I've been fortunate enough to have been to every Beermageddon since its inception in 2012 and each year, the festival organisers manage to come up with something special. They've had the cream of grass roots Heavy Metal and some legends, from the likes of Evil Scarecrow and Def Con One Headlining on the first year to legends like Lawnmower Deth and Onslaught last year. This year promised to provide more of the same with the return of the Legendary Martin Walkyier doing Skyclad for what potentially could be the last time... Or maybe for the first time with a new look... Time will tell...
We arrived on site on the Thursday evening, it's a tradition for regulars, get there a day early and party hard, just in time for everyone else to arrive on Friday. Another tradition at Beermageddon is a traditional Hand-Fasting ceremony and this year promised two. The first, before things get going on Friday is with the Drummer of the first band on Zero Hour (8/10) from Scotland. A blend of punk and 80's metal these boys certainly know how to get the party started and kick off what promises to be one of the best first days in Beermageddon history. This years festival also sees a Pirate themed fancy dress party with more to follow as the evening progresses. What impresses me most about this place is how the bands and fans alike are treated with an even hand each band bar the headliners gets a 40 Min set, the headliners an hour plus. There's no VIP area, according to festival organiser Jim Beerman, everyone's a VIP and this is reflected in the wristbands issued out. They all say VIP on them, which is duly noted by those in attendance. With bar prices that won't empty the pocket, Beermageddon and Zero Hour collectively begin what is to end up a journey of epic proportions...
Following up next are Gehtika (10/10) who admittedly, I'd heard of, but never seen before. There was a lot of buzz around the camp-site about Friday night and Gehtika were among those hotly discussed as one of the potential winners of the coveted Friday night Headline slot. Suffice to say, they did not disappoint. These boys are hard and hungry and the pirates in the crowd lapped it up. We then witnessed the prize draw for the fancy dress portion of the evenings events in between bands with the winner getting a pair of tickets for next years festival before pirate metallers RedRum (9/10). I'd seen RedRum at Bloodstock Festival earlier this year and was excited to see more of them at Beermageddon. There's not much better than drunk pirates, quality heavy metal and lots of Rum on an August Bank Holiday weekend.
I mean, what else you gonna do, right? Talking of Rum, there was, this weekend, the most interesting of organised drinking games. Three Scurvy crews of pirates sat in a row, and proceeded to row (or drink) there way in turn through a litre of rum. The winner being the first team to finish their bottle. Their prize? Another litre of rum... I think it's fair to say, that most people who took part don't remember a lot of the evening afterwards, which is a shame because last years return to the Friday night slot Rannoch (10/10)were phenomenal. This quartet set a Beermageddon record of the most amount of strings on stage at one time. A blend of technical and brutal Metal, like their previous Friday night Headliners Evil Scarecrow & Skreamer – Rannoch are one to watch out for.
From this point, the weekend is about to divulge into a mess of drinking and metal, the likes of which is going to be hard for other festivals (on this site and many others) to follow...
Friday's don't start until 6pm – gives most folks a chance to get there if they've had to work. The rest of the weekend kicks off at 2pm, giving some much needed R&R to bleary eyes and pounding heads. There are no clashes at Beermageddon. There's only one stage. Which takes me back to the “Good old days”, but I digress, today is about the new and the (I hesitate to say “old”) been around a bit longer... Yes, today is Martin Walkyier Goes Skyclad day.
But first, we need to get to the bands that can potentially be the future of not just British, but as the festival expands its horizons, European Heavy Metal. South Devon lunatics Demons Of Old Metal (8/10) got the weak and weary up and off their backsides. A lot of people bemoan bands that wear masks, have props or a bit of a gimmick, I'd like to point out a couple of things to those that do. Firstly, a lot of time and effort went into whatever it is they're doing to entertain you. Secondly, it's worked because you remember them. I digress. Demons of Old Metal won the crowd over and trust me, first on on a Saturday is no easy task. Even at 2pm. As usual, there were a few lesser known bands I was looking forward to and a couple of them were Designs of Chaos (9/10) and Engraved Disillusion (9/10) who carried on where Demons had left off. Picking up the pace and bringing the crowd in from their slumber/haze/blur and blowing the cobwebs out, should anything have been left behind by their predecessors. Both bands should be proud of their performances this weekend, and I'm looking forward to seeing much more from both of them in the future. Northern Oak (9/10) were a great addition to this years Beermagddon line-up if for no other reason than I get to mention a flautist amidst a heavy metal festival review. Reminiscent of the melodic death metal of old, Northern Oak were melodic, heavy and fantastic.
Generally, I have a thing about bands who's logo's I can't decipher. It's normally, a quick listen and then out the door because as I get older I tend to like being shouted at less and less. Re Armed (10/10) however, have buggered up that whole rule. Scandinavian bands have the potential to be so much fun, and Re-Armed are no different, it must be something in the water over there or something... Fun heavy and entertaining, by far one of the highlights of my weekend was being proven wrong. Eastern Front (9/10) and Sanity's Rage (8/10) mixed up the remainder of the bands with what can only be described as Zombie Nazi Black Metal and Old School Thrash before what for me personally was to be a lifelong highlight. Martin Walkyier Goes Skyclad (Comprising of two members of Rannoch, one from Haerken, Jez King and a special guest appearance from Jacqueline Taylor) for what could potentially be the last time (or like I said earlier the first of many).
The thing with me is, I have a certain (not exactly picture) thing in my head of what a band should sound like. I know from the previous evening that the guys from Rannoch can play. I've seen Haerken before and I know Justin can play. The concern for me with Skyclad stuff is the violin. It's all about the violin. It works, it fits, it's like sitting in front of a fireplace with comfy slippers on when it's good. More toward standing barefoot in a field of broken glass when it's not. I'd never heard of Jez King before so understandably, I was a bit apprehensive. I can some up Jez's talent by thanking him for being the best pair of slippers I've had in years. Martin Walkyer and his band of minstrels were simply flawless. The whole set, from start to finish, was exactly what you'd expect to hear from a Skyclad show. Especially one featuring Martin. I hope for the sake of every fan of this music that they continue on and do more shows. I for one will be at as many as I can make. (11/10).
With the madness of Friday night and the sheer brilliance of the Saturday, my question to Jim Beerman was one of pretty much smugness. “How you gonna top that Beerman?” I asked... “Just wait” is his reply. Every year this place manages to pull something out of the bag that is phenomenal and Jim promised me nothing less this year... We shall see...
Like I said at the start, there were two hand-fasting ceremonies this weekend and the Sunday got underway with the second, followed by the obligatory group photo (which half the camp-site missed) and openers Children Lost In Time (8/10) and Codex Alimentarius
(10/10). I'd seen Codex before a fair few times over the last few years – being one of my local bands when I lived in the West Country and at Bloodstock Festival this year. Rannoch's previous record of the most strings on stage was blown apart by the Exeter Sextet. Like one fan told me afterwards a lot of the time technical death metal and melodic death metal don't mix, yet somehow Codex manage to pull it off.
Definitely worth keeping an eye on in the future as well are Sanctorum (9/10) who had a tough act to follow but did so in style. Bluesy rockers Line of Fire(10/10) changed the tone for a bit and gave the thirsty crowd more to drink for as prior to their set it was announced that Beermageddon was on track to out-drink all of the other festivals that had previously been held that year at Stoke Prior.
Combined. Well, if it's one thing the Beermageddon family like, it's a challenge. By Definition (8/10) continued the trend of mixing up music styles before 80's NWOBHM boys Tyson Dog (9/10) set the stage for Jim's big Coup de grace. What had been billed as M:PireEvil had been somewhat adjusted... To Venom Inc. (10/10)'s first official UK show. Wait? What? The original Venom line-up at a small venue in Stoke Prior? How the...? What the...? Yup, Jim truly had pulled a veritable Easter bunny out of the hat. And Venom Inc. did not disappoint. Not one bit. If you didn't come to this years Beermageddon because you didn't think the line-up was exciting enough, you lost out. Sorry, but every year something special happens at this place and this year, they made history.
I'd like to take a moment before I close this to thank Jim & Mrs Jim and all the crew, the bands and especially the Beermageddon family who have over the years made us as much a part of their lives as a distant family member can be. There's something special about Festival Friends, but Beermageddon is much more than that. It is a family. Every year there's new faces who are as welcomed as the old ones. Some years there's regulars that can't make it, and they are missed, but the new ones are made to feel just as important. The bands that come to this festival and perform are without a doubt the future. Without them, there are no festivals in years to come. So, thank you to everyone. This year, Beermageddon sold out earlier than it had before, and for a small festival in this era, has to its credit sold out every year. I have doubt in my mind that whatever Jim has planned for next year, it'll be amazing. I'm sure it'll sell out in record time. I hope that Jim keeps to his word and doesn't increase the size, doesn't up the price (£35 early bird tickets are a cracking value - £40 thereafter is still a bargain). You have to see this festival to believe the hype.
So, yeah, Old classics, tick. Grassroots bands, tick. Great value, tick. Great people, tick. Great time, tick. Great venue, tick. Great weekend, tick. Beermageddon really does tick all the boxes. If you don't go next year, you're a fool...
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