Remember the date, 25th November, 2017. The night Praying Mantis came to town. Supporting the NWOBHM legends were Belgian power metallers Max Pie and local covers band The Hilltop Droogs.
Styled on the principle characters from Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 dystopian crime film, A Clockwork Orange, The Hilltop Droogs were up first with an hour-long set. Cheered on by friends, family and regulars of the Den, they let loose on their selection of covers spanning Punk, Post Punk, New Wave, Rock and just about anything within that range really. The 17-track set featured, among others, New Rose (The Damned), All My Life & Monkey Wrench (Foo Fighters), Fell In Love With A Girl (White Stripes), Should I stay or Should I Go (The Clash), Ever Fallen in Love (Buzzcocks), Territorial Pissings (Nirvana) and Basket Case (Green Day). There was also a nod given to Motorhead (Ace of Spades) and Metallica (Enter Sandman). Excellent covers they were too. Of course, James Hill (guitar/backing vocals), Rich Winters (vocals), Michael Coady (bass, backing vocals) and Charlie Humphreys on drums gave the Sex Pistols a good seeing to with two tracks, Pretty Vacant and Silly Thing. Silly Thing also features on the band’s 2017 debut EP (Demo), as does All My Life and Basket Case. If you ever wondered if the Droogs have a passion for what they do you only have to watch Winters busting blood vessels on vocals. Brilliant. The biggest shock of the evening was that he didn’t actually go off bang. A great set as usual and got the crowd well and truly warmed up for Belgian rockers Max Pie.
From their formation in 2005, playing classic hard rock/metal, Max Pie’s music has gradually evolved in to a formidable progressive power metal style. With stage set, atmospheric intro playing, Thibaut Basely and Lucas Boudina, with backs to the crowd, await the intro of A Thousand and 1 Lives, before turning and letting loose on guitar and bass. Backed by the thumping drums of Sylvain Godenne, they are soon followed by the mic-holstered original band member Tony Carlino on vocals. And so the antics continued through new tracks Ariadne’s Thread, The Silence Remains and Grains of Sand before unleashing the more recognisable tracks such as the superb, The Side of a Dime (Eight Pieces, One World, 2013) Unchain Me, Odd Future and the excellent finale Don’t Call My Name (Odd Memories, 2015). A well-polished set, excellent stage presence, and easy to see why they have played direct support to such bands as Fates Warning, Symphony X and Avantasia. Fans of progressive power metal should check these guys out and, if the new tracks are anything to go by, their fourth album’s going to be another gem.
So, in just four and a half years after it’s conception, roughly the same amount of time as a Rick Wakeman keyboard solo, the Rock Den welcomed to the stage, one of the most influential bands in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the melodic, the classic, the mighty, the legendary, and no longer Rock Den virgins, Praying Mantis. *Crowd goes wild* Yes, they did. Originally formed by Chris and Tino Troy in 1973 they have continued through the decades, in various guises, to play live across the globe and produce great albums. Along with the Troy brothers, the current line-up consists of Andy Burgess (guitars/vocals), John ‘Jaycee’ Cuijpers (lead vocals) and Hans in ‘t Zandt (drums) and they treated the crowd to a set spanning the decades including, Captured City (Soundhouse Tapes, 1979 – and featured on the Metal for Muthas compilation released in February 1980), Panic in the Streets, Lovers to the Grave, Children of the Earth (Time Tells No Lies, 1981), Time Slipping Away (Predator In Disguise, 1991), Dream On and Rise Up Again (A Cry From The New World, 1993) as well as Highway (Sanctuary, 2009), Fight For Your Honour and Believable from the 2015 album Legacy. Not to mention the eponymous Praying Mantis (1980). A treat for the eyes and ears from beginning to end. Whether a die-hard fan or seeing them for the first time, this was one to be up the front for. Air guitaring, headbanging and banter in full flow (TINO, TINO, TINO) from a sea of smiling, sing-a-longing faces. A truly banging set, delivered with top musicianship and vocals and performed with seemingly effortless skill. Brilliant to witness. One of those, ‘I was there’ moments. Nice touch from the band to also invite on stage Ko Yamada, who travelled all the way from Japan to see them play. What a guy. What a band. \m/
Another top night of live music once again at the Den. Really chuffed for James Hill of the Droogs to share the bill with Praying Mantis. A Den regular, donator of the drum kit and an all-round top bloke. Nice one. Also, great to see members from other bands in attendance – Miles Goodman, Richard Frost and Ian Dick (Soldier), Kev Riddles (Tytan) and Ken Eltringham and Graeme Phillips (Black Tiger) – fans from the Melbourn Rock Club, not to mention all the others that turned up to make this a night to remember. A great crowd and good to see the Den heaving. Thanks to Dean Archer for continuing to get top bands playing at the Den, the bar staff, Harp for the awesome sound and everyone involved in making it a top venue. Chocolate Hob Nobs and cake too! What’s not to like? If you’ve not been before, pop down to one of the gigs and see for yourself. Great stuff and roll on the next one. TINO, TINO, TINO. \m/ \m/ \m/

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