As hordes of metalheads take over North London’s Camden the atmosphere is brewing up nicely for the Friday kick off to this years’ DesertFest. I arrive too late to take in Dopethrone at the Underworld but reports claim it was virtually impossible to get in, so I take my position at the larger Electric Ballroom, which promises to be an evening of mammoth rocking proportions. And I’m not disappointed.

Having just released their frighteningly good new album “Gravitron“, The Atomic Bitchwax bounce onto the stage with beaming smiles and an aura that they have every intention to enjoy this. With the backline projector displaying moving liquid psychedelic images, and a few resembling old Pearl and Dean movie adverts, this fits in perfectly with their 1970’s rock jam spirit, with Chris Kosnick‘s quick-fire finger bass runs, Finn Ryan‘s seemingly effortless riffing and Bob Pantella’s pounding rhythms combining to good effect.

They blend a mixture of old and new with ‘It’s alright’, ‘Coming in Hot’ and the pounding instrumental ‘War Claw’ from the current release. The cool swagger of ‘So Come On’ and the blistering ‘Shit Kicker’ are the highlights of their older material while an audacious cover of Emerson, Lake and Palmer‘s ‘Fanfare For the Common Man’ has Bob sporting a pig’s head, which nicely sums up the surreal nature of the occasion.

A London homecoming marks their 20th anniversary celebrations and for Orange Goblin the place is packed with loyal and devoted fans to welcome their return. “Let’s have a heavy metal party!” announces frontman Ben Ward, and his colossal stage presence gets the crowd’s response every time he requires it. They are pleased to be here and so are we. He is full of charisma as he commands the stage, arms aloft and fist punching while occasionally hovering precariously close to the edge of the stage.

In front of a screen showcasing old sci-fi and biker movies he leads his troops through the menacing doom chords of ‘Big Black’, ‘Devil’s Whip’s homage to classic speed-era Motörhead and a live debut in the U.K. for ‘Eulogy of the Damned’. ‘Red Tide Rising’ is thunderous and the crowd respond with mosh pit fury. With an announcement of an anniversary tour coming up, a Orange Goblin‘s homecoming was a roaring success.

This requires Red Fang to follow Orange Goblin‘s home advantage but have no fear as they are supercharged. They storm through crowd favourites ‘Wires’, ‘Blood Like Cream’ and ‘Crows Like Swine’ with supreme gusto and show angst and an angrier side with ‘No Hope’. In between vocal duties Aaron Beam‘s forceful thrusts of his head illustrate the band’s desire to rock as if their heads are indeed on the block. In return they get loud chants of ‘USA! USA!’ from certain quarters of the crowd. The night has become a love-in of sorts between audience and bands so, all in all, a fine opening to grace any festival.

Red Fang – Facebook page

Orange Goblin – Official Website

The Atomic Bitchwax – Official Website