Day one of the Frost & Fire Festival is a strictly NWOBHM affair, something which sits very well with yours truly.
Words: Dave Bonney
Day One: Our Black Heart – Jaguar, Mythra, Bashful Alley
The iconic movement bore giants of the rock and Metal world of today, whilst others faded away after a solitary 7″ vinyl release or if they were lucky, maybe an album or two and whilst none of tonight’s bands fit into the first category, they are all still legitimate today, even after varying degrees of hibernation.
Bashful Alley opened the show and their straight down the line, raw, loose, rock and Metal is delivered the same now as it was back in the early eighties, and by the looks of things, they brought their own fan club down with them from Lancaster with the first two rows singing along to every word of cult classics like ‘Running Blind’ and ‘My My My’. Great stuff which set the tone nicely for what was to come.
North-east legends Mythra went down a different route back in 1979 when most of their contemporaries signed with Neat Records. They chose the lesser known Guardian Records to release the brilliant ‘Death & Destiny’ EP, which signalled their arrival onto the scene.
They open up with ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’, and as well as being a great song, it’s sentiment may well be true. It leads straight into the furious ‘UFO’ off the EP; this song is out of this world, transporting the audience back to another era when the occupants of the first two rows probably had bad acne and newly stitched patches on their brand new denim waistcoats.
This gig is a landmark in Mythra history, as it is the last time founding member and vocalist Vince High treads the boards with the band, something which he’s done for over forty years, and he’s going out with a bang with the most excellent ‘Killer’ and ‘Overlord’ off the aforementioned EP included in a memorable set. Let’s hope a new vocalist is procured pretty soon as these songs are far too good not to be heard live.
Jarvis Leatherby is a very busy man, something which is a bit of an understatement in fact as the guy has not only put this fest together in honour of one of his favourite and most underrated bands, as he also does in the US, he actually joined the band. So along with his day job as vocalist/bassist in the magnificent Night Demon, who coincidently are playing day two of the fest, he is doing a double shift on the night as bass player in Cirith Ungol.
And if that’s not enough, he has also taken over singing duties with tonight’s headliner Jaguar who were at the very onset of the NWOBHM scene with their acclaimed classic ‘Back Street Woman’, and it’s that song that sets the tone from the beginning with little let up for the enthusiastic crowd headbanging in unison with the infectious Leatherby. His youthfulness may look slightly out of place but his passion most certainly does not.
Jaguar roar through an array of classic after classic with original guitarist Garry Peppard going ‘Axe Crazy’ for most of it. They’re not as active as they should be, due to I imagine, Leatherby’s other obvious commitments, but when they are on this sort of form, it’s a shame they aren’t let out of the cage more often.
Day Two: The Underworld – Cirith Ungol, Angel Witch, Night Demon
Back in London after a superb support slot on the Accept European tour earlier this year, which took in the magnificent Koko venue, Night Demon are deservedly creating quite a buzz these days, and as such, the Underworld is packed to the rafters, and probably beyond its capacity one suspects.
Leatherby, along with Dusty Squires on drums and Armond John Anthony on guitar, are a real bona fide powerhouse power trio, dishing up the sort of high energy Metal that wouldn’t have been out of place back in the early eighties. It’s raw, raucous, rowdy rock’n’roll from the Californian cranium crunchers, with songs such as ‘Full Speed Ahead’, ‘Screams In The Night’ and ‘Ritual’ and there is simply no let up.
‘The Chalice’ sees the stage invaded by a cloaked and hooded demon drinking virgins blood from a chalice and they round off their supercharged set with their eponymous signature tune, ‘Night Demon’. Terrific stuff.
Angel Witch need no introduction – another band that are still spreading the early eighties gospel with their leader and focal point Kevin Heybourne still at the helm from the very beginning. With no release since 2012s ‘As Above, So Below’, the majority of tonight’s set is culled from the bands classic self-titled debut album, and what an album that was. Every song is a crowd favourite, from ‘Gorgon’, ‘Atlantis’ and ‘Sorcerers’ to ‘White Witch’, ‘Angel Of Death’ and set closer ‘Angel Witch’.
Heybourne is joined these days by drummer Fredrik Jansson, bassist Will Palmer and guitarist Jimmy Martin who replaced Tom Draper after his departure for Carcass, and they are a well oiled machine, and judging by the crowd reaction tonight, the machine will be rollin’ for quite some time yet.
Until Tonight, ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ inspired Cirith Ungol had never played in the UK and quite why that is remains one of life’s mysteries, and you can taste the anticipation in the air at the aptly named Underworld. Jarvis Leatherby was making his second appearance of the night, but he wasn’t the only one doubling up as his Night Demon buddy, guitarist Armond John Anthony was depping for Greg Lindstrom who couldn’t make the journey across the pond due to family reasons.
The fact that it was at such short notice, meant that Anthony didn’t have any time for rehearsal with the band, which made this spectacle even more extraordinary and opening with ‘Atom Smasher’, ‘Join The Legion’, ‘Blood & Iron’ and ‘I’m Alive’ without a blip, leading into a cover of ‘Fire’, Anthony looked as if he had been there for years.
‘Black Machine’ leads into the title track of their debut album which lends its name to this fest and ‘Frost & Fire’ is welcomed with gusto by the now sodden crowd. ‘Chaos Descends’ did exactly what it said on the tin while ‘Fallen Idols’, ‘Cirith Ungol’, ‘Finger Of The Strom’ and ‘Master Of The Pit’ lead into the set closer, ‘King Of The Dead’, ending a triumphant show with vocalist Tim Baker thanking the crowd and Anthony saying “we’re damn lucky to have him!”. And so were the crowd.
Just Imagine if they’d cancelled after waiting over forty years for them to come here… Tolkien would have turned in his grave! Let’s hope they don’t wait another forty years to come back.