Metal RitesFestival – Grand Central, Manchester. All Day Event- 20th January 2013.

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After the brilliant Academy Metal Fest. on Friday, my hunger for more of the same was satisfied at Grand Central in Manchester, who played host to an all-day metal extravaganza. The event was well publicised and it was anticipated that attendance would be high to witness a gathering of varying styles of metal to be unleashed on the punters at GC. The event was a showcase for some of the more established bands as well as newcomers on the scene who were determined to carve a niche for themselves in a tough area of the music business.
Unfortunately, one of the bands (Black Acrid Souls) had to pull out due to weather and traffic conditions but that still left 9 bands to feast on for the rest of the day.

‘Shades of Avalon’ kicked off their set at 2.30 and there was not an ounce of subtlety in their ferocious assault on the ears, from the Manchester based Death Metal band very much with the emphasis on ancient warfare, folklore and tales of heroes and warriors. It is a bit like Amon Amarth meets Conan The Barbarian but with the vocal brutality taken to a whole new level. The screaming guitars and the systematic, merciless battering of the drums were proclaiming that Shades of Avalon were here and were not going to be ignored. They were an awesome opening band and the whole set was as vicious and threatening as was humanely possible. The only thing that was missing after they finished their Viking-esque set was perhaps a bit of pillaging on the way out.
Tobias Gray – Vocals/Guitar
Kieran Mackinnon – Guitar
Paul Taylor – Bass
Dan Barham – Drums

Bring The Chaos was the intro to the next band ‘Propax’, and chaos was exactly what was delivered in bucketful’s. They are another jewel in the crown that is the Manchester metal scene. They distinguish themselves by covering all aspects of metal from Industrial to Thrash and Hardcore and all seemingly without over exerting themselves. Formed in 2006, they have now established themselves as one of Manchester’s top metal bands and proved the point by putting on an amazing show at GC. A lot of their set was taken from their 2011 EP Fight Machine including the title track which kicked the proverbial ass, big style. The vocal and metal diversity was thrust into the faces of the crowd who had now swarmed around the stage and witnessed such Propax classics as Fight Machine & Human Fuse, all of which was received with rapturous appreciation. Propax have come a long way since 2006 and I still think there is more to come, their obvious ability to write and perform excellent songs is pushing them to the forefront of the Manchester Metal scene and more importantly gaining them national recognition.
Sean – Vox
Kev – Bass
Gary – Guitar
Jim – Drums

One of the big highlights of the day for me was the appearance of the brilliant ‘Skin The Pig’. Following the launch of their album, Article Nineteen this was the first opportunity I have had to watch the band play live and I was definitely not disappointed. Skin The Pig are an enigma, one of the most original and innovative bands I have come across and they played a blistering set at GC. They have two lead singers who fuse together melody and hardcore vocals to create a sound that in theory shouldn’t work but in reality defies all logic and is an amazing spectacle to behold. Trying to describe Skin The Pig’s sound is like trying to describe colour to a blind man, the contrast between the vocal styles of John Hughes and Chris Smith is so staggering and yet they can also harmonise perfectly.
The stage is crammed and yet there is still room for the vocalists to swap places and take their turn in the limelight even to the extent of mingling amongst the crowd, who loved every minute of it. ‘Redemption’ was an awesome song that deserved the passionate reception it got from the crowd and it still lingers in my head, Two days later. There was no quarter given with Skin The Pig, they played every note with absolute conviction and it so easy to see that they were enjoying the set as much as the crowd. It was obvious that everyone present were left wanting more as the band finished their final song, there was a buzz about the place as people who had not seen Skin The Pig before were raving about how good and diverse they were and I had no reason to disagree.
Matt Geary – Guitar
Alex Dewitt – Bass
James Montgomerie – Guitar
Stuart ‘SJS’ Smith – Drums

Following that amazing performance it was back to pure unadulterated hardcore metal protagonists ‘De Mortuis’. They strutted on to the stage ready to embattle the gathered masses and immediately tore into brutal death metal, sadistically punishing the instruments with malicious intent. They were loud, brash and totally in your face as they growled and roared through the set that could have melted platinum let alone the faces of those who were now inches from the stage. If you are into hardcore / metalcore or death metal, you will be hard pushed to find a band that comes close to De Mortuis, who has the conviction and belief that they are front runners in the unsigned league, a situation by the way that based on this gig will be resolved sooner rather than later.

Another North West band that is making waves in the metal scene is ‘Sa-Da-Ko’ and it is no exaggeration to say that they made a real impression at the Grand Central . They came on and conquered the crowd with absolute ease, rampaging through their set with powerful vocals, high octane riffs, monster grooves and mega beats. They suffered from the same problem a lot of the other bands had and that was too short a set. That was ok for those who had seen them before but for the newly acquainted it was a case of just getting into their groove and then it was over. They will however have gained a lot of new fans tonight with their uncompromising style and no doubt will be back to these parts in the not too distant future.

‘Brimstone’ are another thrash metal band who came to GC and converted any non-believers who had taken root at the front of the stage. They started as though their lives depended on it with full blooded, fast paced riffage coupled with soaring vocals. By now the GC had developed its very own mini mosh pit, well there was 2 of them and on occasion 3 but their energetic moshing made it seem like more. It complimented the band and their enthusiasm was infectious. The band and the crowd were now hyped up and the atmosphere was electric as Brimstone brought their set to a climatic end. I really need to see this band again and to see them perform a full set because I think they have a lot more to offer than what I saw at Metal Rites and although I liked what I saw, they left me wanting more.

The second biggest highlight of the event was the arrival of ‘Footprints In The Custard’. I had seen these guys a few weeks before at the S.O.P.H.I.E. Fest. and despite all the warnings then, I was not prepared for the spectacle that took place. So it was at GC when they took to the stage. It was hilarious to watch the expressions of people who had never seen them before and who were watching in amazement as events unfolded before their disbelieving eyes. For the benefit of those who still have not seen Footprints, they turn up on stage looking the part of a typical metal band . As they progress through the set they reveal that they are in fact all wearing women’s clothes from Anne Summers nurse uniform, Russ (vocalist) donning a tutu and even one of them wearing a mankini. But don’t let their attire fool anyone, they are very accomplished musicians and can rock with the best of them. They are entertaining and the crowd’s attitude went from bewilderment to sheer enjoyment. The song quality was equal to their attire, controversial and excellent. Titles like ‘Every Hole’s A Goal, ‘ Wank ‘ & ‘Every STD In The Book’ litter the set and it made for a really entertaining if bizarre spectacle. Footprints In The Custard are a Steel Panther meets Judas Priest mash up and despite initial reservations, I think everyone there really enjoyed them.

The penultimate band ‘Nekro Drako’, an extreme metal three piece outfit stormed onto the stage and ripped it up big style. The fact that they play without a drummer has no bearing whatsoever on the sheer power and energy they expel in megawatts from the stage. The crowd loved them and the mosh pit re-emerged with a vengeance. There are so many influences there for all to see, but what Nekro Drako does so well is to take these influences and mould them into an exercise in metal experimentalism that transcends any genre or pigeon holing people would like to cast them in. Their set was awesome and fully engaged the crowd from start to finish.
‘Nekro Drako'( John Thompson,Dave Newell & Scott Pompey Keen), are the epitome of everything that is great and progressive about the metal scene in Manchester. They were amazing and the future of metal in Manchester is safe as long as bands like Nekro Drako maintain their musical integrity and continue to take the scene by storm.

Eleven hours after we arrived at the GC, it was time for the headliners and although it had been a long day, the anticipation and excitement had reached fever pitch. ‘Spires’ are what can only be described as a progressive metal band that utilises all of their influences and creates a sound that gives a nod to the no bullshit era of 70’s prog. rock but has brought it bang up to date with an inspiringly fresh approach. There were no short and snappy songs here, there were epic songs and anthems that extended to a full Ten minutes, yet it never became tedious or boring. Their style and execution kept everyone riveted and hanging on to every lyric, every note until the final song of the evening. Spires crowned a perfect day with a perfect set and performance. Manchester can be proud of its metal heritage and the eclectic mix of bands on display at this event proves what I have always believed, that Manchester is the metal capital of the UK for both signed and unsigned bands and long may it remain so.
GrandCentralManchester
Review by Joe Mckenna and Angie Smith

About David Farrell

General Manager and 'THE' competition guy at planetmosh.com. Manager of The Goddanm Electric www.thegde.co.uk, Tour manager for Serpentine, and ex-general Dogsbody at Hammerfest.co.uk. Media partner to numerous bands. Also takes photos, writes reviews and likes classic rock, with a touch of thrash to get the blood flowing.
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