I set out to travel north, leaving the safety of the Citadel of London to venture in to the northern hordes! Well, Selby in Yorkshire to be precise, and what a lovely little market town it is, with historical claim to the birthplace of King Henry 1st. So, as for the festival itself it is the calling for pagan, Viking, folk metal bands and fans from across Europe, with big acts coming from across waters to join the celebration.
I entered the fray and caught the end of Crimson Brigade, which I found were a bit too Addams Family for me, followed shortly by the NWOBHM doom and roll of Arkham Witch. They know how to put on a good show, and work a crowd in a traditional way. Whereas, Necronautical layer on the atmospheric black metal, each member dressed like Carl McCoy from the Nephilim in long jackets, brimmed hats and corpse paint of a sort. And what I really liked about these guys was how their front man was able to step out of character and work the crowd, even with a sense of humour where he paused the applause whilst the backing track played out its atmospheric ambience, then said ‘Now GO!’ and the cheers let rip!Day Two included some wide variety from Lillith’s Keep and their gothic alt. folk guitar and vocals. They were a bit lost on a big stage as it was just the two of them. Maybe setting them somewhere more intimate might have worked better, we’d just need to work out the amplification.
Fen deafened me. DeaFENed!! My fault as I stood too close to the speakers! “Winter is Cominnngggg…” not quite as his guitar amp failed… furious unplugging and plugging in… “Winter is Cominnngggg…” and again more failures. After several attempts they got it sorted and they played an epic set “All will fall, all will sink, all will drown, all will fade with time.” This is excellent depressing atmospheric autumnal music to meditate on, this rise and fall of guitar, the wall of noise shoegaze elements and the backdrop of drum and bass that keeps it rolling. It was a gift to see Fen play at 4pm as they were dashing off to Leipzig right after their set, so they were a headliner in mid-afternoon!
Due to their technical glitches earlier, they overran their allotted slot, and the timer turned red and flashed! But they were given injury time and played an extra tune!Sodomized Cadaver, maybe my age but that kinda name turns me off, however they deliver some quite excellent short sharp guttural death metal.
Valafar continue the flavour of death metal and put on a quite excellent show with longer tunes to get your teeth into with tales of blood, guts and gory… I meant glory! A terrific live band, with rapturous response. Tunes like Forged in Iron leave nothing to the imagination and deliver exactly what you expect. Promoting their new album Helheim it is well worth checking out if you like a bit of Entombed rhythm, Amon Amarth stage presence and the power and glory of Maiden.
Old Corpse Road close the night with their modern take on classic black metal, from up the road, they encapsulate the stories of Yorkshire moors, witches, folklore and days of yore. Musically they include interludes of acoustic instruments to complement their full on aural assault. I heard the following day that they carried on partying til gone 2am, and upon returning to their hotel found themselves to be locked out. So had to sleep in their car – ROCK AND ROLL!
Saturday I overslept! I missed a couple of early acts, but caught the end of Vehement, crusty blackened metal which I really do love, and really wanna explore this band more. Hailing from the South Coast of the UK, Vehement were promoting their new album Ashes, which I want to get around to purchasing. Crusty blackened sound without the trappings and pitfalls of dodgy devilry.Heathen Deity bring us back in line with true English black metal. t e b m… that’s what it said. And I congratulate them for their organisational skills as their backdrop banners were of the pop up kind that I use when I am promoting the charity I work for at community events. And their inverted cross had a large weighty anchor for it to sit in. But, oh what a set they performed, as their singer thrust a handheld inverted cross and reminded us why we were there… In the Name of Satan helped jog our memories, musically they were on the quieter side of black metal, that early Scandinavian sound sprang to mind, where its slightly basement black metally along with spikes, gladiator boots and corpse paint. It was late September, and it worried me that one audience member was rocking a Big Lebowski look including flip flops, I didn’t want to be one of his toes if one of these gladiator boots came anywhere near. For Only Death is Real closed their set, I think, well certainly would be for any tiny pinkies squashed by a big burly boot!
Damnation Hammer take us on a spacey doom trip with some very heavy space rock, visiting a number of Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres (as their new album denotes), plus tunes form their previous album Disciples of the Hex. They signed to Sweden’s I Hate Records which seems an apt stable alongside acts such as Zaum, Serpent Warning and Wounded Kings, mixing their full tilt rock n roll with smatterings of space noodling. Hammer of War pleases the crowd as they raise their ale horns in toast as this tune berates and pummels our ears with a heavy doomageddon.Hands up who has seen the film The Dark Crystal, amazing puppetry from Jim Henson back in the 1980s? Well when Infernal Sea take the stage in Plague Doctor quack masks immersed in green light and stage smoke they just remind me of Skeksies from that movie. The Infernal Sea take the stage in a similar way to Sunno))) as they come on in character and never let the, quite literal, mask slip. And what I really enjoyed was their Security of the First World “S1Ws” style henchmen on either side of the stage holding lanterns aloft and did not move until they escorted the band off stage. Dramatic, slightly cheesy but oh such fun and so well performed.
Darkest Era joined us from the Northern area of the Emerald Isle, and they even mention it themselves, but their twin guitar attack will always receive Thin Lizzy comparisons even though there isn’t one bandit cowboy outfit in sight. Another romping ride through Heavy Metal’s history books they bring what is needed for a festival band, pomp and ceremony, and larger than life stage presence. And whatever they don’t have, they borrow, such as borrowing the shrunken head staff off the visiting Metal Shaman and pumping out the rhythms with it, gets us all shouting along! Songs of Gods and Men, again, doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
These were my highlights of the weekend. What I avoided, once I had tasted it, was the pirate metal of Lagerstein and Iron Sea Wolf. I just didn’t get it I’m afraid!
It is a terrific festival, but due to being seen as a noisy neighbour they had to keep the door shut, and we sweated. I heard Hawkwind used to lock the venue doors before spiking drinks or twiddling their very real weaponised sonic attack, but 50 years later it is noise abatement teams that dampen the vibe.
The kids just wanna rock, man!
You can get more information on the Warhorns Festival here.