For some reason Northampton often gets overlooked in the national metal scene. That’s a strange anomaly because there’s a milieu of great bands here and if you need proof then just check out tonight’s bill. With three of the counties brightest acts it promises to be a brutally heavy evening and that’s exactly how The Darkhorse kick things off. Stomping like an angry Golem they deliver a tsunami-inducing rumble that threatens to shake the venue to its very core. Their doom and sludge admixture hints at the classic NOLA sound but they put a distinctly English twist on the genre and their infectious grooves soon get the follicles flying. The Darkhorse are operating as a trio but sound far bigger than their constituent parts and the musical pummelling they dish out sets the bar high for the rest of the evening.
The opening refrain of ‘Depths Of Hell’ finds vocalist Skye Bertram James Day with head hanging from the microphone with head bowed while a snaking riff hisses from the amplifiers. As introductions go it’s damn near perfect and creates a sense of tension that’s abruptly shattered by the arrival of a hard-hitting rhythm section. Drawing inspiration from bands such as Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains means Sulvain really pack a punch while the lyrics, steeped in introspection, add an emotional depth. Skye feels every word he sings and, when coupled to some of the heaviest riffs known to man, makes for a pretty intense experience. Debut single ‘Fifth Whiskey’ goes down particularly well, and when played with such vim and vigour, signposts a bright future.
On the second leg of their AIIV Tour Stormbringer stop by to play a homecoming gig in Northampton. Since I last saw the band (pre-pandemic) there’s been big changes with the return of original vocalist Mikey Stockley and also Mike Bell taking over bass duties. However, I’m pleased to report its very much business as usual and, in a precedent of what’s to come, they waste little time on fancy preludes preferring to get their heads down and launch straight into ‘Bleed For’. Stormbringer hit the ground running and this set is, just like their music, a no-nonsense affair that promises to be a celebration of all things metal. ‘Save Me’ follows hot on its heels along with ‘We Got The Right’, the first of several songs aired from their latest album AIIV.
With guitarists Dom Wallace and Darren Quantrill providing some sublime backing vocals Stormbringer have a sound that’s built for the biggest stages (after all, they’re veterans of Bloodstock and Download) but they sound equally good within the confines of The Black Prince. Throughout the gig both Dom and Darren unleash some gnarly fretwork while Mikey, the quintessential frontman, operates from the very edge of the stage and constantly riles up the crowd. But there’s little time wasted on between song banter and drummer Jon (brother of Darren) ensures the band tick over like a well-oiled machine. We revisit the band’s genesis with 2013 single ‘Grinder’ before we’re propelled to the present with ‘Stand Tall’ and, despite the years that separate them, they make easy bedfellows.
By the time we reach the poignant ‘Mourning Roses’ you get the feeling that Stormbringer are running on fumes, yet they manage to drain the tank for ‘Mark Anthony’ and set closer ‘Dying Breed’ which, with every voice present singing its insanely catchy chorus, almost takes the roof off. Armed with their critically acclaimed album AIIV and explosive live show surely Stormbringer will put Northampton on the metal map.
Stormbringer Set List:
1. Bleed For
2. Save Me
3. We Got The Right
6. Let It Begin
9. Black Cradle
11. Stand Tall
14. Mourning Roses
15. Mark Antony
16. Dying Breed