Northern Darkness II: Brominion Edition – Visigoth, High Spirits, Riot City, Seven Sisters and Spartan Warrior @Anarchy Brewery Newcastle upon Tyne, May 5, 2023

Day two of Newcastle’s hastily arranged metal mini-fest Brominion struck on the eve of King Charles’ coronation in London – but perhaps the new monarch should have been further North, defending his realm from a bunch of Spartan Warriors and Visigoths.

Luckily Simon Rushworth and Rich Holmes, armoured in denim and leather, bravely went into the fray for Rushonrock…

Spartan Warrior Bring The NWOBHM Steel

Can it really be 40 years since Durham’s Guardian Studios spawned one of the finest NWOBHM debuts in the genre’s celebrated history?

Apparently so. And Sunderland’s Spartan Warrior are on a mission to celebrate the classic Steel N’ Chains in its armour-clad entirety throughout 2023.

It’s a sign of that rousing record’s enduring appeal that platinum-level fist-pumpers Hunted, Easy Prey, Breakin’ Sweat and Cold Hearted remain red hot today.

Frontman Dave Wilkinson still sounds like Biff Byford’s angrier little brother as he races through the Warrior’s definitive catalogue.

And as for those lightning riffs? They put the spark into Spartan as echoes of Maiden, Priest et all rang around a fast-filling Anarchy Brew Co.

Steel N’ Chains threatened to steal the show as Wilko and co. wowed the masses. Breakin’ Sweat? And then some…

The boys are back…

Seven Sisters, Riot City and High Spirits got the party started at The Little Buildings on Thursday… and they were back for round two on Friday night.

For London’s Seven Sisters, it was a chance to delve even deeper into their three-album canon – and demonstrate their sonic evolution.

Highways Of The Night, from their 2016 debut, was a thrill ride, an exhilarating burst of pure NWOBHM. Yet that crowd pleaser was eclipsed by 2021’s Truth’s Burden: a piece of majestic songcraft, it strode like a titan over Anarchy Brewery, and showed just how far Seven Sisters have come since their earlier, Maiden-inspired forays.

Sisters’ tour buddies, Riot City went straight for that jugular, just as they’d done the previous night, searing Anarchy with The Hunter and raiding Electric Elite for the interstellar Beyond The Stars.

The Canadians have liquid metal running through their veins. They embody the genre, without being po-faced about it.

And with Jordan Jacobs channelling his inner Ronnie D on Tyrant, and delivering a truly jaw dropping performance on Eye Of The Jaguar, this was another triumph for the Calgary crew…

… as it also proved for Chicago’s High Spirits, who, second night into their three-show run, described Newcastle as a “home away from home” – and the birthplace of so much music they loved.

Main man Chris Black is an alchemist, tinkering with the base elements of NWOBHM and melding them to high energy US rock and punk. That formula makes for one hell of a show: Restless, Another Night In The City and Flying High soared… and there was even time for deep cut Midnight Sun.

High Spirits? High times!

Conquering heroes

Visigoth frontman Jake Rogers is a ‘roots metal’ warrior and self-confessed NWOBHM nut: down at the barrier, he had a grin as wide as the Tyne Bridge as Spartan Warrior ripped through their set.

And by Christ, that guy has a battle jacket as impressive as his Herculean pipes.

So it was fitting that the Salt Lake City boys concluded their European tour in the home of Neat Records, Raven, Venom et al.

And with Satan’s Russ Tippins, Graeme English and Steve Ramsey looking on, they made that last set count.

After dominating Newcastle rock bar Trillians back in 2019, Visigoth returned to take the city once again, descending on it with a storm of Steel and Silver.

They didn’t so much own the stage as wrench it from Anarchy and take it back to Utah as loot.

Traitor’s Gate – a metal anthem as timeless as Painkiller or Number Of The Beast – pushed Anarchy into ecstasy, Outlive Them All kept up the rapid fire, and Mammoth Rider brought the doom to the Toon.

By Saturday, Rogers’ voice was shot. Given that he’d left everything on that stage, that was no surprise. He’s earned his break…

Thanks very merch

Every metal festival requires a solid line in merch and fans who flocked to Friday’s Anarchy Brew Co. shindig were spoilt for choice.

With enough patches to cover a legion of battle jackets, the biggest decision of the night was where to point your steel-pointed needle and thread.

Riot City’s album-themed back patches screamed peak Priest but when it comes to adding the thunder to your thimble look no further than Seven Sisters – the NWOTHM stars who put the ‘iron’ into iron on.

Those looking for a tee covered in screaming hordes with swords held aloft (and weren’t we all?) had Visigoth to thank for the night’s angriest threads.

And it was a case of grab ‘em while they lasted as the Salt Lake City band’s end-of-tour boxes were emptying fast.

But the ultimate Brominion collector’s item was surely the epic shaped picture disc version of Another Night In The City — courtesy of High Spirits.

Useless in your Wurlitzer but a belter of a tune from Chicago’s finest, it was the must-have vinyl of the weekend as the band celebrated yet another night (the second of three) in the city of Newcastle.

Dominion raised from the dead by Byker Grave

Most bookers would have counted their losses and cried into their pints as the hotly anticipated Dominion Festival fell by the wayside at two-weeks’ notice.

But Byker Grave Bookings aren’t like most music industry types.

And the decision to resurrect and rebrand Dominion as Northern Darkness II – Brominion Edition (see what they did there) was entirely consistent with previously whacky moves by Stu Bartlett and his buddies.

It could have fallen flat on its arse.

But moving a slew of Dominion’s bands to three venues across Newcastle at a moment’s notice proved a masterstroke.

No wonder every band slaying Anarchy Brew Co. took time out to give a shout out to the Byker Grave massive.

And those that mentioned the boy Bartlett by name were met with a chorus of Stus (not boos) from the appreciative masses.

Ultimately nobody minded missing out on a muddy field in Country Durham. Against all the odds, Brominion pointed the way towards a brighter future for North East metal.

Pictures courtesy of Stefan Rosic at Conundrum Images