Review by Tony Gaskin, Photos by Rob Stanley
Following on from its small but triumphant debut last year, Beermageddon is back! Relocated from the Derbyshire countryside to the sleepy backwaters of Bromsgrove, DJ Beerman has upped the anti with a venue with twice the capacity of last years.
Stoke Prior Sports and Social Club may sound an unlikely partner for an extreme metal fest, but they’re used to putting on events here and it is well set up to accommodate the hoards of fans that have arrived for the three days of mayhem.
A quiet day, relatively speaking, for Day 1 with just the four scheduled bands and a promised suprise guest.
Honours went to Haerken to launch Beermageddon and they didn’t disappoint. Only recently back on the scene after an extended lay off, the warriors have returned complete with new drummer. Rousing battle anthems and Old English calls to arms are the order of the day and crowd participation is guaranteed when a sackful of booty is handed out to the crowd. Inflatable maces and swords ensure no blood is shed but the enthusiasm is real enough for a mini wall of death and the “Battle of Bromsgrove”. A great way to get the crowd buzzing and a clever piece of billing.
The promised surprise quickly followed with the arrival of cult Medieval jesters, Jaldaboath. Looking like they’ve just arrived off the set of “Monty Python’s Holy Grail” the duo set about entertaining the crowd with their witty songs and banter. The big surprise being that although they have a considerable cult following built up over the last four or five years, they’ve never performed their act live before, so a world exclusive for DJ Beerman!
It was just a brief interlude though as we prepared for more metal.
Up next were Manchester’s Incassum. Heavy, melodic metal from this slick outfit. Fronted by the incredible Sharleen Kennedy whose vocal range is as good as any metal vocalist out there male or female. Both angelic and demonic she is has comfortable with guttural growls has she is with clean vocals.
The crowd were up for a real treat next when thrashers Flayed Disciple pummelled us with a brutally flawless set. An early contender for band of the weekend.
Closing out this short but sweet first day were rising stars Fallen Fate. Surely looking to take the crown off Evile has this country’s brightest young thrash act, these guys from the North East have honed their skills over years of hard slog and endorsed by none other than Onslaught’s Sy Keeler, who joined them onstage at the end of their set this evening.
So if today was a relatively quiet day, what has the rest of the weekend got in store for us?
One aspect I like about this fest is the relatively late start of the bands; 6pm on the Friday and 2pm the other two days. Compare that to most other fests where bands kick off at mid-day or earlier, this later start gives you time to chat to bands and fellow festival goers plus it’s more recovery time!
So the second day began as it meant to go on with a fast, ferocious set from Kremated, old school thrash which was brilliantly executed. Another plus point for Beermageddon was the minimum 40 minute sets, gives the bands that little bit extra time to relax and engage the crowd more.
I was a little bit disappointed with Bull-Riff Stampede, having heard lots about these guys recently. Whether it was down to gig weariness or what, I don’t know, but they seemed a bit lack lustre. GraVil also seemed to struggle with the early afternoon crowd and the lack of atmosphere in the room seemed to affect them with a fairly flat performance.
A bit of Black Metal next, first was Old Corpse Road with their own brand of British Black Metal; blending dark, brooding tunes with folk legends. Definitely one of the highlights of the weekend, which was a bit unfortunate for fellow Black Metallers, Sacrilegeous Throne, whose set seemed a bit tame after. It wasn’t that it was bad, but didn’t have that wall of sound you would expect from a technical genre. Solid enough with great vocals, but could do with a second guitar and maybe some keyboards to really fill out their sound.
Another band whose name I’ve seen a lot recently was Skreamer, but this time they lived up to the hype with a blistering set that drew the crowd in from outside and the atmosphere was electric. Highlight of the set was when they invited guest vocalist Anna May up onto stage to help them out with the powerfully emotive song “Opiate”, a stand out moment of the weekend.
Beermageddon may be small but it’s attracted international interest and Swedish heavy rockers Eternal Fear were invited to play during their short UK tour. Nothing fancy here, just solid rock, heavy riffage and strong vocals, reminded me of a cross between Sabaton and Europe.
Todays headline set was always going to be emotional given Simon Hall’s and Beholder’s close links with the S.O.P.H.I.E cause. Today being the 6th anniversary of Sophie Lancaster’s pointless and tragic death.
Simon seemed in a particularly vitriolic mood today, never one to mince his words or back away from what needs to be said. Their set is interspersed with righteous words against the government and the fat cats that take what they want, but also praise and respect for the kids in the crowd today and the metal fraternity for their solidarity in supporting causes such as S.O.P.H.I.E.
A stunning end to a great second day, time for some ale!
You may have seen or heard of the wedding proposal in the signing tent at Bloodstock this year, but Beermageddon likes to go one further. Last year saw DJ Beerman (a registered ordained Minister don’t ya know!) carry out a wedding at the inaugural Beermageddon, this year saw Jim carry out a Hand Fasting Ceremony for a young couple.
So off to the pub for Sunday lunch and a few ales to celebrate before the first band of the day!
The honour for opening up the final day went to Divine Chaos, British Thrash straight up and soon blew the cobwebs away on a day which was primarily going to be Thrash orientated, so no pressure then!
Vindicator and Kemakil took up the baton for the thrash marathon today, Vindicator with a more modern take, followed by the old school style of Kemakil, both equally fine sets which proved popular with the crowd.
The one departure from the general style of today was the blackened death metal from Brummies Morgue Orgy, now this was what I meant about having a wall of sound! The six piece deliver a crushing set of metal, but as always, with a hint of humour and fun. Despite that fun element, they are technically as tight and slick as anything else we’ve seen this weekend and for me, the band of the weekend.
Wretched Soul do a fine job in following up such a mind blowing set. Their blend of Thrash/Death metal keep the crowd headbanging and moshing, as do Shrapnel “Forget revivals. Forget reunions. There is only now. There is only THRASH” sums them up really!
Virus were up first with their fast aggressive tunes and some impressive solo riffs from long serving front man Coke Finlay, the crowd lapped it up. Over 30 years of back catalogue means they can cherry pick the fans’ favourites.
So to the climax of a weekend of extreme metal and the culmination of one man’s mission to bring a metal festival to the fans.
Anihilated had a brief moment of glory in the early 80’s, coming out of the Punk scene in the first wave of thrash bands that were mixing the attitude of punk with the speed and technicality of heavy metal. Now back after a long lay off they once again take to the stage to entertain the packed room. Whereas bands like Wretched Soul, Vindicator etc have a more modern metal feel to their thrash, these old school guys take us back to those early days when they were more punk than metal. A nostalgic end then to three days of excellent music on the whole and there is no doubt that there will be a Beermageddon ’14. In fact the tickets are already available for next year! So make a note in your diary 22nd August 2014 for three days of metal mayhem!
See more of Rob’s photos from the weekend here: