Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, elderly and great old ones (for you Lovecraft fans); we have reached the final part of DnL’s Sunkfest trilogy. You could even consider this to be my Return of the King/ Matrix Revolutions / Back to the Future III – but please don’t as those are terrible films. Featured in this instalment we have four of the most explosive bands of the festival – Reign of Fury, Knockout Kaine, Eye for an Eye and Valvekasta. Towards the end of proceedings there was also a special guest appearance made by the rain, which was about as pleasant as a fart in a wind tunnel.
Also forgive me if I am somewhat hazy on the details, at this point in the evening (it was around nine or ten) I was embroiled in an epic battle of the wills with my liver; so my notes were largely monosyllabic and the hand writing was so poor that it virtually resembled phallic imagery etched onto the walls of a cave by an ancient doodler.
Hot on the tails of the melancholic doom metallers Battalions, were Reign of Fury – a metal band with thrash and punk influences. Hailing all the way from the unfortunate sounding Tewkesbury, ROF brought a powerhouse of a set, with a hybrid of old-skool/modern elements. Taking a approach not to dissimilar to the eugenics movement and judging by appearances I assumed that they would by either a metalcore or hardcore act, but I was blown away their instrumental intro track which clearly had consumed the required five a day Megadeth instrumental songs during its creation. It was at this moment that I understood why I was informed that they are ‘The Apoidea’s articulatio genus’ by a member of the modest sized yet dedicated group (Roffers apparently) that gathered to mosh the night away.
RoF were an interesting and versatile band with vocalist Bison employing savage traditional thrash vocals, with additional hardcore and lighter melodic vocals. Disconnect was my favourite song of the set, a hard hitting, break neck speed track reminiscent of modern slayer, especially in terms of vocals. The song contained several great technical solos from Jon and Ed which walked the line between shredding and soul. I really enjoyed Bison’s powerful shouting vocals, especially the last line of the chorus “I will, no more, be like you” in which the vocals harmonised perfectly with every chord and drumbeat. The next song was warmly received by the Roffers as soon as Bison announced it – “this next one is called Heaven Waits (dramatic pause) Hell Takes”. HWHT starts off brilliantly with an almost NWOBHM intro, though it is a fairly heavy song – featuring an utterly brutal breakdown with growls by Bison and some military style drum beats courtesy of Dave. It contrasts perfectly with the rest of the song and one cannot help but find oneself nodding and strumming along. ROF’s penultimate song was the title track from their EP Psycho Intentions. I found it to be a progressive song with a clear variety of influences, from an overlaying presence of Metallica to bands such as Dokken, and I absolutely enjoyed the chorus finding myself singing along even though I had never previously heard the song. The slow melodic solo reminded very much of Gary Moore and it added a lot of maturity to the track. The Hound finished up the set, featuring mostly clean vocals, a catchy main riff and some very, very fast legato solos.
I enjoyed ROF’s set far more than I originally envisioned. They know their music and clearly have a 120GB iPod’s worth of influences. My only concern is that one day they will write a solo so intense it will result in something similar to the Raiders of the Lost Ark face melting scene.
Glamrock band Knockout Kaine were next to follow, and judging by their set I can only assume it is a sexual euphemism. After an unusual pre-recorded intro featuring soundbites about Hollywood (possibly from the song ‘There’s No Business like Show Business’, but I couldn’t say for certain.) They then opened with a cover of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, and I confident Brian May himself would be proud to witness this version. KK managed to capture the spirit of the original whilst injecting new life into the mostly a cappella song. Just the simple drum beat and main guitar riff was enough to make the song feel more substantial; add to this vocalist Dean’s Paul Stanley (KISS) style vocals and a few hair metal licks, and you have a solid opener for a set which drew in the crowd’s attention and immediate destroyed any cynicism of those suspicious of modern day Glamrock bands. The band had the same level of crowd interaction as most established bands, which helped to make their set feel more involving (especially during a certain song that came later). Set the Night on Fire began with a foot stomping intro courtesy of a snappy bass riff from Lee, before Jimmy spiced proceedings up with a bit of whammy bar action. Set the Night, featured a chorus sung in such a fashion that you’ll think you’ve heard it before when watching a best of the eighties compilation – that isn’t an insult but a compliment to their old skool sound.
My favourite song of the set though was One Night in Paris, and yes that does refer to that infamous single night spent inside ofa certain less noteworthy Paris. It is KK’s absolute masterpiece. The song opened with a slow almost aggressive – ballad like riff (which it maintains mostly throughout), and the song was introduced with “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury tonight.” The crowd, including myself, was absolutely hung on Dean’s every entertaining lyric as he told in a narrative style (including helpfully bodily gestures) the somewhat relatable tale of buying Miss Hilton’s sex tape and a box of mansized tissues. Those in attendance in stitches, and wasn’t hard to see why; with the eloquence with which Dean told the story it was like Jeremy Irons doing a script reading of ‘Confessions of a Taxi Driver’. The brilliance of Dean’s poetic imagery and metaphors rivalled my own capabilities. Their anthemic closing song, Somebody Save Me features a few Guns N Roses sounding guitar riffs and a lengthy bout of audience participation in the mid-section.
It should come as no surprise that KK were voted KERRANG’s Best Unsigned Live Act in 2008, but I don’t know what is more amazing – the fact that the staff at KERRANG actually have taste or that we were given drummer Danny Krash’s severely wounded drumsticks. The members of Knockout Kaine state that they “stand for decadence, rebellion and having a damn good time!” and I can think of no band that is better equipped to make such a claim. Basically attending a gig with KK on the bill is like being at one of Bacchus’ wild and mystical Bacchanalias with a best of Hair Metal and Hard Rock CD stuck on repeat.
Before it was penultimate band Eye for an Eye’s time the raffle had to be drawn. (I probably should have pointed this out before – raffle tickets had been on sale all day with the money going to charity.) The premise of a raffle is simple enough; it is usually the execution that proves to be tricky, as was the case here. For every four tickets that Chunk pulled out of the bucket only one person came to claim their prize (the very notion of not collecting a prize has always baffled me.) It ended up looking like every episode of Lost, with Chunk calling out random numbers, followed by suspense and then cruel disappointment. Pavlovian reinforcement I think not.
At this point things became hazy as we all know fatigue x alcohol + decreasing motor skills = bad journalist. So taking notes became out of the question, therefore I don’t have many on EFAE. After all the prizes were handed out it was finally Eye for an Eye’s turn. They were slightly unhappy about the delay caused by the raffle and since they had come all the way up from Swindon (222 miles according to man’s best friend – Google) it was understandable that why were anxious to get on stage, proceedings were already over running by a few hours.
Eye for an Eye were certainly an interesting band, combining Hard Rock, Southern Rock and Groove into a lusus naturae sound. I would even argue that they are Southern Rock’s answer for Black Label Society. And the fact that they are built like a biker’s brick shithouse was an awe-inspiring sight for a homunculus such as I. They opened with Apocalypse Angel which was perfectly representative of their down tuned raw rock style, powered by simple guitar riffs which feature pretty much the same chord progression throughout. Interestingly the whole band partook in vocal duties, though both Toms (Norris and Bull, guitars) shared lead vocals, singing in a rough around the edges style that’s at home with the grungier elements.
Déjà vu is a far more dynamic song, starting with an FX heavy guitar riff (which eventually loses the FX) and a nice stoner rock underlay of bass from Chris. The vocals on this song were more emotive, with Tom Norris singing sounding a hell of a lot like Pantera’s Phil Anselmo. I felt the slower vocals during the verse, with little background music other than the bass, and the omni-present hitting of the high hat cymbal (by drummer Rich who my photographer could barely see due to the plethora of tunnel vision causing PA speakers and cabs). This made the intensity of the chorus sound all the more intense especially with Tom Norris’ shouting vocals. My only real problem is the lack of variation in guitar riffs as they use the same riff for the intro, chorus and outro, which is a shame because I really enjoyed the soloage on this song. I enjoyed what I remember of the set, and I would like to see EFAE again, especially since they have now become a three piece ever since Tom Bull quit the band. It would be interesting to see how their style has altered.
By the time the final band of the festival, Valvekasta, had taken to the stage, I and presumably everyone else in attendance was more wrecked than a ship owned by Robinson Crusoe. So it was fitting that a band such as Valvekasta (who started out as a hard rock covers band) would be tasked with ending ceremonies for the hundred or so drunken revellers. They opened with the intro to Zepplin’s Immigrant Song, before breaking into Thin Lizzie’s The Boys Are Back in Town. Initially I felt that whilst they had managed to encompass the perfect party atmosphere they were hardly the most epic of endings Sunkfest could have had, especially after following an act such as Eye for an Eye. Well clearly those in Valvekasta have been gifted Telepathy, as they immediately followed up with Metallica’s Enter Sandman, as though to say “you can take your prematurely formed opinions and stick them where the sun never shines – i.e. the Arctic in winter.” On an instrumental level the guys managed to capture Metallica perfectly, with Enter Sandman affording drummer Fraser the opportunity to play some ‘more substantial’ drumbeats. Vocalist Gary added his own hard rock twist to the vocals – avoiding trying to capture the angry near yells extruding from James Hetfield’s vocal tract, though Gary struggled to match the tempo of the song. It was air guitar and head banging galore as a large crowd of the most elite denim and leather clad audience members had now dominated the space between the seats and stage.
It was clear that everyone involved was having a good time, not just the crowd. Valvekasta are clearly four fantastic guys who enjoy playing the music they love. Such was evident by their stage presence – especially bassist Matt who bounced around and engaged in pulling amusing faces. They followed their Metallica cover with an original – My Shift, a very AC/DC sounding song with lyrics that are very much a product of Generation Y coupled with the spirit of hard rock’s alumni, which is good because the current generation is a dire need of its own iconic anthem (all I’m saying is RoadRunner Records pay attention would you?).
Vocalist Gary displayed potential for some incredible ‘swagger’ throughout, and it is obvious that within time he will become quite the showman. Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark was the next song of this ambitious set. Again – nail head hit comes to mind. Herculean guitarist Ian handled simple yet atmospheric ‘da-da-da-da-da-da-da’ intro with ease, there was even the obligatory arms in the air and humming along from the crowd. Like with Enter Sandman, the greatest aspect of the cover was Gary’s vocals which were more in line with the Blaze Bayley than Bruce Dickinson’s. I had to leave early for my chariot awaited me, but I managed to witness one final song – a cover of AC/DC’s TNT. Let’s just say had I worn socks than they would have been blown clean off – everything was perfect about this cover from the gang chant at the beginning between the crowd and band to the anarchic outro lick. For me Valvekasta made the perfect ending, with a set of (mostly) covers carefully selected from the golden era of rock and metal, songs that just about anyone could bounce around and sing along too. They aren’t just your typical cover band either; they are a tightly performing unit which doesn’t seek to impersonate the bands they cover but rather Valvekasta presents the songs in such a way you’d be forgiven for thinking they had written them.
All in all Sunkfest 2011 was a fantastic experience – perfectly marrying the experience of you and friends grabbing a six pack and lounging around in your back garden with the ball tingling awesomeness that is the metal festival. And it is for that reason why Sunkfest works so well, you get a microcosm of the festival experience minus the bullshit that invariably comes part and parcel with such an event; which is a lot like getting a kebab that is actually made out of edible meat.