On a freezing cold Mother’s Day this hard rocking mama took a little time out from her family celebrations to head out and catch a few bands – led by NWOBHM legends Angel Witch, fresh from their appearance just across the Irish Sea at Hammerfest just two days earlier and playing their first shows on Irish soil in more years than many of those present would admit to remembering.
First on the bill, Dublin’s Stereo Nasty play 80’s style heavy metal. Unfortunately, they open to a half empty room but this doesn’t damped their enthusiasm. With their hard hitting guitars and thunderous drums they grab the small crowd assembled by the balls with the opening chords of their set. The substantial range of Mick Mahon’s vocals is evident as the verse slips into the chorus and away they go. As the singer tries to encourage everyone to come to the front – “cause we don’t bite” – ‘Black Widow’ has a passionate band ply their trade with amazing effect. ‘Death Machine’ follows and the small crowd are really enjoying this performance. As they close their, set this quintet have won some new fans.
Belfast boys Rabid Bitch Of The North quietly ease their way on stage and it’s evident from the reaction of the slightly larger crowd that most here have not seen this band before and as their guitarist Gerry lifts his trademark pink guitar there are a few sniggers… but once the riffs start to blast, the crowd are amazed by the ferocity of their music. Then, Joe’s vocals kick in and the crowd – or the portion of them that haven’t been Bitch-slapped in the past – are flabberegasted. The understated stage presence of the guys allows their music to speak for itself and everyone starts to push forward. ‘Defending Two Castles’ shows how to produce a great guitar solo without all the guitar wanking that many bands rely on. As they debut a song from their forthcoming album ‘Green Eyes’, they have won the crowd over and finish their set with their anthems ‘Trapped in 1999’ and ‘Us Against Them’, before the band walks off stage to rapturous applause.
A blackened stage and intro tape lend some mystery to the proceedings. Stage lights blind the people at the front as Darkest Era burst into life with screaming guitars and bass. As the operatic vocals kick in, the crowd are stunned. The twin guitars blend beautifully, as do the male and female vocals. ‘Sorrows Boundless Realm’ has the crowd really getting into the atmosphere that this band has going with their classic melodic vocals and hard hitting riffs. The surprisingly short set closes with their best known track, ‘The Morrigan’ and they bounce off stage leaving the crowd wanting more.
After keeping everyone waiting for 45 minutes, headliners Angel Witch take to the stage. There’s a mixed reaction from the crowd as the first chords sound around the room: the younger ones squeal and the older ones maintain their restraint. There is no introduction or no “hello” from Kevin Heybourne as they blast straight into opener ‘Gorgon’, then flow directly into ‘Confused’ before, seemingly reluctantly, acknowledging the crowd. With very little interaction or banter with the audience, theNWOBHM stalwarts pack a high song content into their set.
The calibre of these musicians is of the highest quality. ‘White Witch’ brings the first sing-a-long of the set, leaving the band a bit breathless. Another string of songs run into each other ending with ‘Guillotine’ and the atmosphere is electric. A quick break while they take refreshment and another chant from the younger members of the crowd. They pack another few songs together, including crowd pleaser ‘Angel Of Death’ which has a small group at the front going nuts with their headbanging. After playing a large selection of their biggest known hits, Kevin announces their biggest known anthem, ‘Angel Witch’ itself, and the whole crowd erupts with everyone in the room screaming along with the chorus on this extended version.
Despite the crowd going bonkers for more, there is no return to the stage for an encore and so the crowd quickly leave the venue – except for a small diehard few, who are rewarded with the band re-appearing at the stage door to meet their adoring fans wrapping up a great night of NWOBHM, and with some of the lower order bands gaining a few new followers as well. Someone recently said that metal is dead… not by a long shot if what I witnessed tonight is anything to go by.
Setlist: Gorgon / Confused / Atlantis / Dead Sea Scrolls / White Witch / They Wouldn’t Dare / Sorcerors / Guillotine / Dr Phibes / Angel Of Death / Baphomet / Angel Witch
Photographs of Stereo Nasty and Rabid Bitch Of The North by Darren McVeigh. Photograph of Darkest Era by Marc Leach.
Angel Witch headline the Metal Hammer stage at The Underworld, Camden, as part of Desertfest on Sunday April 26. Other acts appearing at Cancer, Quartz, Amulet, Decrepid and Dungeon.