An event of titanic proportions went down at Tufnell Park's Dome this Saturday with the second Titanfest seeing some seriously great performances from a wide range of bands who all played to the max.
We said in the pre-match build-up that this was "easily the strongest bill of any indoor Metal festival in the capital this year" and so it proved with treats from the NWOBHM, the best of British thrash, major theatrics, New York powerhouses, the first ever Folk Metallers and much much more making this a thoroughly memorable occasion.
One of the great things about Titanfest 2016 was the sense of unity that was evident with members from many different sectors of Metal coming together in a show of strength and brotherhood that underpins the roots of the festival that takes its name from The Underground Titans Tour 92 which is renowned for it's unprecedented air of cooperation between bands of that era.
Unfortunately Dethonator from Leicestershire, who were due to open proceedings, but were unable to play, due to behind the scenes problems that were out of the band's and festival organisers' control. Although naturally bitterly disappointed, the lads were extremely gracious about the situation and took it as best as they could be expected to.
To make up for not being able to cover them here, we've included their official video for 'Kings Of Annwn', for your enjoyment.
So Titanfest kicked off with a triple whanny of thrash, beginning with Birmingham's Eradikator who immediately set the bar high with a blistering set of ear shredding heaviness. It's not hard to see why Eradikator won Metal To The Masses in 2014 and went on to impress at the same year's Bloodstock. They say they are "dedicated to making the most crushing Heavy Metal music possible" and they've got the songs in their armoury to make you sit up and take notice.
Eradikator made a great job of starting the momentum and technical death Metallers Mechanical God Creation from Italy did a great job of keeping it going. It's nine years since they made their first recording and they've since shared stages with Meshuggah, Iced Earth and Behemoth to name a few and that priceless experience showed today.
Their sound might not be exactly to everyone's taste but they sure know what they are doing and are well worth checking out when you get a chance as you'll be impressed with their skillset and presentation.
More technical thrash followed from Furnaze, the brainchild of Belgian guitarist Krimson Le Diable. If you shy away from bands with the thrash tag (see what we did there...) then be aware that thrash is changing and in general is utilising more melody and catchy riffs and Furnaze's new album, 'None More Black', is a prime example of this.
They're still as heavy as Hell and retain a brutal sound with a double bass attack and they're as energetic as you'd expect any thrash band to be but it's always all in the songs and this is where Furnaze will eventually win. The band were clearly delighted with their day out too, commenting: "We had a most excellent time at this year's Titanfest. Great crowd of people, brilliant line-up, very well organised. Thanks to Ferenc Collins for having us, Paul managing the stages, the great sound guy Matt in the Boston Music Room, but most of all, thanks to everyone who came to see us - you made our day."
Oft-overlooked throughout the NWOBHM scene, Sacrilege provided a respite from the thrash and impressed with a tremendous sound, a set of super-strong songs and a confident performance that won them many new fans on the day and deservedly so.
This is a band who make an effort, from the Satanic stage imagery including drummer Neil Turnbull's Baphomet mask to the appearance of Mr G Reaper Esq on stage who pulls a blade and stabs singer/guitarist Bill Beadle in the neck. There's a lack of blood but the piercing scream the frontman lets out is enough to make Cerberus turn some of his multiple heads in shock.
We even get dancing girls bursting out all over the stage during the song 'Whore' and it's true that you wouldn't fit many of those in a bucket. A thoroughly entertaining set from a band with a powerful repertoire and a penchant to deliver and that bass sound from Captain Chaos, Jeff Roland, is something else.
If you'd been sitting outside in the smoking yard and only heard and not seen Northern Ireland's Stormbringer, you might be forgiven for thinking that they are a female fronted band as frontman Jimi Brown hits high notes that can only be heard by dolphins and bats and while latest album 'Blood & Rust' contains some seriously good tunes, the frequency register of Jimi's voice may not appeal to all.
But it's what makes Stormbringer stand out and they're more than well worth making the effort for, however they live up to their name and did indeed bring the storm as a torrential downpour hit the Dome and saturated the outside area but this was not to put off the now swelling crowd, nor Bull-Riff Stampede who absolutely mashed the place up with their intoxicating blend of supersonic thrash/speed Metal.
This is a standout act from the masses of mid-sized British heavy bands out there and they most certainly scattered the ground and enraged the beast with their brutal sound. In fact, they take brutal to a brand new level and yes indeed, vocalist Dave Garnett does indeed evoke imagery of being stampeded underneath a heard of angry bulls. Blistering.
With their nuts and bolts tightened by being on the road with Onslaught and Annihilated, Midlands bruisers Beholder wasted no time in ripping up the crowd. Simon Hall is a commanding frontman who with tongue firmly in cheek ordered the "Southern cunts" to make some noise. The crowd duly responded by making the first circle pit of the day.
Their music is coated in the riffs of Pantera and their lyrics stand up against ignorance in which Hall has firm belief in with standout tracks such as 'Here I Stand'. However, the Buster Bloodvessel of Heavy Metal doesn't always follow his own ethics as during the fist raising 'My Revolution' a supporter raises his arms up in praise only for the bulky frontman to show off his bad manners by throwing him the wanker sign... bizarre!
Some fans expressed surprise that Beholder were on the small downstairs stage, which is only a few inches off the ground, rather than the much larger stage upstairs with a high platform which can cater to three times as many people. A spokesman said "its for health and safety reasons," and when pressed further, he winked and added "it's a stage that Simon is going through."
You can check out Beholder's latest album, 'Reflections', right here. It's well worth a listen.
Next up were Nightlord who put on the best performance that this reviewer has ever seen from the classic British thrashers who are now closing in on three decades of mayhem. Airing tracks from across their whole catalogue, the band utterly stormed this one and captivated a now filling up nicely main hall with some tremendous tunery and powerful songs.
Frontman/bassist Jamie Thorne was in terrific form and never let the momentum drop for one second as he led his troops through a demolition derby full of force and might. The Nightlord's legacy and teachings were intoxicating tonight and for the unbelievers, be aware that the Master Of Darkness shall indeed return, perhaps sooner than you think.
Anihilated had a hard act to follow but pulled it off with the usual brash and boisterous approach that we have come to expect from the oldest band on the bill. Formed in 1981, they are one of the very first UK thrash bands but as they were borne from the UK punk scene, have adopted a more crossover style over the years and have always worn their social conscience on their sleeves.
It's heartwarming to see a band of such longevity showing no sign of slowing down or mellowing and more power to them for standing up for what they believe in and using their platform to rally against injustice and their scorched earth policy is paying dividends, as evidenced tonight by a super-charged repertoire of bruising, in your face tracks that demand to be heard.
Hell are most definitely a band going places and frontman David Bower's theatrical style and brilliant comedic raport with his audience should carry the band to heights they should have reached years ago. They are of course steeped in history and folklore and whether it's the songs or the grandiose theatricality that appeal most, Hell have got what it takes to cut it on the big stages.
Having a maestro like Andy Sneap in your ranks helps massively of course and since their 2008 reformation, the Grammy winning producer has enhanced the band's rich sound and stage show and aside from that, they've spent a lot of time in the studio this year readying their next album and with Andy's pedigree behind the desk, expectations are high and were raised even higher tonight with a standout performance from the Derbyshire Nefandi.
Another band with a long and rich history stretching back to the 80s is Warrior Soul who put a stiff middle finger up to all who thought they had had their day. Kory Clarke is a man who means business and WS impressed massively at Titanfest with a devastatingly upbeat performance that left the audience completely breathless.
Kory's a showman all right but in a serious way and he clearly believes wholeheartedly in his art and that belief was demonstated by a masterful performance that has Warrior Soul down as many people's band of the day and rightly so.
Oliver Dawson Saxon
Oliver Dawson Saxon frontman Brian Shaughnessy asked us earlier where we last met and we told him it was at The Underworld earlier this year when he was on the stage doing Biff Byford impersonations.
"Oh bloody 'ell - don't tell him that or he'll have me guts for garters..." replied Brian in his broad Yorkshire accent. He's actually from Barnsley, where Saxon hail from, and he carries off these epic songs really, really well, along with his colleagues, two of whom co-wrote the material in the first place.
Certain Saxonites may not be totally enamoured with the existence of ODS but from a fans' point of view, they provide an opportunity to witness Saxon songs being played live more often, and played extremely well, which you don't need us to tell you can only be a good thing.
What was particularly memorable about this performance, apart from the superb renditions of 'Crusader', 'Motorcycle Man', Dallas 1PM', 'Denim And Leather', '747 (Strangers In The Night)' and more, was standing down at the front next to two fifteen-year-old lads, one Asian and one Caribbean, both clad in denim with all the patches, singing along, word perfect, to every song. It did indeed bring us all together.
Oliver Dawson Saxon most definitely have a place in today's Metal scene, as brilliant as real Saxon are, and it's actually because of their brilliance that ODS are valid. You can't get enough Saxon and here's your chance to see two of the originals in all their glory and who can argue with that?
Talking of originals, Skyclad are often hailed as the first ever Folk Metal band and rumblings from certain sections of the Titanfest gathering along the lines of "No Martin Walkyier, no Skyclad" just don't hold weight for us. Kevin Ridley has been the frontman for fifteen years now and although Martin's huge influence on Skyclad should never be underestimated, they are still more than valid and still an absolute pleasure to see live.
With a setlist comprising 'The Parliament Of Fools', 'Thinking Allowed?', 'Inequality Street', 'The Widdershins Jig', 'Spinning Jenny', 'Anotherdrinkingsong' and 'Emerald', here were the Folk Metal founders doing what they do best. Dave Pugh is back in the band and Steve Ramsey never left and with Georgina Biddle have clocked up over twenty years' service and Graeme 'Bean' English also a founding member, you can't get much closer to the original line-up than that.
Kev is a great frontman who knows how to work his audience and he and his comrades put in a ten pint performance from where we were standing, which was right at the front. Just one thing though Kev - that wasn't a Geordie shouting in the audience, it was a Teessider. Say no more.
And so to headliners Onslaught, the band who requested this years' Titanfest be held in November so they could mark the occasion by celebrating the 30th anniversary of 'The Force', and also the last night of their tour with Anihilated and Beholder.
Despite a certain percentage of the crowd starting to flag a little by now, temperatures were raised, as well as the noise levels for the final performance of the day and Onslaught's gratitude to their support acts, the festival organisers and their fans was matched by a rapturous reception.
And as the Dome emptied and the public transport filled, a true sense of triumph pervaded the damp night air and Titanfest Officianados should be proud of what they achieved here.
The band continued playing as the Titanic went down in 1912 and the band's will continue to play at Titanfest 2017 but this one is rising, fast, and it's a pleasure to be in on what could become one of the UK's standout Metalfests.
Titan is the largest moon of Saturn and in Greek mythology, the Titans were members of the second generation of divine beings, descending from the primordial deities. There might be a clue in there as to who could possibly play Titanfest 2017...