A band who come together when the mood takes and only record new material from time to time, WOLFSBANE were once touted to be the "next big thing" in UK rock. Admittedly that accolade arrived some 25 or so years ago, but with a rabid crowd punching the air to every beat, singing every word and chuckling at each and every one of Blaze Bayley's utterly ridiculous (but loveable) stories and stage raps, you'd never know. Neither would you from a catalogue of songs and a performance which completely belied the vintage status of this band. Add in a highly regarded local outfit in the shape of VANTAGE POINT and Cumbria's finest DIE NO MORE and what more could a metal head ask for? Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid found out…
Die No More proved a real revelation, not only because their appearance on this bill was pretty much unannounced but because they were mightily impressive. Eschewing much of the modern aspects metal has thrown out in more recent years, a more Megadeth meets Metallica approach was what was in order. From the off it was clear this young act, who have recently signed with Rocksector Records, had the chops and the songs to take the early arrivers by storm. That said even the four lads onstage were amazed by the response they received and the amount of noise made when they asked who here had seen them before (it was only their second visit to Scotland), the response verging on deafening. With only 30 minutes to show their worth, little time was wasted, although it was the closing song from which the band take their name, that really made the lasting mark required. In the words of a certain Mr Vader, impressive, most impressive.
In truth Vantage Point were the real reason for attending this evening, the Edinburgh band always a fire ball of British Metal bombast, and with three excellent albums behind them, a selection of superb songs. However, even with a serious soft spot for the band, there's no denying this wasn't really their night. Things launched well, the twin guitar attack and bass thrust knocking everyone sideways via "Demonic Dinner Dance", a prime slice of theatrical metal if ever you heard it and with singer/bassist Murray Graham hitting the vocal highs with ease (I swear he's better live than on record) things look set. However drummer Richard Corral (who isn't, I believe, a permanent member of the band) seemed unsettled behind the kit of Wolfsbane drummer Steve Danger (which is set surprisingly low), snare strokes lacking in power and rolls round the toms occasionally a journey into the unknown. However guitarists Liam Kane and James Mitchell were determined to rise above any percussive issues and hammered home "Reverse The Charges" and "Pleasure Slave" with real purpose. Although even here Corral came a little unstuck and at one point ground to a halt, which to his credit he did overcome with a impressive set of Bonham triplets and a thunderous rattle round the toms before picking up where he'd left off (those unaware of the songs maybe even none the wiser?). Tonight may not have been this hard working Edinburgh act's finest hour (well 40 minutes) but good songs are good songs and Vantage Point have a ton of them. Even when not firing on all cylinders, Vantage Point still made a mark and many new friends.
Unlike the two earlier bands, Wolfsbane are proper old hands at this live malarky, controlling the audience throughout and giving the fans exactly what they wanted: a set of well loved, hard rocking, fun packed riotous songs that the crowd sang word for word from start to end. Highlights flashed past, "Steel" the sort of punchy opener any band would kill for, "Loco" every bit as mad as its name suggests. One time (and hugely over abused) Maiden frontman Blaze Bayley is the sort of singer you simply can't take your eyes from, as he grimaced, stared, challenged and pointed at the audience throughout. As ever from this intense, but hugely engaging vocalist, if you dare not take part, he'll challenge you and tonight was no different, non-clappers pointed at and demanded to gets their hands in the air. While those "lucky enough" to be in the front row finding themselves part of the show, as the double B held their faces, grasped their hands, or fixed them with a stare as he hammered out the lyrics to "Black Lagoon", "Smoke And Redlight" and "Blue Sky".
If Bayley is the focal point, then bassist Jeff Hateley is the energetic engine room, the four string basher literally wet through with his own sweat after only two songs (to be fair, Bannerman's is basically a long brick archway - in other words, an oven…). While guitarist Jase Edwards is the studious, if madly grinning musical backbone, this underrated guitarist not only comfortable hammering out gargantuan riffs, but also sprinkling a liberal covering of technically jaw dropping solos and guitar breaks that ridicule anyone who ever thought Wolfsbane were just dumb rockers. Add in the energetic (by energetic, I mean, how the hell do his drums make it through a night???) Steve Danger behind the kit and Wolfsbane simply know how to cover each and every base with room to spare. Something proved by the utterly infectious "Man Hunt" and "Paint The Town Red" which brought the set to a storming close.
With all bands having to work their way through the crowd from the back of the room to get onto the compact Bannerman's stage, there was no escape for the usual encore charade, so instead Blaze made out he was spent and couldn't carry on, his Popeye cans of spinach appearing through the loud chants and cheers of encouragement from the crowd. Unsurprisingly, these readily appeared and "revived" the frontman for the utterly splendid "Ezy" and "Broken Doll" which brought the night to a close proper. Wolfsbane had come, they'd conquered, they'd made us laugh and they'd rocked the hell out of us. And these days they only do this when the mood takes them? Bloody hell, words can't describe how ridiculously majestic that fact is!!!
(Vantage Point photo courtesy of Tony Dalton)