|Midlands Metal Crusade VI – Wolverhampton, Slade Rooms – 26 November 2016|
|Written by Rich Hobson|
|Friday, 09 December 2016 18:00|
Local music scenes make up the life blood of any music genre, no matter where you are. Some might be cliquey, they might be fashion obsessed or entirely derivative of one style, but without a local scene bands can’t cut their teeth and if they can’t do that, they can’t do much else. Praise then falls on local promoters who take chances on small bands when they are first emerging and even more on those promoters that help those bands secure headlining gigs further into their careers.
Hilary Plimmer of Ovation Music is one of those promoters, tirelessly working on the Midlands metal scene bringing in bands from around the world and then sticking local acts in support. It would be remiss then to miss Ovation Music’s flagship event, the Midlands Metal Crusade, which brings together the very best metal bands from around the Midlands (East, West and a little beyond) for one massive party.
Of course, life being what it is, sadly we don’t make it to the venue for opening acts Exiles of Elysium (part of the curse of moving house in the optimum touring season), instead arriving mid-way through the Devil’s Playground set. Something of a neo nu-metal band, Devil’s Playground would have fit in well at the start of the past decade, with stomping riffs, Strepsil-vocals and female-to-male interplays marking them as something different amongst the modern whatever-core metal movements. Whilst they might not do anything to break the mid-00s Nu-Metal formula, the band inhabit it comfortably and competently, an enjoyable throwback to metal’s angsty teen years.
Follow ups XVII take things in a more Scandinavian direction, dropping thumping riffs in favour of those that soar across frosted plains. Somewhere between black metal and metalcore, the band are a prime slice of what Metal had to offer in the mid-to-end of the last decade. Appropriately drawing influence from the likes of Devildriver, In Flames et al, XVII are a band schooled on the greats and pay homage to the greats, sending their own sweeping riffs charging into a landscape of frozen sonic dissonance.
Almost like a “Modern Metal Through The Ages”, Black Ink Sun take us a couple of years closer to the current metal zeitgeist. Approaching metal the way a shark approaches a seal, Black Ink Sun hit hard and fast and level everything in sight. Lamb of God metal by way of cacophony, the band sacrifice grooves and melodies in favour of an unrelenting aural assault, thrashing and jerking with the frenzy of an ill-tempered Cujo. Having played Bloodstock earlier this year, there is a definite sense that the band have been watching their contemporaries keenly, with an eye to out-shrieking the lot of them.
The most epic thing to come out of the Midlands since the Crusades, you’d be forgiven for thinking Haerken are a taste of some of Scandinavia’s finest battle metal. But, much like Tolkein’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ itself, Haerken are born and forged in the Midlands. Hailing from Birmingham with a sense of the epic and a death metal tinge, the band certainly know their theatrics as they take to the stage fully clad in costumes (as a monk, crusaders and peasants respectively) holding a burning incense-stick torch. Treading the fine line between fun and theatric, Haerken are completely unlike anything else in the Midlands at the moment, a tour de force of Epic Metal brilliance.
Next up are one of the brightest hopes of the Midlands metal scene, thrashers Eradikator. Plying 80s era-sound with a modern zeal for energy and high production values, Eradikator come out of the gates swinging. With only two albums under their belt, you’d think the band might need some refining, but the Eradikator onstage at the MMC are as refined as any honed Thrash act you’ll find, hungry for acclaim and success but mindful enough to steer clear of watering down their sound. Absolute howlers like Mesmerised and Astral Body show that the band have songwriting talent in spades and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there’ll be some sore necks tomorrow morning after Eradikator play.
It’s bittersweet to see Martyr De Mona sub-headlining the Midlands Metal Crusade. Champions of the local scene, the band have existed in one form or another for the past ten years, cutting their teeth at every pub, live music showcase and venue going. Last year saw the band release their debut album, ‘Impera’, an album which saw the band receive critical acclaim and manage to even almost sell out a hometown show at the Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall. Flash forward to tonight, and the Midlands Metal Crusade is set to be the band’s final ever show.
It’s a sad reality that the music industry is no longer the glamorous job opportunity it was seen as from the 60s through to the 90s, where a successful album could provide opportunities to tour the globe and carve out a reasonable living for one’s self. In today’s climate, it’s not uncommon to hear that bands are folding left and right, as the pressures of trying to live even a modest financial life are constantly scuppered by declining profits and lesser returns. Such is the world that Martyr De Mona find themselves in, but certainly their choice to go out now sees them going out at the top of their game, even if it seems they have the world on a plate.
Coming out to huge excitement from the crowd, it’s no stretch of the imagination that the band could easily have headlined tonight’s gig and shifted plenty of tickets. Their brand of muscular alt rock is one that is finally gaining plenty of traction in the metal and rock worlds, with the likes of Alter Bridge making the jump to stadium shows and local acts like Stone Broken following in their footsteps to acclaim and success. You can’t argue with a band who embody the best things about radio sensibility and proficient metal prowess, which Martyr De Mona most certainly do. An all-too short set, it’s a nice touch that the boys bring on Ant Rickett, the guitarist on the ‘Impera’ album to join them for several songs before the end of the set. Sad as it is to see the band go off into the night, there is definitely a sense that in the Midlands at least, the band have made plenty of ripples amongst the local scene.
Probably the most madcap metal band since GWAR, with the goofiness of Lawnmower Deth heaped on aplenty, Evil Scarecrow are a band that need to be seen to be believed. Be it a song about a hurricane-tornado fusion (your Sharknados be damned), difficult end of level bosses, or a pincered robotic crustacean hybrid, you can be sure that the crowd will be not only singing along, but also miming and dancing with everything they have got. With 500 bodies scuttling left to right, right to left, Evil Scarecrow bring some new moves to the metal gig etiquette repertoire, bringing an impossibly brilliant sense of fun to everything they do. It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen one Evil Scarecrow gig, or a hundred; the band inspire zeal wherever they go and it’s impossible to resist joining in with their antics as the gig gets underway.
Between already-success stories, up-and-comers and soon-to-be kings, the Midlands Metal Crusade is the kind of event that offers music-lovers a perfect outlet to support the local scene at every level. It doesn’t hurt the event’s appeal at all that the organisers have managed to pull together a line-up which comprises many of the camps in the modern metal scene, ranging in everything from metalcore-inspired death metal to epic battle metal goodness and muscular alt rock. As metal approaches half a century of existence, it’s good to see that the genre still has plenty to offer the world, in no small part thanks to the local scenes. All the more reason to support them.
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos (c) Rich Hobson / Uber Rock