So after travelling a few good hours from Manchester to London, I finally arrive in Camden Town, where the legendary rock venue Underworld is situated. What a vibe this place has, it is covered with all the marks from all the bands that have played there, not one bare patch in sight. I could stare at the wall for hours and not get bored. Perfect to hold the new wave of British heavy metal and to top it off there were obviously some very lovely ladies behind the bar, male bar attender anyone…
Walking in you immediately come to the merch stands that is just over populated with records, CDs, stickers, posters, t-shirts you name it. Being a shopaholic it was hard to resist. Following through it becomes a lot darker as I was heading towards the stage to get a good look at the space. Another plus about this venue air conditioning, genius. I head backstage to meet Gunslinger to begin my first interview. There is a massive cream or what used to be cream leather couch, with a tall fridge next to it, that was full of beer. I could already tell these bands were going to play hard and well tonight, proving their mad rock and roll lifestyle with the amount of alcohol they can consume at the after party.
So this years line up we had Solider, Gaskin, Weapon, Elixir and Gunslinger. Yes you may of heard these 80s rock stars, some of them making an reappearance in the industry and what a way to get a kick start back into it by playing at British Steel Festival.
First up was Soldier. They are well known for their single in the 80s ‘Sheralee’ and were and still are signed to Heavy Metal Records. This band is a full straight up British heavy metal band, no ballads, no girlie vocals just full frontal masculinity… well in the 80s. However tonight the guitarist Miles Goodman was definitely the most energetic, as he moved every way possible, he was the most entertaining of the lot. I feel apart from that there wasn’t enough attitude, the whole heavy metal personae was lost. There was no command over the audience, they pretty much stood there and watched a dry display of musicians. I feel the festival should of opened with a band that had a statement on stage. A band that put on a show. Soldier is a band that is good to listen to at home on your Ipod or CD, from what I gathered tonight.
An okay start, the audience seem to be throwing back the drinks nicely. It is a festival where you can let loose, enjoy the mood, the feel and the groove. So let’s hope the next band give us full throttle.
Weapon with singer Danny Hynes and Jeff Summers are the original members. New to the group is drummer Ian Sweeting and bass player PJ Phillips. Weapon is a band that has shared the stage with many of the greats such as Motorhead. Tonight they played ‘Set The Stage Alight’, where in actual fact Metallica were that impressed they used it as their intro for ‘Hit the Lights’, it is also to be said Lars Ulrich was a massive fan back in the day. Being a huge Metallica fan myself who I follow religiously, I knew Lars Ulrich couldn’t be wrong.
Weapon have had the years of growth and practise which definitely shines through their work. Their latest single ‘Ready 4 U’ is one that was sung along by the die hard fans and enjoyed by all. It has certain amenities from other successful 80s heavy metal songs, that you cannot dislike this song. It would be enjoyed by the masses. I know from listening to Weapon’s recording and watching live footage. I was disappointed with the overall performance I thought it was weak, which is not the reputation they have, so I was overall surprised. I can imagine a weak performance is very rare in their cases and it just so happened to be this time at British Steel Festival. Weapon will be a name you will start to hear more often in the rock/metal scene, they are working on new material and appearing at a few festivals this year in Europe, so be on the look out.
British Steel Festival did the right thing in booking this band, even though their performance tonight wasn’t 100% it pushes both the festival and he band in the right direction for success, so I look forward to seeing these guys again in the future.
The venue starts to fill more as more people start coming through the door. There had a fair few people overall. At least a couple of hundred. Just in time as well for Gaskin to make their way to the stage. Paul Gaskin after many of years decides to make his way back into the roots of music, playing for the sheer love and passion. This I find inspiring as you don’t see this as often as you should. Gaskin pulled through and gave the festival the boost it needed. A waking the audience to screams and laughter. Their music was authoritative, commanding and impressive. They had a more up to date metal influence, making it fresh and vibrant. They introduced new songs that will be on their new 14 track album ‘Edge of Madness’ soon to be released, a date as of yet has not been confirmed so just watch this space for updates.
Tonight’s act proved that Gaskin are still in the game, with their showmanship of technicality for the instruments they play. The audience saluted Gaskin, in a body language we all know and understand head banging.
Next up the band that truly stood out tonight…Elixir, they dominated the stage and the audience. Everyone went erratic, a member of the audience got upon the stage and was egging everyone else on, he lasted up there a while before security came and got him.
Paul Taylor’s vocals are as strong as ever, reaching the high notes effortlessly. He is still wearing the leathers and by Jesus they still fit him and actually look good. He had such an amazing stamina and presence it was liberating. They included a lot of songs from their last album ‘All Hallows Eve’ but thee song of the night was a single they released in 2006 ‘Knocking on the Gates of Hell’.
Gunslinger now have to live up to the performance that was just given by Elixir. The great thing about Gunslinger is the similarities between Motorhead, making this band heavily liked by the spectators tonight. Elixir got them hot and ready, for a band with a rapid speed and one heavy bass rhythm. Guitarists better watch out for bass player Alan Davey, who isn’t afraid to out shine any talented guitarist on a four string bass. The drummer Cat is someone that deserve a massive mention to the extraordinary player she is. She hammers out all she has in a coherent manner, giving a lot of big time drummers a run for their money.
British Steel Festival was definitely an experience to remember. The bands were great, the whole atmosphere was friendly but wild. The festival definitely deserved more people there. I look forward to see who is on the bill for next year. I would advise any metal head to join in the fieriness that makes British Steel Festival.