||SATURDAY AT WILDFIRE FESTIVAL ROCKS IN GLORIOUS (CAIRO) SUNSHINE AND MASSIVE SOUNDS
It's always the same at festivals, isn't it. You get there on the first day, unpack your camping gear and then hit the bar first before trying to see as many of the bands as possible and partying like it's your last day on earth. Waking up on day two is always the same as well – regretting too much booze and not enough food the day before and realising that some of the bands have already started playing and you're still in your tent. Or the general area of your tent if you had a particularly wild night.
Of course, the MetalTalk team were up bright and early to make sure we didn't miss any of the onstage action, which was made slightly more difficult than the day before with the addition of the Horrorfly stage in addition to the two stages from the previous day. With no clashes guaranteed on the Incendium and Infernus stages, there was unfortunately no such liberty for the Horrorfly stage, so those moving between the different stages certainly had to be made of sterner stuff.
First up on the Infernus stage was the energetic blues/rock sound of Crowsaw, featuring the melodic but impressive vocals of frontman Rob Lomax. It's nice to have a band with subtlety to gently ease you into the day – and a long day it ended up being too – and these guys had it nailed from the first song. Showcasing their latest release, 'Karma', which came out last year, the band steered a steady course throughout their set and it's only unfortunate their early stage time wasn't better attended – no doubt due to the hangovers from the previous night's partying! 4/5
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Northern Ireland was represented by Baleful Creed who made the trip over from Belfast specially for their appearance at the festival. Making their first appearance at Wildfire, the band who are fronted by Fin Finlay, didn't waste any time as they struck up with 'God's Fear'. The audience warmed to them quickly and it wasn't long before those down in front of the stage were clapping along whilst others towards the back of the arena were more content to nod along to the beat, especially to new track 'Walking Wounded'. Overall it was a solid set from the band and they won over a few new fans it seems, so the journey across the sea was well worth it. 4/5
Following on from them were another Northern Ireland based band, Sinocence, who I've been a fan of for some years now and was delighted they were given the chance to play Wildfire again, something they'd not done since 2013 when it was still under the Les-Fest banner. Their most recent album, 'No Gods No Masters Volume II' is an immense piece of work and the band's live performances are definitely must-see events. Originally scheduled to be on the bigger stage, they were shunted onto the smaller Infernus stage without any announcement which is unfortunate as the band gave a tight performance with guitarist Anthony McCaughley looking like he was having the time of his life whilst frontman Gareth Morrow was a man of few words in between the songs, but he gave a terrific performance. One of the heavier bands on the bill for the Saturday, it was great to see them again and they really deserved the great reaction they got from the audience. 4/5
A lot of people were looking forward to The Dukes Of Bordello's set, however it seemed they hadn't turned up and no-one seemed to know why - again, there was no announcement so the audience ended up seeing whoever happened to be on next - not ideal when no-one seemed to know who some bands were.
Next up for me was The Idol Dead who were one of the surprise highlights of Wildfire 2015. Having not heard of the band previously, their 11:00am main stage set at last year's festival may have been too early for some people but for me it introduced me to a brand new and exciting live act. Fast forward twelve months and they made a triumphant return to the Wildfire stage – better for a year's worth of experiences and still resplendent in their unique black and luminous green colour scheme. Though they were still playing on the Saturday, they were blessed with a much later slot this year and further up the bill too which is just as well as they gave another fun and frantic pop punk set. Now normally I'm not a fan of these kind of bands but for me The Idol Dead really are a top notch live act – great songs, great energy and highly entertaining – these guys can't put a foot wrong in my book and I'd be more than happy to see them more than once a year! 4/5
Next up were The Deep who have connections with the old NWOBHM bands of the early eighties so their addition to the bill is well deserved and their set was interesting. Plugging their debut release, 'Premonition', the quintet quickly found their feet with twin guitars of Paul Smith and Mick Feleppa dominating the sound whilst vocalist Tony Coldham is top class. It was Feleppa who seemed to be having the time of his life as he made the most of the stage whilst Coldham held back towards the drum kit but could certainly belt out the songs. A classic rock band with boundless enthusiasm, Coldham commented at one point: "You might not have heard of us but hopefully you'll remember us!" Yes, I and many others certainly will remember certainly them! You can pick up a copy of their terrific sounding debut album, 'Premonition' from their official website at thedeepband.co.uk. 4/5
Screaming Eagles. Hungry...
It was only eight weeks previously that I'd last seen Screaming Eagles strut their stuff on stage as part of an Off Yer Rocka Records showcase gig in Glasgow and I have to say that seeing them again so soon was really good. Last time they were playing second fiddle to those Lancastrian noise monsters Massive Wagons, whereas their spot on the festival bill here saw them sandwiched on the small stage between two bands also making their Wildfire debut. Once again billed close to The Wagons, albeit on a different stage, from start to finish it was an accomplished set of original numbers like the titular song, 'Screaming Eagles', 'Hungry For More' and 'Save Me'. Frontman Chris Fry did a really good job with the vocals whilst guitarist Adrian McAleenan was a ball of energy throughout their set as he bounced around the stage and enthused those hanging onto the crowd barrier. 4/5
Forever Never, from "Tropical Essex" joked frontman Renny Carroll, made not only their first appearance at Wildfire this year but also headlined the Infernus stage in what was a winning move as far as the Metalcore quintet was concerned. This was my first brush with the band live and I was absolutely blown away by their performance that included new and old songs with the slower paced 'Living A Lie' amongst their best. The festival goers certainly knew about them and it's another band I'll be making some time for to check out further. 4/5
As far as the Incendium stage went, it was Sunderland based Spartan Warrior who had the privilege of opening proceedings earlier in the day. Having not heard of them before I was curious to see how this old NWOBHM band fared and once again, despite the very early morning and considering some festival go-ers were partying into the wee small hours, the band managed to rouse a respectable crowd from their tents and put on an entertaining show, especially from frontman Dave Wilkinson who gave a great performance during 'Last Man Standing' especially. A surprise inclusion in the bill for me, their trip north has certainly been fruitful and their NWOBHM sound certainly seemed to be a pull for fans both old and young. 4/5
Apriori. Lang time coming...
Next up were Blackpool trio Apriori whose straight ahead rock and metal set was an ideal follow on from Spartan Warrior. It was guitarist Tony Lang who stole the show here with his incendiary performance whilst frontman, known enigmatically only as "Mouse", delivered a solid vocal performance. Amongst their best tracks was a well received cover of Cameo's 'Word Up' which had the audience singing along while the solid groove of 'Save Me' later in the set was the icing on the cake for me and the band certainly got the approval of the ever growing crowd. 4/5
Sister Rose, who hail from the north east of England, were next on the bill. This four piece act draw their influences from The Beatles and Oasis so their sound wasn't the heaviest of the festival by any stretch of the imagination but they gave a polished performance. Chris Berry really stretched his voice whilst Craig Fearnley (aka Clanger) put on a really entertaining performance. 'Shame On You' was dedicated to "Taff", a friend of the band who had recently passed away, and was a watershed moment for the band whilst 'Hear What You Say' was another fine track. For a first time in Scotland let's hope they make a return north of the border sooner rather than later and if not, I'm more than happy to travel down south to see them live again. 5/5
Hailing from York, Metalcore band RSJ were another act making their debut appearance at the festival. Fronted by Dan Cook, whose face was hidden by a hood throughout their set, they made best use of a sudden downpour that coincided with their set and proceeded to keep the packed out crowd entertained with an electrifying performance. Drummer Greg Parsons put everything he had into his performance as he tried his best to smash the drum kit into pieces by hammering the drums ridiculously hard, but he didn't quite succeed. They certainly got a rousing reception from the audience so it seems they may have increased their fan base considerably during their forty minute set. 3/5
I'd seen Welsh rockers Fireroad before, not least at our first meeting during the 2014 edition of the festival, and was impressed enough with their solid rock sound on the four or so occasions I've seen them since, so I was pleased to see them added to this year's festival bill. Fronted by Richard Jones, the band had a good solid sound during their set and delivered a high quality performance. Amongst their best songs was a cover of Neil Young's 'Keep On Rocking In The Free World' which closed their set to wild applause from the audience. A very popular combo it seems and a band who quite rightly have earned their place on the festival bill. 4/5
Cairo Son. Likeable Gizas...
Cairo Son were a band on my "To See" list having come across them earlier this year when they released their debut album, 'Storm Clouds' to huge fanfare. As the band took to the stage for their set they set about showcasing the very best tracks from that debut rerlease. Frontman Magdy seemed to enjoy his time on stage whilst Enrico on bass guitar and drummer Dave had trouble keeping the smiles off their faces thoughout their set. As the photographers jostled in the photopit, Magdy had equipment issues throughout but soldiered on in between apologising. "A seven hour drive only for your equipment to break down," he said exasperatedly but they still got a rousing reception as their set drew to a close. Within the "something for everyone" ethos of Wildfire, Cairo Son certainly went down a storm (no pun intended) so let's hope they capitalise on this and return north of the Border sooner rather than later for another gig. 5/5
Hellbound Hearts were formed in early 2011 by ex-Terrorvision man Danny Lambert and they're fast becoming one of the UKs most compelling and electrifying live acts. Lambert shared some banter with the crowd in between songs whilst drummer Andy Black kept the crowd involved during the songs. A real highlight was 'Suffering The Radio' that had the crowd singing along without much encouragement needed from Lambert at all. Overall a good solid set from the band and let's hope we see more of them in the future. 3/5
Massive Wagons. Massive...
What can be said about Lancastrian noise monsters Massive Wagons that hasn't been said already? I mean, really, these guys are the future of British rock music and no mistake, this was a huge dose of classic rock n' roll delivered in bombastic fashion. These guys deserve their place on the bill as very special guests, but let's be honest, they could have actually headlined this gig.
Hot on the heels of their latest release, the 'Welcome To The World' album, the Wagons delivered a spectacular and flawless set that had the audience jumping and singing along in equal measure from start to finish. Frontman Barry Mills gave one of his best performances, at one point from atop the shoulders of a roadie who took him walkabouts in the arena mid-song whilst guitarist Alex Thistlethwaite peeled off guitar solo after guitar solo in a note perfect performance. At the back drummer Alex Thistlethwaite and bass player Adam Bouskill kept the engine running whilst Carl Cochrane kept the rhythm guitar straight and true. These guys' performances are always highly anticipated and they never disappoint, making their set here a real highlight from the day and indeed the whole weekend. 5/5
Inglorious are currently the new darlings of the British rock scene and if anyone was going to steal the thunder from Massive Wagons, then it was always going to these guys. Dubbed "a young Deep Purple", Inglorious burst onto the scene in February 2014 and have had a meteoric rise thanks mainly, but not exclusively, to the stage presence and voice of frontman Nathan James. James has a likeable jokey demeanour on stage, not taking himself too seriously but displaying the ability to deliver the goods on cue time and time again.
During the high octane first couple of numbers, photographers in the pit are trying to get the best shots whilst parents jostle with them whilst trying to extract their children who are once again sitting in the photo pit. Lead guitarist Andreas Eriksson put on a formidable display too, taking everything in his stride to produce some top notch solos throughout the set. With only their self-titled debut album to push, the band sailed through their headline set majestically and the crowd responded to well known tracks like 'Until I Die', 'High Flying Gypsy', 'Bleed For You' and the first ever song written by James, 'Unaware'.
They also included a couple of well chosen classic covers, for example Deep Purple's 'Lay Down, Stay Down' and the Rainbow classic 'I Surrender' with James adding beforehand that: "They [Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow] are in Birmingham tonight but won't be playing this, so we will instead!" Having put on a crowd pleasing set at Donington a mere fortnight previously, the band stepped up to the plate here for a well deserved headlining set, finishing up the day with a set which elicited one of the loudest receptions of the day. 5/5
Photos by Carlan Braid, Main Stage Photography