On a dark Sunday night at KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton the faithful gathered at the temple of the MegaPriest to witness a truly unique night of Heavy Metal.
Beyond The Realms Of Deth
Words: Johnny Churchill, Pictures: Steve Ritchie
KK Downing, David Ellefson, Les Binks, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and AJ Mills delivered a sensational set of stone-cold classics from the Judas Priest legacy, supported by Blaze Bayley and David Ellefson with Thom Hazaert.
An energised Blaze was an inspired choice of opening act for such a special night. Playing his first ‘home’ gig for some three years with his exceptional backing band – Chris Appleton, Karl Schramm and Martin McNee of Absolva, with Iced Earth’s Luke Appleton – Blaze demonstrated his vocal versatility and songwriting abilities with tracks from his ‘Infinite Entanglement’ trilogy and ‘Silicon Messiah’ albums before closing the set with two Maiden-era songs, ‘Man On The Edge’ and ‘Futureal’.
A superb set to open, before moving on to David Ellefson who is currently touring his solo album, ‘Sleeping Giants’, with vocalist and co-author of the Megadeth man’s autobiography, Thom Hazaert.
Mixing up early Megadeth classics such as ‘Wake Up Dead’, ‘Liar’ and ‘Hook In Mouth’, along with new solo material, this is devastatingly heavy. Hazaert’s angry punk-like delivery adds a different dimension to Megadeth’s early songs, while Ellefson himself sings on his solo track, ‘If You Were God’. Closing with the unimpeachable classics ‘Dawn Patrol’, ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ and ‘Peace Sells’ satisfied the Metalhead crowd, with Hostile’s Jay Mills joining on vocals for ‘Peace Sells’.
That may be enough Metal for most nights in the Steel Mill, but tonight is all about one man; the legend that is KK Downing.
After his triumphant return at Bloodstock in August, KK was keen to play again and called in some very familiar names to join himself and David Ellefson on bass in Les Binks, famous for his influential and never bettered drum work on the ‘Stained Class’, ‘Killing Machine’ and ‘Unleashed In The East’ albums, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, who needed no introduction and AJ Mills from UK bruisers Hostile on second lead.
If you were thinking they would play it safe with the setlist, think again! Opener ‘Riding On The Wind’ immediately gave both guitarists a chance to shine, with Les Binks playing later-era Priest songs he hadn’t played live before. Ripper always sounds good and despite suffering from a bad throat tonight, his stage presence and vocal power illustrated that without question he was a worthy replacement for the Metal God back in the day and is a hugely important part of Judas Priest history. Ripper declined to tell the audience about the difficulties he was experiencing with his voice, further evidence of his steel.
‘The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Prong Crown)’, setlist masterstroke ‘Hell Is Home’ and ‘Running Wild’ kept the energy up before the band changed the mood with the outstanding ‘Beyond The Realms Of Death’. Co-written by Les Binks, this was always likely to feature and AJ Mills stepped up, looking and sounding absolutely superb while nailing Glenn Tipton’s all-time classic solo.
One of many all-time classic Priest songs, ‘Exciter’, began with a short Les Binks drum intro; it was as if time had stood still for 40 years as KK and AJ performed the dual lead, while Les powered through the classic double-bass and tom parts to perfection.
A crowd-pleasing ‘Metal Gods’ followed by a deep dive into the Ripper years with ‘Burn In Hell’ preceded another very unique moment. KK had hinted before the show that he’d put a surprise or two in the setlist and took centre stage for a beautiful rendition of ‘Before The Dawn’. Never before played by Judas Priest live, Ripper’s pitch-perfect vocals and KK’s solo simply stole the show.
‘Painkiller’ favourite ‘Between The Hammer And The Anvil’ was next up with Les Binks powering through the song like it was from his classic era as Ripper pulled out all the stops on the closing vocals, then it was heads down to the finish with the immortals ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ and ‘Living After Midnight’ before the encores of ‘Take On The World’ and ‘Breaking The Law’, both seeing the capacity Steel Mill crowd raise the roof.
And there you have it. Fourteen tracks played to perfection, leaving the crowd in raptures. With fans from as far afield as Brazil and Japan, plus a VIP signing session and Q&A with the band members before the show, this was a night that will go down in Heavy Metal history.
1. Riding On The Wind
2. The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Prong Crown)
3. Hell Is Home
4. Running Wild
5. Beyond The Realms Of Death
7. Metal Gods
8. Burn In Hell
9. Before The Dawn
10. Between The Hammer And The Anvil
11. Hell Bent For Leather
12. Living After Midnight
13. Take On The World
14. Breaking The Law