Yes, that is spelt correctly. Not grim up North, but Grimm Up North! So called as it was a two day heavy metal festival in Bury, Manchester, organised by Kevin Wynn to raise funds for ongoing medical bills for Steve Grimmett, lead vocalist with Grim Reaper. On a South American tour earlier this year, Steve played a gig seated due to pain in his right foot. Rushed to hospital, an infection in his right foot spread to his knee overnight, resulting in his leg being amputated below the knee. His grit and determination resulted in him being back onstage within a few months!
The gig, held in Bury town hall featuring over thirty bands for just £15 kicked off just after midday and it was good to see plenty of early risers there to see opening band Damnation’s Hammer kick up a storm. The Lancashire based quartet blew hangover cobwebs away with set opener ‘Temple Of The Descending Gods’, a roaring vocal from vocalist Tim Preston tested the mettle of the p.a system, as did the drum assault from Gary Bevan. Spacey lead guitar solos from Ady Farnell made it an early set highlight for me. The mesmerizing grooves, backed by another solid drum backing for ‘Deathcraft’ ,upped the ante as they tore into the lengthy epic ‘Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres’, the title track off their forthcoming album. ‘Wolves Of Aquarius’ was a feedback dominated headbanger and a foot to the floor song titled ‘Hammers Of War’ was a hectic set closer.
The NWOBHM has seen some great comebacks and none more so than Troyen. Formed in 1980, recorded an E.P, split in 82 but decided to give it another go in 2014. Three out of four original members remain and a comeback gig that year at Brofest showed they still had a lot to offer. The catchy dynamics of opener ‘Backlash’ hit hard in this high energy opus. ‘Dreams Never Lie’ was some nifty, commercially heavy rock with some fluid soloing from frontman Steve McGuire. ‘Don’t Send Me To War’ was all hard as nails riffing that shifted up a gear midway. The balls out delivery of ‘Future’s Friend’ defied their ages and the spirit of NWOBHM lives on with new track ‘Stormchild’. Set closer was a heads down to the finish line twin lead guitar frenzy of ‘Crazy Lady’.
The true spirit of the heavy metal community was highlighted by Eternal Breath, the first of the overseas bands to show their support by traveling from Belgium to play. Their over the top set featured heavily from their latest album The Joker. The high pitched vocals of Andy Polfliet cut through the venue during ‘Back In Time’ over some furious thrash metal riffing. Twin lead battles and multi tempo changes during ‘The Rich And The Poor’ got the air guitarists in full flow near me. ‘Fight For Metal’ was aptly titled with it’s call to arms lyrics in the verses that lead to a stirring chorus sang back by the ecstatic crowd. ‘Never Surrender’ was dominated by some fast footed drum patterns from Aaron Soen followed by the breathtaking rhythms of ‘Mass Domination’ that headed off into Exodus like precision thrash. Set closer ‘The Need For Speed’ was a rip roaring end to a very metal performance!
France was royally represented by a full on set that was interrupted by a fire alarm evacuation by Gang. Fronted by the formidable Bilk Gang (who also belted out lead vocals for Tysondog later that day), they came on all guns blazing with the visceral ‘The Almighty’. Follower ‘Devil In Me’ was slower but no less as heavy as the raging twin leads blazed away midway. The pace was kept down by the slow, heavy riffing of ‘Another Tomorrow’ that made the floor shake. Bilk pushed his voice to the limit on this one. ‘Save Me’ was only half played unfortunately due to the fire alarm. As we were unsure if their set would continue, we headed off for some much needed food.
Sunderland based Spartan Warrior strode on to prove their molten NWOBHM anthems are still as fresh as when they formed in 1980, point proven with four of their eight song set numbers coming from their debut album Steel ‘n’ Chains. They wasted no time by playing the first three with no pause. ‘In Memorium’ was full on fury which lead into a powerful lead vocal from David Wilkinson during ‘Easy Prey’, with his brother Neil trading fiery solos with second guitarist Dan Rochester. Title track from the debut got the front row headbanging, especially birthday boy Monty! Other highlights were the churning melodies and melodic twin leads in ‘Assassin’, the Godzilla stomp heaviness of ‘Bad Attitude’ and ‘Stormer’ lived up to it’s name due to some fast footwork on the drums from James Charlton.
The new blood of NWOBHM was represented by the aptly named The Filth Hounds from Newcastle Upon Tyne, the Mecca for this genre of music in my opinion. Formed in 2011 and fronted by the manic Bryan McGill, their set could only be described as quirky, in a good way of course and the sizeable crowd lapped every note up. ‘Attack’ did just that, swiftly followed by the breakneck rhythms of ‘Jack’s Nightmare’. ‘Too Damn Good’ had a main riff akin to Impaler by Exodus which certainly grabbed my attention, as did the intriguing time changes of ‘Tonight’ that developed into a full on midsection and heavy chug finish. ‘Hooked On Love’ was a heavy power ballad peppered with bluesy licks and solos but stand out for me was the guitar overload instrumental that was ‘The Trilogy’.
Stage running time clashes meant me missing the opening two numbers from Tysondog, another early 1980’s band still chomping at the bit. Lead vocals were belted out with aplomb by Bilk Gang, his second performance of the day as he hollered over the volley of riffs throughout ‘Dead Meat’. Event organiser and one of the original line up Kevin Wynn made a quick change of clothes to play bass guitar. The furious thrash assault of ‘Hammerhead’ was matched in power by the heaviest main riff I’d heard so far in ‘Dog Soldiers’. ‘Taste The Hate’ was a no holds barred slammer and time to catch a breath came from the slow burning pound of ‘Demon’.
A dollop of feisty classic rock was served up by Ramsbottom based Sister Rose, formed in 1978 with Craig ‘Clanger’ Fearnley still remaining from the original line up, took a break from his stage duties to play some mean guitar work. Fronted by the charismatic, Paul Rodgers tinged vocals of Chris Berry, they filled the room with a summer vibe. Opener ‘High Expectation’ hit hard, matched by the vibrant choruses of ‘King Of Cabaret’. New song ‘World Stops Turning’ had a touch of 70’s blues rock with a biting main riff. Their knack of writing memorable choruses came to the fore in ‘You Got My Love’ as a moody vibe in ‘Smoke And Mirrors’ was backed by a grinding guitar riff. ‘Shame’ put the power in power chord and ‘Hear What I’m Saying’ was a slice of vintage Crue bombast. Was great to see them play again. Always a fun set.
Savage, one of my most anticipated bands of the weekend, formed way back in Mansfield in 1976, pulled no punches and tore apart the second stage. Featuring two original members, Andy Dawson on lead guitar and Chris Bradley on vocals/bass guitar who showed excellent parenting by having his son Kristian on second guitar! Their classic debut album Loose n Lethal was represented by a thundering ‘The China Run’ early on and they finished with a highly charged three in a row of ‘On The Rocks’, ‘Ain’t No Fit Place’ and the NWOBHM jewel in the crown of ‘Let It Loose’ that Metallica covered early on in their career. Other highlights were a new song ‘Crazy Horse’, full of heavy, driving rhythms and ‘Smiling Assassin’ which Dave Mustaine may or may not have got the riff for ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ from!
Hull based Salem, formed in 1979, delivered another highly anticipated set for me so it was time to put the notebook away and just wallow in the music! In fact, the only notes I made were of vocalist Simon Saxby’s and bass guitarist Ade Jenkinson’s hilarious choreography during ‘Rock Fever’ and some Quo like moves elsewhere in the set. Simon and drummer Paul Mendham’s emotions were probably on the up due to Hull City’s 6-1 win a few hours earlier as they opened with the heavy AOR of ‘When Love’s In Your Heart’, from the Forgotten Dreams album which featured heavily during their set. ‘Fool’s Gold’ and the previously mentioned ‘Rock Fever’ went right to their early 1980’s wealth of material and it was a nice surprise to hear the rarely played, heavy ‘Tormented’ from Dark Days. Simon was on fine form and could easily double up as a stand up comedian if he ever quit music. Other personal highlights were the songwriting craft of ‘Ask The Lonely’, the emotionally charged ‘The Answer’ and a triumphant ‘Break The Chains’ which bodes well for the forthcoming 2018 album release of Attrition.
Notes were again kept to a minimum as headliners Oliver/Dawson Saxon delivered thirteen Saxon classics to a wild crowd. Fronted by the effervescent Bri Shaughnessy, Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson looked like two big kids having fun. The tight band was completed by Gav Coulson on second guitar and Graham’s son Paul on drums. Every song had me singing until I was almost hoarse as they opened with ‘Rock N Roll Gypsy’ and closed with a molten ‘And The Bands Played On’. My favourite album was their debut so it was great to hear an emotional ‘Frozen Rainbow’ early on with Graham playing THAT solo! He shined also on the solo for the heavy as you like it ‘Dallas 1pm’ and ‘Hungry Years’. Before the previously mentioned set closer, it was a race to the finish line of turbo charged versions of ‘Princess Of The Night’ and ‘Motorcycle Man’ with Bri hitting some high notes and a noisy crowd backed ‘Wheels Of Steel’.
Big thanks to DJ ‘Demonize Debz’ and DJ Andy ‘Grumpz’ Gregory for playing some great tunes between band sets and to Erika Wallberg for permission to use her Oliver/Dawson Saxon photo. A R.I.P goes out to Rodrigo BVevino, whose idea for Grimm Up North got the ball rolling. His band Last Joker were due to play but sadly cancer had taken a hold of him, he was too ill to play and he sadly passed away a few days after the festival.