Brofest (UK) 6 – Day 1 @Newcastle University Students Union, Newcastle upon Tyne, February 28, 2020

Newcastle’s Brofest (UK) is a festival synonymous with breathing new life into older metal acts. And over the course of eight years, it has become a focal point for NWOBHM obsessives worldwide, drawing clued-up fans from across the globe to the birthplace of Neat Records, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Venom, Raven and Satan.

But Brofest has also played a major role in championing the New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal movement, providing a proving ground for up an coming acts inspired by messrs Halford, Harris, Gallagher et al.

And the festival’s sixth edition was no exception… as Rich Holmes reports.

Rising force

Opening Brofest can be a daunting task. Even more so when you are going toe to toe with a bunch of hungry North Americans dead set on world domination. But Sunderland’s Risen Prophecy are a slick, muscular live proposition, well versed in blitzing crowds with their rampant power/thrash metal hybrid. And aided by a monstrous PA, they turned their 6pm slot into a thunderous wake up call to anyone still drifting into the university.

To The Wolves, The Tower In Shinar and Vengeance From Above seared their way into the multi-national throng, proving that while the North East’s metal star has faded since Neat Records’ glory days, there is still a rich seam of talent running through the region’s bedrock. Yes, Helloween, Priest and even Bay Area legends Forbidden may jump to mind as you watch magnificently bearded vocalist Dan Tyrens bellow through The Eye Of Hades. But these Wearsiders create metal on their own terms. And it’s exhilarating.

Church service

Three albums, two EPs and two split singles in just three years… it’s fair to say Haunt’s founder, vocalist and six stringer Trevor William Church isn’t following Metallica’s lead.

And it’s a case of quality as well as quantity where the Californian’s output is concerned: 2019’s If Icarus Could Fly and this year’s Mind Freeze are two of the most important records in the NWOTHM scene, showcasing Church’s sublime songwriting and scintillating fretwork.

It was no surprise then, that Haunt’s Brofest appearance was one of the most hotly anticipated sets of the weekend.

And Church – flanked by guitarist John Tucker and bassist Taylor Hollman – delivered. Even a busted bass drum head did little to knock Haunt off kilter. This is a band on a steep upward trajectory, ascending to the stratosphere courtesy of songs like Defender, Hearts On Fire and As Fire Burns, songs which ignited Newcastle on a freezing Friday night, songs which surged with pure rock power and stellar melodies.

And as the twin leads of Mind Freeze cascaded through Brofest, Church’s grin said it all.

Haunt get the beers in… (image by Stefan Rosic, Conundrum Images)

Maple leaf mayhem

Exuberant, technically dazzling and enjoying every minute of their first trip ‘across the pond’ together, Alberta upstarts Riot City and Traveler showed that their homeland is as much a bubbling cauldron of NWOTHM as the US, UK and Scandinavia.

While Calgary’s Riot City may have only released a solitary album – last year’s incendiary debut Burn The Night – they’re quickly establishing themselves as a formidable force in global heavy metal.

The Terminator 2 theme made way to a blazing rendition of The Hunter (surely the perfect soundtrack to a cybernetic killing spree) and Jordan Jacobs gave his vocal cords a gruelling, high intensity, high pitched workout with Burn The Night and Steel Rider.

The syrup on the pancake? Traveler’s JP Abboud teaming up with Jacobs for a jaw dropping take on Priest’s The Sentinel. British steel? More like Canadian titanium.

Indeed, Abboud is a metal frontman par excellence, majestically riding the riffs pouring from Torying Schadlich and Matt Ries, turning songs like Street Machine and Fallen Heroes into rousing anthems built for a new generation of metal fans. Traveler’s Brofest show – a tour de force of melodic speed metal – was one hell of a warm up for their European tour, a joyous celebration of the glory of heavy metal that boded well for the denizens of Berlin, Mannheim and Athens.  

With a new record, Termination Shock, about to drop, 2020 could be a big year for the Calgary quintet.  

Riot City take it the max (image by Stefan Rosic, Conundrum Images)

Pet sounds

Friday at Brofest didn’t just belong to the new breed. Heavy Pettin – a replacement for Quartz, who pulled out in November – let loose with NWOBHM era classics such as Shout It Out, and the Scots showed their hard rocking class on the supreme Sole Survivor. A long way away from Riot City’s metal meltdown or Traveler’s high velocity assault they may have been, but this Glasgow quintet shone like seasoned pros.

Quartz devotees may still have felt disappointed. Everyone else had a blast.

Check out the review of Day 2 at Brofest (UK) #6 here.

Live images by Stefan Rosic, Conundrum Images. Check out his work on Facebook and Instagram.

The spotlight shines on Heavy Pettin (image by Stefan Rosic, Conundrum Images)