Words by Mosh, Ross Green (most of ’em!), Ryan Callander and Gary Cooper. Photos by Gary Cooper (the posh ones that aren’t up yet!), Mosh and Austin Avart. Edited together by Mosh.
If you attend a festival and you’re there for the duration, Sunday is a weird day. The mood is evidently lower as everyone around you is battered, people begin to pack up to go home, they drop off and they can see the end in sight. With a mixture of sadness of reaching the end of my first full weekend at Wildfire (having attended single days in previous years), there is slight joy to be found: once the last band finishes their set, I can go home to a nice, warm, comfortable bed!
I’m popping the Horrorfly acts up first simply as we only have three of them. Sadly, we were too busy (interviews) to see most of the acts and I’m genuinely gutted as Sunday’s line-up was brilliant. I did see most of Blood Thread’s set and they were as intense a start as you could hope for with the lead singer/guitarist seeming to make his microphone sweat with the way he spat out the lyrics. As with most of the bands over the weekend, the extreme music was tempered by a fine sense of humour and banter which went down very well as people recovered from the celebrations overnight.
Lucifer’s Corpus were a great follow-on from Blood Thread. Slow, heavy and noisy – if that didn’t wake you up then nothing would! They describe themselves on facebook as “heavy shit” and I’m not even going to consider denying that! By the way, if the lights were a bit crap on the main stage while Lucifers Corpus were playing, it’s because the guy in charge of them is the bassist in this band…
I made a point of catching these guys as we’d spent an hour talking all things metal the day before (to be transcribed and posted when I get the chance!). They’d pretty much sold their live act to me during our interview and they didn’t disappoint. Heavy as a heavy thing and with the added bonus of watching singer Rob struggle with a hangover, they tore through their allotted thirty minutes or so of fast-paced yet groovy metal. If you couldn’t get to Wildfire, they’re playing a free show at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s in Glasgow on July 14th.
Wretched Soul are heavy. And I mean bloody heavy. They blow out the cobwebs still lingering on the last morning as I’m nursing yet another black coffee. Teetering right on the edge of what I find “too heavy”, I skulk at the back of the marquee, ready to make an escape if it goes from enjoyably heavy to heavy just for the sake of it. But that moment never comes and instead, they win myself and the rest of the small crowd over.
Bringing a more melodic twist into play, Black Nevada. A young bunch of lads, there’s obviously some Kerrang influences coming into play. Fair enough, if that’s what they’re into and they want to play, more power to them. However, that scene has never been my thing. In spite of their youthful exuberance, they approach their set with the ethos of people twice their age. They’re out to make their mark and handle their early slot with grace, making a bigger statement than their influences could manage.
Excellent Cadaver hit the metalcore in a big way. An energetic performance sees frontman Andrew Downie clambering on the barrier and into the crowd, or at least as far as his microphone cord will go. You’d never know he was feeling the effects of the night before except for the fact that he freely admits to being ridiculously hung over!. Singing “songs about Jesus”, they prove a rule I’ve held for quite some time; the best of metalcore is in the underground scene.
All Consumed are entertaining, making Wretched Soul look tame. Their cover of “500 Miles”, the result of an online survey which garnered a worrying number of votes, brings a grin to my face because it’s fucking brilliant. Much better than the original.
Sky Valley Mistress are a band I’ve heard mentioned many, many times but I can’t admit to having heard any of their material. Initially, it sounds very punk but more complex and it makes sense as many of the folk I know who have mentioned them are punk fans but a bluesier side begins to creep in. They take time to cover Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and whilst the blues twist and drawling vocals are an interesting shake-up for it, it’s not for me. Sabbath are one of those bands you probably shouldn’t cover but the crowd lap it up and that’s what matters.
Soldier have been around since 1979 and still aren’t the oldest act on the bill today. Their classic NWOBHM sounds battered the tent itself as well as those within it, and they really really know how to work a crowd. Every metal stereotype was there from the poses, to the solos to the clapping in rhythm, to the “scream for me”‘s. If there’s proof that heavy metal is the Devil’s music then it’s evidenced in Ian Dick’s remarkably youthful appearance despite being with the band since day one. With more energy than should be legal for a man older than myself, he looked capable of ploughing through a headlining ninety minutes let alone the shorter set that festival bands get.
Avenford aren’t advertised on today’s running order but clearly people have heard they’re playing as there’s a sizeable crowd packed into the tent to see them. Harmonising vocals run through the set from the power metal outfit (power turned up to the proverbial eleven). They turn in one of the most polished sets of the weekend and makes power metal more enjoyable than it normally is.
Perhaps to blame for some juggling of stages and times due to their late arrival (no fault of their own – sounded like they had a beast of a journey from Wales), we watched them get ready and thought “hang on – three vocalists?” Yes, Kane’d features a six-body line-up. Well, seven today with a second guitarist stepping in to help out – thanks from the band (and us) go to JD from Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters. One glance at Kane’d setting up and you’d think they were a manufactured novelty act. The three ladies on vocals are stunning (one black hair, one bleached blonde, one auburn), the resident bassist has that hairy metaller appeal, the guitarist covers the “slightly alt” look with unusual hair and a big ear piercing, and the drummer has the “nice guy with short hair who you’d trust your kids with” look covered.
And then they kick in.
And they’re incredible. This is a band that just happens to look good, but bloody hell they sound even better. Their songs are good and catchy enough, but it’s their sound which impressed both of us so much. Those three vocalists aren’t wasted or there for eye candy (well, not purely). The layering of the voices gives a genuine live version of what some bands cheat to produce in the studio. They really work well together and they get, deservedly, one of the best receptions of the day. I’m not sure exactly what issues they had getting up here for the show, but I’m really glad they did.
Hell’s Addiction were here to play their first ever Scottish gig and to plug the hell out of their new album, out a week or two after the show. And they sold themselves well. If they don’t shift a few copies of the CD on the strength of this outing, I’ll be surprised. Great, heavy, sweaty, balls-out hard rock with no pretentions to be anything else. Unfortunately they’re one of the acts I didn’t get to see all the way through due to interview duties, but what I did see impressed!
Despite having recently reviewed One Last Run’s debut album and being suitably impressed, it’s not until a couple of hours before their set that I realise they’re on the weekend’s bill. What follows is an exciting slot for any fan of modern hard rock, combining the melodic and chunky riffs of Alter Bridge with the Southern twang of Black Stone Cherry, even including a cover of the latter’s “Rain Wizard” which vocalist Becky Roberts handles with ease. Her staccato and soaring vocals are a perfect fit for the tune and gives the original a run for its money. Elsewhere, most of the debut album is given an outing and live, it’s even better. Definitely one to keep your eye out for in the future.
Halo Tora’s name sticks in my mind as a band I’ve seen or heard of in the past. A quick glance at our own pages reveals I saw them about a year ago open for Tremonti when I’d had no sleep for two days. A year on and I still have similar trepidations as last time around. Whilst they’ve certainly gotten tighter in that last year and their live show is far more energetic, it suffers the same drawbacks as last time: the band are trying to do too much in each of their songs where there’s no sense of direction. On the other hand, it could be intentional as the band make their way in the world to avoid being pidgeon-holed but personally, not for me.
A band I was wholeheartedly looking forward to seeing, the last time I caught Portsmouth’s finest was opening for Anvil. In fact, I missed Anvil as I had to go home early that night! Dendera are a superb band, one of the best exponents of the modern-day NWOBHM sound. Currently still promoting Pillars of Creation this album was strongly represented in this set, including personal favourite “The Chosen One”. Their sound has progressed from the very Maiden-influenced Killing Floor album to something they can genuinely call their own and they play it every bit as well live as they do in the studio. Sadly, however, their nine-hour drive north resulted in a slight disappointment when the plug was pulled on them shortly before the end of “Edge of Tomorrow”. Given all the jiggling around with times that had already taken place you’d have thought they could have gifted them two minutes. Regardless, I’m just glad to have caught them again. They were the only band of the day to have my son really engrossed, banging his head and throwing the horns (and high-fiving singer Ashley). Hurry back, guys!
Stone Broken are another young band on the bill and prove to be one of the highlights as I had anticipated. Have you ever seen a band and just known there are big things in store for them? If there’s one band at Wildfire who fits into this category, it’s this four-piece. Authentic modern hard rock doesn’t get much better than this. Having seen them a couple of weeks previously at Glasgow’s Hard Rock Café, they once again commanded their stage, drummer Robyn Haycock is easily the best drummer I’ve seen all weekend which is no mean feat. But even better than that, it’s brilliant to finally hear the grinding and chunky riffs from Rich Moss and Chris Davis which were buried a fortnight previously.
Bringing some Southern rock into the mix, Thirteen Stars are an anomaly in that sense, being the only band you could put into that category. However, the Southern rock mafia seem to know what’s what and are out in force for this one. Rightly so. Having been shafted a few months back opening for The Quireboys just after six in the evening, the band enjoy their longer set tonight, relishing in their reception. After going for the “big finish”, the band are informed they’ve got time for one more song and waste no time in doing so.
Vardis make their return to Scotland. It’s only been thirty five years in the making. Injecting blues into new wave of British heavy metal, it’s something new for me. You can’t really imagine something like that working but strangely enough, it does. There’s a couple of small technical hitches but it barely breaks their stride. Once again, you can tell the NWOBHM connoisseurs are out in force, our own Gary remarking to me afterwards how pleased he was to finally see them. The juxtaposition of the trio after Thirteen Stars is a weird one yet it stops things bleeding into each other.
By the time Vardis finish, Dorje, the final headliner are playing are playing with the deck stacked against them. It’s getting late, it’s the coldest it’s been all weekend, it’s damp, it’s the last night. Once people have had their fill of the day and weekend, they’ve gone home. The population has dropped off significantly over the course of the day. The alternative metal band are unperturbed by this, playing as if they would to a full house. There’s prog injected in places and whilst they deliver an undeniably tight performance, they’re not for everyone as people begin to peel off to see something very, very mighty to follow it.
Colour of Noise are the last band of the weekend for me (Gary reviewed The Jokers below) and another of my most anticipated bands. I regard them as the best musical find of 2015, their self-titled debut album is stunning. The band have a great turnout and the atmosphere is electric as Bruce Dickinson (not the one currently singing “Climb like a monkey” but rather of Little Angels fame) cuts an impressive figure, strutting around the stage wielding his Les Paul expertly. I’ve had the pleasure of watching them a couple of times before and they’re nothing short of brilliant. The rapport on stage between Dickinson and singer Matt Mitchell is like one of many decades, yet the band has only been together for eighteen months or so. Not even booked as a headliner yet both fans and band treat it as so, an electric atmosphere spilling from the tent. The band hammer through more or less their entire album and new song “Lucky Number Seven”, their self-styled modern classic rock with catchy hooks and infectious melodies has people of all ages drawn to them.
The Jokers are a rocket fuelled powerhouse of a band from Liverpool who should be huge with their classic rock injected style of music. The band have a nutter of a guitarist in the shape of Paul Hurst who runs about like a madman – just amazing to watch – and in frontman Wane they have the voice to match any classic rock n’ roll band.
The band closed the festival with a blistering set from all three albums including new one, Hurricane. They blew the roof off and ended a fantastic weekend of rock and metal. All the band’s tracks stand out really well with no single one taking a higher rating than any other.
There was one young fan whose favourite track closed out the night: “Silver City” from their second album Rock n Roll is Alive. The band invited six year old Arran Cooper up on stage to sing along with them and play his green inflatable guitar. Many a band tried to get him up over the weekend but only his favourite band would get the honour! He was totally unfazed with the boys as he pulled all the classic poses with Paul alongside him, a fitting way to end a truly great weekend of rock n’ roll.
A fantastic family friendly rock and metal festival. All credit to Dave Ritchie & Co for running an amazing event. Roll on next year!