Pentre Fest 2023 – Day 1
McLeans Pentre, Pentre Deeside
Review by Dani “The Gentleman Of Metal” Maguire
It’s the start of festival season once again! Ok, so it’s a bit early for what most people would truly call ‘festival season’, but for me, it’s the highlight of the calendar; yes, PentreFest was upon us! Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the first day of the fest for personal reasons, but I was asked to give ‘party night’ a review by the lovely Beth, so who am I to refuse?
If you haven’t been to the festivals’ venue, McLeans Pentre, before then do so. It’s a great place for metalheads, with a biker-bar kinda feel. It’s a little off the beaten path but worth it. An old-school vibe, with Wrexham Lager on tap at £3 a pint. Once again, the bar staff entirely underestimated our capacity to drink the place dry, and by the end of the night the bar was looking emptier than a Tories’ heart.
Ok, on with the review. Proceedings kicked off with Manchester/Chester based Metalcore enthusiasts ALEYA, a band which I hadn’t heard of before (always a treat). To be honest, my preconceptions about Aleya were that they were a solo project with a leather-clad lady with a lovely voice singing over a backing track. Not sure why, just what the name suggested to me. But they were actually a bunch of really talented youngsters doing that Modern Metalcore stuff that people seem to like these days.
This is going to sound really ‘gatekeepery’, but to be honest, that sorta music isn’t my sort of thing. Not their fault, I’m from a generation brought up on Maiden and Priest. However, I’ll make an exception for Aleya. They really impressed me. Not sure whether it was the pre-drinking, the general excitement at being out of the house or the energetic audience, but there was something electric about these guys. Alright, they had a little false start, with a guitar not being plugged in correctly (if I remember rightly). But they took it in their stride, and kept the audience amused while the problem was swiftly located and resolved. And they really did need that guitar, because as much as the others in the band smashed it, their guitarist was out of this world. They were bouncing about the place as bands of this type tend to do, playing on the dancefloor at times (when space allowed). A great start to the fest, and I look forward to seeing them again in the Metal 2 The Masses North Wales heats. Good job, lads.
There’s also an outside (acoustic) stage at PentreFest, but it wouldn’t be fair to give it a full review as I was in and out to the bar and talking to people rather than concentrating (sorry), but the times I did venture out, the awesome Edd Case was doing his solo sets. I’m always impressed by Edd, but his haunting version of The Cranberries ‘Zombie’ was a particular highlight. Those who braved the nippy wind were rightly rewarded!
Next up, we had GR/EF. Now, after seeing these fellas at M2TM last year, we all remarked that they would take it to the next level if they brought in a singer. And guess what? They did! And they have! This bunch of modern metallers sound heavy as, and for a band that was second on, it’s testament to them that the crowd stayed put (people tend to drift for drinks, toilet breaks and chats at this time, I find). Now, I’d probably have more to say about them including welcoming the singer, but it feels impersonal not to refer to the band members by name, and they, like Aleya before them, don’t seem to have a bio page anywhere (please sort this, bands. Makes it loads easier for us reviewers!) to explain what their names are and damned if I remember, sorry fellas, too much booze. One thing I will say though is that these guys are focused, skilled, and I get the feeling they are gonna go far.
Our next course was served up by fan-favourites, THRASHATOUILLE. Now, I’ve waxed lyrical about these guys on my old radio show and in previous reviews. Basically, they play some really heavy stuff, which is almost entirely NOT thrash metal, despite the name. They call it ‘Chef Metal’, which doesn’t give much away. But they really are a sight to behold, resplendent in their chef whites and brandishing kitchen implements alongside their instruments. As usual, the crowd was going bonkers, me included. It was a bit chaotic. Spilled drinks in the mosh pit, a disco ball torn from the ceiling, popped inflatable foodstuffs everywhere. Carnage.
Don’t get me wrong, I love these guys, and have seen them a bunch here in North Wales, but it occurred to me that the inflatables kinda get in the way of the music a bit. The crowd are so busy hitting each other with blow-up ice creams and bouncing into each other wearing doughnuts that the band weren’t getting the attention they deserve. Not wanting to be a party pooper like, but Thrashatouille are a talented bunch, perhaps if they kept the inflatables to themselves for a bit and chucked them out when certain songs required them this would help get people to just enjoy the madness on-stage for a while longer. Whatever.
Thrashatouille aren’t taking part in this years’ M2TM after last years’ appearance in the finals, and I’m hoping they make the most of the time away to hone their set, write some new tracks (and hopefully record some more – Pulled Apart by Pork and Shepherds Pie Squared are notably absent) and reset for a run at next years’ competition. With other local bands really upping their game in recent years, it’s only going to get harder to win it, but in my opinion, Thrashatouille deserve their slot at Bloodstock on merit. Simon Hall, sign them up for the Sophie Stage on Bloodstock’s party night, you won’t regret it.
Our penultimate band for the night was Apollyon Rising. With the addition of a new singer and bassist, as well as the word ‘Rising’ to their band name, this new-look lineup, fresh off the Hammerfest stage, was ready to rip us a new one. And they did – sort of. Rather expectedly, this is essentially a new band, and they’ll need some work tuning into each other. You can tell they have been working hard behind the scenes, but it’s still early days for this band, and at times it felt kind of disjointed.
They weren’t exactly a shadow of the slick band who won our region’s M2TM final, but they need a little more work with this new lineup in my opinion. Their best performances were their newer songs – but perhaps it’s just cos I know the older stuff inside out. After all, I’ve been the proud owner of their self-titled debut EP and follow up “Life’s Conclusion” since I was first impressed by these guys over a decade ago. But they really aren’t far off living up to and even surpassing their previous best, so perhaps I’m being too harsh. All I can say is, go and see them live, and listen to their latest recordings because they sound brutal as hell.
And finally, bringing PentreFest’s ‘Party Night’ to a close were a band that I’ve been wanting to see for bloody years, Ward XVI. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our headline act brought a lot of fans with them, dressed in their trademark black and white stripes, reminiscent of popular book ‘The Night Circus’ as well as their intended look, a comic-book style insane asylum. And I wasn’t disappointed, when a show starts off with a 10-foot Papier-Mache creepy model walking through the crowd, you know you’re in for a good time. The aforementioned model was Mr. Babadook, from the poignant opener. And it just got weirder from there.
There was blood, guts, and meat cleavers aplenty as the band tore through a setlist that included favourites such as ‘Catch Me If You Can’, ‘Imago’ and ‘Shadows’. After a finale which involved an electric chair (go and see for yourself), the show ended with a rendition of ‘Toy Box’, complete with circus pit. A great way to end a great night. So glad to have finally seen them live, and you should too if you get the chance.
On a personal note, the event was buzzing. Loads of people there this year as it goes from strength to strength. Well-deserved too. It’s a testament to the NEW Metal team that so many people have managed to find their way to this tiny little corner of North Wales. But there’s still room for more, it’s a big place. Also, it was an absolute joy to mix with friends old and new once more, thank you to all those who came and say hi, I’m hoping to see you all again at the M2TM events in Wrexham in the coming weeks and months.
Fozzy, Beanie and the rest of the NEW Metal productions team: that was a triumph, so how are you gonna top that next year? For what it’s worth (nowt) I’d love to see Evil Scarecrow, Jaldaboath, Battle Born, Forlorn Hope (again), Footprints in the Custard (again), Kull and Wytch Hazel. And I will pester you until you book them.
P.s. To nip this in the bud, and without meaning to make this review all about me (but I don’t post often so indulge me), I need to paraphrase Fat Tony from the Simpsons. You see, guys, you have been most vocal on the subject of the radio show. “Where’s the radio show? “When are you going to do another radio show?” “Why aren’t you doing the radio show now?” And so on.
I’m still enjoying having weekends to myself and getting some much-needed time to improve my mental health. So, while I do appreciate that you (and the roadie) want us back on air, we still have no plans to return just yet, if at all. But thanks!
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dani Maguire and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.