Metal for a Cause – Headbangers Balls at the O2 Academy
Oxford, UK Sunday July 21
Review and photos by Metalette
While visiting Oxford, I had the chance to see the Headbangers Balls tour at the O2 Academy. It was both face-meltingly metal and heart-warmingly wonderful, as the reason for the tour was to promote awareness of testicular cancer and raise funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust. You can be sure I bought some merch to support that cause – I’m now the proud owner of a Headbangers Balls shirt that reads “I showed my balls for the cause” across the back; which in my case of course is a figurative statement. But no less metal!
Kicking off the show was FuryBorn, whose heavy and melodic songs spawned wild circle pits within just a few measures. They played a polished (but still raw – don’t worry, metal-hipsters) set, including clean choruses, heavy breakdowns, intricate leads, and even some synth. They announced that they had a stand-in drummer and despite apparently being a last-minute fill-in, he stormed the Academy with beats that were capable of inducing headbanging whiplash. FuryBorn had a dominating stage presence and enjoyed interacting with the audience – at one point vocalist Jut Tabor jumped offstage and sang from the pit, sharing his microphone with an ecstatic fan. Hell yeah, that’s the kind of show I like to see!
Bringing a wicked dose of thrash to the party was Divine Chaos. These guys had a boundless amount of energy onstage and were a real joy to watch. In the most brutal sense of the word joy, of course. Vocalist Benny Friston was a true frontman, riling the crowd with call- and-response “wooo!”’s, covering all areas of the stage throughout the show, and playfully hassling bassist Dave Bennett. I just love seeing band members having a good time onstage and Divine Chaos mixes that kind of fun with aggressive heaviness that makes for a top-notch metal show. Their beats will kick your teeth in and their guitarwork is a righteous shred-fest. And I’m giving them extra points for their collectively fantastic hair.
Reign of Fury was the mastermind band behind Headbangers Balls, as the tour’s formation marked vocalist Bison Steed’s 5th year being free of testicular cancer. Reign of Fury was genuinely thankful to everyone who attended the show, and blasted through one hell of a set. Bison’s vocals were powerful, clean, and of album-quality – a truly talented metal singer. The band’s music was both wonderfully diverse and great live, ranging from a pure heavy metal feel to very thrashy and even an occasional punk edge. They featured some sweet guitar harmonies and an acoustic interlude during “Psycho Intentions” that one could most definitely wave a lighter in the air to. Major props to Reign of Fury for organizing such an amazing tour.
Aethara finished the night on a high and heavy note. They were a friendly and relaxed group, playing a spot-on set with fun banter between songs. They carried on the “wooo!”-ing that Benny of Divine Chaos had started – in fact, I think the Divine Chaos guys were in the audience and “wooo!”-ing right back at Aethara, as it seemed to be a theme of the night. All four members of Aethara had mics – which I thought was pretty rad – and each of them sang, with bassist Ben Gross the frontman and lead vocalist. Drummer Ted Hewett sang many of the clean vocal parts with a powerful and clear voice, which impressed me greatly as he was simultaneously whaling on his drum kit! Aethara showed their goofy side when they told the audience to do “star-jumps” (which I later learned was the UK term for jumping jacks) in the mosh pit during a part of one of their songs. It was wonderfully silly to see a pit full of metalheads doing a dance like that; for the star-jump-mosh-pit and their overall set, I certainly give Aethara two horns up!
The Headbangers Balls show united Oxford metalheads for a great cause and a grand ol’ time. And it also gave me a taste of the UK metal scene, which was quite a treat. In description of the entire event, I will quote most of the band members throughout the night: “Wooooooo!”