyone step up and blow the roof off this gaff?

Words and Photography by Rob Nankivell (Shoot Plymouth)

Black Acid Souls – Originally billed to play earlier today but the powers that be thought their “self positioned” set time was too modest, so they got moved here. Not to insult the previous bands, but I do agree with them greater powers! These guys need no introduction, however, whilst sat in the pit, waiting to photograph their set, I (Jay) got called up onto the stage to actually introduce the band!!!!! Initially, I jumped at the chance, delivered what I thought was an ore inspiring “Metal” introduction and most fitting for the band “Ladies and Gentlemen BLACK ACID SOULS!!!” When walking off stage tho, I was struck with self doubt, wondering if I’d actually called out the right band name! hahaha! The first track in tonight’s set, was a new one “Pain”, was inspired by recent life events that I’ll leave you to figure out, and will feature on the new album which I can now reveal is being produced by the legendary producer Chris Tsangarides, who is responsible for some of the greatest albums of all time. Knowing this fact has got me VERY EXCITED about their new album which will hopefully be released late 2014. Listen to our audio interview with Black Acid Souls to hear us discuss this and other topics, beware laughter may feature heavily!

Back onto tonight’s show and with new band member Tiarnan Nelis on the drums, dressed appropriately for the festival, wearing a rather scary clown mask, he certainly fits in well alongside the rest of the band, who are thankfully still all the same members, since I last wrote about BAS! Tonight’s set included the usual mayhem that I’ve grown to love about this band, Flakey going nuts on the mic, interacting well with the rest of the band, clearly loving the music. Chubb’s going walk about around the venue, shredding like a mad man as he does. Tweak doing his thing on the guitar, is he lead, is he rhythm, I still don’t know, with Gruff loving his bass, posing for the cameras.

It’s worth mentioning the entire band have contributed a lot of time and energy to the organization of this new festival, alongside their business partner Sam. All weekend, they were talking to bands, acting as technical support to the other artists, and making sure the festival ran smoothly, so fair play lads, I along with many others will agree, the weekend was an absolute success, roll on 2014!

Absolva – Originally from Manchester, this 3 piece band, consists of Chris Appleton : Lead Guitar & Lead Vocals, Martin Mcnee : Drums and Dan Bate : Bass Guitar & Backing Vocals. Since May 2012, they have been ripping up venues and festivals all over the UK and Europe, however, Chris and Martin have a long history of making music together from their days as FURY UK. They have clearly made some great contacts and built up a strong reputation as Absolva and can to be found playing some of the biggest festivals, throughout the year, all over Europe. This year alone, I know they have featured at many gigs, including Hammerfest, Bloodstock, SOS Festival and here, Rock & Metal Circus Festival. Tonight’s performance served to confirm why these guys are such a great live act. A popular band with the crowd, these guys went about their set as true professionals. I love to watch these guys at work, as there’s never a dull moment, a true powerhouse of a band, delivering all that is good in the British trash metal genre.

Absolva have just released a new Live album on September 30th, that was recorded in Belgium in March of this year and they now head out on an extensive tour of the UK and Europe, which sees them ending the year the way it started, ROCKIN! Check out their website and Facebook page for more details.

Sacred Mother Tongue – One noticeable thing about this festival is the high caliber of bands that have been booked to play it. Each in their own right could be headliners, but that honor tonight was given to non other than Sacred Mother Tongue. Consisting of Darrin South (Vocals), Lee Newell (Drums) Andy James (Guitar) and new comer Craig Daws (Bass), well he’s been with the band a while now, but since I last saw them play at Hammerfest, he’s new to me. Like Absolva, before them, these guys have had a very busy year, playing many shows, including, Wreckfest, Download, Bloodstock and venues all over Europe, I assure you, these guys are no strangers to the big stage. Fast becoming a household name, helped along with reviews/interviews in major music magazines such as Metal Hammer, these guys are set to become superstars and yet, they are as down to earth as you and I. Both before and after their set, I saw them talking to fans and selling their own merch, which was really nice to see.

Tonight’s set was an absolute pleasure, not only for myself but for everyone else rocking out at Stoke Priory, which by now was full to the rafters! I love watching Andy playing his guitar, a true master of his craft and considered one of the great guitar players of his generation. Thankfully, you don’t have too long to wait before you get a chance to see these guys play again, as they are joining Voodoo Six on a co-headline UK tour in October, then onto Germany in November. If you can’t make either of these, be sure to check out their new album “Out of the Darkness” which is a real fan favorite and is getting amazing reviews from all the big boys in the media world.

Words and Photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)