Wednesday 28 December 2022

LIVE REVIEW: Sellsword supported by The Mighty Wraith and Iron Void @ The Fulford Arms, York, Saturday December 10th 2022

 By: Richard Maw

The Review:

York on a Saturday night in December, during the World Cup… will there be a crowd?! The answer, thankfully was: YES.

The Fulford Arms is a live venue- it’s not really a pub with a stage- it is a venue with a bar. This kind of venue is the lifeblood of the music scene, and they must be kept alive. It was immensely gratifying to see it packed out. Rammed. Standing Room only. Full from front to back.

Now, with Sellsword hailing from York and Iron Void being from Wakefield, a crowd of some kind would be expected, but to see 150 metalheads crammed into a Northern local venue show on a weekend at a time that England were playing in a World Cup quarter final was a throwback to the halcyon days of live metal. It warmed my heart of steel.

Iron Void opened things up and played some older classics like “The Devil’s Daughter” alongside some superb new material from their forthcoming “IV” album- out in January on Shadow Kingdom Records. “The Tolling Bell” was a vampiric number of impressive weight. Having once played in the band, I was glad to hear “Lancelot of The Lake” played with such aplomb- and moved that it was dedicated my way. The band sounded really cohesive and the vocals of Sealey and Steve Wilson sounded great over the PA. The technicality of Scott Naylor behind the kit is a welcome expansion of the band’s sound and the setlist was well paced with enough gallop to win over the crowd and enough weight to satisfy any doom diehards.

The crowd at The Fulford Arms were there for faster paced trad and power metal, so for a doom band to go over as well as Iron Void did was a triumph. By the end of the set hands and horns were raised on high. Iron Void are often unsung heroes of the doom scene in the UK. That must change.

The Mighty Wraith were up next in a kind of special guest slot that saw the style of metal move closer to the headliners. The boys from the West Midlands- the heartland of metal- did not disappoint. If you’ve not heard them, the band are traditional metal powerhouse with wailing vocals, thrashing drums and razor-sharp guitar work. If you think Maiden crossed with Priest with a hefty dose of US power metal grit then you’d be on the money. In charismatic frontman Matt Gore, the band have something special. He really brought the street level grit of a prime Paul Di-Anno and the theatrics of a Rob Halford to the crowd.

The band’s second album “Elegies” has been out for three months now and the material displayed from it sat really well with the crowd. As a measure of the confidence the band displayed, they threw in a great cover of “Bark At The Moon” and closed with a very unexpected run through of “The Number of The Beast”. The fact that neither of these tracks outshone their own work is testament to the band’s quality. There is simply nothing here not to like; great band and frontman. If you haven’t seen them, watch out for them. Big things ahead.

Sellsword play power metal in a more European style- that is to say it is symphonic power metal. It’s fun, sing along and technically challenging stuff- it requires total confidence and belief to pull off in a live context. Fortunately, I found the band even better live than on record- the softer textures of their albums were stripped away to reveal metal forged in the hottest of furnaces and un-tempered by synths.

Sellsword took the stage just after 9.30pm with a portentous intro tape and a look of steely confidence. New frontman Nathan Harrison (of excellent doom band The Human Condition) has been installed only for a couple of gigs prior and with this being a hometown show for the band, the stakes were high.

Fortunately, Harrison was up to the considerable challenge. From the moment he took the sword shaped mic stand (!) he got the crowd on his side. The whole band was tight- incredibly tight. The muscular bass playing of Tom Keeley laid a concrete foundation for the fleetfooted rhythms of drummer Tom Warner. Meanwhile, the dual lead guitar team of Stephenson and Keeley matches any out there; Denner/Sherman? Tipton/Downing? Mustaine and whoever it is this week? Yep, these boys are right up there with them. They were astonishingly deft in delivery and performance- way above the quality I have ever witnessed in a small venue type show before. Astounding.

The band laid waste to the venue with energetic opener “Blackened Sky (pt 1)” and then continued doing exactly the same with “Sagaborne” and the band’s eponymous signature song. Harrison’s vocals were never less than masterful and he hit the notes imperiously- with some real Halford/Ripper style screams added into the mix. Points must also be added for the wearing of a Jugulator t-shirt.

Sellsword really pulled out all the stops with the setlist, rolling out second album title track “Unto The Breach” along with “Pendragon” and “Inquisitor”. The heavy hits (mace blows?!) never stopped coming. The encore brought something special- former band members Stuart Perry and Jacek Mazur took the stage and Perry and Harrison duetted on “Merchants of Menace” with Mazur bringing added guitar pyrotechnics which flayed and pounded the audience’s flesh until the tank was emptied. Bring on album number three, lads.

The hour and a half show was superb throughout and the crowd loved it. Heads were banged, ale was quaffed, victory was delivered and the whole experience was preferable to when original long haired troublemaking Vikings descended upon York over 1000 years ago- excitement and adrenaline without the violence and death. This was the best small show I’ve been to in years and every band brought something unique and impressive to the table. Heavy metal is alive and well. With bands like these around, it will be in good health for years to come.