Endorsed by KK Downing, Tailgunner has been handpicked to star at 2024’s Stonedead Festival. They are going through the UK Metal scene like a dose of salts. Here to put old-school British Heavy Metal back on the map, one might argue that Tailgunner are the musical equivalent of Brexit.
Tailgunner – Helldown – Madicide – Rites To Ruin
Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 26 October 2023
Words And Photography: Paul Hutchings
But that would be somewhat harsh. For despite the fierce pride in being a UK band, one doesn’t get any of the jingoistic bigotry and hatred associated with the red-faced little Englander who wants to take back control when it comes to Tailgunner.
Look around the room, and you could almost be back in the 1980s. Except that everything is a little too accurate. The patches on the cutoffs are too neatly aligned, and the outfits are a little too carefully selected. For the old-timers, though, it’s a reminder of simpler days but with a contemporary twist.
Despite the over-cliched trappings, it’s a jolly good evening.
Tailgunner have made every ounce of their debut album Guns For Hire count. Social media savvy, it’s impossible to ignore them. With youth on their side, they also have the energy that many of us can’t even remember having, let alone still possess.
And Tailgunner throw it all at us in an intense, explosive hour that sees them race through the album, as well as a couple of choice cuts, including Judas Priest’s Painkiller.
Let’s face it, Tailgunner have a confidence that borders on arrogance. They know they are good, and they are damn good, and they show it as they flex their Metal muscles. There are shredding lead breaks for fun, screaming solos, pounding drums, thunderous bass lines and vocals that echo Halford, Dickinson, Dio, et al.
If you like the high-tempo Metal that borders Speed and Thrash with traditional style, then Guns For Hire, White Death, Shadows Of War, and the rest will rock your world. For those who’ve taken the time to get along to Fuel, it’s a night to remember.
As always, the lighting is hopeless. Bathed in reds and purples, Tailgunner are in semi-darkness and crammed onto the small stage. It’s almost dangerous at times, and they must exercise a restraint probably alien to their high-octane drive.
But they manage it, climbing on monitors, switching places without braining each other, all the while the crowd are a swirling mass of limbs. We also have kids, young kids in the crowd, who are enjoying the band as well. Fair play to the venue for allowing these little ones in to watch.
A Tailgunner Welsh flag ticks even more boxes, and even a guitar solo that leads into a blast of Grieg’s In The Hall Of The Mountain King doesn’t dampen spirits. It’s proper Metal, played at breakneck speed.
Yes, they work through the book of Heavy Metal clichés, but so what? For an hour or so, Tailgunner transport you to a different time and place. When they roll from Crashdive to Rebirth to the glorious finale of Dio’s Don’t Talk to Strangers, you sense that this just might be something special. We shall see, and it’ll be an interesting next 12 months, but for now, the ride is glorious.
Metal to the Masses finalists Helldown have been putting in serious mileage and hours in recent times. They’ve been bringing their own style of Thrash for a decade, adding a layer of groove to their early Slayer worship. Well known across the South Wales region, this is a solid set which opens with the bruiser Nepotism.
Highly charged, the quartet from Swansea take another opportunity to post a reminder of their quality with a set that once more sees the enthusiastic crowd form circle pits, which show scant regard for kids, photographers, or anyone else who strays into their path.
Songs like Thrive In Violence aren’t going to be ballads about romance, and by the time War Is All has thundered out of the PA, there’s a need for a breather before the headliners.
The day before the video for their latest single, Tommyknockers premiers, Glyn Neath thrashers Madicide post a frenetic reminder of why they are now part of the burgeoning Unearthed PR stable.
They disregard any reserve or respect for the younger members of the crowd, powering into Death March before bassist John ‘Bean’ Bevan unleashes a foul-mouthed tirade that would make a sailor blush. He’s pumped up, as are his bandmates, and they demand action. A small but energetic explosion of moshing breaks out as The Pit And The Pendulum gives way to Tommyknockers.
They are the most rudimentary of the four bands tonight, but they have a punk-tinged old-school style, which is difficult to dislike. It’s an aural smash-and-grab raid, the equivalent of a first-round knockout. They finish their short set with a punch, and there are stars in the eyes long after they’ve packed their gear away.
Rites To Ruin
No strangers to this venue, Rites To Ruin have graced the stage at Fuel several times, including the final of 2023’s Metal To The Masses. They play a traditional style of Heavy Metal with a modern twist that works magically, perfect for the evening.
Their music is solid, with plentiful melody to compliment a hard-edged style that draws from a myriad of influences to form an intricate and captivating sound. Tonight, they play five songs, which includes the second-ever live performance of In Memoriam.
In Krissie Kirby, the band have a seasoned performer and vocalist who never fails to impress with her powerful vocals. Tracks from their debut EP Fire are now firm favourites, with the title track still sending shivers down the spine. It’s a brief appearance, but one that leaves a smile long after the band finish.
Solid, slick, and with a humour that sees the band members engage in some personal tomfoolery during the set, Rites To Ruin are an excellent opener for the evening.