As yet another old saying goes, “All good things must come to an end”, so bleary eyed we headed off to the main stage for the final day of Wildfire Festival in more glorious sunshine. Another 11am start and opening band, Sheffield based trio Silverjet faced a packed out tent and treated us to a set of high octane rock. Opener ‘My Drug’ was full of Wildhearts like sugar sweet melodies amongst the heavy riffing with an impressive vocal from front man Dave Kerr. He does not look like your usual rock star but he has the chops and voice to get the crowd on his side from the off.
‘Machine’ upped the ante with some Velvet Revolver ‘Slither’ like riffing and the set got heavier with the AC/DC swagger of ‘What It Takes’. The heavy glam stomp of ‘Enemy’, Southern rock grooves of the aptly titled ‘Hell Yeah’ and wonderfully catchy ‘Top Side’ lead us to set closer ‘Rebel Yell’. A heavy take on the Billy Idol number that got a tent full of people hollering “More, more, more”. Job done and a fantastic start to the day! In complete contrast I don’t think the Wildfire crowd were ready for the hardcore wake up call from Balls Deep about midday.
Frontman Rich ‘Bez’ Beresford cut an imposing figure with his shaven head and muscle vest but addressed the crowd softly spoken in between their eight song set. Opener ‘Bitch’ was a pounded out Raging Speedhorn like supercharger, followed by the slow, heavy grind of ‘Surrender’ then the pace quickened with the punishing, roller coaster ride grooves of A Thousand Nights’. Other stand outs were the ground moving main riff from guitarist Paul ‘Hinge’ Priestley running through an untitled new song and the drum battery from Rob Broad during set closer ‘Epic’ was nothing less than monstrous!
Interviews with Salem and Holocaust resulted in me missing sets by Emperor Chung and Hellion Rising so next band I caught were Uncle Rust, a London based quartet who gave us forty minutes of gritty rock. Lead by the charismatic, wise cracking and Rod Stewart throated delivery of Justin McConville along with his brother Chris on drums, Mags Rhymer on guitar and P.J.Philips on bass guitar, they plugged in and took no prisoners! Their set was mainly made up from their latest studio release Six Years In The Desert and ‘Outta Sight’ from it set their stall out immediately followed by the rolling, heavy Free like blues of ‘A Heroine’. ‘One More Time Around’ had a main riff that made the hairs on your neck stand up as the verses featured gentle picking with a triple vocal chorus. ‘My Sickness’ a cover song by Soul Drive, a band that featured Justin and Chris was a Led Zeppelin like monster. The twin guitar harmonies between Justin and Mags on ‘Here Alone’ weaved along this surging rocker featuring a segment of ‘So Lonely’ by the Police. Set closer ‘Those Cold Emotions’ was an epic ending to a well received set.
Liberty Lies gave their all with a set of melody and muscle with the soaring, emotional vocals of Shaun Richards battling with the angular riffing of guitarists Josh Pritchet and Liam Billings. A point proven by set highlight ‘Circles’ with the band throwing themselves around the stage, lost in the intensity of the song. Set closer ‘Fracture’ pushed the bar up even further and their set seemed to fly by too soon. Stoke On Trent based Lawless gave us eight numbers of prime heavy metal delivered by the lung busting vocals of Paul Hume who, along with David Marcelis from Lord Volture was up there with performance of the weekend.
Their set was built around their studio albums Rock Savage and latest release R.I.S.E with ‘1914 (Ghosts Of No Mans Land)’ was an intense opening number as the guitars of Howie G and Jamie Crees peeled off the fluid riffs followed by that albums title track, a slower, heavier number with a blistering solo by Howie. Other highlights were S.O.S with its Y&T like ‘Dirty Girl’ like rhythms, the guitars backed up by Josh ‘Tabbie’ Williams on bass guitar and Neil Ogden on drums. ‘Step In’ was a stabbing riff lead hard rocker with enough “whoa oh oh’s” to keep the crowd in fine voice and Lawless just managed to finish their set in style with the headbanger ‘Heavy Metal Heaven’.
A visit to the second stage saw me catch the second half of Dog Tired‘s set. They must have already created a storm judging by the heat in the tent. I caught new song ‘Deverium’ with vocalist Chris Thomson announcing the bands ten year anniversary to a roar from the large crowd. He seemed to be suffering with throat problems but soldiered on through the closing two numbers ‘The Digital Plague’ and ‘Impact’ from their studio album Titan. From what I saw I can only describe Dog Tired as full on no frills metal delivered with the bombast of early Entombed.
Birmingham based power metallers Dakesis headlined the second stage with a nine song set to a crowd who lapped it up and responded accordingly. Set highlights mainly based on their debut album Trial By Fire were ‘Into The Light’ which contained some crushing instrumental passages hammered out by Matt Jones on guitar, Amie Chatterley on bass guitar and Adam Harris on drums. Vocalist Gemma Lawler stepped up to let rip on ‘On Wings Of Steel’ with some powerhouse drumming as she and Amie did some neck breaking hair windmilling. New song ‘Destined For The Flame’ zipped by on an air guitar causing thrash metal main riff. ‘Broken’ was a grandiose power ballad with an outrageous guitar solo.
Another newie ‘The Great Insurrection’ sounded like Within Temptation with balls but the best was saved till last with an over the top metal cover of ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ by Bonnie Tyler! Being in two places at once proved impossible again so I unfortunately only got to see the second half of the genre defying Spyritus with Ryan Walton being easily the hardest working front man at Wildfire. They played here last year so I knew what to expect from them, a full on explosion of bottom end Soulfly like grooves with a D.J spinning the decks over the hip hop like vocals. Ryan spent most of the set outside the tent, trying to get a reaction from those outside or wandering through the main stage crowd. Song of the set was the explosive ‘Crucify’ with Ryan attempting to have a selfie taken with anyone who had their mobile phone ready throughout the song. Absolutely bonkers but great fun to see.
Bad Touch were also here last year but I missed them due to being at the acoustic stage but was determined not to let them pass me by again. Personal highlights from their set, mainly based from debut album Halfway Home were the bubbling blues vibe of the title track, followed by the lazy drawl of ‘Wise Water’. ‘Sweet Little Preacher’ was an intense, slow burning Free like slice of soul but standing out track was their take on Led Zeppelin’s ‘Ramble On’. Lead vocalist Stevie had already sent his voice into the stratosphere but his performance here was jaw dropping. Crowd reaction was ecstatic!
The most fun band of the weekend bounded onstage next and the only way I could describe them is Scotland’s answer to Van Halen. They are Estrella and they put the wild into Wildfire! Vocalist Paul Gunn, guitarist Luke Gunn, Nathan Thomas Gunn and drummer Leo McPherson entertained a crowd who were won over by the time opener ‘Rock City’ had ended. ‘Heaven’ was dominated by a huge guitar workout, most of it in the crowd, giving us a slice of Angus Young who was playing at Hampden Park in Glasgow the same night. All four of the band were in fine voice, especially in the huge choruses of ‘Whatever It Is’ and also in the Poison like chants in ‘We Will Go On’, another of Estrella’s songs to feature crowd friendly participations of “whoahs” and “na na na’s”.
The main stage crowd were at fever pitch as it was nearly showtime for Diamond Head, another legendary NWOBHM band of the weekend. Their ten song set was a sure fire fan pleaser, drawn mainly from first two studio albums Lightning To The Nations and Borrowed Time with two brand new songs of which I think were titled ‘Bones’ and ‘Devil And Heat’ due for a forthcoming release. Following an appetising intro tape of ‘Mars, The Bringer Of War’, they opened with Borrowed Time, current vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen proved he is a more than worthy replacement for Sean Harris as Brian Tatler peeled the timeless riffs off. Following track ‘Bones’ and the uptempo riffs of ‘Lightning To The Nations’ got the front rows bouncing as ‘To Heaven From Hell’ showed the more commercial side of the band.
The second new song ‘Devil And Heat’ preceded a race to the finish line of classics of ‘In The Heat Of The Night’, ‘Shoot Out The Lights’, It’s Electric’, ‘Sucking My Love’, ‘The Prince’ and the one we all came for, ‘Am I Evil?’. It was stretched out to a glorious ten minutes long with every solo and riff melting every ear. One of the best performances of the weekend which gave Sunday headliners Coldspell a hard act to follow as did Ten following the Tygers Of Pan Tang on Friday. Their set of crunching hard rock was professionally delivered and songs that stood out were ‘Six Feet Under’. It was like a slower ‘Rock Bottom’ by UFO with speaker shaking riffs from guitarist Micke Larsson. ‘Infinite Stargate’ was a majestic slice of keyboard drenched pomp rock giving lead vocalist Niclas Swedentorp rein to hit some high notes with ‘Eye Of The Storm’ and ‘When Night Falls’ were back to back lengthy epics, covering all bases.
So Wildfire Festival came and went but plans are already under way for the 2016 event!
Photos by Linda Heron Photography[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157653152689923″ size=”z” count=”100″]