By Lauren Brooks
A successful and well-loved band could be described as one which, even when fraught with technical difficulties (in this instance arising from a lack of gaffer tape on the mic), still immediately enraptures the crowd. And this is exactly what happened with home-grown 80s rockers Salem when they took to the stage with an initial song cursed with such interruptions. Thankfully, however, the microphone issue was resolved before the heavy metallers really rose into their titanic element with their second track of the night, Run For Your Life. Built on a riff as mighty as a Viking hero, this song combines a rock-steady beat with some fantastically powerful vocals and one hell of a monstrous solo which was as technical as a Gordian knot as well as satisfyingly lengthy.
After continuing with Cold As Steel, Hull’s answer to Iron Maiden played The Other Side of Hell, an atmospheric and laid back track which ended with a contrasting drum solo with the intensity of a supernova. This electrified the crowd nicely to lead into Retribution. A new track from their EP, this number shows Salem to be one of those rare examples of a band who, hailing from decades gone, are still producing quality material that has all the originality, energy and general crackling pizzazz that was present in earlier days. Retribution possesses the kind of commanding drum beat that unfailingly causes one’s head to bob vigorously, and this, combined with an artfully repetitive, rhythmic riff and a mind-snatchingly catchy set of lyrics/vocals makes this a devastatingly brilliant creation.
Salem continued with the 1981 track Fool’s Gold, which had some very Led Zep elements, before treating the crowd to another new track, This Heart Is Mine. Beginning with a mournful composition of guitar notes, the drums commence and some jazz-style guitarwork is introduced, before the song becomes mellower again for the verse. The song undergoes many skilful tempo transitions, keeping the audience interested and showing that Salem can produce some soulful and engaging slower songs, as well as the livelier pieces.
Following this, the band performed The Keeper, their magnum opus of intricately woven songs which alternate between moods and ultimately provide a feast of musical ideas. You’d think that this progressive trilogy would draw up comparisons with Helloween’s Keeper of the Seven Keys, owing to the similarities in lyrical themes and musical ideas, but Salem’s trilogy came first – in 1982. The gig progressed with another 80s track, Save the Night for Me, which was more of a hard rock number. This was followed by the newHigh Stakes, a song whose lyrics paint a sinister picture of social networking sites, which for me were a point of intrigue. Musically, the song has a memorable main riff with some suitably urgent/piercing vocals.
After a song about going to hell, the band exited the stage to a lively crowd shouting for more, to which Salem heartily obliged, returning to perform the classic Reach to Eternity. With a fast-paced beat and rhythm, the song roused the crowd into a state of excitement, some members of the crowd utterly immersed in the music as they danced wildly at the front. To finish, Salem performed The Hangman’s Noose, a lively and catchy song with some extremely fast solos which provided a supreme end to the night.
Overall, the gig was thoroughly enjoyable, and I was impressed with Salem and their music, which provided an aural orgy which almost felt like being transported back in time to the glory days of NWOBHM and early power metal. Since the start of their career they have managed to encompase a variety of styles into their set, touching upon Paul Di’Anno era Maiden and Robert Plant’s brand of rock and packaging it with the scope of power metal (when the genre was just undergoing its inception) without ever sound like they are trying to copy. I am glad that Salem are starting things anew for, though I wasn’t around, if tonight was anything to go by then they should have made it big in the eighties.