Ravenheart music festival, Asylum 2, Birmingham 21-22 July 2012

This weekend was the Ravenheart music festival at the Asylum 2 in Birmingham – a nice little venue a few minutes walk from the city centre.   The event was a real bargain – 12 bands over 2 days at the ridiculously low price of £15 for the weekend.  At that price it was too good to resist so I headed to Birmingham for a weekend of female fronted music.

The first night kicked off with Vampyre heart, a Bournemouth based Gothic Rock band.  Unusually they are a three-piece with no dummer – instead relying on a pc/drum machine. For me that is their biggest weakness – the drum sounds just arent as good as a proper drummer and that let them down.  Ignoring that, they were very impressive and I really enjoyed their set.  Vocalist Summer  had an eye-catching mic stand festooned in lights, and the mic itself was wrapped in spiked leather giving it the look of a weapon rather than a microphone.  Setting the standard for the day, the sound was poor – the venue sound engineer didnt seem up to the job unfortunately and the vocals were too low in the mix.  They had a good stage presence and went down well.  A great start to the weekend.

Rating 7/10

Next up were Noisy Toyz, a symphonic metal band from London.  They too suffered from the sound engineer mixing the vocals way too low which meant that the vocals were swamped by the guitar and bass.  When the sound levels were reasonable then the band started to sound much better – the music was good and the vocals seemed pretty good too, if a bit quiet.  Certainly they’re a band I’ll have to check out again.

Rating: 7.5/10

Hypothesis were next up.  Unlike the other bands this weekend they had both male and female singers.  With the male vocals dominating the songs with the female vocals really taking a back seat, this band was always going to struggle to get the crowd on their side on a bill exclusively filled with female vocals.  They did put in an excellent performance – very energetic, but ultimately failed to win the crowd over. On a different bill I can see them going down much better as they were good, just not quite the right band for the night.

Rating 7/10

Training Icarus were up next and immediately impressed.  Coming from Kent, the band were good and heavy and singer Leigh Turner has a great voice with plenty of power.  The guitar riffs were nice and heavy and the band were tight musically.  They’ve played Bloodstock after winning the Metal 2 the Masses competition and from what I heard tonight then I’d say that was well deserved. Training Icarus were defintely the best band of the day up to that point and are a band that I’ll definitely be trying to see again in the future.

Rating 8.5/10

Finally came the last band of the night, Shiver.  They’d flown in from Italy specially for tonights show.  Their singer was tiny and petite, but when she opened her mouth to sing she let rip with a really impressive powerful voice.  As well as singing with clean vocals she also let rip with some death metal style growls which showed how versatile her voice was.  Shiver were a band I’d not come across before but who really impressed me and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for them in future.  Sadly the night was brought to a premature end when the sound engineer refused to let them play an encore despite there being another 25 minutes before the curfew agreed with the venue.

Rating 9/10

Day 2 started with Fern Fox Palmer, who did an acoustic set. She sand and played acoustic guitar alongside two other guitarists. The music was lighter than the other bands playing over the weekend, and her Voice and style reminded me of Alanis Morissette. She definitely went down very well with the crowd – an excellent performance to start the day off.

Rating: 8/10

Next up were Awaker. A Heavy Prog Metal band from Manchester. Unfortunately the vocals were too low in the mix for the first few songs which meant that they struggled to win over the crowd. They have clean vocals with some death metal growls. The band were very static with little movement which didnt really help them impress – better use of the stage is a skill many bands struggle to master but it really does help make a good impression.from band.

Rating: 6/10

Next up was Murder of crows – a heavy rock/metal band.  Sadly I missed the first few minutes of their set as hunger had forced me out to get some food, but what I saw was good.   As well as their own songs they also did a cover version from the Butthole surfers cover – human cannonball.

Rating: 6.5/10

Next up were a band I’d heard plenty of good reports about – Riff X.  They are a Hard Rock band from Newcastle, although singer Brigitta isnt a native Georgie as her accent reveals.  They were the best band of the weekend so far for me and were the first band to really get the crowd going with them clapping along, and moving far closer to the stage rather than hanging around halfway back.  That skill at working the crowd was combined with a great performance – this is a band I definitely want to see again before long.

Rating: 9/10

Curvature were the next band up.  Hailing from Aylesbury, Curvature play Gothic metal.  The keyboards were much more prominent than in any of the other bands this weekend, but despite this they were very heavy.  Again poor sound dogged them with the bass and guitar being way too high and this meant a lot of the subtlety in the music was lost and we just got a solid wall of sound.  They announced a pop cover, and sadly I guessed what it would be before they started – it was Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”.  It’s a song that works well when given a rock or metal treatment, but sadly its a very unoriginal choice – this was probably the fourth or fifth band I’ve heard doing a cover of it.  They did a good job with it though.

Rating: 7.5/10

Next up were Armonight, from Italy who had played a few other UK dates and were ending their tour here.  Again this was a new band to me, so I had no set expectations.  I have to say I was blown away by how good they were – they really did sound impressive.  They are one of those bands thats hard to classify – Gothic metal is a large part of it, but there are parts that are more rock.  However you describe them though there’s no mistaking talent.  Singer Sy has a lovely voice which sounds beautiful and also has plenty of power when it’s needed.  Armonight have a great stage presence and interacted well with the crowd.  Definitely one of the highlights of the weekend for me.

Rating: 9/10

The final act of the weekend was Achilla.  As always they put in a very professional performanace, and Daniele Panza demonstrated some excellent guitar work, and the rest of the band also put in good solid performances. Martamaria has an amazingly powerful voice when she chooses to let loose with it, but the rest of the time her vocals seem slightly subdued which is a shame.  It’ll certainly be interesting to hear how they sound on the new album when it gets released – hopefully later this year.  They played their usual set including Arashi (The storm), and their Tears for fears cover – Shout.  A good solid performance and a good end to a great weekend.

Rating: 7.5/10

Overall this was an excellent weekend.  The turnout was disappointing, but thats quite common with gigs at the moment.  The lineup was excellent – all small bands but all of a very high quality – congratulations to Dave and Phil at Ravenheart Music for putting together a great event.
Next years event has already been announced as being on the 25th and 26th May (Bank Holiday weekend), and I for one can’t wait.

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.