Walking into the Frog and Fiddle, I give my name to the friendly doorman in exchange for a red cross hastily scrawled across my hand; granting me access to Diamond Head’s intimate sold out gig.
Costing only £8.80, the entry fee is remarkably modest for a band known to have played in stadiums supporting the likes of ACDC, Sabbath and Iron Maiden. The band that ignited the fire of new wave heavy metal in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s. Their debut album ‘Lightning to the Nations’ famously inspiring metal giants Megadeth and Metallica with their iconic guitar riffs and menacing vocals.
You can feel the excitement begin to build as the bar soon fills with thirsty Diamond Head fans of all ages. From the older rockers of the early 80’s to the teenagers only just old enough to order a pint at the bar; the pure diversity of Diamond Head’s fan base prove they are still a force to be reckoned with. A treasured secret to not only those who were lucky enough to see the original line up first hand, but to all of those who have discovered them since.
From the outside, the Frog and Fiddle is a small venue; conveniently tucked away in the charming Brewery Quarters of Cheltenham Spa. It doesn’t appear to be much bigger than my local pub, however as I make my way towards the darkness of the barn where the band will be soon be playing, I realise there is more to this unique music venue than meets the eye.
I take a seat at Brian Tatler’s side of the stage and I’m not quite sure what to expect. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Diamond Head tribute band arrived on stage justifying the size of the venue and small price paid for my entrance fee.
The supporting acts are all surprisingly good and worth the entrance fee alone. Cheltenham based band ‘Vajazzle Dynamite’ kick off the evening with an explosive, high energy performance. An intriguing mixture of dirty guitar grooves and fiery glamour; this eccentric motley crew of musicians know how to put on a good show.
Next up is a slightly heavier set from local thrash metal band Panic Switch. With Pantera’esque guitar riffs that fiercely showcase Alex Vujakovic’s growling vocals; the heavy metal band (also from Cheltenham) are well received by the crowd that fill the barn.
Final support act Alunah take the mood to an entirely different direction; enticing the crowd with their distinctively dark doom metal sound infused with earthy pagan inspired melodies. Alunah are by no means new to the genre having released 4 critically acclaimed albums in the space of 8 years. Vocalist Siân Greenaway delivers a haunting performance with her sultry vocal talent; effortlessly winning the approval of those in the barn.
With just enough time to order a drink at the venue’s charismatic sports bar, it’s not long before chants of “Diamond Head” can be heard throughout the venue as anticipation fills the air.
Diamond Head are welcomed to the stage with an exhilarated cheer from the crowd before diving head first into a powerful setlist. Jumping straight in at the deep end with my personal favourite, “Living on Borrowed Time”; the influential band perform a perfect cocktail of classic hits and newer tracks from their more recent self-titled album.
The early songs that famously earned Diamond Head their loyal cult following are perfectly complimented by Rasmus Bom Andersen’s flawless vocal range and the newer material is just as well received. “Shout at the Devil” and “The Reasons You Live” sound refreshingly raw yet still in keeping with Diamond Head’s legendary signature sound and thick bluesy undertones of Tatler’s Les Paul.
“Lightning To the Nations”, “Suck On My Love” and “Heat Of The Night” are unsurprisingly both powerful crowd pleasers. For a band that have been around for years, they appear just as excited to be there as the crowd.
Tatler takes centre stage as Diamond Head bring the set to an impressive close with both “Am I Evil” and “Electric” featuring in their encore. The crowd’s reaction to the famous opening riffs and guitar solo in “Am I Evil” is electrifying and a memory that will stick with me for a very long time. The sheer noise of the fans singing along to possibly one of the band’s most famous songs is remarkable and it’s easy to see why the band continue to inspire so many musicians to this day.
Diamond Head don’t leave the venue without greeting their fans; stopping for photos, handshakes and autographs at the side of the stage.
The band that should have made it bigger; Diamond Head are arguably one of the most underrated and influential metal bands of their time. As I leave the Frog and Fiddle I feel privileged to have seen them perform in such an intimate setting with such a brilliant crowd.
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Written By: Samantha Swindlehurst
Event Photography By: Neil Swindlehurst