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Midlands Metal Crusade

25th November at The Slade Rooms Wolverhampton.

Hils Ovations Midlands Metal Crusades have now become a regular and much looked forward to celebration of the Midlands metal scene and today’s event at The Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton see’s it’s seventh reincarnation ready to roar.

And getting today’s immense shenanigan’s underway were the exceptionally talented Devils Playground, who really have given their all this year and stamped their mark firmly upon the West Midlands local metal scene. With a stage performance awash in energy and attitude, it was easy to see why this band scored such a great hit at this years Bloodstock and with such talent and enthusiasm that continually seems to grow, I can’t wait to see what this band will bring about next.

Our second band of the day were the deliciously colourful SID who despite being a very recent addition to today’s line up, had a pretty hearty crowd of fans ready, willing and waiting for them to get up on stage and do their thing! SID’s set was as always, full of metal character and there is never a dull moment to be had when these guys are around as their stage presence is equally as charismatic as their music.

Next up and a firm favourite of mine were Netherhall. I wholeheartedly admire this band as they bring to the airwaves a uniqueness that is born out of a progressive creativity which just seems to know no boundaries. Today’s set from Netherhall held The Slade Rooms captive and was an absolute pleasure to experience.

With 5.30pm fast approaching, it was time for relative newcomers Torqued to take to the stage. But having described them as that, there was absolutely no denying that the ability, experience and no bullshit approach that these guys have for their metal, is propelling them in exactly the right direction – and fast!

Marking the mid-way point of the day were Master’s Call and here we have a band whose brand of blackened death metal is both brutal and disturbing to the point of perfection. Lead singer Shayan, cuts a menacing dark figure on stage, which most definitely adds to the impressive stance that this band deliver.

Our next band to take to the stage were Fire Red Empress and recent months have seen anticipation growing for the release of the band’s outstanding album, ‘Black Morphine‘, which I have to say is something they can TRULY be proud of. With several tracks included in tonight’s performance, their thirty minute set flew by way too fast but I’m very pleased to say that Fire Red Empress will be back at The Slade Rooms again for Hils Ovation on 20th January 2018, so get that date down in your diary now as this gig will be one that your really don’t want to miss!

Fire Red Empress – ‘GIANTS’ Official Video.

2017 has been quite a year for Vicious Nature and just as their popularity continues to grow, so do they musically and for me, the set that they delivered tonight was one of the highlights of the day. It’s always great to see a band enjoying their performance as much as their audience and factors such as that really do fuel the anticipation for what comes next, which I understand will be a new EP so I shall definitely look forward to that!

Our penultimate band of the day were At Dawn We Attack and with their endless energy and adrenaline free flowing throughout the entirety of their set, these guys really put their own stamp of excellence to the day. With guest vocalists also joining them up on stage, their was no shortage of community spirit to be enjoyed which was really quite something to be a part of.

And without further ado, it was time for our guest headliners of the day to hit the stage and much to the audible appreciation of The Slade Rooms audience, that is exactly what Orange Goblin did. With a small army of Orange Goblin troops in attendance, there was no denying that they got the performance that they came to see, with songs such as ‘Scorpionica‘, ‘The Filthy & The Few‘ and the rather epic ‘Red Tide Rising‘ being included within tonight’s set list choice and bringing today’s top notch event to a rousing close.

Review and Photography by Sue Wardle.

Hils Ovation

O2 Academy3 Birmingham 28th January 2017.

Oktopus with support from Netherhall, Brocken Spectre and Sonata Fall. It seems like January 2017 has been an exceptionally long month, so to say I’m just a little bit happy to be heading off to the first Hils Ovation gig of the year, is most definitely an understatement!

And what a little gem tonight’s gig looks set to be as it’s line up offers an intriguing mix of bands both known and previously unknown to me and that definitely warrants a big thumbs up in my book.

Getting tonight underway were Sonata Fall and it quickly became apparent that tonight’s set was to hold great meaning, with this being Simon Tranter’s last gig with the band. Ramped with a profusion of intense guitar licks combined with the rich vocals of Justin Reeves, tonight’s set hit gold for the band and albeit an emotive end to this particular chapter in their career, it delivered one hell of a great promise for the next one!

Simon Tranter - Sonata Fall

Our next set of the night was from the Hereford based band Brocken Spectre and hand on heart, these guys stand in a league of their own! For any band whose music is progressive and purely instrumental, there is a need for that music to completely set the scene and the aura of Brocken Spectre was nothing short of mesmerising! Individually, the level of ability possessed by Phil Rochard (Guitar), Jordan Payne (Drums) and Duncan Edwards (Bass) warrants the title of virtuoso and when collectively delivered in a setting such as this, the best description I can give is to say that this was one of the most awesome live master classes I’ve ever seen.

Duncan Edwards - Brocken Spectre

It has been way too long since I last saw the fantastic band Netherhall, and after watching their set tonight and reflecting back upon that last previous performance, as good as they had been then, their evident evolution over the past twelve months is nothing short of spectacular. The guitar work of Tom Bushell has always been charismatic in both its delivery and content and with Tom positioned pretty much centre stage tonight, I felt that this really brought to the forefront, the immense passion and intelligence that lies within Netherhall’s sound. Netherhall will be back in Birmingham again on the 19th Feb at The Hammer & The Anvil, so give yourself a treat and get yourself along there to see them.

Tom Bushell - Netherhall

Our headliners for tonight were the Birmingham based band Oktopus, who’ve been playing together since 2014 and comprise of Alistair Bell (Vocals/Guitar), Tim Wilson (Drums/Vocals) and Sam Roberts (Bass).

Sam Roberts - Oktopus

Given that I’ve not seen Oktopus play live before and had only heard snippets of their songs, I don’t think I was fully prepared for the experience of their set tonight – and what a truly amazing set it was! The style and progressive sound that Oktopus deliver is fresh, vibrant and through the sheer excellence of the bands ability, they breath the kind of life into their songs that you don’t tend to come across that often.

Alistair Bell - Oktopus

Highlight of their set for me, was the performance of ‘Worlds Apart’ which also happens to be the title of their debut album aswell.

Tonight’s gig certainly blew away those January cobwebs and left me heading for home, one very happy gal indeed!

Review and Photography by Sue Wardle.

Midlands Metal Crusade VI

The Slade Rooms Wolverhampton 26th November 2016.

There are some events that will never fail to be highlights of my year and The Midlands Metal Crusade is one of them, as events such as this bring together so many of the great bands who are loved and supported throughout the area and ultimately, it is a showcase for the local music scene at it’s finest.

Today’s line up will see eight bands take to the stage at The Slade Rooms here in Wolverhampton and getting this impressive event underway, were Exiles Of Elysium. In the company of an enthusiastic and eager audience, these five guys rolled out an adrenaline packed set with the savage lead vocals of Andy Horton, faultless to the core.

Andy Horton - Exiles of Elysium

And keeping the momentum rising were our second band of the day, Devil’s Playground. When you consider that these guys and gal have only been together since December 2015, the level of admiration and support that they’ve already achieved, speaks volumes about the music and stage presence that this talented band possess. Today’s eight song set from Devil’s Playground fitted the bill perfectly and without any doubt at all, confirmed that these guys are a band to watch out for.

The Midlands Metal Crusade first came to fruition back in 2013 and one of the many great bands who have repeatedly supported it, are XVII. Today’s set from the band saw them raging at full throttle with their merciless riffs and vocals making for one hell of a great performance but no surprises there, as anything less than 100% from XVII, just ain’t gonna happen!

Vaughan Bennett - XVII

Our next band of the day were Black Ink Sun and given the speed at which their reputation is growing, this band were one who were definitely not to be missed. Consumed within a turmoil of writhing aggression, their sound and style is rapturously feral and had the audience firmly within it’s grip, throughout the entirety of the set. I can only echo the good words that have already been said about Black Ink Sun and I hope that the new year brings them back up this way again – sharpish!

With the Midlands Metal Crusade having raced past it’s midway point, there was no time or chance to exhale, as the momentum within The Slade Rooms was still rising fast, for the awesomeness that is Haerken. As a wee sproggling, I loved nothing more than to be spirited away by a captivating storybook and for me, Haerken possess that same quality, as within each and every performance of theirs, there is a dramatic adventure to behold. Tonight’s set not only saw Haerken commanding the stage but also gave rise to an Evil Scarecrow and brother in arms, Monty Blitzfist joining them for a song or two, which truly went down a storm.

Laird Logan Haerken

With the event now running slightly behind schedule, not a moment was left to waste and the fast paced thrash of Eradikator was set to drive the night on with exceptional dexterity. Drenched with a torrent of adrenaline, the intricacy and detail of their twin riff attacks was all consuming and tonight’s set from the band saw them on absolute peek form, with the atmosphere on stage rolling off stage aswell and producing a sea of fists pumping the air. For me, this was Eradikator at their finest and an absolute pleasure to behold.

Liam Priest - Eradikator

Over the years, I’ve had the great privilege of photographing and reviewing Martyr De Mona on many an occasion, so for me and many others here at The Slade Rooms tonight, this evenings set from the band was destined to be a bitter/sweet one as after a hefty ten years of making some pretty outstanding music, this was going to be their last performance… ever. To say that emotions were running high is an understatement but true to form, when the going gets tough, Martyr De Mona have always stood tall and tonight these guys owned the stage like giants!

Louis Hale - Martyr de Mona

With former band member Ant Rickett also making a guest appearance, the years rolled back with ease, with the warmth and recognition ringing out in the audiences appreciation at the end of each and every song. With such a wealth of anthems to MDM’s name, it’s hard to imagine how one track could stand out in tonight’s set but their final song of the night ‘Gravity Breaks’ made for the most lasting of memories, because if ever a song was written in the innocence of how poignant it’s lyrics would become, then this song is it. Martyr De Mona will without doubt be missed but here’s wishing that whatever light shines on their future, it will be a very bright one indeed.

The metal genre has produced a wealth of hero’s and amongst that list you can’t fail but find our Crusade headliners, as Evil Scarecrow are what I would classify as legends in their own universe. The live experience of Evil Scarecrow is one which has always left me grinning from ear to ear and quite often speechless, and with that probability fixed firmly in mind, the madness and mirth commenced!

Dr Rabid Hell - Evil Scarecrow

From the moment that Evil Scarecrow set foot on stage, the audience were electric and I think that it’s fair to say that Evil Scarecrow set out to enjoy their time on stage as much as their fans did. Just as I’d hoped, we were all swept up by their all consuming aura and none more so than in the company of ’Crabulon’, which saw the audience pinching the air and furtively scuttling across the Slade Rooms like their lives depended on it! And of all the Crusades that I’ve attended over the years, tonight’s finale was most definitely one of a kind.

This Midland Metal Crusade has definitely been a highlight of my year and when it comes down to making an excellent day like today happen, the contribution of so many is key to it’s success. Thanks must go out to all the bands for getting up there and raising the roof, the audience for keeping live music live, the staff at The Slade Rooms and Wolverhampton Civic for providing an excellent home for the Midlands Metal Crusade and also the Sound/lighting engineers for keeping us all rocking.

Big thumbs up must go out to Tony Gaskin aswell for joining the dots up on stage and of course, to the Mother of Metal herself, Hils, whose tireless commitment to the metal scene is truly awesome. x

Review and Photography by Sue Wardle.