The Roadmender, Northampton
Opening an evening of metal at the Roadmender are Broken Empire. Bringing a groove-laden sound and delivering it with punk aggression this four-piece from Oxfordshire/Northants are a bundle of finely-honed energy. Displaying little in the way of nerves they deliver original tunes like ‘Parasite’ which are both heavy and emotive. Lyrically astute, their first single ‘No More Lies’ follows and is peppered with neat time changes that remind me of ’90s era Metallica. A twin-guitar attack creates a huge sound as set closer [and forthcoming single] ‘Time Running Out’ is a real earworm, and brings things to a suitably climatic crescendo.
Hitting the stage like a gang of whirling dervishes Parallax haven’t come to take prisoners and by second track, ‘End’, their enthusiasm has infected the whole venue. Some powerhouse drumming creates an earth-shaking sound that’s underpinned by some fine finger-tapping on the bass, while the vocals mirror the rhythm and alternate between hardcore growls and something almost soulful. The guitars fire in unison to create an artillery barrage as ‘Losing Control’ and ‘Hero’ are unleashed in quick succession. It’s great to see a band enjoying themselves, but the in between song banter could be toned down so their stage presence matches the ferocity of their sound.
Local band Still Remains appear as a blur of Flying V’s and throwing shapes. It’s no surprise the band cite Metallica, Saxon and Thin Lizzy as influences because their sound perfectly captures that moment in time when the NWOBHM was morphing into speed metal. Originally formed in 1993 as a reaction to grunge their unique take on trad metal has been immovable and seen off various fads and trends. With no pomposity Still Remains are simply four guys on stage, having a ball and living out their fantasies as guitarist Andy Green delivers blistering solo after blistering solo and his vocals have that earthy touch of Paul Di’anno. The whole band lock in well together as the set ebbs and flows smoothly with the songs paired by tempo. ‘What I Am’ broods with a moody riff, while the ferocious set closer, ‘Redeemer’, ensures they leave as they arrived: in a blaze of sonic fury.
Tonight’s headliners Stormbringer have a sound that’s built for the biggest stages, and they’ve taken the right route by paying their dues in clubs and bars. While the Roadmender has become their spiritual home you have the feeling they will soon outgrow the venue. Since I last saw Stormbringer they have shuffled personnel with Darren Caven-Quantrill coming in on guitar and original vocalist Mike Stockley returning after a hiatus. Fans shouldn’t worry as it’s the same Stormbringer, only more groove-orientated and with a more expansive sound. Appropriately they open with their very first single ‘Grinder’, and it’s like Mike has never been away. Slotting right back in the band he immediately commandeers centre stage, constantly punching the air and standing astride the barriers. He’s one of those rare frontmen who can make the whole venue feel involved and, despite the line up changes, the band hit the ground running, like a well-oiled machine they’re firing on all cylinders as ‘Bleed For’ and ‘Save Me’ are discharged in quick succession. It’s a career spanning set which pulls tracks from their three albums while the new song debuted, the moody ‘Mirage’, stomps like a giant and has that huge feeling that Metallica captured on their Black Album. ‘Stick to Your Guns’ follows along with ‘Bad Blood’ as drummer John Paul Quantrill provides a thunderous soundtrack to which bassist Darren McCullagh prowls like a caged animal. Two from their debut album MMVIII follow in the shape of ‘Mark Anthony’ and ‘Gazing at the Grave’, both of which provide plenty of foot-on-the-monitor, fist-in-the-air metal action before guitarist Dom Wallace lays an explosive solo over the anthemic ‘Smother’. Still driven by an insatiable hunger the band look visibly exhausted as they near the sets conclusion; yet they drain the tank to deliver an explosive closer in the shape of ‘Dying Breed’.
Photos by David Jackson