Frank Fest – New Hall, Tiverton (7th & 8th April 2017)

Review by Mike Spencer-Futter

Music festivals. The British Summer is filled with different festivals for different genres. The issue I have with them? Price. Sure, you get to see a high number of bands that you may or may not have heard of, but when those festivals can cost anywhere between £146 all the way up to £215, I’m not sure if the benefits out-weigh the upfront cost. To find a festival with a weekend ticket price of £25 that is showcasing talent from all across the British Isles? It’s a bit of a no-brainer.

The venue was the New Hall in Tiverton, a deceptively spacious building which was operating a bar and kitchen with friendly staff. If there’s one thing that the metal community gets right at every event, it’s the social element. No-one’s afraid to speak to someone new, so as soon as the doors opened, people were talking and having a laugh. Whether they knew each other or not was irrelevant, they were all there with the same purpose in mind.

Unfortunately, the first band who were set to open, Killer Hearts, were stuck in traffic on the M4 and couldn’t fill their timeslot of 6:20. It’s not a massive festival, there weren’t thirty roadies loading and unloading, but a testament to Frank Dennis is his choice of friends, who volunteered to help organise the event and keep everything running. They could have panicked, they could have shuffled stage times around but they all coped with the issue in such a controlled manner, that I knew this event was in good hands. For the rest of the weekend, damn near every band ran on time and the schedule was kept. The high standard of organisation shown, should have larger festivals paying attention and taking notes.

It fell to the Exeter four piece Kill All The Gentleman to open the festival, and they kicked it off with a level of intense musical savagery that I had not experienced in a very long time. Next was Ramage Inc who bought their own character to the stage, with such livery as an Eric Cartman stuffed toy and the Scottish Saltire covering one of the amps. To reference a friend: “If Kill all the Gentleman is savagery, Ramage is surgery.” By this I hope he means, heart or brain surgery rather than tonsil removal because the delivery of their progressive metal was flawless, every note, every word, clean, clear and precise. They engaged the crowd and never allowed the hall to fall silent. I would highly recommend, that if you get the chance, go and give them a watch.

The next two bands, Oakhaart and Metastasis both saw an increase in the amount of people in the crowd as people started to turn up, have a couple of ciders and enjoy themselves. The metal community can sometimes be a fickle place, but one thing that it does not lack is the amount of diversity of the fans at shows. Frankfest was no different, the old, the young, the big, the small, the socially awkward and the social butterflies; it accommodates for everyone and that’s what makes the atmosphere so enjoyable to be a part of.

The night’s headliner, bringing their own brand of thrash power metal from the dizzying city lights of London to the comparative wilds of Tiverton, were Savage Messiah. Whilst it felt that lethargy was beginning to settle in somewhat with the crowd, David Silver quickly set to work with getting the crowd doing more than, what I will only refer to as, ‘The Churchill Dog.’ By the end of the hour-long set, his hard work and encouragement paid off, drawing the largest crowd of the day. Their Constantine inspired track, “Hellblazer”, particularly standing out; which clearly displayed their finesse and musicianship that earned them the Friday headline slot.

The Saturday morning probably goes on record as having a higher proportion of hangovers per capita than normal in Tivvy. The Sun was out though, and even whilst I walked around the high street, I saw many people from the previous night enjoying the heat and finding an excuse to break out their patched denim shorts. Upon arrival, you wouldn’t even have been able to tell there had been a gig there at all, the entrance area and the hall were all clean. I had noticed that the hall had black bags in at least four different places and ninety nine percent of the time, everyone in attendance took responsibility and put their empty drink cans in the bags.

First up were Bristol dark metallers Mordrake, who had only just returned from a support slot over in Bergen, Norway but stepped in for Drivechain who due to an injury had to withdraw at the last minute. Clad in their usual war-paint, Mordrake put on a fantastic performance, that was enjoyable to the end, with plenty of windmilling from Chris ‘Mor’ Kerfoot to accompany it.

The next two bands saw the Midlands offer their sacrifices to the Frankfest crowd. Leicester’s Internal Conflict and Resin, both put on memorable performances. One so full of hardcore rage whilst the latter reminded everyone that the grunge movement is still, with a bit of twist, very much a part of the metal scene now more than it ever was.

I have to jump out of sequence now, because I have a point to make but shaking things up a little bit at 5:50 were Karybdis, a band that can’t really be pigeon-holed into one sub-genre of the metal industry because they encompass so many. With such a technical requirement, having such an energetic Duracell Bunny-esque front man just frees the rest of the band up to put together a well structured and enjoyable set.

This now brings me nicely onto the subject of female-fronted bands, because Mask of Judas and Dublin’s Xerosun were both, not only out to put on amazing sets for the Tiverton gatherers, but also to prove a point. The question, is the ‘stigma’ around female fronted metal bands valid? After watching both Martyna of Xerosun and Jo of MoJ, the answer was simply no. Together they showed an art form that is so distinguishable and unique, that no male could possibly switch from dark, bassy, menacing growls to damn near mezzo-soprano in a single lyric and is nothing short of remarkable. Both bands were rewarded with a display of appreciation from the crowd and I think it made all of Xerosun relieved having faced such a tirade of issues, including breaking down somewhere outside of Hereford, trying to get to Tiverton.

Divine Chaos were up next, bringing with them their own take on thrash metal, by the time they took to the stage, the stocks of cider and beer were both beginning to dwindle and the crowd were getting more and more hyped up. Divine Chaos just threw fuel onto the fire with an intense ear-pounding for everyone, not just in the hall but for most of Tiverton.

The final thirty-minute set was Betraeus and with their progressive style and well composed performance, the boys from Manchester began to fill up the venue with every song. During changeover, it was clear that the buzz around Beholder and Orange Goblin began to emanate around the venue.

Beholder were the perfect penultimate band, with their thrash metal style and talismanic front-man in Simon Hall leading the crowd into a frenzy. The Midlands four piece put on an amazing performance for the crowd in what would later turn out to be their final performance together. It’s a shame that a band that has been together for almost a decade won’t be continuing on to put on more amazing shows for both the old fans and the new. I think that everyone here at Moshville Times wishes them all the best in whatever direction they choose to go next, and look forward to seeing their future projects.

Finally we come to the Saturday headliner, veterans and festival closer, Orange Goblin. Wow. It was almost a formality that barely ten minutes into the set, the crowd were loving the performance but what made it incredible was the attitude of everybody that filled that hall. If someone in the crowd fell, they got picked up. Someone else stumbled, they were caught. It was clear that, this little Devon town would leave a lasting impression on the Goblin quartet, even when they go on to play Download Festival and Wacken later this year. I hope that they remember the time that they headlined a fantastic festival which has showcased how much British metal talent, new and old is out there to discover. In the middle of Devon, they delivered a bone-crunching set, to a crowd so intense and so welcoming that it will make it hard to beat anywhere else in the UK.

But why this festival? Why should you come here next year? Simple. Every band will commit to putting on the best possible show. The best behind the scenes crew will keep everything on time. For £25, you have two days to find a new band to add to your Spotify playlist, to increase your CD collection or to support the small yet talented bands. You will be welcomed and it doesn’t matter if you come alone, you will find like-minded people who are there, in that hall, for exactly the same reasons you are. In the meantime, support your local record store and your local venues, take a chance. Discover something new. A new audience. A new location. A new band but more importantly, new friends. That is what heavy metal is about. Even in times where we may struggle to see the light, there’s always something or someone new to find, to help us battle through the darkness.

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