Category Archives: New Wave of Classic Rock

Live review: Giants of Rock, Minehead 24-27 January 2020

Now into its seventh year the Giants of Rock weekend at Butlins’ Minehead resort has attracted a little bit of scepticism among regulars over the last year or two – namely how many of the acts appearing on the bill these days can really be considered genuine, bona fide rock giants. There’s some truth in this. Contrasting this year’s line-up with that of the first such weekend in 2014 there’s probably far fewer acts that your average not-completely-obsessed ordinary-joe rock fan would be able to instantly recognise by name. However, Butlins in January has become something of a diary fixture in recent years, there were certainly a number of bands that I was still keen to see, the camaraderie among Giants Of Rock regulars (from unofficial bingo to group photos to late night chalet parties) is second to none and my long-time Butlins’ chalet buddy was definitely up for going again.

And so, I found myself on my way to Minehead once again for another year.

My personal highlights of the weekend I can pretty much neatly divide into three main categories:

  • the classic era of classic rock – The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Hawkwind et al
  • the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – Rock Goddess, Praying Mantis et al
  • and the New Wave of Classic Rock – Scarlet Rebels, Hollowstar et al

On the Friday night I finally got to see Arthur Brown perform ‘Fire’ in all its loopily eccentric over-the-top glory – even if Butlins’ health and safety requirements meant we got a sparkly glittery head-dress rather than actual flames. And on the Saturday night we got a magnificent mix of soulful blues and early Whitesnake classics from Bernie Marsden and a rumbling, rhythmic and suitably spaced-out set from Hawkwind. All three bona fide 100% rock giants in my book – no question.

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Something that’s been a bit of a feature of Giants of Rock over the years has been getting a former drummer along from a big-name band performing some form of tribute to his old band. Last year was the turn of Brian Downey (Thin Lizzy) and Chris Slade (AC/DC, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and pretty much everyone else). Much as I love these guys these tribute-act-with-added-special-ingredient are perhaps stretching the concept of ‘giants’ a tad. This year was the turn of former Judas Priest drummer Les Binks. Unlike Downey’s tenure in Lizzy, Binks was only in the band for a couple of years 1977-79 and only played on two studio albums and the Unleashed In The East celebrated live album. And, quite properly, he doesn’t play any material the band released after he left – which cuts out a fair few Priest classics and many of my own particular favourites (like everything on British Steel, for example). But, boy, do this band know how to make the most of the hand they’ve been given. In Matt Young, Binks has found a front-man with an absolutely awesome voice who does the early Priest legacy proud. Les Binks’ Priesthood massively exceeded my expectations and were a real highlight. Giants? – well maybe not but certainly very fucking good.

On the NWOBHM front, Rock Goddess on the Saturday and Praying Mantis on the Sunday both delivered superb sets. Once again, Butlins’ ever-reliable last minute stand-ins Oliver/Dawson Saxon got a call at the eleventh hour. Given I wanted to enjoy the whole of Arthur Brown’s set it meant I only got to see the last half from Messrs Oliver and Dawson but they are always brilliantly entertaining and I was there for the irrepressible Brian Shaugnessy leading the crowd sing-along to ‘Wheels of Steel’ which is always one of the highlights of any weekend where they play. Unfortunately, I missed Diamond Head this time but given I’d seen them just a few weeks ago supporting Uriah Heep I plumped for Hawkwind on the other stage. Sadly, ex-Mamas Boys’ boy, Pat McManus, was another one I missed but by all accounts his late-night slot was one of the high-points of the weekend.

OD Saxon 2020

Even if the number of actual rock giants have been less conspicuous on the bill in recent years, one of the things that Butlins has achieved is giving a real boost to newer bands and the nascent ‘New Wave Of Classic Rock’ movement. Not only by giving slots for several bands each day on the Introducing Stage but by allowing punters to select three of them to come back on perform on the main stage the subsequent year. Sons of Liberty, and their eccentrically grizzled but thoroughly entertaining take on southern rock, were able to bag a main stage slot on the Friday night whereas the other two winners Hollowstar and Scarlet Rebels (formerly Void) had to content themselves with the 12-1pm ‘hangover slot’ on the Saturday and Sunday respectively. Both of them more pulled than it off as main stage acts, immediately generating rapport with the crowds, a suitably electric atmosphere and equally electrifying performances.

So, the giants quota may have gone down a bit – but in what was my sixth year here I was still seeing classic acts for the very first time, enjoying some familiar old favourites once again not to mention discovering some exciting new bands. Moreover, splitting the bill 50/50 with my chalet buddy, Elise, I ended up paying out what amounted to £44 per day all-in for my accommodation, meals and entertainment. As my late father used to say (a long-time devotee of their Rock & Blues weekends in Skegness) – it’s cheaper being at Butlins than staying at home…

Related reviews:

Giants of Rock 2019

Giants of Rock 2018

Giants of Rock 2017

Rock & Blues weekend, Skegness 2018

Live review: Giants of Rock, Minehead 25-28 January 2019

This was the sixth annual Giants of Rock weekend hosted by Butlins in Minehead – and my fifth. Here’s a small selection of bands that stood out for me this time, as well as one that I’m afraid just didn’t do it for me at all.

Worth seeing

Sometimes you want to see an artist, at least just the once, for the small part they played in rock ‘n’ roll history. For me, original Thin Lizzy guitarist, Eric Bell, was one of those names who fitted into that category. It meant missing the much-praised ‘New Wave Of Classic Rock’ band Ethyrfield on the other main stage, sadly, (but I made up for this by buying Ethyrfield’s CD from the merch stand later). Eric Bell gave us a run-through of rock ‘n’ roll and blues standards. It’s a little ragged in places but we’re soon into a rendition of ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ – a slightly different arrangement of the old folk song compared to Lizzy’s version that many of are used to but Bell’s unique guitar sound is unmistakable and this is basically what I came in to hear. Ironically, the drum-kit of Bell’s former band-mate, Brian Downey, sits unused behind Bell’s band because Downey’s own take on Thin Lizzy’s heritage, in the form of his Live & Dangerous tribute, was the next act. Anyone hoping for some form of cross-fertilisation between these two performances, however, would have been disappointed. There are no guest jam spots or even any acknowledgement that the two bands are in the same building on the same stage on the same evening. Compared to the revived Thin Lizzy of a few years ago (which ended up morphing into Black Star Riders) this is more faithful copy of classic-era Lizzy in conventional tribute act format. But Brian Downey has more than earned the right to perform and celebrate these songs as many times as he likes and the band get a good reception.

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Eric Bell http://www.eric-bell.com/

Ones to watch

Now performing under their new identity (but still down in the programme as VOiD due to them still using their old name when they were originally booked last year) Scarlet Rebels emerged as one of the stars of the introducing stage this year. “Unfortunately, there are about a million bands called Void and no-one could ever find us,” lead singer, Wayne Doyle, tells the crowd. I had caught these guys doing a support slot a year ago and what has not changed is their brand of classy, melodic hard rock which immediately impressed me first time around. Lead guitarist, Chris Jones, is an absolute live-wire on stage, injecting wave after wave of energy into the crowd with his soloing, while front-man, Doyle, has a great voice that’s just perfect for modern-day classic rock. Let’s hope any identity issues that the band suffered under their previous moniker are now firmly behind them and that Scarlet Rebels get the recognition they deserve. As one of the triumvirate of introducing stage winners over the three days they’ll be back at Butlins on one of the main stages next year. Thoroughly well deserved.

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Scarlet Rebels http://www.scarletrebels.com/

Surprise of the weekend

Playing only their second gig in 35 years (the first being at Skegness Butlins the week before) the newly-revived Geordie are one of the biggest surprises of the weekend. The band had a handful of hits in the mid 70s but are now best-known as the band that launched Brian Johnson’s career prior to him being tracked down by AC/DC in 1980. Original members Tom Hill (bass) and Brian Gibson (drums) are joined by Steve Dawson (guitar) and Mark Wright (vocals). Powerful, foghorn very Johnson-esque vocals from Wright with a very well-rehearsed band behind him served to breathe new life into some long-neglected songs. It was great to hear the likes of ‘Can You Do It’, ‘Don’t Do That’ and ‘All Because of You’ getting a live airing after all these years. I’ve seen numerous band revivals at weekends like this, sometimes on some really rather tenuous ground. I therefore approached this with a mixture of curiosity and cynicism but they massively, massively exceeded expectations. A real surprise. I was half-hoping that Geordie would encore with a cover of Back In Black or Rock n Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution as a cheeky little nod to the part they unwittingly played in rock ‘n’ roll history – but it wasn’t to be (Geordie – if you are reading this you should absolutely do it!). The job of delving into AC/DC’s back catalogue was instead left to the next act, Chris Slade’s Timeline when the current (and former) AC/DC drummer ran through a selection of classic songs from his various bands. For sheer impact and confounding expectations, however, the afternoon very much belonged to Geordie.

https://www.facebook.com/GeordieFanpage/

Old favourites

Sweet delivered a blistering set and hopefully gained a few more “oh, I just thought they were just a pop band I didn’t realise they were such a great rock band” converts in the process. However, I’ve written about this band many, many times before and readers of Darren’s music blog will be left in no doubt at all of my affection for all things Sweet. Instead, I’m going to give a mention to Oliver/Dawson Saxon. After they had both walked away from Biff Byford’s Saxon, guitarist, Graham Oliver, and bass player, Steve Dawson, got together and formed their own version of the band. Now I’m not saying Oliver Dawson Saxon are better than the actual continuing Saxon – but they are certainly more fun. With his on-stage patter, lead singer Brian Shaughnessy is more Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club than Hallo Wembleyyyy  and cuts a hilarious and quite bonkers stage presence but he is an absolute dynamo of a vocalist. When it comes to belting out all those old Saxon classics there is always so much energy from this band and Minehead 2019 was no exception. There are no pretensions to be anything else with this performance. It’s just good old-fashioned New Wave Of British Heavy Metal played exactly the way it should be. The perfect party band to end the night with on a weekend like this. Oliver/Dawson Saxon we salute you.

http://www.odsrock.co.uk/

And one that just wasn’t for me

Paul Manzi had quite a busy weekend. He did an excellent job filling in as a temporary member of Sweet on the Saturday night due to Pete Lincoln’s absence and then he was back on the Sunday night fronting Cats In Space. There’s another Sweet connection, too, because former Sweet bass player, Jeff Brown, now carries out that very same role for Cats In Space. Like Sweet, harmony vocals and hook-laden melodies are in integral part of the band’s sound. Rather than the British glam rock era of the early 70s, however, this band very much take their cues from the American AOR/ power pop era of the early 80s, when albums were as shiny, polished and lavishly-produced as an episode of Dynasty. Unfortunately, as with that TV series it’s a genre of rock that simply leaves me cold. It’s clear that Cats In Space love what they are doing and they execute it with total professionalism. I really wanted to like them but three songs in I realise it’s never going to be. If the previous night was Sweet this, for me, was saccharine. I up and leave for the other stage. Raw, raunchy down to earth blues rock from guitar maestro, Rob Tognoni was the perfect antidote to what I’d just walked away from – and someone I look forward to seeing more of.

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Rob Tognoni https://www.robtognoni.com/

Related reviews:

Giants of Rock 2018

Giants of Rock 2017

Rock & Blues weekend, Skegness 2018

Live review: Toledo Steel at The Carlisle, Hastings 3/11/18

A third live blast of this band for me in recent months, Toledo Steel are rapidly becoming one of my absolute favourite modern-era heavy metal bands.

Although they released their debut album ‘No Quarter’ earlier this year, the band are not quite new kids on the block, having been around since 2011 and with two prior EPs and a relentless round of gigging under their belts. Unlike a number of similar bands, however, their line-up has been relatively stable during that time and on-stage they are a formidable unit together.

Rich Rutter’s powerfully melodic vocals, combined with the twin guitar assault of Tom Potter and Josh Haysom and some truly, truly memorable songs make Toledo Steel a really great classic heavy metal outfit.

Storming through a set-list including ‘Heavy Metal Headache’ and ‘No Quarter’ from their recent album and ‘City Lights’ and ‘Speed Killer’ from their last EP the impact on the crowd is instant. These are not just great songs. They are fully-formed heavy metal anthems.

And with a nod to the classic era of heavy metal that has done so much to help shape and influence this band we also get a brilliant cover of Judas Priest’s ‘Heading Out to the Highway’.

Following in the footsteps of Black Sabbath and Motorhead in having an eponymously-named killer track they leave us with a momentous blast of ‘Toledo Steel’ for an encore and for everyone to roar along to. Superb!

While the Carlisle is not packed tonight the band absolutely storm the place and it’s clear Toledo Steel have some committed fans in the audience, myself included. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before they are playing on far bigger stages to far bigger crowds. They 100% deserve it.

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http://www.toledosteel.co.uk/

Related reviews:

Toledo Steel – album launch gig in London

Toledo Steel at Mearfest 2017

 

The new wave of classic rock: six more bands to watch out for

There has been a definite groundswell of bands forming in recent years playing their own original brand of classic hard rock/metal, influenced by both the first wave of hard rock/metal bands formed in the late 60s/early 70s and the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) formed a decade later. Following my last round-up a few months ago, here is another batch of bands that have gone out of their way to impress me recently.

1. Ethyrfield

Absolutely everyone who saw them at Minehead’s Giants of Rock this year was raving about Ethyrfield. Not me I’m afraid – this was one of the bands I sadly missed at Minehead. However, I finally managed to catch Ethyrfield at the New Cross Inn and it was well worth the wait. Aged just 17, 16 and 14, Zach Cornish (vocals/bass), Ben Cornish, (vocals/lead guitar) and Dan Aston (drums) put in an absolutely incredible performance. Tony Iommi has mentored the band, they’ve picked up various awards and were voted winners of the introducing stage at Giants of Rock this year and will thus be returning to the main stage next year. I’ll be there. Simply incredible.

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https://www.ethyrfield.com/

2. Saints Of Sin

If many of the bands flying under the NWOCR look to the NWOBHM scene of the late 70s/early 80s for inspiration Saints Of Sin appear to have stepped straight out of the LA metal scene circa 1987. Big hooks, catchy choruses and bags of attitude they were one of Friday’s highlights for me. The band’s excellent album ‘Welcome To The Circus’ is well worth getting hold of.

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https://www.saintsofsin.band/

3. The Black Bullets

The Black Bullets who, if I had to describe them, bring to mind a meeting of Bon Scott and Angus Young circa 1975 and The New York Dolls. Sleazy, raunchy, dirty and brilliantly fun this is the kind of music you could never tire of. From an amazingly strong line-up of acts at the New Cross Inn’s Four Sticks Classic Rock All Dayer back in March The Black Bullets were one of my favourite bands of the day.

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https://www.facebook.com/TheBlackBulletsUK

4. Tomorrow Is Lost

Tomorrow Is Lost, a young band from Newcastle formed last year and fronted by female singer, Cass King, were one of the highlights at the New Cross Inn’s second Four Sticks event this October. Great vocals and a real sense of showmanship I snapped up their two recent EPs after their set and they are now a definite addition to my ‘ones to watch’ list.

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https://tomorrowislost.com/

5. Animal Drive

Bite! Is the debut album from Croatian hard rock band Animal Drive. Four guys in their mid to late twenties, front-man Dino Jelusic has toured as a vocalist with the Trans Siberian Orchestra. I came equipped with zero knowledge of the Croatian rock/metal scene prior to reviewing this CD but extremely polished production, a thunderous rhythm section some blinding guitar work and powerfully melodic vocals means there’s much to like about this album. Such is the sheer professionalism of Bite! that it wouldn’t be out of place sitting alongside releases from much more experienced and established bands. One of the most impressive debuts I’ve heard in a while.

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http://animal-drive.com/

6. New Device

Polished melodic hard rock and catchy well-written songs, New Device proved to be a great start to the day for when I caught them at the New Cross Inn’s first Four Sticks classic rock event. I picked up a copy of their 2013 album ‘Here We Stand’ and my initial positive impressions were definitely confirmed. Lead singer Daniel Leigh is an impressive vocalist, both when handling the all-out rockers as well as the slower, more sensitive material.

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http://www.newdevice.co.uk/

Related post – now visit part one here:

A renaissance in classic heavy metal: six bands to watch out for

Live review: Four Sticks Classic Rock Weekender at the New Cross Inn, London 5-7 October 2018

This review was also published by Get Ready To Rock here

Following a successful all-dayer at the same venue back in March the Four Sticks classic rock event was back for a full weekend this time. With twenty-six bands over three days it showcased the breadth of talent on the NWOCR (New Wave Of Classic Rock) scene as well as featuring a couple of veteran stalwarts from the original New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene as headliners, Diamond Head and Praying Mantis.

There were just too many quality bands to give a detailed run-down of each one but it’s worth noting that the overall quality was exceptionally high as was the range of styles and influences on display falling under the NWOCR banner.

On the Friday evening power trio Alteration got things off to a fine start and Neuronspolier combined charisma, good songs and great riffs to deliver an entertaining set. If many of the bands flying under the NWOCR look to the NWOBHM scene of the late 70s/early 80s for inspiration Saints Of Sin appear to have stepped straight out of the LA metal scene circa 1987. Big hooks, catchy choruses and bags of attitude they were one of Friday’s highlights for me. The band’s excellent album ‘Welcome To The Circus’ is well worth getting hold of. Reliable as ever and somehow bottling up that spirit of early AC/DC to unleash some raunchy good time rock ‘n’ roll Burnt Out Wreck, who headlined last time, got the crowd brilliantly warmed-up for the main headliners, even finishing with a cover of DC’s Highway To Hell. Diamond Head largely passed me by back in the day but their influence on heavy metal has been phenomenal, inspiring the likes of Metallica and the thrash scene. Finally, I get to see what all the fuss is about as Brian Tatler and co. deliver an awesome set with the crowd going to crazy to classics like ‘Shoot Out The Lights’ and ‘Am I Evil?’

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Saturday delivered lots of new faces on stage for me. Tomorrow Is Lost, a young band from Newcastle formed last year and fronted by female singer, Cass King, were one of the highlights. Great vocals and a real sense of showmanship I snapped up their two recent EPs after their set and they are now a definite addition to my ‘ones to watch’ list. Black Whiskey, another band who were on the bill last time – and the only band of the day who I had encountered several times before, also delivered an impressive set. With a new album due to be officially launched imminently it was good to see them expanding their repertoire with some great new tunes. Belfast’s Baleful Creed, with their brand of hard and heavy blues rock, were another of my favourites from Saturday. All chunky riffs and soulful vocals they instantly transported us away from a packed boozer in south London back to a time and a place where stadium giants ruled the rock world. Big Foot’s melodic-sounding metal then got us all nicely in the mood for Saturday’s headliners, Praying Mantis. With a slew of renowned rock vocalists passing through the band over the years, lead singer John Cuijpers has been gigging with the Troy brothers for several years now and the band has undergone a real creative renaissance with two quality albums picking up excellent reviews. Mantis deliver a supremely polished performance and some great songs, new and old. You just can’t quite believe the strength of the line-up of bands that the promoter has managed to pull together for Four Sticks this weekend.

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Sunday was a packed day with eleven bands appearing. I didn’t get to see them all but, as with Saturday, although there were some unfamiliar faces taking the stage there were also some old friends, too. Hammerjack and New Device, who were both on the bill back in March, returned to deliver impressive sets once again. The absolute stand-out act though, who I will never tire of enthusing about, were the Oxford-based Hell’s Gazelles. As one of the bands on the Introducing Stage at Minehead’s Giants Of Rock weekend in January I’d seen them set the crowd alight, tear the place apart and deliver an absolutely stunning set of hard rocking heavy metal. And the band did exactly the same here. They instantly lifted the atmosphere in the place ten-fold with their on-stage energy. With an incredible vocal range the band’s hyperactive front-man, Cole Bryant, exudes star quality from every pore. And his band-mates, Nath Digman (guitar), Rik Ridemark (bass) and Luke Evans (drums) deliver a phenomenal wall of noise behind him. There really is something very special about this band and with a new EP out ‘Take Your Medicine’ it’s heartening to see the band picking up great reviews and recognition in the likes of Kerrang. This band deserve to be huge!

Hells Gazelles 2

I didn’t get to see everything but overall the weekend was a brilliant showcase for some newly emerging rock bands as well as a great chance to see some well-respected veterans of the scene – all for £40 for a weekend ticket. Superb!

Related reviews:

Four Stick Classic Rock All Day March 2018
A renaissance in classic heavy metal: six bands to watch out for

Live review: Toledo Steel at The Dev, Camden 12/5/18 (album launch gig for ‘No Quarter’)

The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) gave a shot in the arm to the hard rock/heavy metal scene in the late 70s/early80s. By the second half of the seventies many of the original pioneers from the late 60s/early 70s were on hiatus or running out of steam and a crop of new bands took the can-do spirit of punk and began taking hard rock out of the mega stadiums and into the altogether more accessible pubs and small venues. The scene didn’t last long and apart from a few bands who made it into the mega stadiums themselves, many fell by the wayside. In recent years, however, there has been a renewed interest in the NWOBHM. A number of the old bands have reformed and are out gigging again but, importantly, a whole new generation of younger bands, many of them taking direct musical inspiration from that scene, are once again filling up pubs and small venues, releasing albums and building up solid fan-bases.

One of those bands is Toledo Steel who are releasing their debut album ‘No Quarter’ and, in the guise of playing the official after-show party for the Frost & Fire heavy metal all-dayer at Camden’s Underworld, are at The Dev to formally launch it with a special gig.

Formed in 2011 in Southampton and with two well-received EPs under their belt the five-piece combine melodic vocals, a twin guitar attack, furiously heavy delivery and a ear for a catchy well-written song. Indeed, those very qualities that made NWOBHM bands like Saxon and Iron Maiden such a breath of fresh air back in the late 70s.

With two EPs and a brand new album the band have a really decent stash of powerful material to draw from, their set-list tonight combining earlier material like the utterly unforgettable ‘City Lights’ with material from the new album like the excellent title track ‘No Quarter’ and a song that celebrates the curse of tinnitus ‘Heavy Metal Headache.’

Looking around the crowd packed into this smallish boozer tonight it’s noticeable that there are a fair few of us in our late 40s/early 50s, clearly drawn to this renaissance of classic-sounding metal. But what is more significant is that we are far outnumbered by much younger guys and girls around the same age as the band. This is looking far less like a mid-life crisis driven nostalgia-fest and far more like a genuine movement – and that is a very hopeful sign for the future of rock.

Fast and furious, loud and heavy as hell but never less than tuneful and melodic Toledo Steel are everything you want from a truly great heavy metal band and ‘No Quarter’ is a brilliant debut album.

Released: May 18th 2018

http://www.toledosteel.co.uk/

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Related review:

Mearfest at the Carlisle, Hastings 2017

Live review: Four Sticks – Classic Rock All Dayer at the New Cross Inn, London 25/3/18

More evidence of the avalanche of impressive talents that constitute what has been loosely labelled the New Wave of Classic Rock came in the shape of the Four Sticks event at south London’s New Cross Inn last Sunday. From 2pm through until 11pm ten bands took to the stage and cranked up the volume.

I arrived just in time to catch New Device begin their set. Polished melodic hard rock and catchy well-written songs, New Device proved to be a great start to the day for me (even though I missed the first couple of bands…) I picked up a copy of their 2013 album ‘Here We Stand’ and my initial positive impressions were definitely confirmed. Lead singer Daniel Leigh is an impressive vocalist, both when handling the all-out rockers as well as the slower, more sensitive material.

http://www.newdevice.co.uk/

From there it’s on to Hammerjack who offered a brand of sleazy, raunchy rock ‘n’ roll that put me in mind of AC/DC, Aerosmith and Guns N Roses. The Guildford-based band have been around five years now. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.

http://www.hammerjackuk.com/

Next up were Black Whiskey who appeared on the introducing stage at Giants of Rock and will be returning to Butlins Minehead in 2019 on the main stage. A band who drip with classic rock influences, from Free to Led Zeppelin to Thin Lizzy, they effortlessly give the impression that they’ve been playing this way for for decades yet still manage to deliver something that is both original and compelling. I’d seen this band once before at the aforementioned Giants of Rock and picked up their album – but seeing them a second time they grew on me even more. Their debut album Heavy Train is well worth listening to and they’ve another album out later this year.

https://www.facebook.com/BlackWhiskeyUK/

After that it was time for the unbelievably talented Ethyrfield. Absolutely everyone who saw them at Minehead’s Giants of Rock this year was raving about them. Not me I’m afraid – a man’s got to eat at some point and this was one of the bands I sadly missed at Minehead. However, I finally managed to catch Ethyrfield at the New Cross Inn and it was well worth the wait. Aged just 17, 16 and 14, Zach Cornish (vocals/bass), Ben Cornish, (vocals/lead guitar) and Dan Aston (drums) put in an absolutely incredible performance. Tony Iommi has mentored the band, they’ve picked up various awards and were voted winners of the introducing stage at Giants of Rock this year and will thus be returning to the main stage next year. I’ll be there. Simply incredible.

https://www.ethyrfield.com/

Then it was time for StoneWire. Classic heavy, bluesy rock fronted by a female vocalist with a great voice, this London-based five-piece continued to keep the New Cross crowd entertained.

http://www.stonewire.net/

One of the great things about the slew of bands who are finding themselves thrown together under the New Wave of Classic Rock label is the huge variety in sound and styles. So from the precocious virtuoso talents of Ethyrfield and the experienced bluesy southern-flavoured rock of StoneWire we go straight to The Black Bullets who, if I had to describe them, bring to mind a meeting of Bon Scott and Angus Young circa 1975 and The New York Dolls. Sleazy, raunchy, dirty and brilliantly fun this is the kind of music you could never tire of. From an amazingly strong line-up of acts The Black Bullets were one of my favourite bands of the day.

https://www.facebook.com/TheBlackBulletsUK

Then it’s time for for penultimate headliners Beth Blade and The Beautiful Disasters. Big loud riffs, quality hard rock, great catchy songs and another female singer with a great voice, Beth and her band-mates certainly kept the quality levels high. I picked up a copy of their 2016 album Bad Habit which deservedly picked up a pile of rave reviews.

https://bethbladeandthebeautifuldisasters.com/

And so on to the headliners Burnt Out Wreck, the band fronted by former Heavy Pettin’ drummer, Gary Moat. When I saw these a few weeks ago supporting Anvil I actually thought they were much better than the headliners. But now they are headlining, over eight hours of bands and much alcohol, appears to have taken its toll on the New Cross audience and there don’t seem to be many of us who’ve stayed the course. This does not dampen Moat and co though who deliver an awesome set of rock ‘n’ roll swagger that has ‘headliner’ written all over it, regardless of how many they are playing to.

https://www.burntoutwreck.com/

So a fantastic day, some fantastic bands and, for me, my first all-day drinking session in the New Cross Inn since I was a student at Goldsmiths College across the road in the mid 90s. I’ll be back there for a full weekend in the Autumn – if not before.

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Live review: Anvil / Burnt Out Wreck / VOiD at The Underworld, Camden 6/2/18

Ever since they played their first ever gig at the start of Butlins’ Giants Of Rock festival in January 2017, I’d been hearing good things about Burnt Out Wreck. I was watching a band on the other stage at the time so never got to see them. I’d made a mental note, however, and when former AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd announced a solo tour with his new outfit, with Burnt Out Wreck as the support act, it seemed an ideal opportunity. That was cancelled and then rescheduled and then cancelled again. Third time lucky then when Anvil announced supported by Burnt Out Wreck. An opportunity to finally catch this band, along with Anvil, who I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager when they were supporting Motorhead.

It was a triple bill at Camden’s Underworld, first up were Welsh rockers VOiD. Formed in 2002 with three albums under the belt, VOiD’s brand of classy, melodic hard rock proved a good opener for the evening. I was particularly impressed with their extremely talented lead guitarist, Chris Jones, and even more impressed when the lead singer told the crowd it was Jones’ first ever gig with the band.

http://www.v0idonline.com/

Next up were Burnt Out Wreck. Formed by Gary Moat, drummer and chief songwriter of 80s band Heavy Pettin’, Burnt Out Wreck put out their debut album in early 2017 – not long after that first gig at Giants Of Rock. Their brand of bouncy, good-time, hard rock, reminiscent of Bon Scott-era AC/DC, immediately had the audience on their side. Songs like ‘Swallow’ brilliantly bring back some of that sleazy, rock ‘n’ roll boogie swagger, that late 70s pre-stadium AC/DC were so renowned for.

https://www.burntoutwreck.com/

Things could only get even better when the mighty Anvil took the stage couldn’t it? You cannot fault this band’s dedication, enthusiasm and sincerity, or their undying commitment to the rock ‘n’ roll dream – captured so well in the film smash The Story Of Anvil. But to be truthful I was a little underwhelmed by what I saw tonight. I remember when I first saw Anvil in 1983, I couldn’t help thinking that this was a band that sounded better on record than on stage and thirty-odd years later that same thought was occurring to me. For a start the sound wasn’t good. The amps were cranked up a good few notches compared to the support bands. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, except that it lifted the drums and bass to a fairly deafening level while the guitar was barely audible in comparison. It was a shame because I enjoyed their new album and was looking forward to hearing a selection of songs from that, as well as earlier classics like the iconic ‘ Metal On Metal’. We got a good selection of each, plus a rousing rendition of the Steppenwolf classic ‘Born To Be Wild’. However, I came out of the gig 35 years after I last saw Anvil still convinced that they sound better on record than they do live.

That’s not to say I am not very happy to celebrate Anvil’s career renaissance in recent years. “I haven’t delivered a meal in ten fucking years,” Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow told the crowd, alluding to the opening scenes in the Story Of Anvil film which saw him driving around in a van delivering school meals between gigs. And I finally got to see the fantastic Burnt Out Wreck and also become acquainted with Void, who are another band on my ‘ones to watch’ list. All in all a good night.

https://www.facebook.com/anvilmetal/

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A renaissance in classic heavy metal: six bands to watch out for

There was a time not too long ago when anything described as a ‘new’ heavy metal band I simply did not get at all. All these weirdly-named sub-genres and even weirder-sounding vocals that just left me feeling old, bewildered and confused.

But in recent years there seems to have been a real renaissance in classic heavy metal from young, upcoming bands who cite influences such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon and a host of others from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) stable from the late 70s/early 80s. Well-written songs, great guitar solos, melodic vocals and crunching riffs: classic heavy metal seems to be in better shape than it’s been for many, many years. There’s plenty out there but here’s a quick round-up of bands that have really captured my imagination recently.

1. Hell’s Gazelles

Stage presence, charisma, good songs, great riffs, quality musicianship. Many upcoming young bands have some of these elements. Few have them all. But Hell’s Gazelles had absolutely everything – in spades. A young four-piece from Oxford, vocalist Cole Bryant has an immense vocal range and proved himself an incredible front-man. Similarly, the young Nath Digman is a great lead guitarist. Amongst very stiff competition Hell’s Gazelles were definitely the stand-out new act of the weekend for me. It’s hard to predict what the music industry or the rock scene is going to be like in twenty year’s time but if Hell’s Gazelles are not up there alongside whatever 2040’s equivalent of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest is by then there’s no justice in the world. Get their debut EP ‘Hell’s Gazelles’.

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http://www.hellsgazelles.com/

2. JoanovArc

Dubbed the ‘new queens of rock’ JoanovArc immediately impressed with an energetic and high-quality performance. Big drums, powerful bass, nice heavy guitar and great vocals, their songs stand up nicely alongside the likes of female hard-rock trailblazers Girlschool, Rock Goddess and Joan Jett. Formed in 2004 by sisters Sam and Shelley Walker, they were soon joined by Deborah Wildish. After five years as a trio, Laura Ozholl completed the line-up. These new queens of rock are definitely worth watching out for.

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http://joanovarc.co.uk/

3. Kaine

Kaine is a four-piece formed in 2009 and musically inspired by the late 70s/early 80s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal boom. Powerful well-written songs and powerful delivery, you can hear the influences from their musical heroes like Iron Maiden in their performance. The band released its debut album ‘Falling Through Freedom’ in 2012, and it’s follow-up ‘The Waystone’ in 2014. New album ‘A Crisis of Faith’ is now on pre-order and due for release in 2018. Definitely on my ‘ones to watch list’.

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https://kaine-metal.com/

4. Killit

Killit are one of the most impressive bands I’ve come across in recent years. They just have that knack of coming up with instantly catchy, instantly memorable songs and demonstrate the centrality of great song-writing to truly great classic rock. They are awesome performers, too, with vocalist Gaz Twist a talented front-man with a great voice. Numbers like ‘Calm Before The Storm’ and ‘Shut It Down’ from their debut album meant that this classic-sounding heavy metal band can wow audiences with some classic-sounding heavy metal songs.

killit

http://www.killitband.com/

5. The Mighty Wraith

Hailing from the spiritual home of heavy metal itself, Birmingham-based four-piece The Mighty Wraith deliver powerful vocals and mighty riffs. Catching them on the off-chance one night while at a loose end in Wolverhampton last Autumn, frontman Matt Gore and his bandmates immediately stood out alongside the other bands taking the stage that evening. 2017 was an important year for the band, with a new EP ‘Outcast’ released, support slots for the likes of of Armored Saint and even hosting their own festival ‘Wraith Fest’. Looking forward to seeing more from these in 2018.

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https://www.themightywraith.com/home

6. Toledo Steel

Powerfully majestic but hard and heavy Toledo Steel put me in mind of classic-era Dio and Rich Rutter’s vocals and Tom Potter’s and Josh Haysom’s guitars are the perfect combination for this brand of hard-hitting melodic rock metal. Toledo Steel are definitely on my list to see and hear more of and I am certainly enjoying their excellent six-track EP ‘Zero Hour’. The band’s debut album ‘ No Quarter’ is released in May this year.

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http://www.toledosteel.co.uk/

Related post – now visit part two here:

The new wave of classic rock: six more bands to watch out for

Live Review – Giants of Rock, Minehead 26-29 January 2018

Extracts from this review were also published on Get Ready To Rock here

Another weekend, another Butlins music festival. Giants of Rock at Minehead has become an absolute must in my musical calendar each January now. With three stages, forty-three bands and many, many clashes it’s obvious you can’t see everything – and I don’t even try. Inevitably, I missed some great performances but my general approach at weekends like this is as follows:

– I do like to watch act in full and properly appreciate their performance, from the minute they walk on stage to their final encore, rather than flitting about catching half an hour here and half an hour there.

– I also do like to eat, chill, socialise (and sleep) so I inevitably miss a good few bands – but the ones I do see generally get my full attention.

With those caveats here then are my highlights (and a couple of lowlights) from Giants of Rock 2018:

Friday

Taking a chance on Curved Air I thought they might be an Atomic Rooster-like surprise for me whom I enjoyed at Butlins Skegness so much the previous week. Unfortunately, it was not to be. It took me less than five minutes to realise that Curved Air were really, really not my cup of tea at all. That opened the way, however, for moving on to the Introducing Stage just as all-female foursome JoanovArc were about to start…

Dubbed the ‘new queens of rock’ JoanovArc immediately impressed with an energetic and high-quality performance. Big drums, powerful bass, nice heavy guitar and great vocals, their songs stand up nicely alongside the likes of female hard-rock trailblazers Girlschool, Rock Goddess and Joan Jett. These new queens of rock are definitely worth watching out for.

http://joanovarc.co.uk/

Then it was a return to one of the two main stages to watch former Wishbone Ash man, Martin Turner and his band wow the crowd with their performance of the classic 1972 album, Argus. I’d really enjoyed Andy Powell’s continuing ‘official’ version of Wishbone Ash at Giants of Rock two years ago. But Turner’s interpretation of this early material is just perfection. ‘Time Was’, ‘Blowin’ Free’, ‘The King Will Come’… No-one will ever do these songs better.

https://www.martinturnermusic.com/

Saturday

I was greatly entertained by ex-Argent guitarist John Verity at Giants of Rock two years ago and he was back once more with a lunchtime slot delivering a mix of rock classics, blues standards and material from his recent solo albums as well as, of course, a version of Argent’s irresistible classic ‘Hold Your Head Up’. A great way to start the day’s music.

http://www.johnverity.com/

Stage presence, charisma, good songs, great riffs, quality musicianship. Many upcoming young bands have some of these elements. Few have them all. But Hell’s Gazelles had absolutely everything – in spades. A young four-piece from Oxford, vocalist Cole Bryant has an immense vocal range and proved himself an incredible front-man. Similarly, the young Nath Digman is a great lead guitarist. Amongst very stiff competition Hell’s Gazelles were definitely the stand-out new act of the weekend for me. It’s hard to predict what the music industry or the rock scene is going to be like in twenty year’s time but if Hell’s Gazelles are not up there alongside whatever 2040’s equivalent of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest is by then there’s no justice in the world.

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http://www.hellsgazelles.com/

After bumping into Uriah Heep in the chippy and having a lovely chat with a very affable Mick Box and co, it was soon time to see them up on stage. Playing mainly Byron-era classics: ‘Gypsy’ followed by ‘Look At Yourself’ followed by ‘Sunrise’ followed by ‘Stealin’, they threw in one song from the last studio album (the excellent ‘One Minute’ from 2014’s The Outsider) before going on to 1998’s ‘Between Two Worlds’ then incredible versions of ‘July Morning’ ‘Lady in Black’ and ‘Easy Livin’. Pounding hammond, stunning vocals and Mick Box on guitar having the time of his life, not only did it rank of one of my favourite Giants of Rock performances ever, it’s now up there as one of my favourite performances by anyone, anywhere ever.

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Things were slightly different next door on the other main stage with rumblings from audience members that Hawkwind only got to play for an hour and didn’t have time for any well-known crowd pleasers like ‘Silver Machine’ at the end. But all bands get an hour – to use exactly as they see fit. While Uriah Heep used their allotted hour with devastating efficiency to give us an out-of-this-world-performance of some of their greatest songs ever, Hawkwind chose a different approach. But at the end of the day you only get an hour. It’s Butlins not Stonehenge…

http://www.uriah-heep.com/newa/index.php

From probably the best Giants of Rock performance ever to possibly the worst…

After Uriah Heep I wandered over to the other main stage to watch a bit of ex-Toto singer, Bobby Kimball. Never really a fan of that very polished, very commercial, very shiny American AOR anyway, this was more out of morbid curiosity than anything else. In the week’s building up to his appearance numerous videos circulated on social media showing some shockingly out-of-tune vocals as Kimball murdered numerous Toto hits like ‘Africa’. If Kimball would be able to turn things around and put in a half-decent performance at Butlins it would be one of the big surprises of the festival. If he wasn’t it was going to be one horrific car-crash. Unfortunately, it was the latter. I lasted three songs – just long enough to see him murder ‘Africa’ again, before joining the mass of exodus next door to catch Stray. At least Del Bromham and his band were guaranteed a large crowd. The place was absolutely rammed and Stray put in a blistering set. The second-time I’d seen them in a week, it was a great way to end the second day.

http://www.stray-the-band.co.uk/

Sunday

Killit, who were one of the Introducing Stage winners last year, were on one of the main stages this year starting the day with a lunchtime set. One of the most impressive bands I’ve come across in recent years, they have a knack of coming up with instantly catchy, instantly memorable songs and demonstrate the centrality of great song-writing to truly great classic rock. They are awesome performers, too, with vocalist Gaz Twist a talented front-man with a great voice. I so want this band to do well.

http://www.killitband.com/

My visit to the Introducing Stage on the Sunday was to catch Black Whiskey, who would go on to be that day’s winners and thus will be appearing on the main stage next year. Citing influences like Zeppelin, Free, Purple and UFO, Black Whiskey very much opt for a classic rock sound. Bluesy guitar, soulful vocals and solid rhythm. It’s a timeless, infectious mix and I am definitely happy to see more of them in future.

https://www.facebook.com/BlackWhiskeyUK/

My absolute must-see band for the Sunday night was Slade. It would be the twenty-fifth time I had seen this band since I first saw the original line-up send the crowd at Donington Monsters of Rock absolutely crazy as a 15-year old teenager back in 1981. Noddy Holder and Jim Lea have long gone, of course, but Dave Hill and Don Powell are still flying the flag with a stable line-up of vocalist/guitarist Mal McNulty and vocalist/bass-player John Berry. Anyone expecting a note-for-note musically and vocally perfect copy of the original Slade you’re going to be disappointed. But if you want a crazy, fun-packed, non-stop celebration of some of the greatest songs ever – clapping your hands, stamping your feet, getting your boots off, singing along at the top of your voice, and generally waving your arms about – you’re in for a treat. A brilliantly fun twenty-fifth Slade gig for me – I can’t wait for my twenty-sixth…

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https://www.facebook.com/OfficialSladeBand/

After Slade finished I opted not to stick around for Nazareth having already enjoyed them at Skegness the weekend before. (Read my review here to find out what I thought of Nazareth). Instead, I headed over to the other main stage to watch the AC/DC tribute, Bon, who were performing the Powerage album in full. I’ve nothing against tributes and have enjoyed quite a few of them at my local rock pub back home but generally it’s not what I travel hundreds of miles to Minehead for. However, a great bunch of musicians performing a classic album in full followed by a run-through of all the iconic title tracks from every Bon Scott-era AC/DC album seemed like a great party band and a great way to finish the weekend on a high – and it was.

Hard rock, prog rock, glam rock, space rock, blues rock, contemporary heavy metal… One of the great things about Giants of Rock is that if you are a classic rock fan there really is something for everyone. Another great thing is the strong sense of community amongst those coming together at Minehead to celebrate their shared love of rock. A vibrant and active presence on social media via the Giants of Rock Facebook group (set up by fans for fans completely independently of Butlins) has meant that many close bonds have been made over the four years since the the festival started. It makes for one of the friendliest weekends of this type you can possibly imagine. Roll on Giants of Rock 2019!

You can join the Giants of Rock Minehead Facebook discussion group here 

Related reviews:
Skegness Rock and Blues 2018
Minehead Giants of Rock 2017
Slade at Giants of Rock 2015