It was a close-run thing. This year eighteen bands made it to the Glasgow finals of the Highway to Hell – for round 4. This is the annual competition where successful artists gain a slot at Hard Rock Hell – as well as a multitude of other valuable career-boosting opportunities … a world-wide recording contract, studio time, PR support etc.
Playing tight sets to the 153 discerning judges – most of them hardened Hard Rock Hell ‘Dark Circle’ members or experienced ‘veterans’ – at the Glasgow Grand – were bands from all corners of the Union.
The ‘Screaming Eagles’ opened the show. Going on first might be a blessing or a curse. This band made the most of it. The lads from Northern Ireland played their dirty rock ‘n’ roll with copious enthusiasm and energy. No doubt spurred on by their faithful troop of loyal ‘Screaming Eejits’ fans … whole-heartedly cheered them along – all the way.Their lead singer ‘Chris Fry’ has more than a whiff of ‘Paul Rodgers’ about him. Check out: “ Hungry For More.” Their ‘Adele’ cover was very clever – and elicited positive comments from around the ballroom.
Then the judges were treated to some sleazy metal from Brighton with those loveable South-coast rogues Beggarz Fixx. At one point in their show it seemed very highly likely that lead vocalist Chazza and guitarist Mykki would get fastened together by the fuzzy-velcroness of each others immensely frothed Barnets. Check out: Burn It Down.
Crowsaw brought the Grand some swaggering heavy Blues Rock. Check “Voodoo Temptation” – then the audience were treated to some sultry female fronted Hard Rock from ‘Fallen Mafia’. Hannah Elizabeth Neil raunched it like a demon in heelz – bringing to the place a high-energy set replete with magic and magnificence. Check “How The Story Ends”.
The riff-heavy classic rock act from Belfast ‘Baleful Creed’ was up next. These lads have recently managed to pin their last few EP’s together and have re-mastered themselves a very creditable doomsy and sludgy debut self-titled LP. Then the rock ‘n’ roll arbiters were treated to Belfast’s Machine Head-style thrashers ‘Sinocence’ who were one of METAL AS RELIGION’S picks. We simply adored their metal-as-fuck attitudes and their slogging work-ethic. Check “Long Way Down” .
Alexa de Strange (pictured left) was remarkable and idiosyncratic.Her cabaret performance was gutsy and brave. Alexa recently opened for Adam Ant at the Roundhouse and is assured a great future. Then the Leeds based 3-piece ‘Honeycomb Love’ entertained us with their dynamic and precision-drilled songs and street-smart style. These were another of our favorite bands. Their thumping new single “Run For Your Money” is out now and free for download at Soundcloud.
Closing Day One Stage One was ‘Temple Dawn’. This brilliant 5-piece locally based hard rock act played a supreme Queens of the Stone Age cover ‘Go With The Flow’ (from ‘Songs for the Deaf’). Check: “Shadows”
Day Two found us all slightly jaded after a hard night of liquid revelry in Glasgow’s famously inviting bars and clubs. After a long, slow breakfast – and a walk in the cheery air – to clear our heads – the judges limped themselves back to the Classic Grand nursing sore-heads and bad guts – but ready for more metal-on-metal action.
Up first was the kick-ass hard rock dual-guitar wrecking machine ‘ Maverick’ from Belfast. Their classic old-school rock and groove metal numbers were heavy enough to wake us up – and fast enough to get our hearts pumping again. Check: “Top Heavy”. The exciting Midlands-based anthemic rock act ‘Blue Origin’ came next. They’ve just released their magnificent debut album “SOMNIUM”. Check “Take Your Pills” from the new album.
Then Wrexham’s ‘Defy All Reason’ played an exhilarating set. Neat and very, very tight. We loved these guys. Check “Shake it” . ‘Fire Road’ also from Wales seemed to be the “Richard Jones” rock band. This front-man played all the songs with a cheerful glint in his eye and a cheeky smile for all the lay-dees in the audience. Aberdeen’s answer to Thin Lizzy and Hanoi Rocks were up next … The GutterGodz. This effervescent trio from Aberdeen played some savagely hungry and zealously punked-out rock with an aggressive determination and rigorous zeal. We adored their ravenous energy. And Liverpool’s groovy metal-heads ‘Scare Tactics’ brought to mind the power and the glory of bands like ‘Alter Bridge’ or ‘Alice in Chains’. These talented lads are currently working on on their new album. We wish them pots of luck.
After some filthy hard-driving punk ‘n’ roll from The Midlands with ‘The Blacklist Saints’ we then were treated to some punk infected Rock ‘n’ Roll from Blackpool with ‘ The Senton Bombs’. Imagine the melodic energy of ‘Aerosmith’ combined with the sneering audacity of ‘The Clash’ to get an idea of this band’s output. Check “Chapter Zero”.
‘Suicide Tuesday’ had to pull out of the competition after ‘losing’ their vocalist so the evening ended with the sensational all-girl band from Wales ‘The Kix’. It was a little difficult for this band to “Give it some ballz” (one of the judging criteria set down by Johnny at the start of the competition) but they were keen to “Give it some titz” instead ! We love The Kix. We had previously seen them play-their-little-hearts-out at this year’s brilliant Rock and Bike Fest. These tiny musicians are currently seeking funds to complete their ‘Lady Luck EP’ on Pledge Music . The feisty ladies slightly took-the-piss by not just playing out with one ‘cover’ song (all bands had to perform a cover) but by playing a complete medley of over-lapping Queen hits -starting with “Fat Bottomed Girls” and going through all of their bopping hits. But the audience was up for a Queen singalong – and the girls managed to get almost everyone out onto the dance floor – clapping, waving and screaming to Freddie’s words. It was magnificent.
Well done to all of the bands this year. They gave us their all. The new electronic system of voting seemed reliable and smooth. But it didn’t make the judging any easier … all the bands were talented and artistic – and choosing which bands would go through was very difficult. Apparently there were only a few points in it – with four runners up prizes awarded. Sinocence will perform at the next Hammerfest; Crowsaw will perform at next year’s first HRH Blues, The Kix will perform at next year’s first HRH AOR and Fireroad will perform at Hard Rock Hell.
National runners up were ‘Defy All Reason’ and the winner’s of Highway To Hell 2013 was ‘The Screaming Eagles’
See the hilarious video below.