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)