at Newcastle University, Newcastle, U.K., February 28 & 29, 2020

SARACEN (Live at BROFEST 2020 at Newcastle University, Newcastle, U.K., February 28 & 29, 2020)
Photo: Mick Burgess

After a short break away, Brofest made a very welcome return to Newcastle on this rather chilly Leap Year weekend bringing an intriguing mix of NWOBHM veterans and the current crop influenced by those classic riffs of yesteryear.

With some bands reforming especially for this very event and others making their first appearance in the UK, fans flocked from as far afield as South America, Greece, the United States and mainland Europe to be part of this unique NWOBHM event.

The previous evening a panel of NWOBHM notables including Abbadon from Venom, Ged Wolf, drummer with Atomkraft and Tygers of Pan Tangs Robb Weir regaled a capacity audience with tales from those heady days of the early ’80s and Neat Records as part of the launch event of Heavier! Louder! Faster! a 6-part podcast narrated by Metro Radio’s Alan Robson telling the story of Heavy Metal on Tyneside, serving as a fine primer for this weekend’s events.

Texan Thrashers Haunt, made quite an impression with their dual guitars, razor sharp riffs with rampaging double bass drums that were so ferocious during Mind Freeze, they literally burst the drum wide open meaning an improvised guitar solo and a few cans of beer handed to the crowd passed the time until they returned for a face melting ‘Hearts On Fire’.

Taking the stage for their first ever UK show all the way from Canada, Traveler wasted no time in making their mark with ‘Timeless Maze’ and some lethal precision riffing. Going right back to their first demo, ‘Behind The Iron’ and ‘Termination Shock’ from their forthcoming album saw Traveler covering a lot of ground for their short but very punchy set as ‘Speed Queen’ more than lived up to its name.

Scottish veterans Heavy Pettin’ brought in a different feel to the night for their headlining set with a sound that tipped towards vintage Def Leppard with a hint of a Mötley Crüe/Ratt party spirit. Although ‘Love Times Love’ and ‘Shout It Out’ were coated in soaring melodies and hooks they knew how to turn up the Metal too with ‘Roll The Dice’ evoking memories of Saxon’s Motorcycle Man.

Frontman Steve “Hamie” Hayman, with a tartan scarf wrapped around his microphone stand a la Steven Tyler, was certainly the consummate showman whipping the crowd into a state of delirium before finishing them off with ‘In And Out Of Love’ and ‘Throw A Party’.

Day Two started with early riser sessions from midday as Skyryder, Heavy Sentence and Medusa Touch shook off those day after the night before hangovers.

Sacred Alien are one of the reasons why BroFest is such a unique festival. Having cut a solitary 7-inch single together with a spilt single with Virgin, Sacred Alien disappeared into the cosmos leaving behind a much sought-after collectors’ item and a cult status that never died. Tonight, was a rare opportunity to catch the recently united band, featuring three original members and they did not disappoint.

Often lumped in alongside Glamsters such as Rox and Silverwing, Sacred Alien had more of a Space Rock vibe with atmospheric rear astral projections and vocalist Sean Canning decked in silver space trousers not to mention a rather nifty pair of laser gloves. ‘Spiritual Planet’ and ‘Energy’ from their only single bookended a show that featured songs from their original demo including ‘Eternal Flame (Of The Heart)’ as well ‘Beautiful Delusion’ from their upcoming debut album. Any band exiting to ‘Starship Trooper’ has to be worth checking out.

While Sacred Alien were travelling around the universe Overdrive had their feet firmly planted on planet earth with a rough and ready Biker Rock assault.

Although they have their roots in the late ’70s and with a solitary single released in 1981 along with a couple demos, Overdrive finally released Dishonest Words, the first of three full length albums in 1990.

‘Diamonds and Pearls’ from that very album with its powerful riff and heads down Rocker, ‘Transfixed’ from their upcoming album and first single ‘On The Run’ certainly left their mark.

Making their first ever appearance in the UK, Denmark’s Alien Force very nearly stole the show with some seriously muscular riffs, screaming solos and every guitar hero pose in the book from the hugely impressive Henrik Rasmussen not to mention the powerful, imposing vocals of Peter Svale Andersen. From the anthemic ‘Get It Out’ to the Scorpions riffage of ‘Stranger’, Alien Force had it covered and went down a storm. Hopefully a swift return will be in order.

Coming along at the tail end of the 80s UK Thrashers, Hydra Vein released two albums before calling it a day but they are back for one night only after their last show 32 years ago with the sibling rhythm section of Damon and Nathan Maddison joined by the triple guitar assault of Danny Ranger, Paul Bate and Stephen Davis alongside guest singer, the Game Of Thrones-like James Manley-Bird stepping in for the sadly departed Mike Keen.

‘Born Through Ignorance’ and ‘’Rather Death hammered along at a fair pace matching their Bay Area counterparts note for note while ‘The House’ saw a more mid paced heavy weight counter point to the breakneck thrash pretty much guaranteeing that this one off will end up being so much more.

Saracen are no strangers to BroFest making their debut appearance a couple of years ago so their return was for many, the highlight of the weekend.

Drawing primarily on their debut album, Heroes Saints and Fools Saracen played an absolute blinder with no fewer than 5 of the 7 tracks from that record being aired during their set with the foreboding ‘Horseman of the Apocalypse’ with Paul Bradder’s swirling keyboards adding to the menace and the majestic title track stamping some genuine class on the day.

Vocalist Steve Bettney’s vocals, so rich and melodic soared during ‘Crusader’, sounding every bit as potent as they did back in 1981 when the album was originally released.

In what was a rather nice touch, in the temporary absence of regular bassist Paul Highfield, Tom Yates came in at short notice. What makes this so special is that Tom is the son of original bass player Barry Yeats, who passed away in 1992 and no doubt his Dad would be brimming with pride at this moment as his son stepped into his shoes.

Singles ‘We Have Arrived’ and ‘Face In The Crowd’ were welcome additions to the set as the riff heavy ‘Ready To Fly’ brought Saracen’s set to a triumphant close.

Closing the festival saw Bolton’s Stormchild back on stage together for the first time in 35 years with their brand of keyboard driven Hard Rock and with all bar the bassist from their original lineup, they were clearly having an absolute blast together.

From the opening duo of ‘No Chances’ and ‘Riders On The Rain’, vintage classics finally released officially in re-recorded form on their 2018 debut album, Lightning Never Strikes Twice, they grew in confidence with some strong vocals from Ian Bridge and sterling guitar work from Geoff Harwood.

By the end of their set you’d never had guessed that it had been so long since they last performed together and very first single ‘Rockin’ Steady’, reputedly the most collectable of all NWOBHM singles, closed BroFest in the most appropriate way.

Review and Photos By Mick Burgess


  • 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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1 Comment

  1. Mick Burgess RE: Stormchild.. you may want to try researching more thoroughly .. all 5 original members were not present..the bass player was standing in …and was announced as such by the singer when introducing the other band members.

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