THE DUCHESS | YORK | 21/22 SEPT 2012
Review written by LUKE HAYHURST | NEIL SLATER
It was awfully nice of the Warhorns organisers to host the inaugural Warhorns Festival a five minute walk from my abode; it’s that kind of consideration you don’t seem to get from most festivals these days! So on darkening Friday night and with a little alcohol already consumed myself and Neil set forth to The Duchess for the start of what would become one of the more drunken weekends of our lives to date, as well as being a weekend of much hilarity, Metal and stupidness!
With more alcohol consumed and the lighting way down low (It really is dark in the Duchess) Norderobring who made the trip down from Scotland got proceedings underway. I guess you could call their sound a sort of Celtic take on the heroic melodic death metal styling’s of Ensiferum. Whilst I’m not going to pretend they blew me away, they where more than competent at what they did and proved to be quite entertaining. With a bit of work and a bit more time building up their live reputation, and a bit of luck, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these guys (and guyettes) getting a decent support slot for a decent sized folk/Viking metal band in the near future. 6/10 [NS]
It was a slow start to their set by Cryptic Age as their first track is extremely artistic and more suited for CD listening than live, yet it’s obviously a song that the band are proud and so they should be. As the crowd gradually warmed up so did Cryptic Age and within moments of their second song fists are raised high, drinks are being consumed at a vast rate and the vocal harmonies of one Jenny Green are soaring on high, well forwards into the crowd and beyond! Always a more than competent band on disc, Cryptic Age prove from start to finish that their blend of heavy riffs mixed with beautiful keyboard based melodies are even more of a winner in a live setting and by the end this home grown quartet have the crowd eating out of the palms of their collective hands! 7.5/10 [LH]
Windrider take to the stage practically unannounced, and before I realised had begun their set. I don’t really know what to say about the set, it wasn’t bad as such, but having previously seen them live I know they can produce a lot better. Perhaps I’m a bit out of the loop with the band, but having listened to the first EP and an album a lot there was only one track from the set that I recognised. I don’t even feel as if it was the individuals giving bad performances. Something just didn’t click. It sounded a bit messy almost. A shame really as like I say, I know they can do better. Here’s hoping it was a minor blip. 4/10 [NS]
It’s almost sad in way to say that the highlight of the entire festival for me came three bands in to the opening night and that of course being the Folk/Black Metal onslaught of Darlington five piece Old Corpse Road. (Once more featuring Josh of Rituals on guitar) Due to song length and the disappointment of the band only having a 30 minute slot Old Corpse Road were only able to bash out four songs, one of those being edited short so as to fit, yet after their now mandatory 4 minute introduction, the inclusion of brand new track “The Cauld Lad Of Hylton” wipes away any malcontent as myself, Neil and funnily enough Jenny of Cryptic Age (Always great to see members of other bands getting involved and enjoying the other bands) lead the head banging charge along with many others to Old Corpse Road’s relentless barrage! Sublimely devastating in places, curiously melodic and secretive in others, the band play through “The Oakman of Naddle Forest” and the ever popular “The Witch of Wookey Hole” with great tenacity and by this point the whole room is abuzz and ablaze in the audio majesty that Old Corpse Road has created! To finish off what has been a remarkable set the band choose their namesake “The Old Corpse Road” and by the end the band are almost drowned out by the crowds collective roar of “Even the dead may not be at rest on THE OLD CORPSE ROAD!” Stunning and breath taking from start to finish, I have no quandary in giving Old Corpse Road a resounding 10/10 [LH]
Nothgard – I don’t wish to sound negative, but I’m just not really a fan of this type of Viking themed melodic death metal that has sort of attached itself to folk metal despite very little folk influence. In all honesty I feel Old Corpse Road should have been given this headlining slot, far more interesting, and judging from this evening better live. I’m struggling to even remember anything worth noting about this set. I’m sure they are good at what they do, but I just don’t feel what they do is all that great, for me the set dragged on a little. But the crowd gave them a decent response, so they can’t be all that bad. 3/10 [NS]
And so off we staggered drunkenly to pick fights with taxi’s we were not even in and to have the greatest fries known to man, yes you Yummy Chicken! In the morning, hangover free (Result!) we prepared for an even longer onslaught of Metal and by the time we had reached the Duchess again and the first band had taken to the stage our resolve to have a sensible one tonight had already vanished under 4 bottles of Bulmers….
Aloeswood/Desiderium – in an unusual move these two bands have been given a joint set to open the second day. At least it seems unusual until you get a bit of context. Desiderium is the one man project of American Michael Rumple, who doesn’t actually have a live band for his project. So enter Aloeswood, project of Hull’s Danny Downing (also notable for his prescience as Drummer of Windrider and Guitarist of Ravenage). Having just put together a live band himself, he agrees to play Desiderium material as well as Aloeswood, with Michael helping out with vocals for Aloeswood. So all things considered quite convenient/efficient.
The band take to the stage in matching attire, blue jeans and a black shirt, with guitarist Graeme treating the ladies with his barely fastened shirt. (Something he later attributes to the heat from the stage lights, but I think we all know better.)
Aloeswood get things started and open with Farewell from the recent EP which went down well. A new song entitled “Winter” is announced and Danny is tossed what appears to be a spanner. What follows is for me one of the best moments of the festival, and in all honesty something I found quite inspiring. In a move that owes more of a debt to Godspeed You! Black Emperor as it does to any of his metal influences; he took the spanner and proceeded to scratch up and down the string resulting in a sort of sustained tremolo type effect. It was almost like his guitar was wailing. Very effective given how simple it looked. I felt this added a real intensity and in all honesty a really nice new timbre that you don’t often get in the context of metal. This was the central focus, whilst the music around it ebbs and flows, creating a very enjoyable experience that I’m sure captivated more than just me. They then finish the first half of the set with Nostalgia again from the EP.
Danny and Michael swap places and Michael tosses aside his shirt with an impressive kick and all of a sudden they are Desiderium. I’m less familiar with this band, but I still found it enjoyable. There’s a lot of influences going on from black metal, to some rather prog metal sounding sections. And it’s quite interesting for the most part, but on a musical level I don’t feel it has the same intensity as Aloeswood, and in terms of the musicians, I get the impression they where also less familiar with it. To be fair though the Aloeswood set was a hard one to follow, and I wonder if they should have perhaps been the other way round. 8/10, 7/10 respectively. [NS]
Morlich – In all honesty I can’t remember very much about the set, so my apologies to all in this band. I seem to recall a decent crowd reaction, and listening to their music again online they do appear to be a decent band. So I’m going to give them a 5, purely cause it’s average, and I imagine if they’d have been incredible I might have remembered them more, conversely if they were terrible I think they’d have stood out as being such. 5/10 [NS]
Shallow Intentions – Another band who played well but ultimately I didn’t feel the music was anything stand out. More synth heavy melodic death metal, presumably with a Viking theme. They seemed to go down well which is the most important thing I guess, not my cup of tea though. 4/10 [NS]
A completely new band to me was Irish Celtic/Folk/Black Metal Celtachor featuring the high energy stylings of vocalist and flute wielding madman Stephen Roche as well as a drumming goddess in talent, flair and looks, Anais Chareyre! From the moment they took to the stage they had the crowd firmly in their grasp and for the next few moments of our collective lives nobody could take their eyes and ears off of these bewitching Irish (And French) Metal harpies! Jinxed I was by these guys that I feel a spot of promotion coming on, new album due out November and another live performance in York next February supporting Heidevolk? Yes please!! 9/10 [LH]
I’d like to apologise to Ravenage. We set out for food after Celtachor thinking we had enough time to get back for their set and due to a Subway based foul up (No bread? Are you serious? You’re a sandwich shop!!) and them coming on stage a little earlier than expected we did miss the majority of the bands set. However we did arrive back with enough time to hear “The Beer Song” so more beer more beer more beer more it was and well executed it was too! The crowd loved it, I loved it, so for that one song it’s a 7.5/10 [LH]
Making the journey from Belgium for their first UK show, Angeli De Pietra are a power metal band with a bit of a slightly aggressive almost folk metal edge to them. It was an interesting combination that came across really well live providing aggression and catchiness in equal measure. A bit of crowd interaction and sing along always makes for a good show, and judging by this crowds reaction I imagine they’d be made welcome should they return again in the near future. 7/10 [NS]
Wolfchant – This German horde give a good high energy performance, but I still can’t get past how average I feel their music is. They got a very good crowd reaction though who were very much into it. But personally I felt the only highlight was a cover of Grave Diggers Rebellion, never a good sign when another bands song from another genre is the highlight. I don’t want to seem overly negative, and as said they got a good reaction. So I suppose it’s common sense, your always going to enjoy a band you like more than a band you don’t. 4/10 [NS]
Skyforger – It seems Skyforger have brought fans with them, during the changeover it seems like half the number of people in the previous crowd come out of nowhere and make their way to the front adorned with Skyforger shirts and a Latvian flag. The crowd clearly up for it certainly helped lift the mood and anticipation before Skyforger hit the stage. They played a tight set, with a lot of energy and there was a nice atmosphere about the place. I can’t remember the set precisely, but I seem to recall a nice mix from across their career. Unfortunately the guy who plays the folk instruments left shortly before the festival meaning no folk instruments tonight (other than the human voice I suppose). But what it does allow for is a sound closer to the band’s roots, and a sound that I’m very much a fan of. The band finished to much applause and cheering, and were called back for an encore. A triumphant end to what has been a fantastic weekend of music. 8/10 [NS]
Both myself and Neil would like to thank Marc and Glynn the Warhorns organisers for an excellent weekend and were both hugely looking forward to next year!