Eden’s Curse, Mob Rules and Degreed @ Newcastle Trillians, April 15 2019

Squeezing six musicians, a drum kit, a keyboard and more onto Trillians’ tiny stage is no easy task. Finding the space to unleash a fearsome heavy metal set in the finest tradition of vintage Maiden, Dio-era Sabbath and Helloween should have proved an even harder feat. 

But Mob Rules succeeded in glorious fashion, trumping melodic rock openers Degreed and headliners Eden’s Curse in the process. 

Belting out the best of 2018’s Beast Reborn and mixing in back catalogue classics including Black Rain and My Kingdom Come, this perfectly pitched celebration of 25 years at the top of their game worked a treat.

Had this been a Battle of the Bands there would only have been one winner. That Mob Rules approached it as such said it all. Charismatic frontman Klaus Dirks grasped the opportunity of a rare club show in the UK to remind British fans what they’re missing – the ever-present face of Mob Rules for a quarter of a century clearly relished his chance and seized the moment. No wonder Eden’s Curse took some time to find their feet: an incendiary support can be a tough act to follow.

Degreed didn’t have to follow anyone. But the slick Swedish quartet did have to limit their set after soundchecks overran and the doors were locked 30 minutes beyond the advertised opening time. 

Almost as soon as an army of chilly punters poured into the bar Degreed plugged in and rocked out. There was no time for niceties and no time to tweak the mix as Robin Ericsson – who later admitted he doesn’t wear a watch – counted down to an 8pm finish. This was fast, furious and focused.

But if Degreed didn’t have too much time then they did have the majority of the crowd and that passionate support played its part. Latest single Ruins captured the imagination and Shakedown shook things up with the end in sight. Like H.E.A.T. and Eclipse? You’ll love Degreed.

Eden’s Curse had extended personal invitations to both Mob Rules and Degreed to join them on a hotly anticipated trek across the UK. As ardent fans of both bands, they banked on this spring’s triple-threat tour delivering something for everyone but two nights into an eight-date jaunt and the pressure was on.

The headliners’ cause wasn’t helped by persistent sound problems early on with frontman Nikola Mijic the major casualty. And on a night when Eden’s Curse had pledged to plough through Best Of album Testament in its entirety there was no room for error.

Thankfully, by the time Barbara Clelland had stepped into the Liv Kristine role on the uplifting Unconditional, the headliners had hit their stride. The band’s polished brand of power metal meets AOR might have been crafted to suit original vocalist Michael Eden but Mijic has made the Eden’s Curse mic his own. Sound problems aside, the pocket rocket Serb proved more than a match for the onlooking Dirks.

Fifteen musicians, a slew of rock anthems and two bulging merch stands that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the local arena made for a memorable night at Newcastle’s cosiest rock club. Mob Rules might have ruled. But live music was the real winner.