Here we are in Sheffield for an old rocker’s dream – HRH NWOBHM. That’s New Wave of British Heavy Metal to you younger rock fans. This was the golden era of metal from 1975 to 1985 for myself and others who grew up in the metal world that was taking shape in clubs up and down the country and the starting point that helped push it out there – London’s Legendary Soundhouse club. So influential was the Soundhouse that Iron Maiden’s debut EP was named after it (The Soundhouse Tapes). Wish I still had my copy.
When this HRH was announced I had to cover it and as I write this, next year’s HRH NWOBHM is close to selling out. Such is the reverence that these bands hold in people’s hearts and minds. There were fans from all over the globe here – some only to see a single band that meant so much to them. One such example was one chap from Los Angeles who came to see Jaguar, such is the power of the old guard metal bands.
So to the first day and we start off with a no-show from Witch Hazel, which means Jaguar start us off on the smaller upper stage in fantastic style. Formed back in 1979 with founding member Garry Pepperd killing it this afternoon on guitar, drummer Nathan Cox looks like a young Rick Allen complete with Union Jack vest, and bass player Simon Patel looking the part in his red and black striped trousers. The star of the show is vocalist Jarvis Leatherby from American band Night Demon who did an amazing job. What a singer! Combined with Garry’s guitar playing, it made for an amazing start with tracks like “Back Street Woman” and “War Machine”, but the stand out track for me was “Axe Crazy”. Simply stunning.
We stay with the smaller stage as we welcome Mythra who formed way back in 1976, with current singer Vincent High joining in 1978. Along with John Roach and Mo Bates, he recorded the Death and Destiny EP in 1979 which Lars Ulrich has cited as an early Metallica influence. We were missing guitarist Alex Perry today as he is recovering from surgery from the Wednesday before, and we at The Moshville Times wish him a speedy recovery. As a result we had a rare four-piece band for us today. We get a feast of great tracks today with the likes of “UFO”, “Warrior of Time” and “The Best is Yet to Come” to name a few. Best of the set for me was “Still Burning”, the title track from their forthcoming 2017 album which promises to be stunning. Another new track, “Call to All”, further raised expectations. The boys played a blinder of a set and even got an encore.
So we head downstairs now to the main stage to catch Black Rose. “No Point Running” & “Party Animal” were highlight tracks for me from the boys. The band were in fine form and were a great start to the main stage with original members Steve Bardsley on lead vocals/guitar and Kenny Nicholson (lead guitar) showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Back upstairs now for Cloven Hoof who played a fantastic set, with the only original member being Lee Payne on bass. An amazing rhythm player he is along with Danny White keeping them all in check at the rear on the drums. The man up front, George Call on vocals, is an amazing front man and singer, and really got the crowd going alongside the stunning Chris Coss on guitar. In addition there is the fantastic young talent that is Luke Hatton on guitar, who played out of his skin today. The band go down a storm, and why not, with classics off the first album like “Cloven Hoof”, “Crack the Whip” and “Laying down the Law”.
Back to main stage downstairs and we catch Persian Risk. Formed in 1979 by none other than Phil Campbell who left to join Motörhead in 1983, current frontman Carl Sentance (who also currently sings for Nazareth) joined the band in 1980. It’s been almost two years since he sang with Persian Risk. The band are on fine form as they fire through a classic setlist with the likes of “Ridin’ High” and “Calling for You” but I have to say the highlight today was “Fist of Fury” from 2012’s excellent Once a King Album.
I need to be fit today as we nip back upstairs again to catch the last band of the day on the small stage – Fist who reformed in 2013 with original members drummer Harry Hill and guitarist Dave Irwin. Joining them are new bassist Stephen East and the excellent Glenn S Howes (ex Blitzkrieg & Tygers of Pan Tang) on vocals. We get the classics tonight including the excellent “Name, Rank and Serial Number” and “Forever Amber” plus an encore of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades”. The band were in great form, Dave on guitar in particular with his infectious grin a joy to watch.
Back downstairs for the rest of the day now and next up are Witchfynde, believe it or not originally formed in 1974. Their debut album Give ‘Em Hell from 1980 is often seen as an inspiration for the black metal subgenre that followed. The band get through “Stab in the Back” and “Gettin’ Heavy” to name but two. Top track tonight though has to be the awesome “Give ‘Em Hell”. The man out front needs no introduction – Luther Beltz is on great form tonight with his singing and crowd interaction. Montalo is superb on guitar along with Tracey Abbott who also plays with NWOBHM band Overdrive. Long time rhythm section Pete Surgey on bass and Gra Scoresby on drums all add up to one of my favourite bands of the weekend with a simply awesome set.
Blitzkreig follow and they don’t waste any time getting the crowd going with opener “Armageddon”. We also get the stunning Satan track “Pull the Trigger” from one of Brian Ross’s previous bands, which appeared on the 1985 Blitzkreig album A Time of Changes. Picking a highlight from their set isn’t easy, but I’d plump for “A Time of Changes” from the album of the same name. We also get the brilliant “Call for the Priest” and we end with “Blitzkreig”, another of those seminal tracks which Metallica covered.
Up next is Jess Cox (ex-Tygers of Pan Tang) who actually looked a touch out of it as he struggled through the initial couple of tracks. This was a bit of a shame given the set was pulled from 1980’s classic Wildcat album. Starting with “Euthanasia” which was followed by “Straight As a Die”, we get “Money” and more before the set ends with a good version of “Suzie Smiled”. The band were good and in the end Jess was fine which is about all I can say. I saw the boys live back in 1980 and saw the current Tygers line up in Edinburgh recently and they were amazing. I was looking forward to this set and ended thinking it was just okay.
Rounding off an amazing Friday are those all girl legends Rock Goddess. I last saw the girls twice back in 1983, once supporting Def Leppard on the Pyromania tour and once with Y&T. Both shows were at the Edinburgh Playhouse. The band have hardly aged at all with Tracey bouncing about the stage laying waste to the bass with sisters Jody Turner on guitar/vocals whipping up a storm (once the sound got sorted out) and the awesome Julie Turner on drums.
When they start off with “Satisfied Then Crucified” from 1983’s classic self titled album you know you are in for a great setlist. My highlights were “Take your Love Away” and “Make My Night”, both also from the first album. We also get “My Angel”, “Back to You” and the awesome classic “Heavy Metal Rock ‘n’ Roll” single from 1982 and many more. I loved the set, the girls were enjoying themselves and the crowd were lapping it up. Let’s get a UK tour on the go girls!
They played fantastically, but it’s a pity it was so late in the night as a few punters had left by this point in time. Catch the girls when you can if you had to head early as they played a blinder. They ended with an encore of “The Love Lingers Still” & “Love is a Bitch”. A killer ending to the night.
Bed beckons at the end of a dream day of old school metal, I could not manage to stay for the heavy metal disco that was on to the early hours as this had been a busy but tiring day. I headed back to the hotel with a tired but great big smile after today.
All photos by Gary Cooper.