Visigoth/Bewitcher/Starborn @Trillians, Newcastle May 27, 2019
It’s a fair bet that many people attending Newcastle’s Bank Holiday This Is Tomorrow festival – featuring the likes of Stereophonics and Noel Gallagher – wouldn’t have been aware of the city’s metal heritage. The fact that Tyneside spawned some of NWOBHM’s most revered bands (Satan, Raven, Avenger et al) isn’t exactly on the school curriculum. Sting and Mark Knopfler are often cited as the area’s most famous musical alumni. Messrs Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon? Less so.
Yet the thirst for gutsy, exhilarating heavy metal, the kind that pays homage to the genre’s early 80s boomtime, is still there – even if many of the bands who serve it up come from thousands of miles away.
Bewitcher, for instance, are the second act in a month from Portland, Oregon, to have ripped up Trillians’ stage.
And while their compatriots, up-coming Goth metallers Idle Hands, drew from The Sisters Of Mercy as much as classic metal when they played here in May, Bewitcher are a far more raucous prospect.
A Venom-laced, vicious dose of pure Motörspeed, the trio unleashed a whirlwind of flaying dreadlocks and raw, feral riffs on Trillians, proving why they’re now on the radar of many a metalhead – and why new album, Under The Witching Cross, was made for nights like this.
This is a band determined to make metal dangerous again. Determined to let the primal spirit that burns through the likes of Hexenkrieg run free. Hellbent on reaping as many souls as they can on their first European rampage.
Indeed, guitarist/vocalist Mateo Von Bewitcher and bassist Andreas Magus certainly looked like they were having fun as they ripped into Too Fast For The Flames and Sin Is In Her Blood, exchanging grins, linking up effortlessly for the solos, sweating profusely for their ungodly cause.
Plus, drummer Aris Hunter Wales seems to be a fine new addition to the band: he battered his way into the crowd’s affections while clad in a bandana, pair of shorts and enviable ‘tache – the perfect foil for his bandmates’ road warrior look.
Rounding off with The Chase Is Better Than The Catch (an underrated gem from Kilmister and co.) only helped Bewitcher feel more of the Geordie love…
And there was plenty of that too, for local quintet Starborn, whose sleek power metal flicked the ignition switch before Bewitcher took to the stage.
Dazzling dual leads, a muscular, shaven headed rhythm section and in Bruce Turnbull, a singer who can deliver with real class – it all made for a welcome reminder of what the UK is capable of producing.
Indeed, tonight’s headliners Visigoth certainly seemed to have enjoyed Starborn – and they know a thing or two about British steel, having bonded in high school over a shared passion for NWOBHM.
Utah’s metal heroes were back in Newcastle less than a year since they sold out the city’s Head of Steam venue – and they needed a bigger basement this time around.
Why? Well the momentum is certainly with the quintet: 2018’s Conqueror’s Oath made its way on to many an end of year top 10 – justifiably – and the shows are getting bigger, the demand for their titanic take on classic metal becoming ever stronger.
Songs from Conqueror’s Oath, and their debut, The Revenant King, are now so embedded with their growing fanbase that verses, as well as choruses, are sung back with gusto to the Salt Lake City boys. Vocalist Jake Rogers (pictured top) just needed to point his mic in the right direction to get a roaring response to Warrior Queen or Steel and Silver, and he clearly fed on the crowd’s wild energy, taking it as sustenance after a punishing travel schedule, and then returning it ten-fold to a frenzied front row. In another life, he would be fronting a hardcore band (though perhaps not in a Quartz t-shirt).
Latest 7”, Bells of Awakening, was recorded especially for this tour – and tonight, Abysswalker shaded Fireseeker as the pick of the two new songs. But it was the life-affirming Traitor’s Gate that stood tallest in Visigoth’s set, as it had done last July. Not even a take on Maiden’s The Evil That Men Do – another showpiece for Leeland Campana and Jamison Palmer’s sublime fretwork – could dethrone it.
Another triumph for Visigoth, then, in a city which holds this band close to its heart. And while two shows within a year may be spoiling us, when you can pull of this kind of performance, and harness this kind of power, no one is going to complain.