I’m pretty sure most of us…ahem…. more mature metal heads would never have thought that 40 years on from the latter days of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, two of the most prominent and important bands from that movement would still be around today. We certainly couldn’t have imagined that they would still be releasing new material and putting on the kinds of performances that I was fortunate enough to witness in the grand surroundings of St David’s Hall in Cardiff tonight.
It’s a travesty that Midlands based metallers Diamond Head never reached the dizzy heights that they were so deserving of. Similarly to Welsh legends Budgie, Diamond Head owe a lot to a certain thrash band from the San Francisco Bay Area who, as we all know covered some of their back catalogue and introduced a whole new generation of metal fans to the brilliance of Diamond Head. In 2022 Diamond Head are still a force to be reckoned with. I caught their set at this year’s Steelhouse Festival, and they were amazing. I was anticipating another banging performance this evening and they certainly didn’t disappoint!
With a short forty-five-minute set, they made sure that all eras of the band’s history were covered. The setting of St David’s Hall as a venue for a metal gig is always a risky choice with its set up of seating only. This had a detrimental effect for the first few songs of DH’s set with a lukewarm crowd who seemed to be restricted in building some momentum. Frontman Rasmus Bom Andersen does a sterling job of whipping up the crowd and he has a fantastic stage presence along with an extremely powerful voice. By the time we get to the three song closers of It’s Electric, Helpless and Am I Evil? the place is absolutely bouncing with everyone up on their feet, headbanging and horn throwing like their lives depended on it. Guitarist Brian Tatler still holds an impressive figure with his Flying V being wrangled to squeeze out every tasteful solo and gigantic riff. The rest of the band are no slouches either, an extremely impressive set, my only complaint is that it could have been a bit longer.
I know I’ve probably bored you all with this before, but I really can’t emphasize enough how important Saxon are in my musical development. At the age of thirteen, football was my passion and even though I religiously watched Top of the Pops every Thursday and listened to the charts on a Sunday, I didn’t find my calling until a boy I was in school with called Tim made me a tape of the Saxon compilation Strong Arm Metal. I had never heard music like this, and I was instantly in love. Pete Gill and Nigel Glockler are up there with my biggest drum heroes, and they inspired me to pick up a pair of sticks and start my own musical journey. Thank you so much Saxon, and Tim of course!
I was lucky enough to review Saxon’s latest album Carpe Diem earlier this year for this fine online magazine, (unbelievably their 23rd studio album) and loved it straight away. Some of their strongest material has been released in the last ten years or so and they are playing better than ever. I also saw Saxon at the Steelhouse festival in the summer when they graciously stood in when a certain guitarist who used to be in Kiss cancelled his performance. Saxon were on top form and played a blinder even with some of the band suffering from Covid at the time. They really are a class act.
The room is noticeably fuller by the time the band stroll onto the darkened stage to the sound of the stirring intro of the Carpe Diem album, and with a thunderous drum intro from Mr Glockler, we are off into full force Saxon at their best. They really put newer acts to shame with their boundless energy. Tasmanian Devil lookalike Nibs Carter literally doesn’t stop all night, running around furiously headbanging and jumping around like a teenager. The supremely talented Nigel Glockler is a delight to watch, his huge drum kit being battered for all its worth, and double bass drum barrages a plenty. Superb! The ever-present duo of Paul Quinn and Biff Byford are loving every minute and Biff’s voice sounds incredible. Doug Scarratt will forever be the new boy even though he’s been in the band since 1995, his guitar style and stage presence suit the band perfectly.
The set is a combination of new tracks from Carpe Diem, some old favourites, and some tracks they don’t play too often. It was great to hear Thin Red Line and Metalhead mixed in with Dallas 1PM and Heavy Metal Thunder. When Biff asks the audience which song they would like to hear out a choice of three, he jokes that they could probably do a week’s residence in Cardiff and play a different set every night… we might just hold you to that Biff! We end up with a fantastic rendition of The Eagle Has Landed which showcases Carter’s bass playing beautifully. The equally impressive sound mix and light show really highlights the atmosphere for this tune.
They pull out all the heavy hitters for the tail end of the set, And the Bands Played On, Wheels of Steel, a rousing performance of Carpe Diem highlight The Pilgrimage along with a Strong Arm of the Law/Solid Ball of Rock medley which leads seamlessly into their ‘should have been a number one single’ 747. We all witness a lovely moment during Denim & Leather when Biff catches a battle vest that a crowd member throws at him. He wears it until the guitar solo and then signs it and throws it back to the ecstatic fan. Quality. They close with Princess of the Night and confirm yet again that Saxon really are up there with the best in the world of metal. Looking around at the audience, it was great to see how many young people were in attendance wearing Saxon, Motorhead and Maiden shirts having the time of their lives. Bands like Saxon have worked so hard to maintain their roots as a true heavy metal band in every sense of the word. They deserve all the respect and success that continues to come their way. As Biff once sang: ‘Give us the stage, turn on the lights, fire up the sound, we’ll rock the nations’. They certainly stay true to their word.
Author: Kenny Kendrick