Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
We’re careering towards the summer solstice and the ascendency of daylight hours upon those of darkness. Here in the Welsh valleys the air swelters, inside The Patriot it’s hotter than Hades.
Even ol’ Satan’s sphericals have given up and slunk off to a corner to melt. The description “hot and sweaty” is oft-utilised to give a feel for reaching a fever-pitch in gig-going parlance but this evening it’s in a purely literal sense.
Chuck in a few palm trees amongst the bustling pre-doors crowd and you’re heading off to LA’s fabled Sunset Strip. Maybe I’m getting a bit carried away, but I seek forgiveness for the legend-o’meter has gone off the scale with tonight’s headliner Chris Holmes. Best known for tearing up stages worldwide with shock-rockers W.A.S.P. Alongside founding member Blackie Lawless and a revolving door of sidekicks the Mean Man rode a global wave of havoc.
Notoriety was gained for Holmes’ ‘floating in a pool’ interview in the Penelope Spheeris directed, and verbosely entitled, ‘The Decline of Western Civilization Part II : The Metal Years’ in 1988. Rolling off the inflatable chair and pouring a bottle of vodka over his head sort of gave a nutshell synopsis of the rock n’ roll excesses of the era. Forward wind 35 years and to his absolute credit Chris has been sober for over a quarter of a century.
Support for the entire tour Colchester-based metallic quartet Kaine have been about a good few years, forming back in 2009. Sole founding member guitarist and vocalist Rage Sadler found stability with the current line-up which came together in 2018 some time following the release of A Crisis Of Faith, Kaine’s third album. Thus, it’s of little surprise that their set is comprised of tracks from the two albums that have followed.
Last year’s ‘After Extinction’ claims the lions share of the set with four tracks. The precision freneticism of ‘Bright’, the album’s Iron Maiden infused closing number, getting an energetic high-paced 35-minute set flying off the line. This is a band that wear their influences proudly upon their sleeve and their straightforward approach is well received.
Featuring a sumptuous twin lead break between Rage and his fellow guitarist Toby Woods the Metallica undertones of ‘Slave To The Grind’ further the exposure upon their last release. ‘Left Behind’ leaves me pondering that these East Anglian lads could give Absolva a decent run for their money before the transfixing speed metal of title track from 2022 ensures the temperature increases further.
The remaining two tracks despatched by Kaine are offered from their ‘Reforge The Steel’ album of 2019 with the titular number slotting in amongst the more recent offerings. It’s a roaring beast in the classic NWOBHM that thunders along at a headbanging gallop. The ramparts are stormed in spectacular manner with the set-closing ‘I’m God Master of Mankind’. The healthy early-doors crowd show their appreciation before heading out to grab some cool air outside during the interval.
Boiling point has been reached some time prior to the moment Chris Holmes and his musical cohorts take to the Patriot stage. The now packed in, like the veritable sardines in a tin, gathering give the four-piece a raucous welcome which drowns out the emphatic intro tape.
Having, last year, recovered from throat cancer Holmes has drawn together a talented bunch to accompany him around the UK with Canadian bassist Chuck Lambert grabbing the attention from the off as he takes on the vocal duties for the opening track ‘On Your Knees’. It’s high-grade rocking ore extracted from 1984’s motherlode ‘W.A.S.P.’ and sets a high bar that is consistently met throughout the ninety or so minutes that the stage is occupied.
Veering off into solo territory with the raging ‘Get With It’ with its punky underpinning Holmes et al keep the torrent storming with the unrelenting sonics of ‘Let It Roar’, akin to thunder and steel forged together in unity under a leaden sky. Politically charged ‘Playing With Fire’ rounds off a triple salvo of Holmes’ solo material.
Pendulum-like the set sways back towards the mid-80s; fists pump the steamy air as the atmosphere is cranked up with a rollickingly good ‘L.O.V.E. Machine’ enticing a lone crowd surfer briefly upwards who, crashing to the stone-flagged floor, quickly gains an insight that whilst the Patriot loves to rock it’s just not in this manner.
Via a bluesy Holmes’ solo, the band slip into the aptly titled ‘Sleeping (In The Fire)’ an all-American anthemic rocker further raises the roof. A half hour in and there’s no relenting as Holmes’ 2020 ep ‘Under The Influence’ is drawn upon for the buzzsawing ‘Devil Made Me Do It’ and brooding reflections of ‘Am What I Am’ which detonates with chainsaw anger woven with a heavy-footed Sabbath groove.
Serving as an intro to the classic ‘Blind In Texas’ Holmes relates a tale of drinking and indulging in chemicals and in his words “getting fucked up!” with [Blackie Lawless] having to chase him around a lot in Texas. The metal rampage ensures further structural damage and a seismic quake that rolls down the valley towards Newport, registering high upon the Richter scale.
There’s plenty enough time and energy for a couple more investigative looks into the solo realms. The punked up metalliferous ‘Had Enough’ and the glorious rock n’ roll roast dinner of ‘Born Work Die’ cast an infectious hook. The opening licks of ‘Wild Child’ are rapturously greeted with the crowd surging, with tightly clenched fists raised they chant along as the track builds up to a billowing climax.
Labelled by the Parents Music Resource Centre (PMRC) as one of its ‘Filthy 15’ the roaring torrent of the lion-inspired ‘Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)’ ramps matters up to gas mark 11. Omitted from the original release of ‘W.A.S.P.’ the bestial rocker was, rightfully, reinstated upon its 1998 re-issue. The crowd embraces each riff as a long, lost friend and every word is sung with a Valley passion. With a highway roar the venue erupts with a volcanic force.
The Mean Man is far from done as party mode is firmly engaged with Steppenwolf’s timeless anthem ‘Born To Be Wild’ segueing into CCR’s ‘Fortunate Son’ as the rock n’ roll river cascades over the mighty waterfall.
‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ is given an almighty dosage of ‘oomph’ before Holmes brings up none other than Pontypridd-born guitarist Phil Campbell on to the stage. Motorhead meets W.A.S.P. head on and takes off along the ‘Highway To Hell’. “I love this guy, we used to terrorise LA!” welcomes Holmes. It’s the Patriot’s turn to be terrorised and they love every moment of it! A truly rousing end to a truly memorable evening. Legends never die, the rock will always endure!
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM