Live Review: Rabidfest 2021 Day #1 (Saturday)!

It’s been something like two years since we last had the pleasure of a festival or one dayer so today at The Bullingdon in Oxford at Rabidfest feels like a blast from the past, with the warm glow of nostalgia about it despite the cold of October. Working with the Mental Health charity Restore the organisers have put on a stacked line up with plenty of variety over the weekend to be savoured as well as a pair of compares to introduce the bands

Opening the show are Jokers Parade [7/10] a guitar and drum duo whose original line up called time on the band in January 2019 only to resurrect the outfit on July 2021. They have applied their traditional face paint and provide plenty of between song banter for a decent sided lunchtime crowd and even manage to get a sing along to the La’s of their final song. This is the start of something new for the project and with a new line up and fresh thinking sound like they’ve got a point to prove.

Whether it’s the early set time or the quality of the setup at the venue but Reading based Post-Hardcore quartet Weaponry [9/10] are on fire this afternoon and they sound not only tighter but bigger, particularly in the guitars than they did last time we saw them at The Lounge Bar in Alton. New song “Please Enjoy The Show” from their sophomore EP due out early next year is a set highlight while “Blindly Follow Us” does down a treat to roars and cheers from the crowd. By the end vocalist Al Bristow looks shattered and rightly so as he welcomed a daughter into the World 48 hours ago so when he jumps the barrier and walks out of the venue to leave the band to play the final breakdown, he’s a proper sweaty mess.

Arimea [7/10] are local heroes and pack a groovy punch with an 8 string guitar and sassy clean vocals from frontwoman Whitney Cooper especially on fan favourites like “The Circus” and “Wish“. Today she’s suffering with a cold and isn’t at her usual strength but still manages to shine. Blending Progressive Metal and DJent with Paramore esq Pop Punk sensibilities sounds pretty great on this stage although curiously while keeping the energy high with plenty of bounce, they miss one or two of the nuances of the recorded material.

K-Lacura [6/10] go hell for leather with a set laden with slab after slab of Groove Metal and while they haven’t played a show in 22 months and the edges are a little rough in a high octane adrenaline fueled performance. The major problem is that the vocals are low in the mix at and get drowned out by their vicious guitar attack but over all it’s a solid performance if lacking in a little sparkle, perhaps down to nerves having been out of the game due to the Great Plague for so long.

In David Pope, Northamptonshire quintet  Siderian [9/10] have a frontman who not only has a vocal that can strip paint at 20 yards but who knows how to entertain a crowd with charisma and stage presence. Small things like air drumming, eye movements and the faces he pulls make all the difference as the band skip the usual banter and hammer through an energetic set with “Lizard Method Statement” and “Geneva” being highlights. Their signature groove is sandblasting at its finest with the Thrash infused riffs more than a match for the pile driving rhythm section while thought provoking lyrics that are both socially and politically aware ask all the right questions.

Death Metal trio Promethean Reign [7/10] are the first band to use blast beats as their  frontman TJ Higgs rants his way through a set that is nothing short of a solid and impenetrable wall of noise with little space to breathe in what is their first live show in three years. Set closer “Pinnacle Of Humanity” is just one of a number of vicious little ditties in their set that packs plenty of violent chug that finds us thinking of bands like Humanity’s Last Breath as a comparison sonically but not vocally.

The Hope Burden [9/10] blend ambient dissonant Post-Metal with Deathcore inspired unclean vocals that make for a really interesting offering as they play out a set that includes freshly recorded and yet to be released material, the sheer miserable quality of which is not only cathartic but gritty and raw as well. The second frontman to climb the barrier is  Josh Day who enters the crowd for a headbang fest with the front row during the final chorus of the last song and the atmosphere they create is spine tingling, the perfect juxtaposition between musical meloncholic tones and vocals brutality. “Lamentation” is simply stunning.

As the afternoon moves into the evening the between sets music changes from Sepultura classics to Beastie Boys to keep those who have had more then their fair share of the amber nectar quiet. But that doesn’t stop things getting rowdy as Leicester Blackened Death Metallers Blood Oath [8/10] take to the stage. They are without a doubt the heaviest band on today’s bill and excite with a blood and thunder set of Viking inspired tales for neck snapping delight. Their latest burnt offering “Monument To Our Ruin” is a rip roaring end to a set that leaves us wanting more. After all when the hammers are being thrown during the extended solo the evil grin on their vocalists face tells us he’s having the time of his life.

Pirate Metallers Red Rum [8/10] have the benefit of synths and a six string bass to bolster their sound and are hilarious good fun especially when they drop the bombshell that is their reworked cover of “Rollin‘” by Limp Bizkit that has been christened “Rowin’” with a complete lyrical overhaul. Their vocalist is a master at working the crowd and armed with a number of songs with both Folk Metal and  Power Metal style leanings while rarely straying from the subject matter of drunken debauchery, they’re mightily entertaining. They too have a new album on the way in early 2022 and air new cuts that go down a storm.

The change over Divine Chaos [9/10] is by far the longest as they have a far larger drum rig than any other band have put to good use today but when they finally do start their Thrash infused Death Metal blend is very well received. Their twin axe attack syncopation is perfect and when they interchange solos it’s as razor sharp as they come and as a band they’re as tight as it comes, even the backing vocals, which with other bands may leave a bit to be desired are absolutely spot on.

It feels a bit surreal that a band like Diamond Head [9/10] are playing Rabidfest, even as a headliner but with an hour long set including “Am I Evil?” which Metallica famously covered in front of a packed audience they go down like a single malt with a single cube of ice. Very smoothly indeed. As an older band with a vast amount of experience, they know how to put on a show and deliver their set with consummate ease and it has to be said that they have aged like a fine wine and sound better today than they ever have. Unlike the other bands, their vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen swaps places with their lead guitarist Brian Tatler in the center of the stage for solos, giving that extra limelight for the virtuoso moments, and the one at the start of “Messenger Of Death” is a particular face melter.

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