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ConcertsHellfire Festival, Birmingham NEC, 7 8 November 2009

Posted on Sunday, November 08 2009 @ 08:25:47 CST by Pete Pardo
Heavy Metal With a variety of Metal acts old and new spread across four stages, Hellfire festival took place over two days at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, the home of Metal. This was a well organised that offered excellent facilities to punters and should have attracted more paying customers than were evident; but with the UK currently playing host to numerous touring artists there is plenty of competition and choice around for that hard earned .

At these events when stage times inevitably clash you have the option of catching a few songs by several bands or choosing to stick around for full sets and thereby diminish the number you actually get to see. I opted for the latter as there were three bands that held specific appeal; Fury UK, Blaze Bayley and Anvil. A three piece from Manchester, Fury UK kicked off proceedings on the intimate Metal Hammer Incoming stage and it was noticeable that the audience numbers swelled during an incendiary fifteen minutes that saw them restricted to just three songs. Chris Appleton led from the front with some accomplished guitar work and they immediately hit the spot, an aggressive and confident young Metal trio that have the edge of early Megadeth about them. Second album VR has just been released to some acclaim and they closed their all too brief performance with the blistering "Death by Lightning". Seek them out on MySpace and prepare to be impressed.

Back on the Main Stage were Northampton Metalcore outfit Sacred Mother Tongue who opened with some artillery style percussion and technical riffing and delivered a tight, punchy set that was reasonably well received. This is a band who have been warmly welcomed by the UK Metal press and could certainly attract an audience from fans of Shadows Fall, Machine Head and Killswitch Engage. Following the withdrawal of Evile after the tragic death of bassist Mike Alexander, the organisers called up Blaze Bayley as late replacements. Coming off the back of a lengthy trek in support of the excellent The Man Who Would Not Die, Blaze and band are fired up from the moment they hit the stage with the pulsating title track that leads into the albums real gem, the Gladiator-inspired "Smile Back At Death". They make the most of a set time of forty five minutes by plundering Blaze's Maiden tenure with the crowd-pleasing brace of "Futureal" and "Man on The Edge" and closing out with "Robot". Blaze works the audience throughout and with a new album due in February, 2010 will be another busy year for the band. Following this was always going to be a thankless task and local Death Metallers Benediction struggled to garner much reaction and were clearly misplaced on the Main Stage sandwiched between Blaze Bayley and Anvil.

If you've seen the movie then you will know just how much it means to Lips to still be on stage performing Anvil songs after all these years. Opening with "March of the Crabs" their influence on the big four of Thrash is apparent and that Anvil never reached the same heights is one of Metals great mysteries. The gargantuan guitar sound is all the more impressive considering the band have trimmed back down a three piece and "666", "School Love", "This is Thirteen" and "Mothra" are simply immense. With Robb Reiner and Glenn Five providing a solid backbone Lips is free to delight the crowd with his signature dildo guitar playing and with this display of superb musicianship and self-belief, Anvil provided Hellfire with its defining moment. "Metal on Metal" was the inevitable closing number and with Lips and Robb clearly still enjoying performing this well-deserved new lease of life should see them continue for a long time yet. Headliners were Saxon who have been covered fairly recently here on SoT but by all accounts were on good form.

Hellfire is still in its infancy but on this evidence the organisers are putting in a lot of time and effort to ensuring a worthwhile indoor festival experience and if they continue to mix the bill with old and new Metal acts then it should go on to be more successful in future years.

Dean Pedley



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