With the echoes of Wimbledon fading into the distance and the tennis rackets put aside for another year, it was The Rock Den’s turn to serve up the entertainment with Power & Glory IV and, without the need for computerised confirmation, the ball was most definitely in. Moreover, four of the bands taking the stage, Raze, Kaine, Karrier and Salem UK, were serving with new balls! (Didn’t take long did it?)
Stevenage-based Grunge and Metal band, Raze, making their debut at the Den, were forced to recruit Dannielle Walker at the last minute to stand in for vocalist Louis Dunham who lost his voice the night before the gig! Now, if you listen to their excellent debut EP, Fallen Apart (2017), you will note that Dunham’s main stay is in equal parts, soaring and brutal vocals. It also features the pounding drumming of Ethan Morter, innovative bass-playing of Ashley Rollings-Huffer, razor-sharp riffing and guitar leads of axemen Daniel Eveleigh and James O’Connor. As their set featured all five tracks from the EP – Roadkill, Southpaw, Orange Rivers, Grey and Learn – as well as Freak, Then Again and System Of A Down cover, Toxicity, it needed the big voice and guitars and drums at full pelt. Replete with lyric sheets, Walker did what she could to deliver the vocal. This though was an impossible task and one that naturally took much away from the band’s usual exhilarating, in-your-face performance. Hats off to them though, they could have easily pulled out of the gig. Instead, they made the best of a bad thing and followed through on their commitment. Even handing out free copies of the EP! This is a great young band who certainly have the professionalism to succeed and well worth a watch. I hope they are invited back to the Den and given the chance to give us the full show. Nice one guys.
So, onto Kaine. The band split (and legal ins and outs – Salem UK) of recent months have been well documented on social media, so we’ll take that as read. For Kaine, it looked like the ball was definitely out this time, just when, in many people’s opinion, they were serving aces for fun. However, Rage Sadler (vocals/rhythm & lead guitar), having, one assumes, taken inspiration from the ‘Jesus Big Book of Miracles’, stood before us, fronting the latest line-up of Toby Woods (lead guitar), Isaac Healy (bass) and on drums, performing their eighth gig since their full debut on 26th May! What a triumph it was too. There’s an excellent new edge to the more familiar tracks, A Crisis of Faith, Heaven’s Abandonment, Fall of Jericho and Voice in Hell (A Crisis of Faith, 2018). A little less heavy and more rhythmical without losing any of the energy. However, it was with the two new tracks, Reforge The Steel and Black, where we see the beginnings of the new dynamic and sound. There was an increased confidence in the performance of these and a more ‘old Kaine’ feel to the sound. Sadler’s vocals are as sharp as ever and he is clearly buoyed by the recent evolution of the band. There were also mutterings that this version of Kaine is even better than the last! This really is some achievement. Make no mistake, Kaine are back and the future’s looking bright.
Recently reformed 80s NWOBHM band, Karrier, up next, treating the crowd to what was effectively a live version of the band’s 1985 album, Way Beyond The Night. Original members Chris Clowsley and Ian ‘H’ Hall (guitars) along with Andy Dodds (vocals), Ade Hilll (drums) and Paul Gaskin on bass let loose on the title track, Too Late For Love, Too Many, Hard Love, Summer, Running For Love, Dreaming, Going To Rock Tonight and I’m Back. The album revolves almost exclusively around love songs and, as well as allowing for the tenuous grip on the tennis theme, afforded a set with a great mix of cool and relaxed hard rock vibes as well as the occasional raw and heavy rock sound. In short, well written, sing-a-longable songs all performed in an old school style, with a new energy and the ‘feel good’ factor. Great stuff.
Salem UK took to the stage next, and for me, they were as good as I’ve ever seen them. Original members Simon Saxby (vocals) and Adrian Jenkinson(bass) have joined forces with Francis Gill (guitar) and drummer Dave Megginson and performed a blistering set featuring new songs, Fool’s Gold and Rock Fever, five tracks from the superb 2013 album, Forgotten Dreams – the title track, High Stakes, Break The Chains, When Love’s In Your Heart and the excellent Ask The Lonely – Not Guilty and Dark Days (Dark Days, 2016) and the eponymous Attrition from their 2018 album. Saxby’s gravelly rock vocals were as superb as always and his sub-genre of Mic Wrestling is always a joy to watch. The whole dynamic of the band is just joyous. Great old school stuff performed with passion. What’s not to like? Brilliant.
If you have ever wondered what a 140 mph serve would sound like if you fitted a mic to it, then look no further than Spanish Thrash Metallers, Agresiva. Wow! What a face-melter. Instead of spending thousands of dollars having bits of his face chopped off, Michael Jackson could have simply stood in front of this lot for half an hour. I’m pretty sure mine turned inside out at one point. Samuel San José (vocals and stage jumper), Miguel Coello (guitars/backing vocals), Miguel Martin (bass) and Bastian Guarda Rozas (aka Nitro Destruction) on drums unleashed tracks The End Of The Game, Hell Town and Sent To War (Eternal Foe, 2012), Heading For Midnight, Void, The Pantomime and Under Silver Selene (Decibel Ritual, 2017) as well as an excellent cover of Maiden’s The Evil That Men Do. The whole performance was a full on, no holds barred, metal onslaught of the highest order. I’m pretty sure the only way to make Rozas’ drumming more intense would be to make him play with sticks of dynamite. Just insane. What a set. Take a bow guys. Right up there with the best of Rock Den debuts. If not the best. Can’t wait to see these guys again. Might take a spare neck with me next time though.
Thankfully, to avoid an anti-climax to the evening’s proceedings, two top bands were still to come. First up, for all us boppers out there, Neverworld. A rare treat having them grace the Den twice on the trot. Again, they did not disappoint. The mega-talented Ben Colton (vocals/guitar), Jack Foster(guitar/backing vocals), Gary Payne (bass) and Michael Vaughan (drums) let loose on four tracks from their brilliant debut album, Visions of Another World (2013), including They Live, the epic Salt Water Bandits, the superb Ghosts and the title track as well as, Under The Asylum (including the tolling bell \m/) and Armies of the Night (Dreamsnatcher, 2016). Even with Colton under the weather and struggling in the heat, it was another blinding set. It’s impossible to get bored of listening to these guys, whether it be their live performances or albums. Pure class.
So, onto headliners, the Chug Masters, Dealer (UK). This is another band that never disappoints and a favourite of many Den regulars. Trevor Short(vocals), Tom Bulll (bass/vocals), Ash Doulton (guitars/vocals) and Rupert James Irving (drums/vocals) delivered a Grand Slam winning set consisting of Me N The Boyz, Shout At The Night, In The Name Of God and, for Patrick from Belgium, a rare performance of Money Is Your Passport, the classic Son Of A Bitch, Epitaph, and Better Things To Do (First Strike, 1986) and a new track, Leave Me Alone, which will appear on their upcoming album. NWOBHM at its finest. Great energy and excellent interaction with the crowd. A pleasure as always to watch. I’m pretty sure that Short even got through the set without swearing! Well almost. A great way to end a day and night of top entertainment. Superb.
Thanks to Dean Charles Archer and The Rock Den team for another neck busting, bombtastic, sweat laden fest. The same goes for the bands and the punters. The perfect mix of rock genres both old and new and not an unforced error in sight. Just a banging five-setter. Also, great to see bands battling through the lows and coming out on top. A lesson for us all to take on board perhaps. Next up, Punk Den. See you down the front.
MASSIVE thanks to Steve Ellis for another stunning review
Pics by Steve Ritchie