Rock fans flock to Legion and Mareel for exciting two-day metal shindig

Rock and metal music may not always be for the masses, but it certainly seemed that way in Lerwick last weekend.

Local podcasters-turned-promoters Heavy Metal Buffet held their inaugural Shetland Rock Festival on Friday and Saturday, with their two events at the Royal British Legion and Mareel shifting hundreds of tickets.

Indeed, the first gig – which took place at the Queen’s favourite Shetland watering hole – was a complete sell-out.

Despite the Legion’s doors opening before many would even have had the chance to chuck some tea-time food down their gullets, the Legion was surprisingly lively early on.

The Facial Hairs were tasked with opening, before local supergroup-but-not-quite Spoothawk, starring the likes of guitar whizzes Ewan Nowak and Arthur Nicholson, belied their first-gig status with some seriously tight AC/DC-infused chops, whilst Dig Deep soon after brought some pop sheen and indie tones to the fore.

Orkney tykes Hybrid Constellation meanwhile channelled the likes of US noiseniks Every Time I Die with riffs as spiky as Sonic’s coiffure with extra Brylcreem lobbed on for good measure.

Thrashers Beast Head showed little sign of drowsiness from their six-year live hibernation, with tracks like Prisoners of War highlighting a knack for penning engaging and kinetic tunes, whilst local scoundrels The Revellers, who were preceded by groove-metallers Christ Alive and Bitumen River, mined their recently released debut album Renegades for a typical cocktail of camaraderie and riotous folk-rock.

Saturday’s concert at Mareel was similarly a sprightly start, with the venue opening its doors at 3.30pm. Whilst some of the audience may have been cradling hangovers acquired from the night before, the day’s first act Toxic Flames hopefully wouldn’t have been quite so bleary-eyed, with the group – made famous by SIBC hit Catch a Shadow – still of school age.

Not quite the same for the elder Geordie quartet Tombstone Crow, however, who managed to surpass some metal cliches with Andy Bright’s annihilating guitar work and some crowd-pleasing covers, whilst Hoygir put the foot down with some punked-up thrash in front of an all-ages crowd that highlighted Shetland youths’ notable passion for live music.

There was string quartet action from Beef Cleaver before local hip-rock rockers Wind-Up Projectiles wiped away the tears for what was their last gig, with impressive cut Means to an End juggling groove and grunge. Nomadia’s post-rock build-ups hustled like a cantankerous tornado, whilst Glasgow’s EDA – who played the previous night and feature Shetland expat JP Parsons on bass – followed suit with some succinctly crafted tunes perfectly suited to Mareel’s expansive stage.

Much was made in the build-up to the event of other mainland bands Semperfi and Akord, who both played the Download Festival in June, but it was perhaps the latter who piqued something deeper inside, with their single Set In Your Life showcasing an exciting nod to progressive music – a strand of rock and metal rarely seen over the weekend.

Local favourites Ten Tonne Dozer later turned heads with a mass sing-and-play-along on stage for the bombastic The Valley before Scaldin Bragg paid homage to Irish folk to see out the night. Kudos to Lyall vs Murray, meanwhile, who performed their intriguing DJ-meets-electronic drums set between every act at Mareel, swapping amusing comedy costumes – such as spacemen and ape outfits – as regularly as a popstar diva.

Speaking after the two-day shindig, Heavy Metal Buffet’s Jamie Hatch paid tribute to the sizeable audience that bought tickets to see a total of twenty acts perform over the two nights.

He said: “The weekend went absolutely amazing. The only problem I have is the fact that it’s now over and that we have to wait another year until we can do this all over again.

“The sell-out crowd at the Legion was the rowdiest I’ve ever seen at a Shetland gig, and I’m so happy that 400+ people came to Mareel to watch the insane amount of incredible talent on show. This was ten months in the making, and for our little group who organised this weekend with little to no experience in even putting on gigs before this past year, we are incredibly proud of what has been accomplished.”

Hatch added: “It was a sad moment for us watching the visiting acts leave, because they fit in up here perfectly, as people and as bands. It was not goodbye, but greatbye. And they’ll all definitely be back in the future.”

Chris Cope


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