Sometimes, there’s an obvious place to start. So we begin at the end of Sick N Beautiful’s set. Singer Herma (who seemed perfectly lovely when she was stood by MV watching the headline set later) spends the last song “Makin’ Angels” waving a flamethrower about. That actually says more about them than you think, as it speaks to their sense of spectacle. Delighted to be at a venue, reckons Herma, that lets the band use all their effects, and they’ve not come from Italy for people not to notice them. They cover “God Of Thunder” early in the set (underlining that any Kiss cover is better than actual Kiss at this point) and although they don’t sound much like Gene’s boys, they do have the same sense of the theatrical. To that end, “New Witch 666” sees an Alien arrive from some galaxy or other to wreak havoc on the Black Country, and they are superb at it. The aliens are coming, and we are all for it, and moreover, this is a pretty original sound too. Metal, industrial, punk, and just about everything else chucked into work like “Drop It To The B”, but that’s almost secondary when they are onstage. You’d argue, perhaps, that it’s supposed to be? This is musical theatre, and whatever galaxy you’re in, you couldn’t ignore Sick N Beautiful.

South Of Salem like this place. This is the second of three visits in a little over a month. And just like when they were here with W.A.S.P, the Bournemouth band underline the fact they are one of the most promising outfits around. This is a slightly shorter set than they’d had last month, so it focusses more on the rock n roll end of what they do. “ Let Us Prey”, “The Hate In Me” and “Made To Be Mine” are big, anthemic slices of vaguely sleazy sounding 80s rock and they remain, though, as does the more melodic “Pretty Little Nightmare”, and watching frontman Joey Draper as he strides about here, maybe just maybe, there’s an increased confidence too. Maybe that month on the road with one of the biggest rock bands has made South Of Salem believe they can do it too? Watching them as they walk off after “Cold Day In Hell” It seems to me that they believe. There’s always been a feeling with South Of Salem that given increased exposure they could do something special, now they’re getting it, there’s not a lot that seems ready to stop them.

About halfway through the set tonight, Wednesday 13 play from “From Here To The Hearse”. It’s about 15 years old now, which is shocking in itself, but at the end there’s bits of “Suffragette City” and “Under My Wheels”. Its not like he and the band hide it anyway, but right there, is W13 in a nutshell. That’s what he does. He nods to the past and acknowledges his heroes – then does some new stuff with it all.

He has, he says later, been coming to these shores for over 20 years. That’s left him with quite the back catalogue at this point, and much of it is mined in an hour and a half that is just about the most fun you can possibly have.

“Blood Sucker” kicks it off and its typical of what he does. Big, shiny glam rock violence. But its cartoon violence, Tom and Jerry stuff, and we’re all in on the joke.

It helps too, that the band are so skilled at playing it. A lot of the set (“I Want You Dead” and “Look What The Bats Dragged In” are played early on) is from the debut and its clear that they are delivered better now than they ever were then.

There’s a couple too, from the recent “Horrifier” record. “Good Day To Be A Bad Guy” and the violent “Insides Out” keep the quality up, and you can offer no higher praise of this gig than the fact that the drum solo was really very good indeed. Mike Dupke essentially plays along to a load of horror themes and its superb (and let’s be honest, you don’t say that about many drum solos).

Towards the end of the main set W13 dedicates a couple of songs to his friend Joey Jordsion, without whom, he reasons “I wouldn’t be with y’all”. The brilliant Murderdolls pair of “Nowhere” and the singalong “Die My Bride” are fitting tributes too, and have lost none of their power through the years.

Ending with the pure adrenaline rush of “I Walked With A Zombie”, they return with W13 telling everyone he’s having a “good time tonight”. Maybe that’s why we got an extra song? “What The Night Brings” was magnificent too, but its hard to argue with the scheduled encore “Bad Things” before the umbrella with the middle finger emblazoned on comes out for “I Love To Say Fuck”, its not quite Alice’s top hat and sparkly suit from “Schools Out”, but it’ll do.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Alice, Rob Zombie and all the rest, they aren’t going on forever, and Wednesday 13 stands ready to take their place. It’s a staggering 21 years since I first saw him, just up the road and this is the best he’s ever been. He’s the original Duke Of Spook. Accept no imitations.

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