“Bannermans again?” I hear you say. What can I say in response? The venue keeps getting quality acts and it would be rude not to go. The lineup tonight is a real treat with local act Runemaster opening up, followed by Australian band Elm Street and the Manowar legend Ross the Boss with his band headlining.
First up, Runemaster. Think Amon Amarth meets early Black Sabbath and you are close to the doom laden riffs and the Guv’s dark voice on show tonight. The band open up with the excellent “Into the Hall” from their 2015 EP Futhark Dawning. Guitarist Aiden is in particularly fine form – stunning playing tonight.
The second offering from the same EP is “The Leavings of the Wolf” which opens with some creative riffage from the Guv along with Aiden, ably backed up by new bass player Ed who has settled in very well. Keith makes up the team, smashing up the rear on drums. This is possibly my favourite track of theirs as I love the guitar work on it in particular. The remaining tracks from an all too short set are from the excellent new EP By Thorm & Thunder.
As Ed’s bass line thumps in for “Thurisaz”, the EP’s opening track, you are lulled into thinking it’s a slow quiet one until the Guv and Aiden open up with both barrels, an absolute romp of a track. The band “Hunt the Living” next with its riff-rich opening pulling you in. If you love soaring vocals and guitars then this is the track for you. The band end their short set with “At the Sign of Thunder’s Call” with its early Maiden riffage opening, the final track off their new EP.
This is a real band to watch out for – they never play enough for this reviewer. Go catch them at a venue near you when you can as you will not be disappointed. The band’s EP’s are available to download free from their bandcamp, so stop reading and do it now!
Next up, all the way from Down Under, are a band I profess to not having heard of before tonight even though the have been on the go since 2003. Despite being new to my ears, Elm Street were stunning, I have to say.
The band open up with two from from last year’s new album Knock ‘Em Out – With a Metal Fist, the first of which is “Face the Reaper”. Don’t let the acoustic opening on the album fool you, as suddenly the boys kick in. Think Trivium meets old school metal with Ben’s gruff voice giving a more musical approach which sets the tone for the evening. We “Kiss the Canvas” next, and you can tell the band have been around for some time as they are solid. Nick prowls his side of the stage throwing his bass about like there is no tomorrow; Aaron on lead guitar is stunning; and powering up the band from the rear is powerhouse drummer Tomislav who shone through on this track. The vocals and stage presence are ably managed by Ben along with his stunning painted Jackson rhythm guitar.
The band just don’t stand still and are a joy to watch and listen to as they make full use of the stage taking no prisoners in the process, but no complaints from the crowd who are lapping this display of metal up. The band sing about “Elm St’s Children” next from their 2011 debut Barbed Wire Metal and you can hear how much they have changed between the two albums with this track being a touch harder.
We get a bit of “Heavy Metal Power”, again from said album with its stunning guitar intro before Ben’s gruff voice comes in, a real anthem of a track and my favourite off the first album. A bit of a “Heart Racer” next from the new opus and the change of pace and guitars just shine through as the band fly about with Aaron shining on this track. The title track off the first album now in the form of some “Barbed Wire Metal”, a full speed attack on the senses with all the boys just going for it and obviously loving every minute up there – as is tonight’s enthusiastic crowd.
Elm Street close another all too short set with what else but “Metal is the Way”, the last track on their debut album. Never a truer word spoken and just a stunning way to end a thoroughly enjoyable set – these boys can play and own a stage. This is a band I will be following very closely and the albums are already on heavy rotation. Catch them live you will leave with a big grin on your face.
There is only one man to follow such a high octane band and that is Ross “The Boss” Friedman, co-founder of seminal band Manowar and with a set chock full of their classic number you know nothing can go wrong.
We start “The Discipline of Steel” show with “Blood of the Kings” from Kings of Metal with Mark Lopes throwing himself totally into the track as the crowd sing along to the chorus. Rhino in the back pounds away looking remarkably like Whistler from the Blade films, with Mike LePond laying down a ferocious backline as the man himself makes it look effortless on the guitar – a truly stunning start to the set.
The tell-tale riffs start as we head all the way back to Battle Hymns to get a bit of “Death Tone”. Mark’s vocals are simply stunning on these tracks as we “pull along side looking for a fight” with Ross in fine flow tonight on the guitar. We have an opening salvo next from what can only be “The Oath” from Sign of the Hammer as we hear their war cry; the crowd just lapping this show up and singing from the top of their voices.
Ross the Boss ‘s cover version of “Blood of my Enemies” follows with Ross just exceptional on guitar, another stunning track with a great sing along chorus perfect for tonight’s audience. All the way back to Hail to England next as the band most definitely “Kill With Power” with the venue hanging on Mark’s every word. He works the crowd into a frenzy and it is getting fairly lively down the front I can tell you.
The classic metal sounding “Thor (The Powerhead)” is up next, rapidly followed by “Each Dawn I Die” and we get a further pounding from the “Gloves of Metal” from Into Glory Ride. For fans of classic metal these tracks will always live on due to the power and pure class of the music on show tonight, as other genres fall by the wayside. The title track from Sign of the Hammer follows, with the venue bouncing and singing along and you can tell Ross is relishing in the absolute adulation that is fully on show tonight.
The opening notes that follow really get the crowd going as the immortal “Dark Avenger” makes his presence known, creeping through the crowd touching us all. None of us are “sleeping as the undead cry” as the guitar fires those goosebump-inducing riffs and Mark’s voice screams right through us. We are all fully under the spell that is Ross the Boss tonight, feeling the power as we all scream “Metal Daze” before falling under the awesome spell that is “Battle Hymn”. The opening riffs just get the hair on the back of your neck to rise and the galloping rhythm of the song carries you along as we all chant “Kill, Kill”, a true highlight from tonight’s show.
We head into the last song now, and a happy lot we are after tonight’s simply stunning performance… and what else can close the show and bring the curtain down on an awesome night of metal but “Hail and Kill” from the Kings of Metal. There may be various people’s ideas of who their Kings of Metal are but I tell you this – Ross is definitely up there with the best of them as we all shout “Hail, hail, hail and kill”.
This was one sweaty metal-filled night with not one person leaving without having their primaeval lust for metal sated.
Photos by Gary Cooper
- Blood of the Kings
- Death Tone
- The Oath
- Blood of My Enemies
- Kill with Power
- Thor (The Powerhead)
- Each Dawn I Die
- Gloves of Metal
- Sign of the Hammer
- Dark Avenger
- Metal Daze
- Battle Hymn
- Hail and Kill