You have to be fairly bold to play a set of Black Sabbath covers in Birmingham. The original heavy metal pioneers are viewed with such regard in their hometown that any band even attempting to match their reverence would normally be laughed out of the room. Not so Canada’s Bat Sabbath.
The gnarly punk rockers usually known as Cancer Bats have long made their love for Sabbath known but tonight they manage to absolutely win over an audience of Sabbath fanatics whilst also putting smiles on faces throughout the room.
Before all that though, local boys (and girl) Dead Hands manage to get the evening off to a magnificent start with their intense but thoroughly enjoyable mix of hardcore and all-out metal. Frontman Richard Phillips, wearing a timely Jeremy Corbyn t-shirt, manages to easily win over a room of Sabbath fans with his cheery banter and daring shorts. Meanwhile guitarist Dabby Gough absolutely shreds on guitar as her hair flies in every direction. Birmingham, you have a superb band on your doorstep. Show them some support.
Doncaster band The Temple have a tough act to follow but they are perfectly suited to tonight’s crowd as they spend 30 minutes laying down some expansive stoner riffs complimented nicely by Edward Radford’s heartfelt vocals. The audience laps it up and they’ve definitely won themselves a few new fans tonight.
But tonight it’s all about the headliners. Cancer Bats’ homage to the founders of heavy metal may be a little rough around the edges but the songs are filled with genuine integrity and a clear love for Birmingham’s favourite sons that they are welcomed like homecoming heroes by tonight’s crowd.
This is no copycat tribute though. Bat Sabbath relish the opportunity to give Sabbath classics a punk rock twist without losing any of the power of those instantly recognizable riffs. Kicking off with Children of the Grave, they wisely choose to stick to early Sabbath tracks like Symptom of the Universe and N.I.B., and bravely drop paranoid mid-set rather than relying on it as the predictable encore.
Fairies Wear Boots is a highlight tonight and War Pigs sees guitarist Scott Middleton obviously in his element bashing out the chords we all know and love so well.
Surprisingly it’s the encore of Cancer Bats songs that really fire up tonight’s crowd. Hail Destroyer is greeted with more enthusiasm and energy from the fans than almost any of the Black Sabbath offerings, and a circle pit quickly ensues. It’s a bold move to finish on their own music rather than relying on another Sabbath classic to end the night but they confidence pays off and everyone leaves with a smile on their face.
Tonight Bat Sabbath brought Birmingham’s own music back to a small room and did it with absolute class.
Bat Sabbath Setlist:
1) Children of the Grave
3) Black Sabbath
4) Iron Man
5) Symptom of the Universe
6) Electric Funeral
7) Into the Void
9) Fairies Wear Boots
11) War Pigs
12) Hail Destroyer
13) Pneumonia Hawk
14) Lucifer’s Rocking Chair
15) Bricks & Mortar
Review and photos – Steve Gerrard