Not least amongst the treats are Valous. A line up change has seen them bumped up the order and on the evidence of their thrilling half hour it is a very much-deserved promotion. They pedal similar meaty hooks to that of The Almighty in their heyday and with songs like “Locked Up Inside,” “Fools Dance” and newbie “Blisters” – apparently from a new album they are releasing - they are most definitely worth having a look at.
Another set of West Midlands metal stalwarts, Left For Red, are next. Evidently they are close to Valous – and there is a warm atmosphere amongst all the bands this evening – and they too operate in a distinctly British metal vein. They are unpretentious and fun, and with man mountain frontman LC providing a focal point they are always enjoyable. Alongside the tried and tested “Empty Shell” and “Shatter,” they too choose to unveil a new song and “Mercy Fight” sits very snugly indeed in their cannon.
Birmingham’s Under Blackened Skies have no problems following this, and the past few years on the circuit have turned them into a formidable live act. Easily the heaviest band on the bill this evening, they are almost Black Metal in their approach, and although “Faceless Devastation” remains their best song, there is always much to enjoy, including a fine “Sense of Reason.”
Back in March, at this very venue Under Blackened Skies were the main support to Beholder. Whether by accident or design, it has worked out that way again. Equally curiously Beholder played that UK tour to unveil some songs from a new album, entitled “The Black Flag” which was apparently to be released just after. As of yet the album still hasn’t seen light of day, which is a shame as it sounds like it could be a monster.
Whether they want just to tease us, or the album – a follow up to the stunning “The Awakening” - has suffered some setbacks is unclear. What is certain, however, is the “…Flag” songs are very heavy indeed. Frontman Simon Hall cuts an angry demeanor and that suits the mood of the new songs like “Toxic Nation” and the title track perfectly.
Like in March they mix the new stuff with plenty of songs from the debut, kicking off with “Heretic” and playing “Snake Eyes” before insisting on the weekends first circle pit during “Razorline.”
Hall launches into his usual impassioned speech about bands not needing record companies during “Here I Stand” before a truncated set is brought to a close with the best of the old in “The Awakening” before bringing in the new with “Footprints in the Sand.”
RTM’s impatience to hear the new album notwithstanding, the fact remains that Beholder are even better now than when RTM first clapped eyes on them at the Hellfire Fest at the NEC in 2009 – and they were pretty damn good then.
One of British metal’s best kept secrets, Beholder were absolutely the best band possible to close a celebration of underground metal.