We are very lucky in the UK to have an abundance of festivals to choose from and one of the very best for Classic Rock, Progressive Rock & Metal is High Voltage, now in its second year. Unlike other festivals that certainly put quantity over quality (Download & Sonisphere guilty parties) High Voltage represents the very best in established and upcoming artists across the three stages. With headliners Judas Priest and Dream Theater delivering show-stopping performances High Voltage is now very much beginning to build its own legacy.
Beginning proceedings were The Von Hertzen Brothers on the Prog stage who brought their progressive rock to a new audience, playing for the first time in Britain the Finnish proggers certainly rocked the crowd and made sure a return trip would be well attended. Attica Rage drew a strong crowd to launch the Metal stage and their no-nonsense approach is well received. Big riffs and strong grooves are churned out and they play with a sense of purpose and fun which is no bad thing. Michael Monroe over on the main stage had the life of a man half his age, airing solo and the obligatory Hanoi Rocks material he danced around the stage making sure the people at the back were made aware of his presence. Billed as their last performance, British rockers Skin have not lost the passion and drive that made them so successful in the 90's. Singer Neville McDonald has the lungs of steel and has a spontaneous nose bleed his delivery is that passionate leaving Myke Gray to rip solo after solo through the clouded London sky. L.A's Rival Sons most definitely live up to the hype with their Zeppelin-esque soulful sounds permeating through the afternoon London borough. Vocalist Jay Buchanan is the perfect rock star, having studied his craft from all the great rock front men of old. He is Jagger, Morrison & Rogers all rolled into one package.
Queensryche deciding that the best form of attack was a greatest hits package, forgoing only a single song off the latest album Dedicated To Chaos. It was good to hear "Empire", "Jet City Woman" & Eyes of a Stranger" all sounding as relevant today as when they first came out. Geoff Tate, thankfully not losing any power or delivery in his voice over the years, knew what the masses wanted and delivered right to their doors. The anticipation for the revamped, repackaged Thin Lizzy was electric and not to be classed as purely a lame tribute act they powered through all the classics. Ricky Warwick is proving to be the perfect choice to front the band, adding his own style to proceedings while still being faithful to the original Thin Lizzy ideals. Every great festival needs a band mid-way down the bill to really bring it to life and a set including "Jailbreak", "The Boys Are Back In Town" and "Rosalie" did precisely that.
So how the hell do you follow that? Simple, you bring on Slash! Possibly one of the most influential modern day guitarists backed by one of the best bands you could ask for and fronted by the best vocalist of the decade, Myles Kennedy. "Back To Cali", "Paradise City" & "Sweet Child Of Mine" brought Victoria Park to a standstill and for one hour we were transported to Sunset Strip. Slash proving that constant old school touring is still the only way to reach an audience and coupled with strong material is a winning formula. Over on the Metal Hammer stage Grand Magus were wielding The Hammer Of The North to a great turn out. Receiving an ecstatic response, they are well overdue a full UK tour and proved that headlining is certainly within their grasp. Their brand of no nonsense, good honest metal providing the perfect appetizer for Main Stage Headliners Judas Priest. Playing to the biggest crowd of the day Victoria Park was drenched in the high pitched warbles of Rob Halford and bathed in ripping guitars from Messrs Tipton and new boy Faulkner.
Duly paying homage to their past Priest drew from each and every Halford-fronted studio album beginning with "Rapid Fire". Halford plays his part to perfection, camping it up for "Hell Bent for Leather", providing ear splitting screams on "Painkiller" and "The Sentinel" and handing over to the crowd entirely for "Breaking the Law". This was the old guard showing how to put on a metal show and the closing pair of "You've Got Another Thing Comin" and "Living After Midnight" ensured that the Epitaph tour would be one to remember for many years, let's hope it's not the end.
What's the best way to start off a sun drenched Sunday? That's right a pint of cider and some British Metal courtesy of Furyon who are certainly gaining a reputation for fine metal delivered between the eyes, they got heads banging before the alcohol of the day before could wear off. Closely followed by new rock hopefuls The Treatment who have one hell of a vocalist and an average age of 17. Believe me when I say big things await this band who like to deliver classic rock for the new decade. Their performance was polished and ways beyond their years…The Treatment, remember the name. Saint Jude's soulful laid back set enabled front woman Lynne Jackaman's gravel, whiskey soaked vocals soothe the preceding days hangovers. Performing a stunning "Soul On Fire" from debut album Diary Of a Soul Fiend they again are certainly worth keeping on the radar. Over on the Prog stage the irrepressible Robert John Godfrey is presenting the latest incarnation of The Enid. In what was the most unique performance of the entire weekend the core band are joined by children's choir for a dazzling "Something Wicked This Way Comes" before departing with their beloved pairing of "Dambusters March / Land of Hope and Glory" with Union Jacks much in evidence.
Michael Schenker has a lot to prove from the last time I witnessed him. Gone is the drunk slumbering fool and instead we welcome the guitar hero we once knew. Backed by Herman "Ze German" Rarebell they launch into "Into the Arena" which grabs everyone's attention. Brother Rudolf joins in for "Rock You like a Hurricane" before Pete Way, Jeff Scott Soto and Dougie White join in the fun with "Rock Bottom" and "Doctor Doctor". Graveyard's stoner 70's infused metal seems out of place in the bright sunshine; however it's meticulously delivered and draws a good crowd loving the "Hisingen Blues" from Scandinavia. Relentless touring has lifted the profile of Black Spiders over the past couple of years and they continue to impress with a storming "Just Like a Woman" and "Blood of the Kings".
The supergroup juggernaut that is Black Country Communion continues to exceed expectations. Two albums within the space of a year is just like the good old days and with Glenn Hughes having the time of his life you wouldn't bet against a third instalment coming along before too long. "Black Country" and "One Last Soul" explode into life, Bonamassa delivers a flawless "Song of Yesterday" and "Burn" draws arguably the biggest crowd response of the whole weekend. Simply put, they were sensational.
And so it falls to the re-modelled Dream Theater to close out the festival with a two hour masterclass of prog metal. New drummer Mike Mangini will invariably grab headlines and not without good cause with his solo perfectly demonstrating that DT have found the right man for the job. This is not a set made up of obvious choices as they delve into the past for "Endless Sacrifice", "Peruvian Skies" and "Fatal Tragedy". New song "On the Backs of Angels" gives a hint of what to expect from the imminent A Dramatic Turn of Events and with James LaBrie giving a commanding performance "The Count of Tuscany" is an impressive highlight. There is just time for an encore of "Learning to Live" that brings a hugely entertaining High Voltage Festival to a triumphant close with much hope and expectation that there will be more of the same in twelve months time.
Words by Mark 'Tosh' Davies and Dean Pedley
Pics by Mark 'Tosh' Davies