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Preview: Brofest NWOBHM festival at Northumbria University Students’ Union

IN 1980 a new musical phenomenon burst on to the scene.

IN 1980 a new musical phenomenon burst on to the scene. It was called the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) and it spawned bands such as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon and the North East’s own Tygers Of Pan Tang, from Whitley Bay, for whom I was the vocalist.

The movement only lasted a few short years but for a while it was the height of cool. It went on to influence some major worldwide acts, including Metallica.

Many of the foot soldiers of this movement were from Newcastle and outlining towns.

All were signed by Neat Records, from Wallsend, which released some 200 singles and albums through the 1980s by Geordie metal acts like Venom, Raven, White Spirit (featuring, on guitar, Janick Gers who found fame later in Iron Maiden, where he remains to this day), Blitzkrieg, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Fist and Tyson Dog, to name a few.

If you live in the UK you might assume this movement ended and these bands did not exist any more. But I still work with many of them and, strangely, there has been a recent big resurgence of interest in the movement.

Outside the UK the passion for these bands has never faded. I have taken many of them to Europe, America and Japan where they have played in front of thousands of enthusiastic fans.

Having seen the bands plying their trade on foreign fields for so many years, it is with great pride that this weekend I see them coming home to front a new festival in Newcastle which hopefully will go on to become an annual event.

Brofest features several bands representing the wealth of NWOBHM heritage in the North East – Tyson Dog, Avenger and Sparton Warrior.

Other regions of the UK cannot be ignored as this was, after all, a British movement. So, taking a break from headlining metal festivals across Europe, will be Salem, from Hull, playing heavy rock based on thundering rhythms, soaring twin-guitars and powerful melodies, and Darlington’s Holosade, blending breakneck riffs reminiscent of Megadeth and Anthrax with more melodic passages.

The festival will feature the first stage appearance in nearly 30 years by local heroes Badge and sets by cult Midlands legends Bashful Alley and Scarab.

Headlining will be Edinburgh’s Holocaust, an influential band among the rock fraternity. A cover of their song The Small Hours featured on an edition of The Sopranos and on Metallica’s platinum-selling Garage Inc. album.

The band has also been covered by German Metalists Gamma Ray who recorded the band’s signature tune, Heavy Metal Mania.

Holocaust boast their own lengthy catalogue, having released 10 albums between 1980 and 2003 when they called it a day. Reformed recently for festivals in Greece, Spain and Germany, the Scottish rockers will play in Newcastle (and England) for the first time this weekend.

Young talent is not forgotten. Opening the show on Friday will be London’s Black Sabbath-inspired Amulet, making the pilgrimage to the North East with their fellow Cockneys from Deep Machine.

The festival, boasting 12 bands over the weekend, plus a record fair with specialist stalls, is being held at Northumbria University Students’ Union, Sandyford Road.

Already the line-up has generated enthusiasm among fans worldwide. Most tickets sold so far have gone overseas, meaning hundreds of devoted fans will be flying in from Europe and even from Japan, Australia and the United States.

Four film crews will also be capturing the action for a German TV documentary about the resurgence of the NWOBHM movement and a spectacular period for the North East music scene. A DVD release is planned for next year.

Find details at www.brofest.co.uk


David Whetstone
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Mark Douglas
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