It’s been a long day of heavy metal. All around Sentinel Daily‘s small enclave in the cheap seats, Rock Hard Festival punters ebb and flow; some look half dead, some insanely energised. Most are, shall we say, ‘well oiled’, but all of us are here for one thing and one thing only: To bang our heads with the Sinner himself, Mr. KK Downing

He’s got his Priest in tow, of course, and they are here to hand down some carved-in-stone heavy metal tablets of truth to we willing supplicants. After the cheesy-as-all-hell intro film, which does nothing but remind this reviewer of Phoenix Nights fortune teller Clinton Baptiste unfortunately, the fun begins and.. something in’t quite right.

Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens appears to be having trouble hearing himself, or he may have a cold, but he’s raspy, pitchy and a little discombobulated on opener Hellfire Thunderbolt. I’ve never seen this man have a bad gig, ever, so this is a little worrying, but the band makes up for it with a blood and guts performance around him that lacks a little finesse but more than makes up for that in sheer commitment.

One More Shot At Glory is performed with steely-eyed resolve, drummer Sean Elg powering everything effortlessly at the back and AJ Mills impressing with his rock-solid, high velocity playing and impressive headbanging ability. And our hero? Well, of course he’s not the spring chicken he once was, but Mills picks up the slack where necessary, leaving Downing to act as musical director and all round beacon of heavy metal brilliance, a role he plays to a tee on an excellent take on The Ripper and a chunky, heavy take on Burn In Hell, a track that this band has quickly made it’s own.

Sermons of the Sinner is another highlight but it’s the second half run through of Beyond The Realms of Death, Hell Patrol, Green Manalishi, Breaking The Law and Victim of Changes that really ignites the night people gathered around us; It’s just the tip of the iceberg of course – the man behind me spent the whole performance shouting for Metal Gods and The Sentinel to no avail, and the band can’t hope to please everybody with song selection. But it’s almost impossible to argue with the way the band steamrollered us on the run home, and particular praise must go to young AJ for his interpretations of the Glenn Tipton solos, all played faithfully but with enough youthful punch to leave his own stamp on them. His solo on Beyond…, particularly, set the hairs on the back of the neck straight to attention! Tony Newton too, deserves praise for breathing life into Ian Hill‘s stoic (though undeniably iconic) bass presence, adding another dimension to the songs that has never been there before.

Raise Your Fists rounds out the evening’s entertainment and sends us out into the Gelsenkirchen night happy and a little sore. This wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was still a fine, fine slice of proper heavy metal played by people you sense will willingly give their all for the cause. It was great to be here, surrounded by friends, to take part in such a feast.

KK's Priest