A relatively new band, Tailgunner are beginning to get a reputation as ones to watch. The most “metal” (as opposed to thrash) band on the bill, theirs is a twin guitar, fists in the air, party like it is 1980 and Maiden are ruling the world type attack. The current single “White Death” is perhaps the pick of their material, although the thunderous “Crashdrive” is one that underlines their potential too. There’s one cover in their half an hour, and whilst you can’t improve on perfection, then the version of Priest’s “Painkiller” that they play rather confirms what has been obvious from the start. Singer Craig Cairns has an impressive range and if you can play the guitar like Zach Salvini and Patrick van der Völlering can, you’re halfway there. They only played their first gig last year, but you can be reasonably assured that Tailgunner are flying.
When you’re band name is Hellripper and you play a song called “Goat Vomit Nightmare” in your set, then there’s the review written, isn’t it? Well, actually when it comes to James McBain (Hellripper to his mates) not quite. Playing here with his trusty live band, there is a thought that they are the natural heirs to Venom’s throne. “Hell’s Rock N Roll” is more than just a song title here, it’s what this is. If you get ushered down to the gates of below, then this is the soundtrack. “The Nuckelvaee” – the opening track on the recent “Warlocks Grim And Withered Hags” opus – is brutality writ large, but for all the aggression of ‘From Hell” then McBain still enquires “are you guys ready to dance?” at the end. Whether the Toxic Waltz counts I’m not sure, but after “All Hail The Goat” and “Headless Angels”, let there be no doubt at all that when it comes to what we might term “extreme thrash” then Hellripper are as good as it gets.
“Birmingham!” screams John Kevill, the founder member of Warbringer, “We came here tonight to crush!” and with that they are playing “Crushed Beneath The Tracks”, a song from the 2020 record “Weapons Of Tomorrow”, which because of Covid, they never got to tour. The Californians make up for it here, however, playing five tracks from it in the hour they’re on stage.
They’d begun with its opening pair, “Firepower Kills” and “The Black Hand Reaches Out” and the band are evidently – and rightfully- proud of it, but after “Crushing……” completes a new trio, they’re into “Living Weapon”.
That one is interesting as it comes from the 2011 album “World’s Torn Asunder” when they were being tipped to lead the new thrash movement into the mainstream. That explains perhaps how long the band have been around (next year they’re into the 20th anniversary) and it does mean we have to stop talking about them as one of the “new breed”.
Certainly there’s an experience here in a well-paced set, but also the same exuberance as ever. Kevill goes for a crowd surf in “Living In A Whirlwind” as if the music overwhelms him.
Warbringer have always been a band with plenty to say on the world, whether it’s heard in the visceral thrill of the moshpit or not. “Hunter-Killer” (about the “surveillance machine we have in our pocket”) is the best of both worlds, just as much as “Defiance Of Fate”, which slows the pace, offers musical dynamics.
The encore is a full on thrash freak out, though. Both “Remain Violent” and “Combat Shock” are classic thrash. Warbringer know it too, and they’re happy to play up to it, right down to the splitting the room in two for a wall of death
That’s Warbringer all over. They know their influences. They know the history of this music but as vicious as they are (and yes they make good on their promise of “crushing”, they’ve always been ready to do it on their own terms.