Sunday:- The third and unfortunately the last day of Wildfire Festival 2016 but there are bands to be watched all day as Canterbury based Wretched Soul proceed to try and darken the blue skies at 11.30am with a
visceral six song set. Opener ‘Bury The Heretic’ was nothing less than face melting hyper speed thrash that probably woke up any stragglers in the nearby campsite. Lead vocalist Chris Simmons commanded the stage from the off, whipping up the sizeable crowd. ‘I Am The Thunderer’ lived up to its name as rib rattling snare work from Andy Clifford propelled the turbo charged Exodus like gallop provided by bassist Luke Mayell and guitarist Steve Clifford. The quality remained throughout with the razor wire riffing of ‘Necromancer’ cutting through the air as the song ended in a full on thrash frenzy but my favourite was the Mercyful Fate atmospherics that dominated ‘Veronica’ and Chris’ vocal style matched the evil lyrics.
It took me until after the first song ( ‘Not Your Enemy’ ) to get into Black Nevada as this is a genre of rock/metal music I don’t normally listen to but once the Jimmy Eat World like melodies and Far like dynamics of following number ‘Behind These Walls’ was
powered out with youthful exuberance, I was hooked! The full on melodic rhythmic crush ending with some impressive stick work from drummer Sarah Davies was the icing on the cake. ‘Winner In The End’ thundered along similarly but with heavy breakdowns and if bassist Jonny Moor had jumped any higher, he would have needed a parachute to land safely. ‘Small World, Big Problems’ twisted and turned like early At The Drive In and just as intense was ‘Broken’ with a huge main riff and some angst ridden vocals from lead vocalist Jordan Bailey who seemed so stoked to be onstage I thought he was going to explode. My set highlight was ‘Run This Town’, another dynamically heavy song with literally an avalanche of riffs rolling off the stage. Their latest six track E.P titled Fragments was heavily aired today with a definite five songs from it played but I’m not sure if there was no time for ‘There’s No Time’, excuse the pun. Great band, very impressed!
Dundee lunatics Excellent Cadaver proceeded to smash out a seven song set that did not typify a usual lazy Sunday afternoon for me. Fronted by the bug eyed madman Andrew Downie, they opened with the groove ridden tech metal of ‘Dead Dreams’, driven along by sucker punch double bass drums of Ryan Shepherd. ‘My Own Addiction’ showed no let up with Morbid Angel like bursts of ferocity but the pace shifted as the bleak, heavy doom of ‘Witness’ that morphed into full on thrash metal probably drove the sun elsewhere for the heavy rain that lashed down for the rest of the day. ‘Faith Destroyed’ must have surely tested whatever was holding the P.A. system together but set highlight for me was set closer ‘Another Action Plan’ with its 100mph vocal delivery and Tankard like riffing from Drew Cochrane and Paul Hudson, a fitting end to an assault on the senses.
The four horsemen of the apocalypse strode onstage next under the guise of All Consumed, a Preston based noise machine. Front man Rob Thomas cut a Kerry King like figure whose pint you would not look at, let alone spill. They kicked off their set with ‘Governed’ with Rob giving his first guttural vocal delivery in the vein of Chris Barnes. This was old school death metal at its very best. No pause was given as the short, extreme burst of hardcore for ‘Corporate Misuse’ hit us. Other fine examples of hate were ‘Fragile Skies’ featuring some ridiculously fast stick work from Dave Kenyon and the early Entombed like bluster of ‘Enraging’ but my set highlight and probably with the majority of the crowd was a full on death metal cover of ‘500 miles’ by The Proclaimers. It really had to be heard to be believed but it worked with guitarist Darren McGillivray adding backing vocals.
Darwen based ‘Sky Valley Mistress’ were another band to throw a curve ball into the Wildfire proceedings with what I could only describe as being an amalgamation of 1960’s stoners Blue Cheer being fronted by the reincarnation of Janis Joplin! Their sparse sound leaves a lot of room for Squire on guitar, Harvey on drums and Russell on bass guitar to shine, point proven on the adrenaline rush of fuzzed up Cream like grooves on set opener ‘Hit With A Feelin’ which segued into the freaky, trippy soundscapes of ‘Hell Ain’t Got Your Hound’ with Kayley’s laid back vocal drawl morphing into a full on holler when the song kicked into gear. A calm before the storm and back again heavy blues take on Black Sabbath‘s ‘Paranoid’ was an inspired cover but my stand out track was the meandering Doors like bluesy opus ‘She’s A Fever’ with the band locking in for some heavy jams. Another one of my standout sets of the weekend and an interview with them after their set was highly enjoyable.
NWOBHM flag bearers Soldier hammered out an all eras set, opening up with two tracks from 1981. ‘Infantrycide’ was full of biting riffs and a tasty wah wah solo from founding member and lead guitarist Ian Dick. Follower ‘Storm Of Steel’ was more uptempo, giving lead vocalist Richard Frost a chance to show off his range and for Monty and Nick Grimley, ( two old Soldier fans ) a chance to headbang! Other choice cuts were the commercially heavy hard rock vibes in ‘Leaving’. ‘I Can’t Breathe’ from the Dogs Of War album once again featured a soaring vocal from Richard, heavy dynamics and neat guitar interplay between Ian and Miles Goodman. The gritty ‘Dogs Of War’ picked the set pace up once more and set closer of course had to be a glorious romp through the 1982 classic ‘Sheralee’.
Another surprise package came from Swansea based female fronted band Kane’d. Of course female rock bands exist but I’ve not seen one with three sisters singing before. Steph, Stacey and Chez all have strong individual voices and harmonise well too. Harry Scott Elliott provided some heavy riffs and virtuoso solos to give an edge to their ten song set, six of which came from latest studio album Rise. Highlights were ‘Beautiful But Tragic’ which bounced along like a breezier ‘Whats My Age Again?’. ‘321’ was one of the heavier numbers here with Harry providing some shredding solos. ‘Rise’ was like a female fronted AC/DC with the vocals heavy enough to match the riffs. Heavier still was the Metallica like crunch of ‘Watching You’ but my set pleaser was the almost industrial riffing that underpinned ‘Love Her Madly’. There was a fun vibe to the set with all three sisters joking throughout amongst themselves onstage.
Portsmouth based Dendera had travelled far to entertain us and they certainly did with their set mainly based on latest studio album Pillars Of Creation. Fronted by the instantly likeable Ashley Edison, their epic multi tempo songs were sure fire festival pleasers as they kicked off with the intense lengthy intro to ‘Claim Our Throne’ which led into power metal territory and the first strong vocal from the ever smiling Ashley. ‘For Vengeance’ the only non new album track here was an epic, dizzying display of riffing from guitarists Stephen Main and David Stanton, followed by the mid paced thrash metal of ‘Chosen One’ with Ashley pushing his voice into Geoff Tate range. Set highlight for me was their longest and heaviest number ‘The Edge Of Tomorrow’, an eight minute marathon with everything thrown into the pot to close their all too brief set.
The variety of styles of music that the NWOBHM genre throws up were proven by the heavy boogie served up from veterans Vardis, fronted by original member, lead guitarist and vocalist Steve Zodiac. This was a big gig for the band and fans alike as this was the UK debut of new bassist Martin Connolly following the passing away of Terry Horbury last year but he fitted in perfectly, providing a foil for Steve’s axe attack. The set started with a bludgeoning ‘Move Along’ with sweat and steam coming off Steve by the time the heavy midsection came in which got me headbanging like an idiot! No pause for breath as they tore into ‘Lion’s Share’ and ‘Radio Rockers’, with an extended solo from Steve’s vintage telecaster. Latest studio album Red Eye was represented by the title track, a much heavier sounding animal live and the barroom boogie of ‘Jolly Roger’, driven by some hefty drumming from Joe Clancy and piercing guitar solos which got Nick and Monty headbanging again next to me. ‘Dirty Money‘ was also stretched out for a lengthy jam midway and the pace was brought slightly down for a melodic ‘Where There’s Mods, There’s Rockers’. Set time was almost up which meant a speedy run through of their classic ‘If I Were King’ following a thank you to the crowd by Steve, saying “It is an honour and a privilege to play in Scotland, we will be back”. So following that it was a few neat Bushmills with Steve’s son Fred at the merch table whilst swapping a few stories about Terry and then off to Wiston Lodge to interview the band for PlanetMosh, a thoroughly enjoyable end to another fantastic Wildfire Festival.
Photography by KS Gig Photo