at BroFest, Northumbria University, Newcastle, U.K., February 19, 2016

TYTAN (Live at BroFest, Northumbria University, Newcastle, U.K., February 19, 2016)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Over the years the music press has come up with some snappy labels for music styles with Punk, Grunge and Goth all perfectly encapsulating the music form in a short statement that conjures up an image of the music as soon as you see the word. Quite who came up with NWOBHM as an acronym to describe the early ’80s resurgent British Heavy Metal movement must be laid at the feet of Sounds magazine. Surely though, they could have come up with something that didn’t make you sound like you’re juggling with a mouth full of Mars bars when trying to say it?

As a music form, NWOBHM (The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, to give it its full name) took the 70s Heavy Rock of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and mixed it with the Punk ethos of the Sex Pistols and The Damned to create an altogether more streamlined approach that was faster, harder and more aggressive than its predecessors. From this movement came Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard with the North East and Neat Records in particular leading the way with Venom, Raven, Tygers of Pan Tang and Blitzkrieg to name but a few. Most bands fell by the wayside and fell into obscurity as the music gradually evolved into different directions including Thrash by the mid ’80s.

Despite being over 35 years ago, NWOBHM still has a rabidly loyal following and when BroFest was started four years ago by three Geordie fans to bring the bands they loved to the North East no one could have predicted that fans would fly in from South America, Greece and the Mediterranean to see bands who hadn’t performed live in over three decades.

Stepping into Northumbria University on Friday night was like stepping back into a time capsule marked 1980. The collection of cut off denim jackets encrusted in patches over leather biker jackets and more hair than a wig maker’s convention this was very much as it was in the heady days of the early ’80s.

Cumbria’s Hammerhead opened the show and knew how to ingratiate themselves with the crowd early on when lead singer Steven Woods walked along the photo pit with a tray of whiskey. From then on they could do no wrong with their hard hitting but melodic brand of Metal featuring Crying As I Fall, Will To Survive and the anti-war epic Angels Fall, cut from the same cloth as Sabbath’s War Pigs.

With the crowd suitably warmed up, local heroes Blitzkrieg returned to the BroFest stage following their hugely successful headlining show last year. Lead singer Brian Ross, looking uncannily like Alice Cooper meets Joey Ramone, making the first of his appearances over the weekend to be followed by a headlining slot with his other band Satan making their first home town appearance in 35 years on Saturday night.

Blitzkrieg’s twin guitar Metal assault was what this genre is all about. Razor sharp riffs, thunderous drumming and big, imposing vocals and with titles like Armageddon, Hell To Pay and Pull The Trigger you just know that these aren’t tender little love ballads. Pinning his influences very much to his leather jacket with Call For The Priest, Ross paid tribute to his beloved Judas Priest by name checking well over 40 of their songs throughout the lyrics.

In a festival first Ross brought his son, Gillan on stage alongside his guitarist son, Al for a lively romp through Blitzkrieg, famously covered by Metallica on the B-Side of their Creeping Death single, before closing the show with the ferocious riff-fest of Buried Alive.

Talk about bad luck. With two former members of NWOBHM legends Angel Witch in their ranks and a hot shot vocalist spoken in the same breath as the great Ronnie James Dio and with a buzz building around a newly album recorded waiting for release what could possibly go wrong? Fame and fortune surely beckoned. Then fate stuck its grubby hand in when en route to the airport for an expansive US Tour of megadomes opening for Journey, Tytan were called into their record label’s office only to find the label bankrupt and the liquidator demanding the return of the plane tickets. No tour and the album release shelved. the band collapsed in disillusionment.

Although bootlegs of the album Rough Justice changed hands for eye watering sums between collectors and several unofficial releases followed, it wasn’t until 2012 that bassist Kevin Riddles put the band back together following increasing demand. With vocalist Kal Swan retiring from the music business in favour of life as an art director with Apple in The States, Riddles needed someone special. Into his enormous shoes stepped Tom Barna and what a find he’s proved to be, more than matching the power and range of his predecessor.

With a set featuring the bulk of Rough Justice Tytan kicked off with a storming Cold Bitch before the tight, sharp riffing of Money For Love brought a finely honed commercial, melodic edge to the show.

The charismatic Riddles may have taken a backward roll early in the set, but his trip did little to slow the pace or energy of a hugely impressive set with Far Cry and Rude Awakening stamping home in a majestic fashion. Before the show, Riddles promised a few new songs and The Cradle and Reap The Whirlwind, did not disappoint featuring hard edged riffs and soaring melodies that slipped seamlessly amongst their old classics.

Saving the big hitters until last meant that The Watcher and the riff heavy, stomp of Blind Men and Fools finished the show on a huge high. Tytan came and delivered big time and one can only speculate at what might have been if their label hadn’t crashed but three decades on they can look forward to finally reaping the rewards that their potential so richly deserved.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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