The Rock Den in Hatfield reviewed

Gig at The Rock Den in Hatfield [Picture: Keith Newhouse]

Gig at The Rock Den in Hatfield [Picture: Keith Newhouse] - Credit: Archant

Rick Tilley reviews Toledo Steel, Neverworld and Stampede at The Rock Den’s latest gig in Hatfield.

Gig at The Rock Den in Hatfield [Picture: Keith Newhouse]

Gig at The Rock Den in Hatfield [Picture: Keith Newhouse] - Credit: Archant

When Dean Charles Archer, the main man behind The Rock Den, got in touch with me recently, via Facebook, to ask if Brutiful Metal Radio and I would be interested in promoting the venue and also to attend and cover the monthly gigs, we jumped at the chance.

Gig at The Rock Den in Hatfield [Picture: Keith Newhouse]

Gig at The Rock Den in Hatfield [Picture: Keith Newhouse] - Credit: Archant

Since Dean started this venture back in June 2013 the trickle of praise, from bands and fans alike, has turned into a faster flowing river of positivity.

Everything from the quality of the bands appearing to the cleanliness of facilities has been mentioned. You’re never going to please everyone, but you cannot ignore that much good press.

Couple that with the fact that this isn’t a personal money-making operation, with every single penny of profit going to the Breaks Manor complex where The Rock Den is housed, and you’ll see that this is a project that will undoubtedly benefit the local community as well as bringing back a much-needed venue to showcase great live music.

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With that in mind, it was with much enthusiasm that the good lady wife and I set off on the trip down to Hatfield to cover our first gig for the radio station.

And after this treat of an evening, I’m happy to say we will indeed be back every month to support the club and the amazing team of people who made it such an enjoyable experience.

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First up were Southampton-based traditional metallers Toledo Steel, a band I am familiar with but had yet to see live.

Only formed in 2011, they have been making waves on their local circuit and after their set it was clear to everyone attending why.

If you like classic metal from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) era, then Toledo Steel should very much be on your radar.

Infectious tunes such as Alcatraz, from their debut EP, had the crowd jumping from the off.

Vocalist Rich Rutter has a great range and sounds similar to Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson and the guitar work of Kyle House and Tom Potter was excellent.

They were tight, good fun, enjoyed every minute of playing and are thoroughly decent guys.

A spot-on cover of Dokken’s Tooth & Nail was the icing on the cake.

Up next were trad/progressive metal band Neverworld.

I know even more about this lot as lead vocalist and guitarist Ben Colton is a friend and also hosts a weekly show on Brutiful Metal Radio.

This was still the first time I had seen them live and even though I may be accused of bias, four words summed this performance up: “They were absolutely brilliant!”

Ben has an extremely powerful singing voice, but one which is able to convey plenty of emotion as well as huge screams when the song requires. He also plays a mean guitar.

Joined by fellow axeman Jack Foster, keyboardist Daniel Potter, thunderous drummer Mike Vaughan and the infectious and cheeky grin of bassist Gary Payne, Neverworld really are an extremely talented bunch of musicians and fans of Queensryche, Judas Priest, Iced Earth and Dream Theater will find much to love.

After two such good performances from more recent bands, it was down to classic hard rock act Stampede to prove to the fervent crowd if they could still cut it and boy, did they prove it big time!

Originally formed in 1981 by Reuben and Laurence Archer, they were considered a bright light in the NWOBHM movement and released two very good albums.

Unfortunately, as happened a great deal back then, lack of record company support resulted in a split, with individual members going off to pursue other projects.

Roll on 2009 when the nucleus of Stampede decided to reform and even though Laurence is no longer in the line-up, vocalist Reuben Archer and bassist Colin Bond are.

Latest album A Sudden Impulse was released in 2011 and was hailed as a superb comeback.

Live, there is no doubt that Stampede are still excellent and, even with more wrinkles and a bit less hair, Reuben flies around the stage like a man half his age.

Looking and sounding somewhere between Magnum’s Bob Catley and UFO’s Phil Mogg he hasn’t lost his voice either and the band delivered an almost spot-on display of tracks old and new.

They obviously had tremendous fun playing and the involvement of the audience joining in with the singing on many songs put a smile on everyone’s face, especially to one gentleman present who had waited 30 years to see Stampede live and travelled all the way from Holland to see this gig.

So, there you have it. Three cracking bands and a venue and staff who lived up to all the hype surrounding them.

I’ve attended hundreds of gigs and venues over the last 35 years and some stick in your mind as being something special.

My first evening at The Rock Den can now be added to that list and I look forward to a long and happy relationship with them.

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