So how is the best way to spend a Bank Holiday Sunday? Watching mindless television or doing D.I.Y around the house? No! Get up early and head off to Rockwich and watch 15 bands play from midday until midnight for a measly £10! Apologies to the bands I missed whilst doing 4 band interviews so the first I got to see were LYXX who performed their last gig here today.
The all female quartet delivered their 8 song set with the snarl of L7 crossed with the pop suss of the Runaways. Opener ‘Over You’ was all ACDC swagger with follower ‘You’ll Get What’s Coming To You’ upping the tempo with sleazy, garage rock rhythms. The gritty blues of ‘Thrust’ was the calm before the storm of the riff heavy headbanger ‘Nothing At All’. The bass heavy boom of ‘You’re Boyfriends An Arse’ with an over the top guitar solo from Izzy Dead and The Sweet like glam pop of ‘Up All Night’ lead into a crowd pleasing cover of ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ as their set finished all too soon with the Georgia Satellites tinged ‘Wanna Be Me’ as lead vocalist Steph Flesh thanked everyone for their support.
Late additions to the bill Orangefall got proceedings a lot heavier with some heavy duty riffing courtesy of guitarists Chris Bevan and Chris Angelow. Set opener ‘Nerve’ was full of heavy Black Sabbath like passages and guitar solos topped off by the soaring vocals of Jason Morgan. Other highlights were the bass heavy crunching blues of ‘Hearts Turn Quickly’, ‘Brand New Morning’ had a deceivingly melodic first verse which erupted into a full on metal finish, ‘Jet Black Groove’ rumbled along on a Celtic Frost like main riff, but my stand out track was set closer ‘Social Vampire’ as its lurching stoner rock grooves were punctuated by some fiery wah wah solos.
This was to be my first view of Chasing Dragons, another band I was told not to miss and judging by the increase of people on the barrier, the advice was correct as they thundered through ‘Throw Down Your King’, a solid riffer with lead vocalist Tank holding some long notes from the off and a pummeling breakdown midway gave it a hard act to follow. ‘White Horse’ saw Tank make many visits over the barrier to the fans and her stage presence and delivery brought to mind Aimee Echo, front woman from now defunct US alternative rockers Human Waste Project. My highlight was set closer ‘Broken Jaws’, an almost pop punk number featuring some heavy drum pounding from Kate.
Wrexham based hard rockers Defy All Reason impressed yet again with a strong 6 song set that made them one of my bands of the day. Kicking off with the crunching riff of ‘Midnight Train’, 1 of 5 numbers played from their debut album The Road Ahead, they were as tight as ever with new bassist Tom Lancaster laying down some heavy lines. ‘Bad Taste Of You’ hit hard in the same UFO like vein. ‘Redemption’ featured a high range lead vocal from drummer Todd Edwards. Its Southern rock like grooves gave way to a heavy mid section. A loud audience vocal featured next on ‘Behind Those Eyes’, a bona fide classic in the making. It is a heart wrenching rock ballad that ticks all the boxes, especially during the main guitar solo. Their set closed with 2 hard hitters, ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Shake It’.
Falling Red raised the bar even higher, and the volume after lead vocalist Rozey got the sound guy to increase it to ear disturbing levels. Their 8 song set featured heavily from their current album Empire Of The Damned, of which the title track closed the set. A show stopping anthem with a huge chorus. Before that, set opener ‘Break Me’ kicked off with the call to arms of “Can’t save me, can’t break me, gonna spend some time at the back of your mind” which lead straight into the bombast of follower ‘Outcast’. ‘We Escaped A Cult’ was as if Marilyn Manson was a lot more metal followed by set highlight ‘The Devil You Know’, a shout a long slice of heavy glam rock which shifted to a full throttle finish. A 30min interview I had with Rozey a few hours later confirmed how passionate he is about music.
Next up were Norwich based heavy blues merchants Bad Touch. This was my second time seeing them in as many months and once again their performance was of headlining status. As with Defy All Reason, they have a drummer whose vocal range provides the perfect foil to that of the lead singer. George Drewry made an invaluable contribution to their 7 song set taken from their classic debut album Half Way Home. Opener ‘Waste My Time’ got everyone on the floor in a party mood as its Faces like grooves lead into a huge chorus highlighting the bluesy rasp of lead vocalist Stevie Westwood. ‘Motherload’ provided some heavy raunch with lots of “whoa oh ohs” that got the crowd in fine voice. Title track from said album saw some big power chords over a heart felt vocal. Other highlights were the almost Joe Cocker like delivery of my set highlight ‘Wise Water’, the crowd pleasing ‘Good On Me’ and closing number ‘New Day’ with its quirky rhythms and full on rock finish.
The closing 2 bands of Rockwich gave us an example of the perseverance and differing styles of the NWOBHM genre. North East based Avenger were up first and showed the heavier side of it. Gary Young on drums and Ian Swift on lead vocals remain from the early 80’s era and the current line up is completed by Liam Thompson and Sean Jeffries on guitars and Ian Fulton on bass. The set was based mainly on the thrashy latest album The Slaughter Never Stops on Rocksector Records with some gems thrown in from 1984/1985 albums Blood Sports and Killer Elite. The set exploded into life with the sharp riffs and snapping snare drums of ‘Race Against Time’ and the speedy ‘Into The Nexus’, both from the latest album. The first foray to the early 80’s came with 2 back to back numbers from Killer Elite. ‘Run For Your Life’ powered along on bruising riffs whilst ‘Brand Of Torture’ was in a more hard rock vein. Highlight of the set for me was a foot to the floor run through of ‘Death Race 2000’ from debut Blood Sports, matched by ‘In Arcadia Go’ with Ian hitting his highest vocals of the night. Their 45 minutes flew by far too quickly as another golden oldie ‘Revenge Attack’ from Killer Elite closed the set on a high.
Headliners Salem were up next which sadly meant it was the end of a fantastic day of over 12 hours of signed and unsigned bands, all of which played their hearts out. Salem are more melodic than the likes of Avenger but there are always riffs on hand from guitarists Paul Macnamara and Mark Allison to keep them well away from AOR territory. Their 7 song set was mainly based on latest studio album Forgotten Dreams and 2 cuts from as far back as 1981 and 1983. Set opener ‘When Love’s In Your Heart’ ran along on a charging main riff with the first of many memorable choruses delivered by lead vocalist Simon Saxby whose dry wit is as strong as his singing! Brandishing a union jack flag he is literally flying the flag for UK rock/metal. ‘High Stakes’ followed with piercing twin lead guitar lines broken by a drum driven heavy mid section.
‘Ask The Lonely’ was a slow burner reminding me of early Uriah Heep dynamically. ‘Rock Fever’, from 1983 was introduced as “a song about joining a band” and was an uptempo slice of hard rock. Highlight for me was next as the epic rock ballad of ‘Break The Chains’, another from the Forgotten Dreams album featuring strong backing vocals during an emotional lead vocal. Title track from it contained one of the heaviest riffs of the set which lead to closing number ‘Make The Grade’ from way back in 1981 which is now available on a 17 track release of demo tracks called In The Beginning on High Roller Records. It made me think of Nazareth in their prime when they played it which is no bad thing and ended their set on a high.
A big thank you goes out to event organisers Mik Matzen and Colesia Pryse from Prometheus Promotions and Simon Dunkerley for smoothly running my interviews throughout the day.