The Rock Of Ages Festival, organised since 2007, never had a rigorous ethos other than celebrating the Metal community by putting together emerging talent with cult bands. Amongst the better known names to have graced a stage of ROA in years past were Steve Grimmett (Grim Reaper, Onslaught, Lionsheart), Blitzkrieg, Beholder, Avenger, Girlschool, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Praying Mantis, Blaze Bayley and others.
The latest edition of the festival took place at the ‘Bridgehouse 2’ in East London and featured one open-air stage in front of an area with a maximum capacity of 600 used in conjunction with another much smaller indoor stage. My curiosity aroused, I decided to investigate the last leg of this 3-day event.
Sadly, it didn’t fulfil the pomp and glory that was expected from it. All right, the weather caused untold havoc upon the organisers’ plans. To be perfectly honest, however, I do question the wisdom of holding an open-air event….in London…..in mid-November. Apparently there were also some problems of a financial nature that caused this edition of ROA to be the last. I know I might sound condescending and simplistic but all the same I feel this boils down to good (or bad) planning.
Having said all that, I’d be misleading if I sounded too negative for I really had a great time, feeling regret at not having been there for the event’s 2 other days. In a way, being at ROA was like discovering a hidden treasure chest. The community spirit that pervaded the ‘Bridgehouse 2’ gave the event a cheery vibe. Another thing I enjoyed was…well…the music really.
Before I focus on each individual band, it should be noted that I missed the last 2 attractions of the day but I still included some general information about those bands, if anything out of respect for them. Oh, and it sucked that House Of Lords opted out at short notice.
Forever Vendetta (INSIDE STAGE)
Welsh band Forever Vendetta were entrusted to kick off the final leg of the ROA Festival. Their brand of music comes across as a gritty Guns ‘N’ Roses-type of Hard Rock. Not exactly unique, therefore, but you couldn’t help but nod in approval at their catchy and relentless repertoire. Speaking of which, featured in the set-list were the enthusiastically delivered ‘Young, Free & Crazy’, ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘My Ecstasy’ – all the 3 songs making up the band’s recent EP, downloadable in its entirety for free through the band’s MySpace page.
My Rating: 71/100
Kane’d (INSIDE STAGE)
It’s another Welsh band that takes over the baton from Forever Vendetta. Kane’d have a unique concept in that the band features no less than 3 female lead vocalists – Stephanie Kane, Stacey Kane and Chez Kane. My first thought was that this is just an attention-grabbing gimmick but when the band started playing, I had to admit that the tri-vocal thing does have a interesting impact on the music. Poses abounded but Kane’d gave a convincing performance which had an infectious fun to it. The band covered Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’, which pretty much encapsulated what their music was all about.
Even the heavens seemed pleased with the performance of Kane’d – as the band played on, the bashful sun slowly emerged from its uncalled-for slumber…..
My Rating: 77/100
SKM (INSIDE STAGE)
Winners of the prize for the most bizarrely-monikered band (if such an award would exist), Some Kinda Mushroom (SKM) gave ROA a 1970s Rock flavour. Throughout their show I found myself making comparisons to Triumph – great musicians, great songs, a Classic Rock/AOR sound, a power-trio…..all salient elements of the legendary Canadian 3-piece which these young Brits seemed to mirror. On vocals and bass was a Michael Schumacher-lookalike who goes by the name of Dom CB and who proved to have an excellent voice. Nothing groundbreaking, but a professional and engaging delivery nonetheless.
Meanwhile, in view of the subduing rain, the decision was taken to make use of the outdoor stage. Amps, mikes and other equipment were hastily re-loaded on stage…..
My Rating: 75/100
Crimson Tears (OUTSIDE STAGE)
Being one of the bands I was most looking forward to, Crimson Tears were a surprising disappointment. Granted, it was freezing in the Bridgehouse’s open area and this must have hampered the musicians’ dexterity but the performance of Crimson Tears was just as cold. For a start the tightness left to be desired but worst of all was the performance of new vocalist Liz Smith whose voice kept breaking off.
It was a big pity because you could sense that the set-list had great songs dying to burst forth but which remained relatively subdued. For the record, the set-list featured, amongst other numbers, ‘Steal My Heart’, ‘Strange’ and ‘Eternity’, the latter concluding their show. Extra points go for originality, style and presentation.
My Rating: 56/100
Ghost In Mirrors (INSIDE STAGE)
Ghost In Mirrors were the least ‘Metal’ bands within today’s bill. They were also one of the most exciting. The style of Ghost In Mirrors might be described as the illegitimate offspring from Björk’s liason with Porcupine Tree (go on…picturing that…).
On vocals and occasional effects was French-born France Amann who seemed to have formed an almost ethereal bond with the band’s songs, such was the passion of her delivery. Besides, she’s gifted with an amazing voice. For most of the show, the rest of the band tended to serve as a backdrop to France’s vocals and it would have been great to hear more inventiveness from them. Having said that, the last 2 songs featured some unusual but pretty tasteful fretwork.
The set-list of Ghost In Mirrors included: ‘Ryder’s Dismount’, ‘Deadbird’, ‘Wish’, ‘Sterilised’ and ‘Again’.
My Rating: 85/100
Damnation Angels (OUTSIDE STAGE)
One of the most complete shows of the day was courtesy of Damnation Angels – great songs, excellent musicianship, a professional attitude…..what more could one want? A larger audience, that’s what!
Think of Kamelot meets Savatage meets (modern) Helloween and you’ll get good idea of Damnation Angels’s style. The lungs of vocalist Lewis Starfire sounded robust enough despite the circumstances and in general the performance hinted at a band with the potential to make waves that traverse international boundaries. Until that happens “Shadow Symphony” (the title says it all) - the band’s self-released EP - should appease aficionados of the genre.
My Rating: 90/100
Acel Dama (INSIDE STAGE)
Acel Dama had already started playing by the time Damnation Angels ended their last number. The band has a modern Heavy Metal sound and for the past year has been working hard to raise their profile through extensive gigging and the recording (and subsequent self-release) of their debut album.
While listening intently to their performance tonight, I felt their songs cried out for more guitar solos. Acel Dama’s style seemed to ‘pinch’ elements from a variety of Metal genres but despite this, their compositions still lacked a sense of identity.
Several numbers from “Seduce, Deceive & Lead Astray” – the title of their aforementioned recording – were fed to a hungry audience. Amongst them were ‘Do It Again’ and ‘Things Will Change’.
Slovenian readers, take note of this band as in 2010 Acel Dama are scheduled to perform at the Metalcamp Festival, probably this East European country’s biggest Metal event.
My Rating: 61/100
Triaxis (INSIDE STAGE)
After Acel Dama, it’s up to yet another band from Wales to deliver their wares. I heard a few remarkable guitar solos from Glyn who only recently joined the band. However it was Krissie, the band’s lead vocalist, who impressed me most – her voice possessed a fine balance between power and melody. A cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘Wasted Years’ hinted at the band’s allegiances but I felt their own songs were good enough to stand their ground. These included ‘Gates of Damnation’, ‘Autumn Hourglass’, ‘Aurora’ and ‘Lies’. On the downside, their riffs tended to sound a tad bland.
It doesn’t appear that Triaxis are currently affiliated to any record label but I certainly felt they’ve got something interesting going.
My Rating: 80/100
Roxville (OUTSIDE STAGE)
Hard-hitting Glam Rock without the collateral makeup is how Roxville might be described. The only band from London within tonight’s event, Roxville has been together for barely a year….as their stage attitude sometimes showed. On the whole Roxville offered some pretty decent tunes but before their performance was over, the warmth around the inside stage and the music of Triaxis ended up being more convincing propositions and I went inside before Roxville’s show had ended.
My Rating: 68/100
Blind Ambition (OUTSIDE STAGE)
Blind Ambition seemed to be influenced by the titans of British Heavy Metal such Iron Maiden and Saxon enmeshed with more abrasive influenceds such as Suicidal Tendencies and Korn.
The band members did their best to put on a great show but were inevitably outdone by the biting cold and fast dwindling attendance. Interesting band but I’ll look forward to see them again under more helpful conditions.
My Rating: 72/100
Marya Roxx (INSIDE STAGE)
At first glance the band known as Marya Roxx looked like an odd bunch. Such preconceptions, however, proved to be embarrassingly misguided the very moment the band’s show kicked off. Marya Roxx is named after their diminutive but imposing Estonian vocalist. She had started off her international career at a cheesy European festival but quickly moved into heavier waters and in the process of doing so relocated to the U.S.A..
Despite her singing not being overtly technical, I just liked her style. Completing the line-up at tonight’s gig were guitarist Paul Crook (Meatloaf, ex-Sebastian Bach, ex-Anthrax), bass player Scott Metaxas and an in-form Jim Roe on drums. Together they specialise in an anthemic but harsh vein of Hard Rock.
At ROA, Marya Roxx delivered ‘Rebel’ (which reminded me of the late Wendy O. Williams), ‘Loverboy’ and ’21?!’, the latter recently chosen to be the subject of a video-clip. This was the first time I ever heard the band but straight away they’ve got me interested.
My Rating: 80/100
Kobra & The Lotus (INSIDE STAGE)
Another band totally new to me, another strange moniker, another female-fronted band. That’s where similarities stop, however. (Oh yeah, and there’s an odd musical similarity to David Chastain.) Vocalist Brittany Paige possesses one of the most strikingly high-pitched voices I’ve heard from a Metal singer. Some might find it irritating, and I half understand that. Personally I was quite impressed by what she and the whole band had to offer.
From their opening number, ‘Teaspoon’ through songs such as ‘Ride Like Sugar’ (hmmm….the lyrical content seems low on metaphysical analysis) and the Motörhead classic ‘Ace Of Spades’, the band had the audience shouting for more.
Unfortunately, as the show of Kobra & The Lotus neared its end, I had to leave the festival and consequentially missed the last 2 bands…..
My Rating: 82/100
Dear Superstar (INSIDE STAGE)
Judging from their recordings, Dear Superstar sound like a cross between Papa Roach, Nickleback and Bullet For My Valetine. Unsuprisingly, their album was produced by Romesh Dodangoda (Funeral For A Friend, Bullet For My Valentine and others). The band must have provided an element of variety to the festival for the few punters still left at the Bridgehouse.
If the above comparisons mean anything for you, you’ll probably devour this band’s music.
My Rating: N/A
Imperia (INSIDE STAGE)
The band most of all I had wanted to see (apart from House Of Lords) but sadly it was not to be. For those unfamiliar with the band, this could be an opportunity to fill you in - Imperia are a Gothic Metal band from Holland fronted by Helena Iren Michaelson who has an operatic style of singing but can also touch those notes usually considered too low for a female. The rest of the band is no less talented (as judging from their recordings of course).
Imperia songs to check out: ‘Entering The Perspect’ and ‘Angelchild’ (both from “The Ancient Dance of Qetesh” album) and ‘Lotus Eaters’ (from the Dead Can Dance tribute “Lotus Eaters”).
My Rating: N/A
Footnotes: I would like to thank event compare Jim for being approachable and helpful – check out his radio show and podcasts on www.therockshow.co.uk . Horns up to Steve Negle, organiser of ROA, for leaving a legacy of headbangingly great memories.
Festival website: www.myspace.com/rockofagesfest