Review and pics by Lisa Billingham
With our main reviewer prevented from entry by an overzealous security guard, Midlands Rocks photographer, Lisa Billingham picks up the pen and gives us her account of a full day of rock and metal in the heart of Birmingham.
So here we are at the Grand Finale of the 12 date Headbangers Balls tour organised to raise awareness of cancer in young people and in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust and also the fight against testicular cancer. Several members of the bands performing throughout the tour have been affected by this terrible disease and to be honest, the depth of feeling was more than evident in all of the sets.
Opening band Under Blackened Skies actually looked like they were playing just as their name says, as there were but a couple of house fluorescent lights illuminating the stage. These guys are new to me and I have to say they made an immediate impact in front of a relatively sparse crowd (it was just after midday after all). Powerful death metal vocals, neat guitar work and kick-ass drumming along the way, set a high bench mark for those who were to follow. Their EP Faceless Devastation released last year had rave reviews and their performance here did nothing to diminish those accolades.
Next on stage were Worcester-based heavy metallers, Fury, who never seem to disappoint. Today was no exception as they steam-rollered their way through a 5 song set ending with their take on “What shall we do with the drunken sailor”, with it being a little bit more metal than the traditional version, it has to be said. Metal, Thrash, Power, Speed what more can be said!
A three piece known as Blackballed followed with a very polished set which certainly took me by surprise. Groove rock specialists, with some great gigs already under their belt, this outfit deserved to be taken seriously and were not out of place in today’s line up of great bands.
Nottingham thrash metal band Incinery then made their appearance and played tracks of their EP Dawn of War. Revving up the crowd as they went, it seemed like their set list was getting faster and faster. Mixing an old school ferocity of thrash with a more up to date sound, Incinery have a tight rhythm and an amazing live show.
Fifth band to join in the fun were London’s groove-metal aficionados, Zocalo, fronted by Sarah Humphries, an amazing female vocalist with strength and depth to her voice, while the bass player crouched so low on several occasions; you’d have thought he was limbo dancer. Influenced by bands ranging from Pantera through to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, these guys hit us with a sound that is worth checking out. Their EP Confabulate will be followed up with part 2, Hallucinate, later in the year and will certainly need to be listened to.
Halfway house now and Scottish heroes Scordatura came on stage to much applause. This very strong death metal band are powerful and with the dominant deep red lighting you’d have said the very devil himself was singing. Earlier this year they released Torment of the Weak and from the reviews I have seen, this death metal band are out to kill.
The Warehouse crowd started to swell and Midlands melodic rockers A Thousand Enemies entered stage left. This is a truly in-your-face band which had hard hitting heavy bass, rocking guitars and all backed up with some excellent drumming. This band have played Hammerfest and Bloodstock and you can understand why. Their imminent CD release “Stand As One” is eagerly anticipated.
Bull Riff Stampede are a thrash metal, 100mph, hit you in the balls outfit who rocked the now much larger crowd and continued the high calibre of music we had become used to. Another band whose music seemed to get faster and faster and even had one chap in the crowd shouting out “faster, faster!” aiming his comment at the drummer whose frenetic beats really could not be any quicker. Bull Riff Stampede threw themselves head first into their music and I have read reviews saying “a whirlwind blend of thrash and melodic metal”. To be honest they are so right.
I have to admit being somewhat biased towards the next act on stage …. Hanging Doll – a Brummie band that I have seen before and have always been left wanting more. Having toured with Michael Schenker in Europe earlier this year, it was time to bring their new album ‘Sacred & Profane’ back to home territory. As a superb follow up to ‘Reason & Madness’, S&P is little else other than awesome with a capital A. Vocalist Sally Holliday appeared a little nervous at the start but her voice got stronger as it went on. That said, I love the intense orchestral sounding metal of Hanging Doll and the passionate and powerful vocals are something else.
Waiting in the wings were another Midlands act, Reign of Fury who were ready to blow our minds, souls and ears. These guys so obviously love their music and the audience, the latter reciprocating with their enthusiastic approval. Reign of Fury continued the 100mph theme with a belting metal set leaving little time to draw breath. Once again, stunning vocals, rasping guitars and rocking bass were all wrapped up with more thumping double drum beats than I could count. Top stuff !
Here I am standing in front of ZP Theart, Vocalist extraordinaire and frontman with I AM I. ZP really engages the crowd with some absolutely stunning vocal work. His stage presence and charisma is amazing and he involves the crowd at every opportunity, even goading the balcony lovers to come down and join in. The ex-Dragonforce frontman does not falter and this set, whilst fast, does have a more melodic feel to it. I AM I as a whole are so tight you can’t get a fag paper between any of them. It’s an awesome set and I am looking forward to seeing them again. Their album Event Horizon is well worth a listen …. if you haven’t already!
Headliners Beholder took to the stage and crowd doubled in size almost at a stroke! These guys are good, full on at what they do and the crowd certainly responded very well. The hook lines have the complexity to draw you in and Beholder are becoming one of the most prized metal acts around. Their EP, The Order Of Chaos promises so much and very definitely delivers. Front man Simon Hall certainly knows how to get his feelings across to his audience and shows a depth of passion that leaves you in no doubt as to where he stands.
It was a great ending to what can only be described as a day of pure metal and heavy rock indulgence served up by some of the finest live acts in the UK. To all those that made the Headbangers Balls tour happen, we should pass on our grateful thanks.
See more of Lisa’s photos here;