The Alma Inn July Showcase 2019 The Alma Inn, Bolton 20/07/2019 Review by Beth Jones
What is the best way to drown your sorrows about not being sat in a field listening to great bands with the best people? That’s easy – go and sit in a pub and listen to great bands with the best people instead! And that is exactly what we did on Saturday 20th July, by making a trek up to Bolton, to the Alma Inn for the Badgerfest Promotions / Alma Inn Presents July Showcase. It promised a cracking day of music, with some familiar names, and some that were new to us, and it didn’t disappoint!
We had never been to the much talked about Alma Inn before, so weren’t entirely sure what to expect. What we found was this: It is a cosy little venue, and really has the feel of a classic metal pub from the 80’s / 90’s, with some spectacular graffiti art in the beer garden, and interesting toilets! But the atmosphere was instantly warm, and the girl behind the bar, whose name I didn’t catch, was great!
Ninety Nine Mercies
First on the bill, and a new name to us, Ninety Nine Mercies kicked off the proceedings. Being the first band up is always a tough job, and their set was delayed by, and then hampered by a range of technical difficulties and sound issues that were beyond their control, so it was difficult really to get a good judgement of them. They were pretty solid, but had a few timing issues in places, but again this may be because they couldn’t really hear properly what each member was doing. I think I need to see them again to make a better judgement of them. They certainly gave it their all, which is always good to see at that time on a Saturday!
Fresh from their comeback show after a 6 year hiatus, the Severenth guys put on yet another stonking show here, and gained a whole pub full of new fans in the process! They are exciting to watch and musically they are spot on. Peet Bailey, as a front man, is brilliant. He can scream and do clean vocals with ease, and has a very expressive face, which makes the performance hypnotising to watch. The rest of the band are also not afraid of showing their spirit, and don’t hide in the background. Bass player, Ben Jones, provides some mighty powerful backing vocals, and this, combined with the heavy rhythms of Dave Roberts on drums, and some really technical guitar work from Adam Sidor and Jack Somers make for an all-round package that would not look out of place much higher up on a bill. I cannot wait to see these guys again very soon and would love to see them back on the festival circuit next year.
Black Sheets Of Rain
This band had actually recently done an EMQ’s for us, so it was nice to put faces to names and see what they were about. They were very different from what we had seen already today, in so much as they were more a classic hard rock band, so a lot lighter in style. They were very tight, and very good, but my one ask would be that they didn’t look quite so nervous on stage. They all looked slightly terrified, possibly because they were having to follow the Severenth performance we had just seen, but they had no reason to be, as they were very good, and we certainly enjoyed their set!
Lost In Lavender Town
In a showcase, you always like to see a bit of variety, and what better way to do that could there be than to chuck in an instrumental prog band, with three guitarists?! These guys were a bunch of insanely talented musicians who clearly live for noodling! They were like Pink Floyd after a marijuana binge, and it was incredibly relaxing! It was certainly music to chill out too!! I was however disappointed, as they had a brilliant ambient keyboard sound running through each track, but sadly no real life keyboard player, instead opting to use a backing track. Call me an old fuddy duddy if you like, but I do like live music to be 100% live, and if you are going to have keys as an integral part of your music, please use a real keyboard player!
Portrayal Of Ruinn
So, now we were all nicely mellow, it was time to get the shit beaten out of us, in a metal sense, by the insanely heavy Portrayal Of Ruinn. There are times when being a gig photographer can make you realise why the sofa and a nice cup of tea are so comforting – this was one of those times! Trying to take pictures when lots of big gents are erupting into pits in a space not much bigger than my living room is, err, interesting shall we say!! That aside, Portrayal Of Ruinn really know how to put on a great show, and delivered a punchy brand of melodic deathcore to the delighted crowd. Frontman Calvin Fayle has a terrifically manic look in his eyes when performing, and this captured the audience. Whilst vocally they are a little heavy for me, I really enjoyed their performance, and I didn’t die, so that’s a win in my book!
I saw Daybreaker opening last year’s Badgerfest, and was impressed, so I was looking forward to seeing them again today and was glad that Rick also got a chance to see them. Again, they put in a great performance, which produced another lively reaction from the crowd. Bass player Lynden Garrad has a hugely expressive face and looked like he was having a ball on stage, whilst front man Sam Higgins paced the performance area like a man possessed, delivering some hellish hardcore vocals that bang you right in the gut. They are fun to watch. I like them.
Kringer And The Battle Katz
Well! This performance was an experience. I want you to imagine The Sex Pistols, but with more musical skill, and heavier, having a crazed party following a month-long binge of mayhem and debauchery, and that kind of explains this performance! They describe themselves as Idiotcore, and are a mixture of punk, groove and deathcore, which bizarrely works pretty well! Even if you didn’t really like the music, it is impossible not to smile and get drawn in by their madcap insanity. They were perfect for this point in the day when us oldies are starting to flag a little – it peps you up and gives you a second wind! Bonkers. That is all!
We have seen these guys almost as many times as we have seen Lullaby For A Unicorn (and that is quite a few!!), but we never get tired of them. They are pure funky groove metal, and playing music is their life – this comes across in every show, and this one was no exception. It was hot, it was sweaty, but it was so much fun. Their all-round performance is always exceptionally tight, and the now packed out venue lapped it up. Their new drummer, Gary-Eric Evans, has really added a further depth to their music, that has enhanced an already superb product, which is brilliant. Add to this the fact that they are all truly lovely chaps, and it is easy to see how they have endeared themselves to so many audiences around the country and further afield.
Finishing off a great day of metal were Vice, a gang of three young and aspirational local lads, who you can’t help but love. Again, we have seen them a few times now, and absolutely loved their first album, “The First Chapter”, and are eagerly awaiting their second. They are superbly polished, and each show is measured and well thought out. They delivered a sterling performance again here, and it was great to see them getting such a warm reception from the crowd. We had to duck out a little before the end again, because we have no staying power! But we left a venue full of very happy people behind us, with big smiles on our faces.
Again, this was another brilliant day created by the seemingly unstoppable John Badger! There had been a few technical and sound issues towards the beginning of the day, which delayed things a little, but the people didn’t care, and it didn’t take away from the day at all in the end. It was great to see so many familiar and friendly faces, and to make some new acquaintances along the way. The metal scene in Manchester is alive and well and totally thriving, thanks to a host of brilliant underground bands, and the tireless work of people like John Badger, and James and Jayne at 0161 Manchester Underground Metal Community, and it really is a joy to be close enough, location wise, to be part of it.
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
Badgerfest -The Sequel Saturday 13th October 2018 Rebellion, Manchester Review by Beth Jones
Badgerfest 2018 had been hotly anticipated here at camp Ever Metal, and so you can imagine our dismay when Rick’s illness demons reared their ugly head throughout the night before. To say he wasn’t a happy bunny was an understatement. Luckily Sian, my third man, stepped up to the plate with the enticement of taking pictures and seeing old friends again. As we headed to the venue, the weather was murky and grey, which could mean only one thing – we were in Manchester!! This was my first experience of the much talked about Rebellion venue, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised at how well laid out it was. With one main area housing the main stage, then a side area housing the second stage, it was a good-sized space for an all dayer!
The one thing I love about going to a metal gig is that pretty much wherever it is, you are going to see someone you know – the metal family is much extended, but close knit, which is why it is the best family to be a part of! Today was no exception, as when we arrived, the first person we saw was a very smiley Nick Gregory (Radio Deeside), who was one of our fabulous compéres for the day, along with Steve Tottle – fully kilted up and ready to go! By the time we had got in, said our hellos and found somewhere to dump our stuff, it was time for the music to start, so we headed to the main stage, or The Mushroom Stage, as it was called. Today’s billing was going to be loud, fast and heavy as f….udge, so we had our ear plugs at the ready ( health and safety of course being our main priority here 😉!)
First up was Blackpool boys, Daybreaker. Bang! If ever anyone wants a lesson in how to be the first band on at a gig and make an impression, watch these guys! They were like a tightly coiled spring, bursting with energy and ready to set the tone for the day. Bass player Lynden was superb and had bags of stage presence. They included quiet, more toned – down middle 8 sections in a couple of songs, and this contrast worked really well. Their sound was superb, with vocals that were screamy, but not over the top and great guitar work, all kept in check by the crazy drumming of Tom, who looked like he was having some sort of episode but couldn’t half hit them bangy things well! A great start to the day. We were all now very much awake!
After a brief digest of the stonking set just delivered to us, we headed over to the second stage – The Snake Stage – covering the massive 20 foot walk in a matter of seconds! Norwich based noisy people, Hedra, had the pleasure of opening this stage for us. They had some sound tech issues to start with (more on that later) but it was sorted quickly, and they soon got into the swing of things. These guys really know how to create the full package. A quick visit to their Facebook page will show you their level of professionalism, and I really like the fact that they almost had a band uniform, black shirts with the logo and band name on – which I liked a lot – it is good to see a band thinking about their whole image, not just the sound. They are very technical rhythmically and have lots of nods to varying genres in there, most noticeably modern djent style guitars and cross beat rhythms, but with more power. Their new drummer, Shaun, smashed it, and had some sweet sounding cymbals! For me, the only criticism was the bass was a little high in the mix. My god we were in for one powerful day!
Over on the Mushroom stage, the next act, Lancashire’s Promethium, were ready to go. Rick had been sent their album earlier in the year, so we were interested to see them live. The one thing that stood out for me was the great guitar solos. Unfortunately, to me, every song sounded a bit the same. The singer was very passionate but maybe pushing too hard and it ending up sounding like he was shouting a lot of the time – maybe he couldn’t hear himself enough in the mix. The lead guitarist did have a lovely classic sound and liked a bit of wah, which is always a plus. Things picked up a bit towards the end of the set, but they didn’t blow me away sadly. Whether we caught them on a bad day, or they were having some unknown sound issues on stage, I don’t know. I need to see them again to make a proper judgement really.
Back over to the Snake Stage, for another new name to me – God Shaped Devil. One word. Yes!! This was more like it! For a start, they looked more into it, and worked really well together. They were extremely well – rehearsed but looked like they were having fun with it. They had a fantastic thrashy sound and really great vocals. The sound was much better now on this stage. Their songs were well constructed, and even though they were still heavy, they had a real good groove and excellent melodies that you could really get in to. The drummer, Luke, was having a great time thrashing out, with some cracking double bass pedal work backing up his relentless pace! The fast-paced penultimate song, ‘Deadly Sign’, was superb and really got the crowd going. I think a lot of people really appreciated their energy as there was plenty of audience participation. Every song was a big hitter, with really well thought out riffs and beginnings and endings, which can sometimes be the hardest part of song writing! Absolutely loved their performance. My band of the day!
After that amazing performance the room was buzzing, and the excited energy continued to build, for next on the Mushroom Stage was new super-group Frozen In Shadows, fronted by none other than Footprints In The Custard’s Russ Custard, and with our intrepid organiser, Mr John Badger giving his first of two performances of the day on percussion (because, why just give yourself the stress of organising an all dayer, why not chuck a bit extra in with two rounds on the stage innit!). Now, for those of you who know and love Footprints, and were expecting a comedy band, you would have been disappointed, but for those wanting something kick ass, heavy and in your face, this is most definitely for you. I had purposefully not listened to the recently released EP, as I wanted the results of this meld of minds to be a surprise….Fuck me sideways! If the day’s proceedings so far had left anyone in any doubt about what sort of music we were all there for, then that was blown out of the water with this performance! They fired straight in to the set with an insanely fast, killer song and then carried on in the same vein throughout. It was so in your face it was like being beaten with a brick, but in a brilliant way! It was full on, high octane stuff, performed by consummate professionals. Some superb drumming from John who at one point nearly lost a cymbal he was hitting it that hard! I personally couldn’t hear Russ’s vocals at times. He was using a radio mic and there were issues with feedback and getting the levels right – I don’t think the desk could get the mix right, a theme that I eluded to earlier in the review, and that would continue through the day, which I will talk more about that later! Regardless, this was the business. Start to finish. Considering this is a new project and only their second gig, it was mind-blowingly good, and whilst I love Russ’s comedy side, he has shown here that he is just an all-round great frontman!
After the crazy dose of ear porn that we had just been served, it was time for Northern heavy heads, Skeletal Damage on the Snake Stage, where none other than Footprints drummer Alex Sladen (their plan to secretly take over the world, one band at a time has been put into action, and no-one will ever find out about it unless someone says… oh, wait, what, no! Forget you read that bit!) With some very fast blast beats from Sladen, they set the pace for their performance almost as quickly as Frozen In Shadows had, however they had a very tough act to follow, after what we had all just witnessed on the Mushroom Stage. For me, they were just ok. They know what they are doing and are solid, but I just wasn’t feeling it. The connection with the audience wasn’t quite there, but I think a lot of that had to do with the space they were in, as they were good to dance to and it was crying out for a circle pit in a bigger venue!
We first saw the next band, Fractions, at Uprising 2017, when they were fairly new in their current line-up, and we were kind of undecided about them at the time – and for us there was something missing; they didn’t seem quite ready. What a difference a few months makes! It was like watching a different band! From Leicester, they bill themselves as Metalcore and Progressive, and that is now clearly evident in their writing. They gave us a full-on set of really complex tunes with intricate guitar and lots of cross rhythms throughout, with absolutely superb vocals from Christophe Hare. It was all very polished, and they seem to have grown unrecognisably in confidence since we last saw them. It was really pleasing to see the progress they have made in the last year and the strong fan base that they have. Well done lads, you have me converted! Fractions! Fractions! Fractions!!
I was in a really good mood now after that and headed back to the Snake Stage for Reprisal – from the shiny bit of the country that us lot up here call ‘The South’. They bill themselves as Brutal Thrash. They aren’t kidding!! The vocalist, Tom Johnstone, JEEEBERS!! Now there is an angry man if ever I saw one!!! Or at least his stage persona is!! They are a bloody heavy, brutally fast wall of noise, which makes you feel like a hedgehog facing up to a bulldozer! They got some in the crowd going a bit too much for my liking and things started to get a bit ugly, so I got out of there – Ross Kemp fashion. I’m only a titch and, with no photo pit, and some seriously large people all going a bit Jackie Chan behind me, I thought it was best to retreat before I got squished! Musically, it wasn’t really my bag if I’m honest. It was a bit too brutal. I do like a bit of tune with my growl! But that said, they did what they do really well, and the drummer was insane and in perfect time, which isn’t always a given with drummers!!
Next up on the Mushroom Stage, were Manchester’s own, Impavidus – with John Badger making his second appearance of the day. Before that though, it was time for our fabulous compéres, Steve and Nick to have a bit of silliness with the audience, in the shape of the renowned ‘Badger Dance’! After a quick audience training session, the whole room was jigging about to the ‘Badger Song’, and having a right old party! Great fun was had by all and it breathed a new lease of life into the crowd, just in time for Impavidus to come on and do their thing.
So, what can I say about these guys that I haven’t already. I love them. They are so good together as a band, with each member being superbly talented in their own right; and with having such a good balance of growl and clean vocals, their music is always interesting and intriguing. You never get that same old same old feel with them. I am also completely in love with Michelle and want to marry her, because her vocal ability is stunning, and she is also the nicest person you will ever meet. Sadly, one thing that I will say about this performance is sound issues, and not through any fault of the band. I have mentioned earlier in this review that I would come back to this issue, and this is the point I am going to. Up until now, there had been some issues with levels, and feedback, and not enough of one thing or another in the monitor, however this is where it got real, and unfair. During the badger dance, the main stage sound tech had disappeared, and hadn’t arrived back by the start of Impavidus’ set, leaving the booth completely unmanned, and not having turned on the stage right mic, or monitor, which was needed for Bassist Patrick McBride. Myself and Sian happened to be stood on that side of the stage, and he was not a happy bunny one little bit – and completely understandably! I had ignored most of the issues until now, because they were only small, and sorted quickly, and with live events in a venue like this, you expect there to be the occasional issue, but this was a whole different level of unprofessional in my opinion, especially considering this was the main band of the guy that has organised the whole thing and was essentially paying the sound guy’s wages! Not only was the bass player about to go apoplectic, but there were issues with feedback, and Michelle’s vocals were very low. Eventually after about three songs, the scarlet pimpernel returned and just about sorted out the sound issues. Thankfully, the band just got on with it and the crowd loved them, so much so, that at the end of the set, they chanted ‘One More Song’ until they guys came back to do a thoroughly deserved encore!
After a short delay, due to the impromptu encore on the main stage, Nick Gregory was able to very enthusiastically announce the wonderful Torqued. Having travelled 7 hours up from Devon, they were hoping for a great show and the crowd were right behind them from the very start. Yes, you’ve guessed it – today’s running theme – some sound issues to start, with gremlins in the wireless equipment, but it got sorted pretty quickly. On speaking to Bassist, Marc Cleave, briefly before hand, he had said that Rimmy, their awesome guitar megaman, was now also going to be sharing the vocals with him. This worked really well, as their voices blend very nicely together, and it added another element to their sound, which is already mightily impressive for a three piece. They are also becoming a lot tighter the more they play. I love the Bass tone that Marc uses – it is really meaty and adds a lot of depth to their sound, and with Rimmy’s solo work just making everyone a little moist, they are a proper contender for one of our stand-out bands of the year. It was a good reception from the gathered crowd too, which was great to see. By now, the venue was packed to the rafters, which is a shining success, and tantamount to the hard work that John has put into the promotion of this event.
If metal music was like car manufacturing, our next band, This Is Turin, would be the Japanese model – impeccably technically mastered and something to drool over. This was a bunch of amazingly talented people delivering a perfect set. They are heavy and industrial, unrelenting and powerful, and great to watch. The double bass pedal work was Incredible and would have most drummers salivating and crying with envy! This set was a bit of a photography nightmare with complete red lighting throughout, but it did give a great effect and tone for their performance – it was almost like a vision of hell, bathed in fire and fury. Vocalist, Darryl Jones, was really animated and got the crowd really pumped. I loved this – it was super heavy, super dark, and super technical. Well worth checking these guys out.
Back over on the Snake Stage, Manchester death metal outfit, After The Abduction were just about to start. I have to admit that I was flagging at this point and had to wimp out cos my brain was fried, but what I could hear from the beer garden was brutal as! Thankfully the beer garden was situated adjacent to the Snake Stage, so it was still possible to see and hear what was going on, and I can tell you that not only did they sound brutal, but it was packed, and the crowd was brutal! It was great to see everyone having such a good time, and again, even though their music was a bit too much for me, they were certainly pleasing the crowd.
Next up were the positive folk orchestra, Isarnos, a seven-piece outfit, including violin, hurdy gurdy, penny whistle and Irish bouzouki, who marry up folk music with metal! Holy Moly! They certainly filled the stage, and this was right up my street! Having roots in classical instruments, and having played in a folk band, I was really stoked to see these guys in action. Again, the soundman couldn’t quite keep up, with levels all over the place to start with. In fairness, the range of instruments here would make even a hardened sound tech, sweat like Satan’s armpits! But it was an extremely good merger of folk instruments and heavy, almost symphonic metal and I need to listen to more of them! My one note would be that occasional tuning issues were apparent. I’m not sure how they tuned, but it could have done with being tuned to the Hurdy, as the drone sometimes seemed a little off. But massive kudos for them to do something as epic as this, and different, but still managing to fit in so well on a day like this. I really enjoyed them, but it was a shame that the sound wasn’t great again!
Out headliners on the Snake stage were up next – Prognosis. A good dose of extreme heavy prog to close out the second stage was perfect. They were very heavy and again very technical, but a real crowd pleaser. The place was completely heaving by now, and the space on this stage was noticeably cramped. The sound was now a lot better. Yey! For anyone who likes their prog on the heavy, very technical side, these guys are definitely ones to check out, it was a great, fast paced set and a brilliant way to close out that stage.
Our final act and headliners on the night were Londoners, Divine Chaos. Three words: In another league! You could tell that these guys had been going a good while and lived for the band. They also brought with them their own sound tech, who knew exactly what he was doing and what sound the band wanted. In all honesty, he was a little too fussy, and took a bit long sorting out tech issues including the second mic, that decided it couldn’t be arsed working any more. They eventually started 30 minutes late, which I think was detrimental as the crowd thinned a little with people needing to catch last trains. But, and it is a big but, their performance was absolutely stunning!! Thrash at its very finest. It was impossible not to like them, with their great hooks, catchy riffs and superb vocals, which really got everyone moving and singing along. They were a brilliant choice as headliner and a perfect example of British Thrash at its best. Their final song was all about crowd participation, and they had the entire place singing along and waving their arms, stadium style. They brought in another level of entertainment and breathed a new lease of life into the weary crowd. This is what these events are about. Still seeing that joy on people’s faces at the end of a high-octane day. There wasn’t a single person in that room who wasn’t having a good time.
As the houselights came up and the room cleared, one thing was certain – we had all had a stunning day. Yes, there had been issues with sound, but hey, it was a great gig with some really great bands, and everyone had a fantastic time. My Absolute Highlight of the day were God Shaped Devil. A totally new name, that blew me away! I love it when this happens!!! A very close second to them were Frozen In Shadows, just for their pure power and professionalism. Hats off to John Badger for stepping up to the plate to organise it all, and to all the other people behind the scenes – the stage crew, headed up by Simon Robertshaw, our fabulous compéres, Steve Tottle and Nick Gregory, who made sure the day flowed and that everyone knew who was next; the bar staff and security staff for keeping everyone safe and stocked with beer, Michelle Adamson and Abbie Taylor et al, for manning the doors, and looking after Sian; and the sound team, who did try their best – every experience is good experience. I Cannot wait for next year! If I had one ask, it would be for a proper photo pit at the front, because I don’t want to die of being squashed in a mosh pit, unless I am in the middle of it on purpose, not by default! Thanks again for inviting us John, and a massive well done to you. We are not worthy!
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of all parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.