Power Metal Quest Fest 2018 Mama Roux’s, Birmingham 30th Sept 2018

Bringing an end to a summer of excellent Birmingham gigs was the 2nd Power Metal Quest Fest all day festival. Following last year’s sold out inaugural event, the organisers Capsaarx had gathered another impressive line-up of power metal majesty for another sell-out event.

Opening the day were the six-piece folk metal band Atorc, who began proceedings with Under the Raven Banner from their forthcoming album of the same name (pledgemusic campaign for this currently open). Immediately impressing with their combination of guitars, keyboard, and violin, they had the audience screaming right from the start. Highlight for me was the rowsing Mead Hall, which I can only describe as metal majesty with the finest guitar-violin solo duel you will see. Closing with Shieldwall, it had been a glorious opening conquest.

The second band were symphonic folk/power metal band Grimgotts from London playing songs from their debut album; Lions of the sea. They too impressed with their excellent collection of songs and musicianship, continuing the theme of solo duels, this time guitar versus keyboards. The only disappointment being lead singer Andy forgetting to bring the band merchandise. Still that will be another excuse for me to catch them live again soon, so as to buy a copy.

Third band were Skyward, also based in London, who won me over from the opening power metal scream from vocalist, Hector Clark. Presenting songs from their EP Seeking the Heavens, as well as a new song, the highlight for me was 2nd song, the exquisite Open your Eyes. This band were clearly enjoying themselves, not least the lead singer, who went through the whole set with a massive smile on his face, and joined in with the audience on air guitar.

The fourth band were literally the biggest band of the day, the Birmingham Rock School Choir. If the Guinness book of records had been present, I am sure they would have got an award for the most band members on the Mama Roux’s stage. Not content with hogging the stage, they had their conductor, Gemma (Dakesis), in the audience, who introduced us to a new conductor instructional move: the headbang. A rowsing set of power metal classics with plenty of audience participation, culminated in what other than, The book of heavy metal.

Unfortunately the next band Sellsword were unable to make it due to band illness, and so there was a break for the audience to get food, add their artistic contribution to the QuestFest Tapestry, and get photo’s with an assortment of power metal inspired inflatable weapons.

After the break, Womanowar entered the arena, a band many in the audience were waiting to see. They brought a set of classic Manowar tracks, played with exquisite musicianship and topped with lashings of humour (not least their amended setlist song titles). Apart from the epicness of the music, I have to say that it was probably the greatest ever collection of wigs to grace this stage.

Next up were Nightmare World, playing songs from their debut album; In the fullness of time (an excellent purchase from this reviewer after their set), as well as a new song Learning to fly. Overcoming some technical difficulties during the set, they produced a mesmerizing energetic display, not least lead singer, Pete Morten, who covered just about every inch of the stage as well as the audience. Highlight for me was the glorious track No Regrets.

The seventh band were Fury, a band I have really liked from their inception, but who have stepped up a level recently with their latest album Lost in Space and their new line-up. I saw them not that long ago at the Slade Rooms, and they blew me and the rest of the audience away. Today, they were, if anything, even better. Exploding onto the stage with Lost in Space they had the audience in raptures, and me breaking the nitrogen string of my air guitar. A six song set concluded with the epic Battle of Shadows Vale, a song they were playing for the first time live. This song had everything from sword fighting orcs and elves to guest vocalists Gemma (Dakesis) and Nyah (ex-Aramantus), and exploding ticker-tape cannons.

A hard act to follow, Dendera were up next and they rose to the occasion, performing a glorious display of crushingly heavy metal. Lead singer, Ashley Edison , worked the crowd like a pro, and the twin guitar solo attack was so immense during my favourite track Blood Red Sky (title track of their new EP) it had me demolishing what was left of my air guitar. All in all, a live band masterclass that left me and the rest of the audience breathless.

Closing the evening were the epic fun and musicianship that is Pirate Metal band Red Rum. Opening with the title track from their album, Booze and Glory, they had the audience dancing right through their set, particularly during the folky Beer a Flowin. Unfortunately, due to early Sunday last trains, I had to leave after their new single To War, but managed a few bouncy jigs as I walked away, craving every last note of the music still blaring from the venue.

All in all, as was the case last year, I came out of the event feeling epic, or to borrow a slogan from a price comparison website; I was so Quest Fest 2018.

Review. Pete Slater

Images. Weronika Olszewka