Live Review: AoniaFest V at The Corporation, Sheffield (24/06/23)

The fifth edition of AoniaFest took place on Saturday 24th June 2023 at The Corporation in Sheffield. Boasting (arguably) the strongest line-up to date, and as always, headlined by the operatic progressive metal band Aonia.

When you live in London, you really don’t have to travel far to see amazing bands. We live in the capital, surrounded by venues big and small, and are almost always a stop on any band’s UK tour. It’s a blessing, but we also happen to live in one hell of an expensive city. Which means UK bands of a smaller size, with less funds, and less ability to tour just don’t come our way. It’s a massive shame as the UK underground scene is incredibly strong and if you need further convincing of that, just look at The New Blood Stage at Bloodstock for proof.

So, we travel. Bands can’t come to us, so we go to them. As much as work, life, and money will allow us too. Some events are so important to us, that they are now part of our yearly plans. Events like AoniaFest.

Why AoniaFest? It has proven itself to be a diverse, future-focused, friendly, and welcoming event. The effort put in by hosts Aonia, and everyone else involved, has always resulted in a satisfying day of music. Something that certainly hasn’t changed this time round.

Buy Me a Coffee at

The day begins with something visually arresting and sonically pleasing in ThunarWülf. Being completely unfamiliar with them before they were announced for the fest, if there’s one impression ThunarWülf leave us with, it’s their dedication to their craft. A new band (2022), they promise traditional folk melodies with big metal hooks and even bigger riffs, and they deliver. It’s a very impressive showing for such a new band and there’s no doubt they will continue to grow when this is the stuff they have to offer.

AoniaFest is all about variety and that is evident by the fact that the next band on, Sphinx, are quite different. AOR pulled right out of the 70s but given a fresher and more modernised groove. What feels a little slow at first, really comes to life as the set goes on. It’s catchy music that everyone can get into and you can tell that Sphinx’s confidence grows more and more as the show goes on.

Up next is Bring to Bear and we’re all off on an adventure. An adventure involving folk metal, big symphonic energy, and plenty of garish heaviness too. They are one of the more eclectic bands on the bill but prove to be extremely watchable and listenable. They appear to be having a lot of fun on stage and those good vibes seep into the crowd so that everyone is smiling come the end.

How about something really heavy though? It’s time for a tone shift as the blistering sound of melodic hardcore band, Steel Mage leaves everyone feeling a bit deafer. These guys are killing it at the moment and the great work they’ve put into their studio output is reflected on stage. It’s aggressive music with a s**t ton of heart and soul. The AoniaFest crowd isn’t one for pitting but there are plenty of heads being banged for Steel Mage.

Four bands in and there is no denying that everyone has got their money’s worth, yet AoniaFest V still has so much left to offer. First, with the absolute brilliance of Novacrow, an alt-metal band with so many creative branches. Showcasing a level of talent and stage presence not often seen from a band who really rose to prominence the year before. Their hard work over the past ten years has really paid off and they are in danger of stealing the entire show.

Until you remember Dakesis are up next and they are one of the best bands in the UK scene, full-stop. Hurt (like so many) by COVID which stunted what they could do with their excellent album ‘Fractures’, there is a strong sense that the Dakesis train is picking up speed again. We should all be very excited as their progressive metal sound is immense and they have one of the most talented vocalists in their ranks. Their reputation for being consistently great is deserved and they, once again, bring their A-game to AoniaFest. They have bundles of talent, stage presence that is mesmerising, songs to make you move, and a positive attitude to leave you feeling all warm inside. A brilliant band.

Which brings us to the final band of the night and the one that should need no introduction at all, it’s freaking Aonia! The operatic progressive headliners, who bring one of the most energised shows of the day to leave everyone exhausted, but content. They’ve always been an impressive band, not just because of those two voices, but because of the overall talent in the ranks. Yet, there was something new here. Something that told those watching that Aonia hadn’t been sitting around twiddling their thumbs since AoniaFest IV.

We’re not just talking about the new songs either. Although it was mightily pleasing to hear something new as we’ve been patiently awaiting the follow-up to The Seven for some time now. We’re talking about how they performed and how they interacted with the attendees. Looking way more confident and comfortable than ever before, Aonia feel bigger. Bigger than the stage they’re on, bigger than the venue, bigger than us schmucks who seriously underpaid to see this show.

Songs we’ve heard countless times vibrated off the walls, resonated in different ways, it’s downright emotional at times. Looking around at the faces of others, seeing the raised fists, hearing people trying to singalong with voices that most of us could only dream of having, it’s a triumphant show.

…and then it is over. The streets of Sheffield are filled with party-goers, puke, and a whole lot of dropped chips. We stagger back to the hotel for a couple more drinks, drunk on the day’s experience and the phenomenal bands we saw. There’s no argument between us, we’ll do this again next year, and so should you.


  • Carl Fisher

    Owner/Administrator/Editor/Writer/Interviewer/YouTuber - you name it, I do it. I love gaming, horror movies, and all forms of heavy metal and rock. I'm also a Discworld super-fan and love talking all things Terry Pratchett. Do you wanna party? It's party time!

AoniaFest V
  • The Overall Experience - 10/10
  • Aonia - 10/10
  • Dakesis - 9.5/10
  • Novacrow - 9.5/10
  • Steel Mage - 9/10
  • Bring to Bear - 7.5/10
  • Sphinx - 7/10
  • ThunarWülf - 8/10
User Review
  • Sending
    The Overall Experience
  • Sending
  • Sending
  • Sending
  • Sending
    Steel Mage
  • Sending
    Bring to Bear
  • Sending
  • Sending