||LORDS OF BLACK GIVE A MERCILESS DEBUT SCOTTISH PERFORMANCE
Lords Of Black/Fury/Mason Hill
The Cathouse, Glasgow, Thursday 8th December 2016
Words: Johnny Main, Pictures: Mark Rutherford
Vocalist Ronnie Romero was thrust into the spotlight in late 2015 with the announcement by guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore that he was to reform Rainbow for a trio of concerts in mid-2016 with Romero installed as the vocalist. Blackmore commented at the time that Romero sounded like "a cross between Ronnie James Dio and Freddie Mercury", high praise indeed, and when the Rainbow shows finally came round, Romero was universally praised for his performances.
With another four UK Rainbow shows recently announced for 2017 (full details here), Romero is once again the spotlight kid and what better time for him to remind his burgeoning fan base of his talent than to undertake a debut UK tour for his 'day job', vocalist with Spanish Power Metallers, Lords Of Black.
First, of course, there was a duo of support bands to get through and first up were local heroes Mason Hill. Hot on the heels of their triumphant show at Hard Rock Hell (here), the band were all fired up for this hometown show. With a mere twenty minutes stage time, they powered through their six song set in front of a partisan crowd.
From the get go, the sound is loud but the band are on form. Frontman Scott Taylor shows his vocal prowess early on during 'Your Memory' whilst the bands first single, 'Survive' is greeted with a loud cheer. "We have our EP out," explains Taylor before adding "people are always asking us about new songs – so here's one," to rapturous applause. Titled 'No Regret', it's a heavy dose of rock with the floor vibrating every time drummer Craig McFetridge steps on the bass drum pedal. If this is the direction the bands music is going then their fan base don't have anything to worry about.
A cover of Mountain's 'Mississippi Queen', a favourite of Taylor's, and it's a cracking version with another storming vocal performance from Taylor. 'Where I Belong' from their self-titled EP is a soulful track with just the guitar of James Bird and vocal during the intro before the rest of the band kick things up a notch. The track shows band can't be subtle as well as producing solid rock tracks and it's Bird's guitar solo which is the icing on the cake making this a true Mason Hill classic track.
Closing off their set with 'Now You See Me', one of the first tracks the band wrote, it's clear from the audience reaction that it's been another successful outing from the band who are slowly but steadily climbing there ladder to success – so watch out because the Mason Hill star is rising!
Mason Hill Setlist:
Where I Belong
Now You See Me
Mason Hill are:
Scott Taylor – Lead Vocals
James Bird - Lead Guitar
Marc Montgomery - Guitar
Matthew Ward – Bass Guitar
Craig McFetridge – Drums
Next up were Worcester based Fury who were serving as the support for the full UK tour, and you can understand why they were chosen as they too put on an excellent display during their forty minute, six song set.
It's been a few years since I last caught up with the band but it's nice to see they still have a bit of fun when playing instead of taking it all so seriously. Introduced by ex-Michael Schenker and SAHB legend Chris Glen, the band stormed through their set, almost all of which was taken from their current album, 'Lost In Space'.
"Are you ready?" asked frontman Julian Jenkins before adding "hold on tight!" with a huge grin before they launched headlong into the title track from the album, which features some great twin guitar work between Jenkins and Jake Beesley during the long instrumental section. Next up was 'Star Trippin'' without giving the band much time for a breather but they seem to be in high spirits as Beesley and bass player Martin Trail make their own amusement swapping from one side of the stage to the other.
'When The Hammer Falls' had the crowd headbanging along and this was a real highlight of their set. Everything falls into place from the crunchy guitar riff to the memorable chorus, that doesn't take the audience long to catch onto – it's all here, and I'm hoping the track will be in the bands repertoire for some time to come.
The introduction to 'Britannia' sees Jenkins become slightly sheepish as he tries to introduce the track without directly naming the Scottish Independence referendum that it still an issue for some people two years later, but he (and the audience) realise that it's the music that's important here and not the politics, so the track gets a warm reception. It's a slower placed track that shows the band are more than bluff and bluster but stops just short of being sensitive. As the drums and guitar kicks in it has real power and turns into another cornerstone of the set.
Closing off with a rampage through 'Drunken Sailor' the band salute the audience before leaving and I'd be surprised if they didn't shift a few extra copies of their 'Lost In Space' album after their entertaining set.
Lost in Space
When The Hammer Falls
Julian Jenkins – Vocals/Guitar
Jake Beesley - Lead Guitar
Martin Trail – Bass Guitar
Alasdair Davis – Drums
It was just after 9:00pm and it was time for Lords Of Black to finally take to the stage for their debut Glasgow (and indeed Scottish) gig and the audience were more than ready. With a venue curfew of 10:30pm, the band had to work fast to get through their ninety minute set for which they liberally plundered two studio albums as well as throwing in a couple of covers for good measure.
As the intro, 'Malevolently Beautiful', played there was a loud cheer as the band members finally made their way on stage, led by bass player Javier Garcia who immediately got the crowd involved before the audience gave the loudest cheer as frontman Ronnie Romero finally made an appearance as the band burst into the fast paced 'Merciless'.
The beginning of the set was marred with vocal problems as Romero's voice was very much over-powered by the guitars, in fact it wasn't until a good few songs in that his vocals broke through – having said that, you could see the power and passion in his performance and his delight at finally being able to play in Scotland. "First time here," he joked at one point before adding "but not the last eh?", possibly in reference to the 2017 Rainbow shows.
From the first album, we were treated to the fast paced 'Nothing Left To Fear' with its killer guitar riff courtesy of Tony Hernando while Romero looked like he was having a ball, even taking time out to wave at video camera off stage. A double barrel shot of 'The Art Of Illusion' parts one and two blend together seamlessly as they do on the record.
Part one, subtitled 'Smoke And Mirrors', is a steady paced number with drummer Andres Cobos pounding out a simpler but effective drum beat, whilst Hernando played a great solo which was unfortunately obscured by all except those in the front couple of rows for due to a structural pillar, but it didn't take him long before he was sharing centre stage with Romero. Part two, 'The Man From Beyond', picked up the pace slightly and it wasn't long before Romero had the audience singing along.
The bands signature track, 'Lords Of Black' (the first song they ever wrote, Romero said) is kept until near the end of the set and it shows a fired up frontman. "Are you ready?" he asked to a somewhat muted response to which he added "C'mon Glasgow you're so boring!" - pretty much guaranteed to fire up any Glaswegian audience! Romero's vocals were tinged with anger here and you can see the passion etched on his face as he negotiated the lyrics whilst Cobos kept the song on track with the rock steady beat at the back.
The most recent album, titled simply 'II', was well represented with seven numbers taken from it. "Are you ready?" asked Ronnie again before adding "I think a 'New World's Coming'" to even louder cheers showing the audience are familiar with the new material and they were quite happy to sing along while Romero prepared everyone for the eight minute epic, 'Ghost Of You' by pointing out that it wasn't going to be a short song.
It slowed the pace of the set down and gave everyone a breather with the audience nodding along to with the thundering bass line from Garcia underpinning everything along with some excellent double bass drumming from Cobos showing what a tight engine room the bass player and drummer are before Hernando stepped up for an extended guitar solo. It might be an epic number but it didn't certainly feel anything like eight minutes and was a highlight of the set.
As the venue curfew loomed, the band had a bit of fun with the encores. Kicking off with an older track, 'When Everything Is Gone', which was followed by a blistering version of the Black Sabbath track 'Neon Knights', wrong footing some Rainbow fans but at the same time ensuring that the audience got another chance to sing along. Not to be outdone, the Rainbow classic 'Kill The King' brought the set to an end – and what better way to end than with two iron clad classic tracks.
As Romero alluded to earlier in their set, this may have been their first visit to Scotland but hopefully it's not their last as those who saw this debut Scottish performance saw a band with a very bright future, who many wouldn't have heard of had it not been for the great Ritchie Blackmore singing the praises of Romero.
Lords Of Black Setlist:
Nothing Left To Fear
Everything You're Not
New World's Comin'
The Art Of Illusion I - Smoke And Mirrors
The Art Of Illusion II - The Man From Beyond
Ghost Of You
Guitar Solo Tony
Tears I Will Be
Forgive Or Forget
Lords Of Black
Cry No More
Shadows Of War
When Everything Is Gone
Kill The King
Lords of Black are:
Ronnie Romero – Lead Vocals
Tony Hernando - Lead Guitar
Javier Garcia – Bass Guitar
Andres Cobos – Drums
All pictures - (c) Mark Rutherford 2016