In its third year, Black Country Metal Festival raised the bar with their line up this year. Keeping a clutch of local bands on the bill, as well as some of the cream of the crop of the UK metal scene, the organisers managed to pull off the coup of getting New Orleans sludge legends, Crowbar, to headline.
Opening the day was five piece XVII. Tasked with the tough job of opening proceedings, the band did an admirable job, and won the crowd over by reliably informing them that there were ten bands on, so as long as everyone had a ‘beer a band,’ they’d have a great day! Following XVII, were Ropewalk. Their take on a groove metal/sludge metal sound was a change in pace from XVII but already showed the depth and range of the line-up. The rolling grooves of the band were perfectly accentuated by the bands bassist who showed an enthusiasm reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flea.
The first two bands of the day showcased a penchant for harsh vocals, Left For Red veered more towards a more traditional metal sound that had cleaner vocals and plenty of guitar solos. As Left for Red exited the stage, Gehtika set up and took to the stage to offer the most eccentric set of the afternoon, and the day. Emblazoned in distinctly dark make up, and sporting suitably ‘spiffing’ stage attire, the band garnered the biggest crowd of the day so far. The bands twin guitar attack was extrememly spritely with one making some very exhuberant moves, whilst the other guitarist ventured into the crowd more than once to incite the crowd. The bands style was certainly extreme in its vocal delivery, and the riffs were fast and furious. Crowbar’s current touring partners, Dripback, were up next. Their uncompromising style is awesome. Dripback take absolutely no prisoners in their performance. The crowd seemed a little thinner than for Gehtika, however the bands impassioned performance acts as a smack around the head. Personally, I am glad to have seen the band a couple of times on the Crowbar tour; they’re exciting and bludgeoning – seeing them in a club with a crowd solely there to see them will really see them come into their own.
Again, after Dripback, there was a change of pace in Ancient Ascendant. Recently signed to Candlelight Records, home of Ihsahn, Orange Goblin and Winterfylleth, the band are all set to release their new album, Echoes and Cinder. The band showcased a lot of material from their forthcoming release as well as a selection from their previous releases. Whilst having a strong black metal influence, the band show a diversity in their sound that can only see them go from strength to strength. Another of the UK’s shining lights, Savage Messiah, was up next. The Brit-thrash quartet, like Ancient Ascendant, was showcasing material from their forthcoming album, The Fateful Dark. From what the band displayed, the material sounds as solid as anything they have put out on their previous two albums. I have seen Savage Messiah numerous times, and they always put on a great show. The thrash motifs were executed excellently, and the solos were razor sharp. Closer, Insurrection Rising, from the album of the same name was again a joy to hear.
Whilst there had been many genres on show throughout the day, Flayed Disciple sewed up the most brutal set of the day award. The bands utterly brutal death metal was superb. The delivery of growled and grunted vocals was second to none. As the vocals were delivered sublimely, the music was also precisely delivered. Some break neck solos and plenty of head banging riffs and tempos made for a great set. Staffordshire based stalwarts, Obzidian, were given the task of following Flayed Disciple’s brutality. Whilst they didn’t match up where the pure brutality was concerned, their set was still massively heavy. The bands influences, according to themselves range from many different metal backgrounds, but obvious nods to Opeth, Meshuggah and Pantera help to describe the concoction of styles the band infuse.
To finish off a quite superb day of metal, Crowbar did not disappoint. Having seen the band in Manchester the week before, it was an honour to see such metal royalty again on the same tour. Drawing on material across the bands substantinal discography, the crushing riffs of Kirk ‘Riff Lord’ Windstein and his compadres was devastating. Not surprisingly, the crowd is rather more substantial than for any other act on the bill during the day; and rightly so. It is not often you get to see a band of suck ilk, in such intimate surroundings. Windstein’s enthusiasm and drive for Crowbar has seen him give up his space in Down – in this kind of scintillating form, the band will continue to be one of the leading lights of the metal world for many years to come. Crowbar’s new long player, Symmetry in Black, drops at the end of May on Century Media– it will certainly be one record that the whole Sludgelord team will be waiting for with baited breath.
Words by : Dominc Walsh
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