Festival Review: North of the Wall 2015

Last Saturday saw a day of death, black and thrash bands taking over Glasgow’s Classic Grand venue for North of the Wall 2015. Spread between two floors, the festival showcased a selection of Scotland’s heaviest bands, while bringing in some bigger guns from further afield to pack the upstairs stage in the evening. Now that the hangover, neck pain and wallet pain (tantalising merch booths will be the death of me) have shifted, it’s time to review the bugger.

I should say before I begin, I went with my fan hat on, not review hat which means some of the evening is a slight blur, which means glorious vague reviews now.

Despite the gods of rail transport deciding that Glasgow should be unreachable for us, we arrived in time to see the end of Buried Sleeper who had already stowed out the second stage and were clearly in the middle of a lengthy track which I only caught onto when I found I was only clapping for the first time ages after actually entering the room (either that or waiting at a bar just destroys your perception of time).

A short, but incredibly warm wait followed until Saor took to the stage for their debut performance. Despite a small initial look of “oh fuck” in their eyes they quickly bolstered and delivered a short but powerful set in which they managed to play three songs. It’s always a good show when you can fit three songs into the space where Slayer fit about ten on Reign in Blood. Marathon songs are what it’s all about. Despite the presence of kilts and various Celtic tones playing over the PA, they aren’t quite as folky as you might expect. Though they could have perhaps used some backing vocals as support, the overall impression was more than impressive.

There was no time to hang around, because Stage 1 had just opened, which meant it was time for Cancerous Womb. A quick, but worryingly tiring (the constant upstairs/downstairs runs certainly worked off the beer calories) jaunt upstairs followed. Despite the room not being packed yet, as more people spilled upstairs following Saor, the busier it became. And with that grew the ferocity of Cancerous Womb. Going out the night before might not have been the best idea as the Edinburgh based death metal band rattled the shit out of my abused brain. Still, it was worth the pain. The new vocalist is a perfect fit and managed to get a few pits out of the still not quite hammered crowd, afterwards I got delightful patch.

After this we took a short break before returning for the end of Mael Mordha, the first of the two Irish bands of the day, who had managed to bring the biggest crowd of the night so far. Then it was back down to Cnoc an Tursa, and after confirming it wasn’t the beer playing tricks and that the band did consist of some of Saor, I settled in to enjoy some Celtic themed black metal. Considering they’re from just down the road (as every Scottish band is) and with songs like Lion Of Scotland in their repertoire, it’s obvious they were going to go down a treat.

BolzerThen, and you’ve probably guessed the pattern, it was back up to see Bölzer who had made the biggest trip from Switzerland. The two piece black/death metal band cut an imposing sight. At times through the fog it looked like Lemmy had decided to ditch the rock n roll stuff and adopt Satan as his pal. Easily the biggest crowd of the night and deservedly so.

I then caught a short bit of Fen which was disappointing, not the band of course, but the fact I was only able to see a bit of them. I would have loved to hang about but it was time for Gama Bomb. I’m not sure if the stages were running late which meant I only got a short bit of Fen, or if I had been too distracted by the merch booth. The amount of people watching as I left to go upstairs speaks for itself though, they had a big appeal.

Gama Bomb were a strange fit after so much death and black metal, but were a perfect way to unwind after a day of grimness. The upbeat stage presence of front man, Philly, who promised every song would sound the same, kept the mood light while delivering the heavy tunes.

As the crowd spilled in from Fen finishing up downstairs, the pits grew and spread. What was once an unorganised mess became a much more focussed attempt to pound the shit out of your friends. One walking wounded was a poor chap who crowd surfed straight to the floor, nothing like headbutting concrete to put a dampener on your day. Playing a decent mix of old favourites and the newer Terror Tapes songs (to this day I still fuck up Backwards Bible, how can spelling E-L-B-I-B cause one man so much hassle?) they rounded off the day on a high note.

I couldn’t help feel a bit sorry for the other bands as a gradual queue formed waiting for someone to come and sell Gama Bomb merch. I eventually managed to get a Terror Tapes shirt to empty my wallet that bit further (though my eyes were on the Hammer Slammer, mainly because what self respecting metal fan doesn’t want a tshirt of brains getting splattered. Next time!)

All in all, North of the Wall was a tremendous success. Apart from one time the bar queues went by quickly, security were all friendly, the bands played an utter storm and the venue really is the best size for an event like this. The downstairs stage is small enough that the smaller bands get a packed crowd (though this isn’t to say their crowds weren’t big, it took a lot of squeezing to get through the crowd during Buried Sleeper), and the upstairs is big enough to accommodate the more noted bands. All credit to the organisers for pulling this together, it can’t be easy but they made it work.

At only £15 it couldn’t be more value for money unless they started giving you free pints as you walked in (actually, make that happen for next year). See you in 2016!

Bands Seen (including partials)

  • Buried Sleeper
  • Saor
  • Cancerous Womb
  • Mael Mordha
  • Cnoc An Tursa
  • Bölzer
  • Fen
  • Gama Bomb

Highlight?

  • Hearing drunken attempts at pronouncing some of the bands names. After a few pints you really miss the AC/DCs of the world.

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