Another day of glorious sunshine! Who needs an alarm clock when your first band of the day Bacchus Baracus are doing their sound check at 10.30am? Half asleep I trundled down to the marquee just as they started their set and was knocked back by a wall of feedback drenched stoner/doom metal in the vein of the sorely missed Acrimony. Vocals were handled by their drummer known as Quzzy who came across as an angry Ricky Warwick. Awesome start to the day!
Edinburgh based Vantage Point were next up and were in complete contrast to Bacchus Baracus. Vocalist/bassist Murray Graham had a voice to shatter all the glasses behind the bar (that is if they had not been plastic) and his range was up there with Rob Halford and Geoff Tate and made it look so easy playing in a boiling hot marquee early afternoon. Their set was over far too quickly, probably seemed more so with the speed they were playing with an electrifying mix of Judas Priest and NWOBHM. A brief Thin Lizzy twin guitar instrumental called The Big Welcome lead into ‘Demonic Dinner Dance’ with it’s Priest dynamics curing any hangovers in the crowd. Highlights of their 7 song set were ’24 Hour Breakdown’ which was like a heavied up version of ‘Summertime Blues’ in the verses and the roaring “Gripped By The Throat”, it’s intro akin to ‘Only’ by Anthrax A big shout out must go to drummer David Cumming who played the set with an I.V drip on his right arm!
12 Gauge, last minute replacements for Stormbringer, had travelled up from Liverpool to play for us. Their feet firmly placed in hard rock territory their opening number ”Sins Of The Flesh’ was like a laid back Corrosion Of Conformity followed by ‘Tomorrow Comes Your Way’,a Black Stone Cherry style number which got the crowd clapping along. Song of the set was easily ‘Come On And Touch Me’, a drum driven early Foreigner type tune.
Another high energy band was up next. Fahran from Breaston, Derbyshire worked the stage from the off as they shot into opener ‘Silver Scene’ like early Motley Crue with vocalist Matt Black sounding a lot like Vince Neal throughout the set only with a much better voice. ,Take This City Alive’, a track from their latest album ‘Chasing Hours (from which the bulk of the set was made up from). ‘I Heard A Joke Once’ was a standout number, hitting the mark like early Tesla. Heaviest number was ‘A 1000 Nights’, full of AC/DC bluster and was my song of the set. The epic, dynamic rhythms of ‘Ashes’ brought the set to a close and a sea of hands from the full marquee.
Spirytus then proceeded to grab the crowd by the scruff of the neck with their refreshing mixture of nu/funk metal, playing material from their self titled debut album and Fundamentals E.P. Vocalist Ryan Walton was a ball of energy right from opener ” Heaven Hates You’ until closing song ‘Crucify’ and made many forays into the crowd to get them moving. Highlights were many including 2nd song ‘Fun’, it’s bottom end heaviness sounding like One Minute Silence, ‘Mandem’ was a raging Soulfly like beast with a searing guitar solo midway and the jazz/funk metal of new single ‘All Because Of Me’.
Unfortunately the crowd dwindled by the time When Our Time Comes came on with their melodic hardcore set based around their 2012 E.P ‘Test The Waters’. To me they sounded like a cross between Glassjaw and Rival Schools which made for an enjoyable set but a lot less energetic than Fahran and Spirytus. Song of the set from the London based band was ’50 Minutes From Now’ with caustic angular riffs bringing memories back of At The Drive In.
As the double bass drums of ‘Crown The Sun’ from following band Mask Of Judas threatened to loosen the fillings from our teeth literally kicked in, this was going to be another heavy set and the Chichester based band did not disappoint. Both guitarists (strangely enough wearing pyjama bottoms) traded guitar licks and thick, down tuned riffs from the off over the multi ranged vocals of Jo Challen. Her voice switched effortlessly between death metal growls, a clean vocal and banshee screeches which was showcased during ‘Icicle’. Her voice went from a haunting croon to a devilish growl but she topped that with her Berzerker like performance on ‘The Ascension’.
So now it was time for a short downhill stagger (I’m blaming the heat, not the Strongbow cider) to the acoustic stage to see Steel Threads, a power/folk duo who I have seen a few times around the UK, they never fail to entertain and their Les-Fest set was no exception, fronted by lead vocalist/guitarist/drummer Neil Wardleworth and violinist/backing vocalist Laura Wilcockson. Opening with ‘Nothing To Hide’ from their debut album, followed by ‘Believe’ from current one ‘For Those Who Are Left’, their set was interspersed with their usual cover songs along with other originals ‘Last Night’s Love’ and ‘Let The Wind Blow’ again from their debut and ‘It Goes On’ from the new one. The cover songs were an almost lounge version of AC/DC’s ‘Touch Too Much’, a manic run through of ‘Ace Of Spades’, White Stripe’s ‘7 Nation Army’ (with Laura on lead vocals) and a set ending medley of ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Born To Be Wild’.
Back to the marquee just in time to catch set opener ‘Determine’ from London based metallers Cypher 16 and a strong opener it was with striding riffs backed by a gruff but melodic vocal. Other highlights of their 7 song set were ‘Surge To Serenity’. Following the minute long heavy instrumental introduction it went off into kick drum driven melodic thrash metal and closing number ‘Stones’ upped the ante to get the front row headbanging.
And so onto another eagerly awaited set of mine from thrashers Reign Of Fury who have worked endlessly in raising funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust Fund. I caught them at a Headbanger’s Balls fund raising gig in Manchester last year and was blown away by their full on but catchy thrash metal.
Before their set, Fede Valls (one of the managers of Les-Fest) presented bass player Andy Pilkington with a cheque for £5593.00 for the charity raised by a hairy balls challenge over recent months. More gigs are lined up towards the end of the year so get to one if you can as proceeds go to the Teenage Cancer Trust Fund.
So onto their set which featured 6 songs from their thrashtastic album ‘World Detonation’. The title song closed the set with one of those riffs that stays in your head for days. Prior to that the set opened with a zipping run through of ‘Infernal Conflict’, it’s Megadeth technical riffs and snapping snare drumming immediately got heads banging. Vocalist Bison Steed has a very distinctive voice, reminding me of a higher range John Garcia. ‘Heaven Waits, Hell Takes’ melodic thrash kept the intensity going beginning with a Maidenesque 2 minute intro. Reign Of Fury like to write long songs, allowing for many time changes. ‘Born To Die (Dying To Live)’ is breakneck thrash with some fine Dragonforce like twin guitar breaks midway and a huge chorus and penultimate song ‘Psycho Intentions’ was another full on headbanger with yet another catchy but heavy chorus.
Another heavy hitting UK thrash metal band was next, the monstrous Savage Messiah who wasted no time in pummeling the full marquee with riff heavy numbers. Set highlights were an over the top ‘The Fateful Dark’, title track of their new album. The rhythms were in the vein of ‘Harvester Of Sorrow’ but heavier. ‘Zero Hour’ was almost like a thrash metal version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and set closer and heaviest song was a brand new number called ‘The Last Confession’.
So it was time for Saturday night headliners House Of ‘X’ (formerly known as ‘X UFO). Event organiser Dave Ritchie said this was one band he had booked for himself and a 13 song set was split between 4 original songs and 9 UFO covers including a stunning ‘Martian Landscape’ from the 1976 album ‘No Heavy Petting’ which featured House Of ‘X’ vocalist Danny Peyronnel on keyboards and backing vocals. The set opened with a very heavy ‘Let It Roll’ then went straight into a raucous ‘Natural Thing’, a dream start for any fan of UFO. Danny was his usual effervescent set and was ably backed up by Laurence Archer on guitar, Rocky Newton on bass and Clive Edwards on drums. ‘Do Me Wrong’, an original number was warmly received by the crowd as the UFO numbers and 2 older gems ‘Highway Lady’ and ‘Back Door Man’ were next. Another original ‘House Of Lies’ preceded an awesome ‘Shoot Shoot’, then another new one ‘Busted’ was followed by the aforementioned ‘Martian Landscape’ and a thundering ‘Lights Out’ gave Laurence a chance to show his virtuosity. Last new song ‘No More Tequila’ was followed by a lengthy ‘Rock Bottom’ with THAT guitar solo in it.
The band left the stage to deafening cheers and came back to play the song we had all been waiting for. The marquee was in full voice for ‘Doctor Doctor’.