A salute to traditional heavy metal, BroFest has just completed its fifth annual event. The three day Brofest took place in Newcastle UK and featured acts such as Tokyo Blade, Battleaxe, Oliver/Dawson Saxon, Salem, Mythra, Saracen and many more. Where the festival’s moniker originated from is a mystery, but the event saw Decibel Geeks Mikael “The Lionsheart” Svensson, Graham “Sparky” Spark and Rich “The Meister” Dillon in attendance. Our three heroes were naturally joined by some close friends and made many new ones as well.
After a brief, rainy, cold and rather dismal morning walking tour of the city thanks to a good friend and Newcastle resident, The Meister settled in to await the arrival of the remainder of the Bro’s. Once we all had arrived it was off to the pre-party at Trillians Rock Bar on Thursday February 23rd, 2017. This pre-fest event featured three acts in a smaller style club. Trillians was the kind of place that you can just smell the musty scent of rock history as you walk in. We were quickly greeted by Paul Macnamara, Salem‘s guitarist, as he recognised me at the merch booth. Even though we had a plan for a chat with Paul tomorrow, Mikael as a big fan couldn’t help himself and peppered Paul with questions. The young fellow next to Mr. Macnamara behind the merch table also recognised me and identified himself as Stu, the organiser. Stu and I have been back and forth setting up interviews etc previous to this kick off party so it was fantastic to put a face to the name. I must say that Stu and his team are super organised and this overall is one of the best run festival events I have attended. We mingled and enjoyed adult beverages as we waited on the first band to take stage.
Midnight Force launched into their set. They sounded great right off and had The Meister‘s foot tapping quickly to their NWOBHM influenced rock. The band of younger men charged through their setlist as the vocalist linked each song with a short story in between. Unfortunately, his thick (I believe Scottish) accent proved difficult to catch at times, but he did have a set of vocal chords on him and let loose a scream or two that would curl your toes. I lost a little track of things as I greeted and chatted with my Newcastle-ian friend upon his arrival but Midnight Force‘s final song was a real barn burner. The song, possibly titled “Midnight Force”, exhibited a super catchy hook line and I will certainly be serching out their compositions upon returning home.
Badge were our next band and they made a definite impact. Yet another band that had avoided my detection previously, they delivered compositions such as “Drift Away”, “Blizzard” and “Sliver Woman”. At one point throughout the set the vocalist called out to the crowd. “Who came the farthest?” he wanted to know as Mikael nudged me to speak up. Upon my yelling out “Toronto, Canada” he responded to me by speaking French…..none of which I had any idea of what he said…lol. Bonjour is about the extent of it for me. Another great sounding set from a band I was previously basically unfamiliar with but I’ll be investigating in the future.
Now it was time for the headliner and something both Mikael and I were really looking forward to with Salem. I first became introduced to Salem thanks to the record label Pure Steel who forwarded the band’s 2016 issued Dark Days album for promo review. It’s an album that I quite enjoy, often seeing rotations around my house. It even flirted in and out of my top ten albums of 2016, but eventually fell below the ten best. They kicked off with “When Love’s In Your Heart” and there was no slowing down. Salem delivered an absolutely ripping set and songs such as “Dark Days” and “Tormented” were real highlights for me. Saxby‘s vocals were right on point and the band was firing on all cylinders.
As with all good things the end must come. In this case it came all too early as Salem were forced to cut 2 songs from the list in order to meet the 11pm sound restrictions. A little of a late start with Badge running slightly over time forced Salem to make the cuts. Unfortunately, the victims were “High Stakes” and “Not Guilty” both of which are Meister faves! In any case a fantastic show, sounding great and clearly having fun, Salem severely impressed. And so gracious they were to autograph my Dark Days vinyl afterwards as well was greatly appreciated. Stay tuned for a more in depth spotlight review on Salem coming soon from Mikael. Also on the horizon is the interview chat we had with Paul over a pint the next afternoon.
Be sure to check out all the bands and buy merch if you like what you hear. Live videos from the gig are also coming soon to the Decibel Geek YouTube channel.