Review: Frankfest 2016

Departed (not to be confused with The Departed). Although a new band, Departed consist of seasoned players who know how to work a crowd, and that’s exactly what they did, delivering a set of finely crafted hard rock with confidence, energy, and showmanship. They’ve just been announced for Looe Music Festival, so they may have departed, but they’ll be back (ba-dum, tish!). A quick switch over, and the first of the day’s local bands, Cryostorm took to the stage, assaulting the senses with their particular blend of melodic death metal, with all the twists, turns, and tricks that give prog fans uncomfortable trousers. Frontman, James announced this was their first gig of the year, but we would never have known. They were as tight as Arnie’s nanna’s jam jars, and still found plenty of space to windmill, not to mention throwing in the essence of sea shanty, disco, and Todd Rundgren-esque ‘motorbike’ guitars! From the ‘so-far-west-they’ve-got-Irish-accents’ end of the country, came Loft. I first witnessed their heavy groove at last year’s Metal 2 The Masses South West final (which they won against some seriously stiff competition). They were just as electrifying here as they were in my rose-tinted memory of that evening. Grooves were laid, clothes were shed, and horns were raised amid the smoke and lights. Word on the street (well, the bar, actually) was that Loft are truly a band to watch. If they can break out of the South West, the world is surely theirs for the taking. Anyone who was expecting to hear the groove metal of Mad Hatter 2.0 next were in for a bit of a shock! Drafted in last minute were Kinasis, who, by their own description, are ‘musical explorers’. To the uninitiated or the unwary, Kinasis were a hard band to tie down, defying definition or pigeonholing, but frontman Tom’s sheer intensity, and the musical brilliance on display simply captivated. Even now, in the cold light of day, I can’t really explain what I witnessed, except that it was intense, extreme, and utterly enthralling. After that, anything would have seemed like light relief, but what we got was a real sorbet to clear the palate, in the guise of the stadium-filling punk/pop/rock anthems of Glasstide. These Exeter-based guys were far and away the most energetic band of the day. Oozing 80’s abandon, but never letting it descend into pastiche, each member covered every square inch of the stage (and beyond) during the course of their set. Jumping, twirling, and generally flailing about, but never missing a beat, Glasstide put on a confident, enthusiastic show that really energized the crowd. The name Oakhaart, to me, conjured up images of Viking metal, and my preconceptions were reinforced when they took to the stage, and stood, line abreast, with their backs to the crowd, while a backing track of an ensuing maelstrom blasted around the arena… and then they turned around and began playing! What I heard was a melting pot of just about every subgenre of metal there is! I’m not even going to try and deconstruct what I heard and where, but I will say there were chugs, growls, screams, wails, time changes, and solos. Stick your hand in Oakhaart’s lucky bag, give it a stir, and see what you pull out. You may like it. The crowd here certainly did. From the ‘WTF’ to the utterly dependable… or was it? There was a time, a couple of years ago, when Bull-Riff Stampede seemed omni-present. They were everywhere. They seemed to be support on every tour that came to town. They were on every festival billing. They were on everyone’s lips… then silence… so it was like waiting to meet an old friend you haven’t seen for a while when BRS took to the stage, but what was this? Dave wasn’t sporting his day-glo V (but did have chin pubes!), and Jay didn’t have is obligatory Explorer, instead both brandished black Jackson V’s. And who’s that thumpin’ the tubs?… only man of the day, Frank Dennis (and occasionally Evil Scarecrow’s Monty Blitzfist!). The universal constant was the music, as attacking a fierce as ever, and bassist Rod, hammering the crap out of his strings! If final song ‘Pieces Of Hate’ is anything to go by, expect a lot more of what gained them so much attention when the new album is unleashed soon. We headed towards the climax of the day with Reign Of Fury. There can’t be many people out there in Britishmetalland who haven’t heard, or at least heard of, RoF, whether through their many and varied festival appearances, tours, or perhaps most influentially, their Headbangers Balls. Now, here’s the thing… Reign Of Fury always throw me off kilter. With the notable exception of drummer Dave, they don’t look very ‘metal’. I mean, they’ve got the artwork, they’ve got the songs, and they’ve got a frontman called Bison for chrissakes, but then the stage becomes occupied by a bunch of blokes wearing whatever they turned up in, and it throws you off. This is soon forgotten though, as heads go down and start shaking furiously when the riffs come at you thick, fast, and loud, delivered with attack and intent. Make no mistake, Reign Of Fury are a ‘proper’ metal band. No gimmicks, no labels, no specialist, PR-created subgenre… just balls-out metal, just the way I like it… and judging by the reaction tonight, just the way a lot of others like it too. With the crowd suitably entertained and lubricated, and at full strength our headliners were up to deliver their, in Dr Hell’s own words; “…Heavy Metal pantomime… really shit pantomime!” Like Reign Of Fury before them, if you haven’t seen or heard Evil Scarecrow, where the hell have you been? Hammerfest stalwarts, record-breaking sets at Bloodstock, and a series of increasingly ridiculous videos have elevated ES to legendary status in recent years. Evil Scarecrow take audience interaction to a whole new level, whether it’s waltzing to ‘The Dance Of The Cyclops’, supporting a crowdsurfing Brother Pain, joining Kraven Morrdeth in a war march (it’s NOT a conga!), or chanting and dancing in unison to ‘Robototron’ or ‘Crabulon’. Evil Scarecrow’s genius is avoiding being a comedy band, but instead having good songs with clever, often amusing lyrics. Far be it for me to contradict Dr Hell, but I’d say Heavy Metal Monty Python… clever, wry, and silly… very, very silly!   As we spilled out into the cold night air, I got into reflective mood, thinking about the day’s events. Aside from the fantastic bill Frank put together (aided and abetted by Rachael Harrison), there was something else which was notable by its absence. I can’t recall another festival, of any size, that has progressed so efficiently, and without incident. The sound was always good, the changeovers swift, and I don’t remember seeing any band struggling with the on-stage sound. It’s the little things like that that make a difference. They may not be noticed by the punters, who were probably having a smoke, or recharging their glasses at the time, but they’d sure as shit be noticed if it had gone wrong! Hat’s off/doff of the cap/tug of the forelock to all those who worked so tirelessly behind the scenes to make Frankfest the success it was. Much respect to all. I said to Frank, shortly before leaving, “So… next year then?” “Too fucking right!”, was the reply, with an exhausted, but genuine grin.   Review and Images: Rob Nankivell [FAG id=13123]      ]]>

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One comment

  1. Notice the little things eh?
    I would like to point out that the main change-overs involved the drums..
    And I am definitely not in Cambion or Codex
    The whole event was run brilliantly no doubt but Frank’s team involved more than the members from two bands.
    Good review nonetheless but if you’re going to mention band member’s involvement then mention them all (inc Si from Anal Bead)

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