Hype had been building from the moment that this event was announced a few short months ago. Come show night it’s fair to say that expectations were not only high but they were through the roof.
At 7.43pm the doors were not due to open for another couple of minutes, the weather was absolutely filthy but there was a queue of people waiting to get in. We are talking not about a few early birds here either. For an event of this nature in this particular corner of the Black Country this is frankly unheard of. To get the scale of what happened you need to understand a little bit about where we are.
Brierley Hill is not a town currently going through what would be described as a golden era in its history. To be blunt about it, in many ways this once great industrial town is on its knees. The nightlife is dead, pubs are shutting seemingly by the day, and basically there are no nightclubs. The government can talk about regeneration all they like but what this area needs are events like last night. Local events for local people. A capacity crowd was expected to turn out to cheer on local up and coming band Face Of A Stranger, DJ’s Johnny Doom and Loz Guest as well as one of the best Metallica tribute acts around Mentallica. As the warm up music hammered around the room, the queue at the bar was substantial. This was shaping up to be a good night.
By now you all know how highly I rate Face Of A Stranger, but if you have been sleeping on this blog, I think they are going places. And I mean REALLY going places. The first time that I saw them was actually at this venue in front of 10 people so to see them in front of a packed house it felt like things had gone full circle. In short they smashed it. 8 songs, near 40 minutes of hard rock battering your ear drums, what more could you want on a Saturday night?
They kicked off their set with the opening track from their debut EP ‘Dysphasia.’ Straight up hard rock, there are no frills here. Having seen the band so many times it was obvious that there was something different about tonight. By the time they arrived at their third track of the night ‘Violet’ it was now starring me in the face. They we so relaxed, they were totally at ease in front of probably the biggest crowd that they had ever played in front of and they were really enjoying themselves. Next track ‘Shutting Me Down’ was definitely another highlight.
We then got treated to the debut performance of a track called ‘Paradox.’ It’s a slow build of a song but this really adds to the impact when it does kick up a gear. The whole band was perfectly in sync with one another, drummer Luke Watton, bassist Ben Slater along with rhythm guitarist Josh Pagett were driving the band forwards at a relentless pace. Lead guitarist Joe Lewis was playing as well as I had ever seen while singer Mitch Jones has really started to grow into his role as front man commanding the stage better than I had probably seen to date. I should also give a mention to Watton for his drum solo which was a great exhibition as to why he is one of the best drummers on the live circuit right now.
Crowd favourite ‘The Road’ had the hard-core support singing along and as the set came to an end with a stirring performance of ‘In My Veins’ it was clear that Face Of A Stranger had not only lived up to expectations but surpassed them.
Since I started this blog I have been honest with all of you and have never fed you a line, and I’m not going to bullshit you now. If I said that Metallica had had any sort of effect on my life I would be lying. They are just one of those bands who have passed me by a little bit; I never really got what all the fuss was about. Sure, there are big vocals and equally big guitars but none of it ever really grabbed me. All of this meant that the hype surrounding the appearance of Mentallica last night was a little bit lost on me. But I will try anything once, so I was actually quite intrigued as to what the band would be like.
First things first… My God what a noise! They were loud! The sound was absolutely huge and the audience lapped up every last note of it. For aspiring bands everywhere there was a lot that you could learn from these guys. There was loads of audience interaction, bucket loads of energy and the musicianship was first rate. Some of the guitar work was just awesome. The band thundered from track to track to the head banging delight of those in attendance. It’s rare that you get to see so much air guitar in one place!
Among the highlights were renditions of ‘Seek n Destroy,’ ‘Master Of Puppets,’ ‘Whiskey in the Jar,’ and of course the mighty ‘Enter Sandman.’ I may not have been a fan but there are very few music fans out there who don’t love ‘Enter Sandman.’ ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ in particular was awesome I love that record anyway but the vocal and guitar work on this track in particular last night were simply brilliant. I think that at this point the highest praise I can give them is that as a result of their performance I’m going to have to go back and check out Metallica, it’s starting to look like I missed something. You would be hard pressed to see a performance as good as last night and not want to hear more.
But to be perfectly honest if things work out this night is about more than Face Of A Stranger, Mentallica, Johnny Doom or Loz Guest. Last night was about giving the music scene of Brierley Hill a new home, and if opening night was anything to go by the future looks bright.