Since the sheer delight of the first Grimm Up North Festival in 2017 we have had to wait just over a year for the sequel and what a weekend it was! 23 bands over 3 days giving their all to a room full of metal heads to say a big fuck off to cancer!
Friday night kicked off with Blackpool based Apriori giving it some welly! I’ve not seen them since a festival in 2016 and some line up changes have strengthened them into a very tight trio. Apologies for missing the early part of their set due to interviewing a band upstairs so the first song I caught was the heavy stomp of ‘Wasted Years’ with Tony Lang on lead vocals wailing impressively and his guitar solo was out of this world. ‘Better Man’ shook the floor with some seismic grooves. ‘Lady In Red’ was heavy blues with wah wah overload and their set ended all too soon with the ball busting dynamics of ‘Black Church’.
Damnation’s Hammer strode onstage and the seemingly normal band I had interviewed an hour earlier proved to be the heaviest band of the weekend playing five tracks from their heavier than a heavy thing album Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres, set opener ‘Gates Of The Necronomicon’ was a wave of heavy doom blasted out with frontman Tim Preston riffing and barking out the vocals over an ever increasing in speed drum assault from Gary Bevan. ‘Temples Of The Descending Gods’ crushed on all levels, seemingly hypnotizing all around. ‘Wolves Of Aquarius’ probably caused more Earths core damage than a thousand frackers could fracking do! ‘Entrance To The Final Chamber’ was the bastard son of early Opeth taking on Celtic Frost in a metal free for all as the band locked into this aurally epic song. Set closer ‘Hammers Of War’ was aptly titled as a metronomic pound took away what was left of our hearing.
This was my first time seeing Vice as a three piece and any doubts on whether Tom Atkinson could handle guitar duties on his own but as ‘Strive’ shot out like a lightning bolt the first thing I thought was that they are actually tighter now down to the prowess of new bassist Aiden Lord who makes a formidable rhythm section with drummer Connor Summers. ‘Vultures’ (or ‘Volutres’ according to the set list) was the second new song played and sees them heading in a heavier direction. It was actually played twice as the infamous fire alarm went off yet again at the Elizabethan Suite and will probably do so again next year! The remaining three feature on current album The First Chapter as ‘Pride’ banged heads with the speed metal rhythms of ‘Greed’ and they ended with the shredtastic ‘Web Of Iniquity’ that saw Tom prove his fretboard virtuosity.
Fist were the first NWOBHM band here today and proved that the North East of the UK is the home of that genre in my opinion mainly because of the wealth of music released by Neat Records back in the day. They gave headliners Blitzkrieg a hard act to follow with their set based on their two classic releases Turn The Hell On from 1980 and Back With A Vengeance in 1982 that have stood the test of time as set opener ‘The Vamp’ saw vocalist Glenn Coates sweating from the off and to his left guitarist Dave Irwin had a Cheshire cat smile throughout. Highlights for me were many and time seemed to stand still as ‘Dog Soldier’, ‘Turn The Hell On’ and ‘SS Giro’ blasted out but of course the two knockout blows came from set closers ‘Name Rank And Serial Number’ and ‘You’ll Never Get Me Up (In One Of Those)’, the latter surely an influence on the speed metal movement.
Blitzkrieg ended the day in fine form with founding member Brian Ross holding court with that spellbinding croon of his. It must be a headache putting together a set list given their wealth of material to choose from. Latest release Judge Not was represented by the triumphant trio of ‘Reign Of Fire’, ‘Angels Or Demons’ and ‘Loud N Proud’. ‘A Time Of Changes’ was the first played from the debut album of the same name that saw lead guitarist Ken Johnson lash out with a blistering solo. Of course the loudest cheers came from ‘Blitzkrieg’ but my highlight was set closer ‘Buried Alive’ that saw Brian hitting some astonishing high notes.