After a hearty cooked breakfast, we wobbled over the road to the Elizabethan Suite for day two of Grimm Up North Fest. Even at 13.00pm a dedicated number of rockers had assembled for opening act SYZ. Formed in 1981 and fronted by the perpetually entertaining Roy Hinson, they rocked out exceptionally. A full on set opener ‘Rich To Rock’ opened a few bleary eyes wider as things got heavier with their 1986 single release ‘Rock N Roll Children’. The riffs from guitarists Mick Atkin and Mark Gibson picked up speed, topped off by the charisma from Roy. ‘Universe Of Time’ was a tad more restrained but brought to life by some fiery twin lead solos. ‘Cocaine Blues’ was a slice of heavy sleaze that crunched along on sedate grooves and bluesy solos. ‘Don’t Wanna Be Your Lover’ was cranked up to the max 1960’s rock and roll as set closer, the strangely titled ‘Eddie Merckx Meets The Daleks’ was like ‘Ready And Willing’ on steroids. An excellent set that gave the others a hard act to follow.
The lunacy continued upstairs on the second stage from Streamer, from Barcelona, another band who had graciously came over to play here, and judging by the amount of band tshirts in the crowd, they had brought over quite a few fans with them. Dedication at its best! They looked like a flashback from the 1980’s and they delivered that way in an unashamed mass of flying hair and metal poses. They tore into ‘Now Or Never’ as if their lives depended on it, like watching an old MTV Headbanger’s Ball show and the feedback from the full room was immediate. ‘The Game’ was all proto thrash metal as the guitars of Danny Streamer and Esteban Master blazed away over a demented vocal from Adri. ‘Soulless’ was a NWOBHM tinged piledriver as ‘Kings Of The Old School’ had intense hooks and a lung busting vocal. ‘Broken Dreams’ raged raw like early Motorhead as ‘No Way Out’ put the heavy into heavy metal with its heads down assault. Their triumphant set ended with one more adrenaline rush fuelled of speed metal called ‘Sign Of The Panzer’.
Blazing up the motorways from Southampton, Toledo Steel set about rearranging our eardrums. Lead vocalist Rich Rutter had a touch of Bruce about him (Dickinson, not Springsteen) as his impressive vocal range and stage moves impressed from the off as lengthy set opener ‘Speed Killer’ raced out of the traps on the neck breaking riffing and virtuoso soloing from guitarist Tom Potter, who strangely enough the day before asked if I was a member of Trespass. The tongue in cheek lyrics of ‘Rock Nights’ are always the best ones that featured more axe dexterity from Rich. Drummer Matt Dobson proved he is no slouch to as he dominated ‘Children Of The Sun’ that featured a long, intense instrumental piece midway. The headbangers in the front were kept busy during the guitar heroics of ‘City Lights’ but we were blown away by Steve Grimmett making his way onstage to share vocals with Rich on the Grim Reaper classic ‘See You In Hell’, a very emotional moment for all of us that were there and near impossible to put into words as we sang the chorus back to them! Their set closed with the high energy bluster of ‘Black Widow’.
The Deep go from strength to strength every time I see them and they delivered another blinding set today. Once again, my notes were kept to a minimum so I could just enjoy what was happening onstage. Frontman Tony Coldham was playing his first set of the day and his high notes resounded around the hall throughout the strong opener ‘Premonition’. The main riff cranked out by guitarists Paul Smith and Mick Feleppa to ‘The Rider’ was an early highlight, as were the crushing powerchords in ‘Nightstalker’ and huge chorus. The power in the power balladry of ‘When The Rains Came’ could of probably emptied the electricity supply in Bury. ‘Dead Man Walking’ hurtled along like a runaway train as the set drew to an all too soon close with the aptly titled ‘Prepare To Rock’ and my highlight, the beefy AOR of ‘You Take My Breath Away’ with strong band backing vocals.
The old guard of NWOBHM was once again represented, this time by Weapon UK with the charm and wit of frontman Danny Hynes and the permanent smile of guitarist Jeff Summers still there. Kicking off with the frantic blink and you’ll miss it of the classics ‘Set The Stage Alight’, followed by the heavy blues and catchy choruses of ‘Ride The Mariah’. Other highlights were the drum driven sleazy rock of ‘Warrior’, pounded out by Darren Lee, the speaker blowing main riff of ‘Wonderland’, the bona fide headbanger of ‘Bloodsoaked Rock‘, the barroom grooves of ‘Bad Reputation’ but pick of the bunch was a truly awesome cover of ‘The Rocker’ with bassist Tony Forsythe laying down a rock solid backing as Jeff riffed and soloed.
Stage clashes again meant missing the opening two tracks of Bedfordshire based Neverworld as we saw them tear into the souped up Sabbath like precision riffing of ‘The Wheel Of Misfortune’ on the second stage. ‘Armies Of The Night’, their tribute to the classic The Warriors film was chock full of bruising riffing with touches of melody for diversity and outrageous guitar solos from Ben Colton and Jack Foster. Bass heavy grooves from Gary Payne laid the foundation for the brutality of ‘Ghosts’ as an almost jazz like midsection headed off into blistering lead guitar solos. ‘They Live’ was a barrage of riffs and foundation shaking drumming from Mike Vaughan but their set ended far too soon with the cataclysmic ‘Saltwater Bandits’. Another battery of riffing that followed a tech metal intro morphed into heavy doom parts as it ended with a hypnotic chug of riffs.
Avenger, another North East NWOBHM flag bearer tore into opener ‘Brand Of Torture’ showing that Sunday is not always a day of rest with furious riffing thrashed out by Liam Thompson and Sean Jeffries. ‘Run For Your Life’ attacked in a similar vein with lead vocalist Ian ‘Swifty’ Davison spitting out the lyrics as well as belting out some piercing screams. ‘Steel On Steel’ locked and stayed into an almost psychedelic groove as things got heavier with ‘Death Race 2000’, so fast Ian had to deliver the lyrics at auctioneer speed. ‘In Arcadia Go’ was another floor shaker with a storming twin lead solo fuelled midsection. ‘Hard Times’ upped the ante with more vicious riffing as ‘Into The Nexus’ gave drummer Gary Young the chance to see how hard and fast he could batter his kit and their over the top set ended with a foot to the floor run through of ‘Revenge Attack’.
Currently consisting as a four piece, of which I personally think they sounded better than a five, London based Tytan, as so many others proved over the weekend is that you can’t keep a good band down! From their early 1980’s beginning, bass guitarist Kevin Riddles powers the band along and given the size of him, you would be daft to try and stop him. Point proven during their set when he threatened to go over and sit on those sat at the back on their mobile phones! Their eight song powerhouse of a set was heavily laden with six numbers from the timeless Rough Justice album and two from their latest release Justice Served which is on a par with its predecessor. Ancient gems ‘Cold Bitch’ and ‘Money For Love’ were all melody with muscle delivered by the soaring vocals of Tony Coldham with Kevin adding some strong backing vocals. The gritty ‘Fight The Fight’, from Justice Served, fitted in like a glove, as did ‘One Last Detail’ later on and I wondered how long it will take until other newer numbers will work their way in to the set. The fretboad wizardry from Dave Strange was the best I saw all weekend as his riffs and solos were out of this world. ‘The Watcher’ was an early highlight but the double whammy set closers ‘Blind Men And Fools’ and ‘Far Side Of Destiny’ took me way back to when I first saw them in 1982. Where does the time go?
Seventh Son, headliners of the second stage with Bri Shaughnessy fresh from fronting Oliver/Dawson Saxon, lead his own band, formed in Barnsley in 1980. Stage clashes with Holocaust meant me only catching their first five numbers as they tore into the seismic opener ‘Motorpsycho’ with an anger fuelled lead vocal. Sparse guitar and bass lines in ‘Immortal Hours’ gave room for another showstopping vocal with the catchy riffs from Dave Fox midway catching my attention. ‘Highway No.5’ started off as heavy blues that switched into overdrive for a metallic finish. ‘Man In The Street’, their 1981 debut single was an upbeat, striding rocker with guitar solos keeping the energy levels high as the last song we saw, ‘Dangerous Kiss’ was all stadium rock with rock radio boxes all ticked along the board.
And so all good things come to an end, but not before Edinburgh based main stage headliners Holocaust sent us on our merry way with ears ringing from a masterful display of heavy metal. Their twelve song set brimmed with confidence, honed to perfection since their formation in 1977. Heavily based on their debut album The Nightcomers and a one two pairing of two numbers from latest album Predator midway. Opening with the hectic ‘No Nonsense’, following a chilling air raid siren intro, the title truly described how tight the band are, especially when bassist Mark McGrath and drummer Scott Wallace locked in during frontman and founder member John Mortimer’s haunting guitar solo. The thick main riff to ‘Love’s Power’ set their stall out early, as did the seismic riffing in ‘It Don’t Matter To Me’. ‘Smoking Valves’ saw John practically lost in the moment during his guitar freak out as the repeated lyric of “I like to rock and roll” proved a point. ‘Iron Will’ heavied things up ten fold with granite hard riffs backed by some fast footwork from Scott. ‘Expander’ raised the roof with its mesmerizing grooves and ‘Predator’ rumbled along majestically. The pace was brought right down to a slothful trudge as ‘The Small Hours’ (covered by Metallica), blasted on a hammer blow main riff that followed a spine tingling lengthy guitar intro. ‘Only As Young As You Feel’ saw John’s facial expressions contort as he threw himself into an unrelenting solo. A trio of debut album classics knocked us for six as ‘Death Or Glory’ crushed sonically peppered with guitar histrionics. A lengthy ‘The Nightcomers’ enveloped the venue with evil glee as the finest hour of the day could only end in one song that summed up the weekend, ‘Heavy Metal Mania’, with the classic line of “I’ve got heavy metal music in my blood”. It conjured up early Sabbath like doom.
And that was it, a triumphant weekend from bands and an audience that rocked hard to show support for such a worthy cause. Plans are already afoot for a return in 2018. Thanks once again goes to Erika Wallberg for permission to use her photos.