British Steel @ Camden Underworld, London (UK)

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PAGAN ALTAR / ELIXIR / JAGUAR / SARACEN / AGINCOURT

Date: 02nd April, 2011
Venue: Camden Underworld
Promoter: Coldtown
Tickets: £12 (€14)
Photos: Erika the camera jaguar Wallberg


It’s actually a little strange that in a country where this style of music was born some 30 years ago it is rare with these types of events. Maybe it’s bigger outside of the fashionable London area but a line up like this would absolutely draw easily the double anywhere else in the world.

First up was AGINCOURT who actually released their first album “Angels Of Mons” just a few weeks prior to the festival even though they’ve been around since the 80’s. The album is a really pleasant piece of music, melodic type of Heavy Metal in the veins of SAXON and DEF LEPPARD. When entering the stage AGINCOURT looked a little insecure and iffy but gained confidence as soon as the reaction from the crowd came. This band really kept growing throughout the entire concert. Ok, musically there was absolutely nothing to complain about, all of that was really good from the start. But knowing what to expect from at least the last three bands on the bill AGINCOURT has more to learn. Even if they are from the 80’s it wasn’t all typical NWOBHM over AGINCOURT, they have a lot of Heavy Metal in their music as well. It didn’t feel studied old school like many bands today, just straight from the heart and that really is a relief. The same goes for their live performance, true and just like they are. Still I think they could be a little more in your face to stand out a little. The song “Agincourt” opened the show, the one that really got stuck from the album. Of course, it’s great to have a very strong song as the opener but in my opinion it would have been better to hold on to that a while and close the set with it. A petty thing to mark because AGINCOURT did good and afterwards it even struck my mind that the others on the bill would get a tough time matching this one.

AGINCOURT setlist:

01. “Agincourt”
02. “Captured King”
03. “Breakdown”
04. “Edge Of Paradise”
05. “Going Insane”
06. “Fool No More”
07. “Come With Me”
08. “Queen Of The Night”

AGINCOURT

Agincourt @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Agincourt @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Agincourt @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Agincourt @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Agincourt @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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Second band up was SARACEN. This was something I really was looking forward to seeing since the production of the old albums had a little too light production for my taste. And I must say I wasn’t fully convinced the first few seconds of the show. Vocalist Steve Bettney jumped on the stage screaming like crazy in the beginning of “Crusader” and for a few seconds I thought, “what the hell is this”. Then everything fell into place and the confusion turned into a wow. The whole crowd was absolutely stunned right after these first few seconds of SARACEN’s performance. This man still has an amazing voice, just as crisp and clear as it was back in the days. Everything he did looked so effortless and believe me, this is no bullshit vocal lines. A lot is in a really high pitch. SARACEN’s debut album “Heroes, Saints & Fools” holds, apart from the title track amazing “Horsemen Of The Apocalypse”. I couldn’t for the world imagine they would play both, and a few more tracks that clock in on about the same time as the mentioned two. I love long songs and when they are performed the way SARACEN did, it doesn’t get better. The sound of SARACEN live was absolutely beneficial for me, the balance was the same but with the limited resources of The Underworld the whole thing was rougher and not so much US Arena Rock. So with that, this was a true spine-chilling moment. SARACEN really sounded awesome.

SARACEN setlist:

01. “Crusader”
02. “Rock Of Ages”
03. “Horsemen Of The Apocalypse”
04. “Follow The Piper”
05. “Meet Me At Midnight”
06. “Heroes, Saints & Fools”
07. “Ready To Fly”

SARACEN

Saracen @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Saracen @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Saracen @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Saracen @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Saracen @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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At the ‘Metal Merchants Festival’ in Norway earlier this year was the first time I saw JAGUAR, after that it was ‘Up The Hammers’ in Greece and now here in London. A little like the ketchup effect but also cool in the way it’s possible to compare the performances from show to show. And with a band like JAGUAR I don’t mind at all, they’re really much fun to watch. I overheard a comment from one guy in the crowd, addressing Jamie Manton (vocals) “You complete nutter” (in the really polite English way of course) and that really puts it right. This band was stir crazy, I’m sure of that. For example, Jamie had, as a stage prop he had a simple version pogo stick, which he actually used on a few occasions and bounced around on stage. Musically JAGUAR hasn’t made a huge impression on me until I first saw them live. And that’s what this is, real live music. On stage is where this band comes alive. Energy is hard to capture on record but live THAT’S no problem for JAGUAR. After seeing JAGUAR live a couple of times it’s been a lot easier to take in the music on record too, they sure as hell have some really nice tunes. I know “Master Game” and “Axe Crazy” is the famous songs but that doesn’t make any difference. Still great and perfect on the stage!

JAGUAR setlist:

01. “Run Ragged”
02. “Battlecry”
03. “Out Of Luck”
04. “The Fox”
05. “Master Game”
06. “Rawdeal”
07. “Axe Crazy”
08. “Back Street Woman”
09. “Prisoner”
10. “Run For Your Life”

JAGUAR

Jaguar @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Jaguar @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Jaguar @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Jaguar @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Jaguar @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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It was with huge excitement and anticipation (for good and bad) I waited for ELIXIR to hit the stage. They absolutely blew me away in Norway at the ‘Metal Merchants Festival’ and it’s always a little scary to see a band again after something like that. If they will live up to it or not but I don’t know what I was afraid of, of course ELIXIR would deliver the same again here. It’s so great to watch a band that enjoy being on stage together, ok that wasn’t just ELIXIR here that really goes for all bands on the bill on this year’s ‘British Steel Festival’. All seemed to have a really good time. ELIXIR opened with the title track of latest release “All Hallows Eve” and “The Pagan Queen” from the same album, which is an album that absolutely would have made it into my top ten if I had discovered it a little earlier last year. This record shows that ELIXIR still is (and has always been) a band to reckon with. Then of course, what most people wanted was the songs from “Son Of Odin”. At ‘Metal Merchants’ ELIXIR played that one in its entirety, here the set was a little shortened but still enough to satisfy the crowd. “The Star Of Beshaan”, “Children Of Tomorrow” never gets boring. The set was great and the songs, new and old are great but the best with ELIXIR is to see them play with such joy and passion. Everything feels very true and honest which not always is the case with these Old School bands.

ELIXIR setlist:

01. “All Hallows Eve”
02. “The Pagan Queen”
03. “You’re Not Fooling Me”
04. “The Star Of Beshaan”
05. “Children Of Tomorrow”
06. “Trial By Fire”
07. “Treachery”
08. “Son Of Odin”

ELIXIR

Elixir @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Elixir @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Elixir @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Elixir @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Elixir @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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PAGAN ALTAR closed this edition of ‘British Steel Festival’ and with a big part of the PAGAN ALTAR Templar’s (Fan Club) crew present of course this was going to be a real highlight. It’s fascinating that a band that never got the chance at all when they started out can have such s a strong following in the underground these days. People came in from Sweden, Italy, Ireland and Malta among other countries to see them. PAGAN ALTAR put on a great performance as always, the combination of a heavy rhythm section together with Alan Jones’s style of guitars, the frenetic melodies above the riffs and Terry’s quite odd voice makes everything perfect. I missed Diccon and Andy a little though. Even if there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to the musical performance of today’s edition of PAGAN ALTAR it wasn’t the same feeling as with Rich, Andy and Diccon. Today’s edition is absolutely more Heavy Metal, fatter sound and way of playing. Listening to PAGAN ALTAR’s albums they have more the dynamic and peeled off BLACK SABBATH sound. I guess it can take a while to get used to the new line up. PAGAN ALTAR’s sound today wasn’t bad in anyway, absolutely not, just different. Looking at the quality of the material there’s no wonder people are traveling around the world to see this band. “The Cry Of The Banshee”, “Lords Of Hypocrisy” and “Judgment Of The Dead” are tracks that deserves all recognition they can get. There are not many bands nowadays that manage to write as diverse and dynamic material nowadays. So this was absolutely another amazing performance by PAGAN ALTAR.

PAGAN ALTAR setlist:

01. “Pagan Altar”
02. “In The Wake Of Armadeus”
03. “The Cry Of The Banshee”
04. “Samhein”
05. “Lords Of Hypocrisy”
06. “The Aftermath”
07. “Judgement Of The Dead”
08. “The Witches Pathway”

PAGAN ALTAR

Pagan Altar @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Pagan Altar @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Pagan Altar @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Pagan Altar @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg) Pagan Altar @ Underworld Camden (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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I really like these types of events. Small and cozy, enough people to get the buzz going for the bands but not as crowded you have to wait for everything. The Underworld could have had a little better selection of beer though but who am I to complain, for a nightclub at least it’s fairly cheap. But the important is the performance of all the bands. All did great, AGINCOURT opened really strong and I really thought the rest of the bands would have a hard time to live up to their standard. But they all worked hard and did amazing gigs. The biggest surprise absolutely came from SARACEN, musical perfection but not the strongest visual performance. That battle was between ELIXIR and JAGUAR and I have to call it a tie there… Awesome from both bands, but I still think SARACEN made the strongest impression on me. We’ll see if they can live up to their own standards at ‘Keep It True’.