Another year and another fantastic Rockwich Festival. For a measly £15 we got fifteen bands kicking out the jams from midday till midnight. As AC/DC once sang, “Aye aye oh, shake your foundations” which is what opening band Red Spektor certainly did. The Stoke based power trio hit their time machine button to the time of flares and Blue Cheer with their thumping stoner rock set. Opener ‘Before The Sunrise’ pinned the early arrivals to the back wall with its pounding grooves. ‘Pagan Queen’ was a bass heavy thudder as they pushed the life expectancy of their Orange amps to the limit. The wah wah drenched boogie of ‘Cosmonaut’ segued into the trippy drawl of ‘Elixir’ which featured some hypnotic, lengthy jams. The raw garage rock vibe of ‘Torpedo Head’ preceded their all too soon set closer, ‘Fields Of Fire’, a crushing, claustrophobic slice of melodic doom.
It was party time as the brash ‘Hells Addiction’ turned up the fun factor to the max with a full on set based mainly on latest studio album Broken. The Krokus like ballsy riffs and dynamics of opener ‘Backs To The Wall’ set the bar high as the feel good vibes of ‘Get The Fuck’ followed. A storming mid section with some fretboard frenzy from Liam Sargent caught my attention. Towering lead vocalist Ben Sargent commanded the stage throughout and hit some lung busting notes during ‘What You Gonna Do?’. ‘The Rocker’ was announced as a tribute to Lemmy and it did just that with a display of power chord heaven. The slow burning power balladry of ‘Broken’ brought the pace down as it built into a guitar heavy finish. A brand new song called ‘On The Road Again’ had more hooks than a fishing tackle shop as their set drew to a close with ‘Holiday’, chock full of AC/DC chords and some neat Thin Lizzy twin leads and final number ‘Blue Lights’ was a classic Nazareth like melodic hard rocker.
Half an hour of majestic AOR was on the menu next from Birmingham based Daylight Robbery with a set that just oozed with class. Fronted by the golden larynx of Tony Nicholl, they opened with the heavy pomp of ‘Outloud’ featuring the first of many instantly memorable choruses from them. The keyboards seemed a bit low in the mix but this was rectified by the time ‘Red Lights’ riffed along like the heavier side of Nightranger with some intense three way vocal harmonies and the quality continued with the almost perfect melodic rock of ‘Samarah Never Sleeps’ with lead guitarist Mark Carleton delivering some fiery leads. The gritty main riff in ‘Paradise Is Lost’ gave way to a space rock like midsection into a full on finish. Power ballad tinged ‘Fallen Star’ was a lighters in the air gem as the set ended with the uptempo ‘Cross Your Heart, Hope To Die’.
What do you get when you cross heavy funk with edgy alt rock fused with raging guitar work? The easy answer is Crowsaw. The quirky alt rock and guitar histrionics from mohican styled front man Rob Lomax during the electrifying opener ‘All About Me’ lead into the riff heavy ‘Money’
which was followed by the At The Drive In like eccentricity of ‘Dog Of Nine’. The songwriting quality continued with the heavy/light dynamics of ‘The Answer’, the beautiful blues drenched ballad ‘Tequila Tears’ featuring some off kilter drumming from Ty Walker, a stand in after only two rehearsals and high energy set closer ‘Voodoo Nation’ that got the crowd in fine voice on the choruses of “Voodoo, nation, voodoo, temptation”.
It was time for Rockwich to get bouncing with the utterly bonkers A Jokers Rage, a wake up call to anyone still shaking off Saturday nights hangover. All face painted and fronted by the instantly likeable Zakky Boy Taylor, the York based band flew into opener ‘Bounce’, which the crowd duly did. The floor was full from the off as the effervescent punk pop vibes and over the top guitar solos from Adam Gauton paved the way for the most fun set of the day. ‘Temptress’ got us in fine voice again
with its unforgettable choruses as things got heavier with the guitar dominated ‘The Masquerade’. Two covers closed their set, not rock covers but their take on ‘Too Close’ which featured a few bars of ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’ near the end and a fun fuelled run through of ‘California Love’ by Tupac and Dr. Dre. They gave it a bit of welly with a Rage Against The Machine like delivery and more guitar showmanship from Adam.
It was time to get heavier as a welcome return for Chasing Dragons fronted by the ball of energy that is Laurie ‘Tank’ Canyon. Opener ‘Broken Jaw’ came to life when the sharp riffing from guitarist Mitch came into the mix. ‘The Mutiny’ was a crunching beast featuring more abrasive riffing and a powerhouse lead vocal from Laurie. The crushing, jazzy grooves of ‘Whitehorse’ preceded set highlight ‘The Last Defence’. A lone vocal tour de force intro segued into Tool like anger and I was surprised she had any voice left for their final two tracks, ‘For Kingdom, For Glory’ which featured a massive chorus
that filled the room and set closer ‘Devil In Her Eyes’ that surged along with a melodic hardcore vibe.
Theia, another band making a welcome return to Rockwich were another power trio on fine form. Playing six tracks from their debut album Take The Pill, they hit the stage with ‘We’re Alive’, a Helmet like heavy opener with caustic riffs bouncing off the venue walls. ‘Society On Mute’ was a laid back stoner ditty as ‘Electric Witness’ thundered like a heavier Thunder! During their set, front man Kyle Lamley stated about being a recent father which seemed hard to believe as he looks like he’s only just left school. Proof that rock music keeps you young at heart. ‘Some Days’ was commercially heavy with a killer chorus as ‘Ride On’ with its full on stomp as their half hour set closed with ‘Whoop Dee Fucking Doo’, which gave the crowd a chance to join in on the choruses.
Leicester based trio Skam were another high energy band to get the crowd moving. Set opener ‘Holy City’ was lively heavy rock that got the front rows dancing. With all three members providing vocals, their sound was full to say the least. The blues rock of ‘Between The Eyes’ and melodic rock vibes in ‘Take It Or Leave It’ were two fine tasters from an upcoming studio album on the way. The seismic bass lines from Matt Gilmor that began ‘The Wire’ led into a slow burning lengthy jam with a blistering solo from guitarist Steve Hill. This mood continued with the head nodding rhythms in ‘Massacre’ topped off with more fretwork burning leads from Steve as set highlight ‘No Lies’ was a spritely bow out with a balls out delivery and some impressive snare drum work from Neal Hill.
Bad Touch just get better and better. For such a young band they play with a lot of soul, like a souped up version of the Faces with as much swagger onstage. The barroom boogie of ‘Waste My Time’ was a short, sharp opener with dapper lead vocalist Stevie Westwood howling to an ecstatic crowd as guitarists Rob Glendinning and Daniel Seekings laid down some heavy licks. ‘Made To Break’, the first of two new songs aired was another hard hitter with a slow, lone vocal midsection featuring an emotional line of “Just like a stormy day, we were made to break”. ‘Good On Me’ got the party going full swing like a raunchier Rolling Stones with the chorus returned by the crowd. ‘Wise Water’ with its vocal tour de force and scorching slide guitar work was a contender for set highlight but it was surpassed by ‘Ninety Nine Percent’, another new song that was just no frills Southern rock with a lyric that sounded like “Ninety nine percent I love you but I’d best hurry up before I change my mind”. A fiery cover of ‘Rock And Roll’ by Led Zeppelin lead to set closer ‘Down’, a spine tingling heavy ballad that rocked out to the finish.
The spirit of Motley Crue is alive and well in Heartbreak Remedy. The Cumbria based trio cruised through their eight song set in the sweltering heat with aplomb. Opener ‘Hair Of The Dog’ sleazed along on an early Love/Hate like vibe, followed by the heavy riffing from guitarist Luke Blair during ‘Girl At The Bar’. ‘Mama Juju’ brought the pace down with its rumbling grooves and laid back vocal from imposing frontman and bassist Matty Penn, a fast talker who knows how to work a crowd. The bruising Southern rock of ‘Tequila Butterfly’ was the calm before the storm of ‘Truth’, a bass heavy supercharger with some intense wah wah guitar solos. ‘Convoy’ raged along like a heavier version of Aerosmiths ‘Train Kept A Rollin’ and their belter of a set climaxed with the Cheap Trick tinged like riffs and melodies of ‘Keep Rollin’.
I missed New Device here last year from doing interviews, so this year it was all about watching the bands and glad I finally got to see them. Vocalist Daniel Leigh has an impressive vocal range and their set could be described could be as muscle with a lot of melody, point proven by the heavy bluster of set opener ‘Takin’ Over’ that was all big riffs and a catchy chorus with the refrain of “We are the new device, we are takin’ over”. ‘On Your Knees’ followed in a similar vein with another strong chorus among the heavy grooves. ‘Save Your Life’ featured Daniel’s most powerful vocal backed by biting guitar solos. A mid set crowd pleasing cover of ‘Hammer To Fall’ preceded the intense riffing of ‘Away From Here’ as their well received set closed with the heavy party vibe of ‘On Fire’, coming over like a more powerful ‘Kickstart My Heart’.
Another masterful set by the up and coming Fahran got the room bouncing once again. Their P.A system rattling seven song set was based heavily on latest album Chasing Hours, another Rockwich band whose ages bely their song writing maturity. Opener ‘Some Kind Of Family’ was a strong opener with big, grinding riffs from guitarists Jake Graham and Chris Byrne. A powerhouse backing from drummer Josh Windsor and bassist Joshua Ballantyne provided a foil for the melodic howl of lead vocalist Matt Black, a natural frontman. There was no pause for breath as ‘I Heard A Joke Once’ with its heavy dynamics and stinging guitar lines that got the floor moving. The band are a constant blur of headbanging, especially the showmanship of drummer Josh. ‘Take This City Alive’ was a constant swirl of riffing with melodic Thin Lizzy like twin solos midway. ‘Cased In Steel’ was an apt title for the heaviest song of the set, almost matched by the dark, brooding grooves of ‘Long Gone’. The stadium rock power balladry of ‘Ashes’ was a brief visit to their self titled debut album as their all too brief set closed with the early UFO tinged ‘A Thousand Nights’. It was all crushing heavy rock riffs with rampant guitar solos. This band will go far.
Since forming almost three years ago, Walsall based Stone Broken have released a bona fide classic debut album and are now reaping the rewards from all their hard work with festival slots and dates are on their upcoming headlining dates are already selling out. One of the largest crowds of the day saw them open with ‘Stay All Night’, the hook in the main riff caught my attention along with the melodic guitar solo that flowed with the chugging main riff. ‘Better‘ brought to mind the melodies of ‘Make It Real’ by the Scorpions. The atmospheric blue grass tinged ‘Be There’ should be a chart bothering single release as the riffing in ‘Not Your Enemy’ heavied up proceedings. Lead vocalist Rich Moss ruled ‘This Life’ with an emotional delivery as guitar riffs weaved in and out of his lyrics followed by final number ‘Fall Back Down’, the heaviest song played featured a chorus that got into my head immediately.
Glasgow’s finest Attica Rage made the most of their stage time with a ten song dose of no frills heavy metal. Its been a few years since I’ve seen them and what you see is what you always get as the scorching riffs from guitarists Jonny Parr and Stevie Bell got the front rows headbanging during ‘Beyond The Forty Five’ taken from latest studio album Warheads Ltd. ‘Falling Down’, another new track was more laid back heavy blues featuring some blistering leads from Stevie. ‘Beyond Forever’ grooved along similarly with more solos to keep the air guitarists happy. As the set carried on, I took less notes as I just wanted to enjoy the gig but the title track of the album got me scribbling that it was heavy Molly Hatchet like Southern rock with glorious twin lead work. When they got to the encore of ‘Overkill’ after a brief dedication to Lemmy from Jonny, it was a mad dash for me to the front barrier to shake some hair as they delivered a faithful version of it with bassist Matthew Ward hammering out the great mans runs with Richie Rage on drums kicking the shit out of his kit!
Headliners Absolva had a hard act to follow but opener ‘Never A Good Day To Die’, title track from their latest studio album, paved the way for the heaviest metal of the day, an anthemic number driven by the pummeling of drummer Martin McNee and even after almost eleven hours of bands, Absolva commanded the attention of a ready to rock crowd. Guitarists and brothers Chris and Luke Appleton riffed and shredded with aplomb. The full on rage of ‘Hundred Years’ and relentless riffing in ‘Harsh Reality’ raised the intensity levels even higher and the sheer force of ‘Live For The Fight’ and ‘Taste The Blood’ meant no more notes from me and more headbanging on the front barrier for ‘Flames Of Justice’ and ‘Code Red’. British metal has a strong future with bands like Absolva flying the flag!
Special thanks goes to Gareth Harding for permission to use his photos.
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