There was a bit of an adventure figuring out the location and time for this gig as, like many others in recent months, it was shifted from the still non-functional Slay. The alternative found was SWG3 Warehouse, one of the halls within SWG3 I hadn’t already been to and – as it turns out – a more than adequate replacement. The original door time of 7pm was adjusted to 6pm with fairly short notice (thank you to Gloryhammer themselves for letting people know), but word seemed to get round pretty quickly as the place was far from empty by the time I got there around 6:15. It could have been fuller going by the number of people still looking for tickets on facebook in the days and hours running up to start time.
As a result, Italy’s Wind Rose played to a near-full hall and they very much deserved to do so. This wasn’t a band looking to convert another band’s audience, this was one who already had one in the venue and a sizeable one at that. Bravely, they kicked off with the epic “Wintersaga” from their latest album, released barely a month ago. Not the bounciest or catchiest song they’ve ever done, but one which really sums up their dwarven-ness. Which kind of made up for the fact that they’re a little bit bigger in person than I expected for dwarves…
Their short time slot meant that they only got a handful of songs in, but when one of them is “Diggy Diggy Hole” it’s no surprise that the hall was jumping during the chorus. Even the nice young lady in charge of their merch was joining in. As I said… this wasn’t any old support band! They rounded off their stint to a huge and well deserved roar from the crowd.
Next up were the band I was least familiar with, Beast in Black from Finland. While I maybe didn’t know too much of their stuff, the same couldn’t be said for the now even larger audience who went wild when the lights dimmed and the band strode on stage. Well, most of them did. Unfortunately guitarist Anton was “so sick it would be stupid for him to be on a stage”, but fellow six-stringer Kasperi stepped up and really pulled a blinder to fill that lead guitar slot in his absence. To cover two guitar parts for the whole set is pretty damn impressive – and he did it with a huge grin on his face, too.
What made tonight special was the variety of bands, but with one common theme – they were there to have fun. Beast in Black’s take on heavy metal is to chuck some disco-y riffs over the top of it, and let Yannis Papadopoulos with his high pitched vocals run rampant. Oh, and chuck in some madcap guitar solos for shits and giggles. The best part is that it bloody well works. The songs are instant earworms, the band are tighter than a gnat’s chuff (even when down a member) and the audience absolutely lapped it up. “Die By The Blade” and “Blind and Frozen” tore the place up, and on any other night they could have been headlining.
Instead, that honour went to Gloryhammer, the only band on the bill not making their debut north of Hadrian’s Wall. After an impromptu serenade courtesy of Welsh maestro Tom Jones (obviously), Angus McFife and the rest of the space opera / pantomime crew appeared and launched into “The Siege of Dunkeld”. This was the start of a near 90-minute set which included great songs, silly speeches, rampant crowdsurfing and even a segment of crowd participation regarding what sound magic hammers make in space. Because of course it did.
The Glasgow crowd was well up for this show, and barely stood still as Gloryhammer ripped through favourites old and new: “Legend of the Astral Hammer”, “Hollywood Hootsman”, “Questlords of Inverness, Ride to the Galactic Fortress!” (crowdsurfers ahoy)… “Hootsforce” probably got the crowd the most active, but it was a difficult one to call. The encore break was short, with the band coming back out for an epic trilogy of “Rise of the Chaos Wizards”, “Universe on Fire” (with that synchronised jump) and “The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee”.
If there was a small issue, it was that Winkler/McFife’s usually excellent throat organ seemed to have a tiny intergalactic frog in it at times. Given that they are towards the end of a pretty gruelling tour, this is completely understandable and he battled on like the starborn warrior he is. Besides, anyone who can make a crowd of grown men and women jump around hugging each other while they sing about unicorns deserves to be forgiven just about anything.
With their mental blend of metal and sci-fi panto, Gloryhammer are always going to entertain and the only real task they set themselves was doing better than their excellent support. This was a great “package”, and well worth the panicked stuffing-down of dinner to make sure I got there in time to see them all.
Photos by Sean Larkin Photography (Nottingham gig)