@ Newcastle O2 Academy II, March 22 2011

It doesn’t get any bigger than this. That’s probably what South Wales’ Revoker were thinking when they were signed to Roadrunner Records in July last year.

Ready to pursue their dream with the backing of a label-titan, the four-piece have an exciting career to look forward to, which has already seen them supporting Rob Zombie just weeks ago.

However, it still hangs in the balance whether a bunch of relatively unknown guys will shoulder their new found pressure and shock the world or collapse under a crushing heap of hype.

Circling the Newcastle circuit for some time now, A Thousand Lies won’t be the most original act you’ll hear, but comparing this set to last year’s performance on the same stage supporting Karma To Burn, it’s clear that the local five-piece are improving greatly. Last Of The Believers demonstrated their finest work of the night with energetic breaks, sophisticated soloing and unexpected, rare punky street backing vocals contributing an extra drop of attitude onto an already burning blaze of hot thrash licks.

In any other context, it’d usually be with shamed laziness that such a cliche could riddle this page, but to say that next act GU Medicine ‘like it loud’ is an understatement.  The Yorkshire rock ‘n’ rollers were noisy enough to sabotage their own set, drowning most of their vocal activity with a barrage of ironically captivating riffs.  Frontman and guitarist Ryan S Senior didn’t suffer half as bad as his fellow band-mate Dale G Evans, whose backing vocals were smothered amongst a raging range of rough sleazy guitar work. Clarity is key unless you’re a lo-fi miscreant with a penchant for terrorist noise, and GU Medicine certainly ain’t that.

Neither are Holy Grail. In fact, the formation of the Californian band epitomizes what lengths will be exceeded when passions are ardent, stubborn but essentially strong.  It can be appreciated that frontman James Paul Luna and drummer Tyler Meahl went a long way to stick to their musical guns in their last band White Wizzard, resulting in the pair being ousted from the traditional metal act alongside former Grail guitarist James J LaRue.

Whilst there’s an impending debate around every corner concerning who rocks the hardest or kicks the most ass, there’s also a more important issue at hand on the grander scale of things. Modern takes on traditional heavy metal can slip into scrutiny with ease, particularly when your listener probably has one ear fully submerged in deep retro romanticism and the other ready to detect imitators. Holy Grail don’t have to worry about this, and judging by the confidence of their set, they know it.

Holy Grail carry the torch of responsibility, not by brainless imitation but by selecting ample extractions of trad, thrash, speed and even power metal. The latter made it’s presence known after the impressive Chase The Wind, when Call Of Valhalla – an almost Manowar-esque fantasy themed epic – enforced it’s relay of sword-slinging ridiculousness with convincing charisma. The quintet followed up with Crisis In Utopia, the title track from last year’s critically acclaimed debut LP, before Luna had his chance to really flash his dynamic screeching voice with crowd favourite My Last Attack. Lead maestro Eli Santana may look like he’s chewing on one-hell-of a hard piece of tobacco when he’s shredding, but listening to him and newest member Ian Scott showcase some relentless duelling, you realise he’s got every right to get carried away. His ecstasy of notes melodically and consistently perforated ears and fundamentally generated fantastic reception from the small Newcastle crowd.

Despite an already conservative turnout, numbers dwindled to a shocking amount for the headlining Revoker. Tuesday isn’t exactly party night, but even so – no one in the sparse Academy II would have thought that they were glaring at a band that have just signed a deal with the metal powerhouse that is Roadrunner Records. It seemed external forces were against them and, with high expectations and a low headcount, the challenge of toppling Holy Grail’s spectacular showing was a more-than-sufficient one for the South Wales act.

Regardless of circumstances that would have proved too much for even the most hardy of characteristically keen bands, Revoker didn’t deter in the slightest. Time To Die was met with the same zest that you’d expect if they were playing a stadium. Of course this was a more intimate show, and lead player Chris Green wanted to remind us of that with a flurry of equally catchy yet raunchy guitar riffs to be enjoyed close up by the solitary front-row.

If you wanted more showmanship, you only had to look a little to the left towards Jamie Mathias direction. Offering a commendable effort, the Welsh vocalist performed another cracking song in the form of Thief, from their upcoming first album, Revenge For The Ruthless.

Anchored to an abrasive hard rock centre most apparent with a rendition of Psychoville, and with great doses of thrash bowing respectfully to Metallica with The Great Pretender, Revoker have a successful balance that should be making waves in coming months.

For a band that reeks such potential as this one, perhaps still having the temporary ‘unsigned’ feeling onstage will serve to keep heads straight and interests pure before the plunge into popularity comes with it’s capacity for extreme change.

Calum Robson