© Jay Hawkins
Photos by Jay Hawkins
HRH (Hard Rock Hell) are a well establish and successful music franchise, that have managed to build a reputation, that speaks quality, within the music industry, especially when it comes to putting on events, such as this. They’ve achieved this, by utilizing the strengths of some of the best people in the business and because they listen to their fans, bands and us the press! Above all, though, they themselves are all music fans, so they know what they like and what’s expected of them. Now, though, they have a reputation to uphold. Having held many, all weekend events, in and around our neighboring country Wales, they are also known for holding events in Sheffield and even Ibiza, so they know what they’re doing. This weekend, however, is the first HRH Metal event, to be held in, well there was nowhere else a metal festival deserves to be really and that’s Birmingham.
Sadly, I could only cover the Saturday, due to personal reasons, but if I was given the chance, I’d of covered both days, in a heartbeat. The location for the weekend was none other than the O2 Academy, in Birmingham, which saw all 3 of its rooms being used, throughout the weekend. On arrival, I was kindly escorted to the press area, to obtain my media passes; by a lovely young lady (whose name I don’t know) who only did so, to get out of the cold reception area for 5 minutes, where we initially found her. As I walked through the main hall, I could see all the busy merchants, setting up their respective clothing, food and merchandise stools, in time for doors opening to the public. On arriving at the band/media area, I was greeted by the lovely staff, which is always one of the highlights of an HRH event, as they’re all such lovely people! As more people arrived, more familiar faces started to emerge, faces I’ve not seen for a while, faces I’ve missed, so the various conversations, between old friends, started to drown out the smell of burnt burgers, which seems to be looming in this area?
The first band on today, wasn’t until 13:00, so we had plenty of time to get ourselves over to Room 3, which was aptly titled “The Best of Brum” which would suggest all the bands that featured on it would be from Birmingham, but I know this not to be true and the bands, as shown on the schedule, were in fact from all over the county, but the intention was there, at least! The honor of kicking off HRH Metal was, however, given to a Birmingham-based band, who go by the name of Burden of the Noose. As you’d expect, from a Brum band, these guys were as dark and as gloomy as the stage lighting, which matched their style perfectly. I love a bit of Sludge/doom, so these guys were right up my street. Sadly, I couldn’t see most of the band, but Andy on lead vocals is a hard character to miss, especially with those piercing blue eyes of his, coupled with that thousand mile stare, he certainly puts you on edge. The music does the rest! Great set.
Staying on the ‘Best of Brum’ stage, not because the other stages hadn’t started yet, but because I’ve wanted to see Bloodyard for a long time now. Hailing from the North-West, these guys and pint-sized female vocalist, are making waves at present. Don’t let Donna’s size fool you, though, as she can scream and growl with the best of them. As they are primarily death metal, they saw fit to enter the Metal To The Masses competition, last year and for their efforts, won a place to perform on the New Blood Stage, at Bloodstock, last year. Sadly, I missed that performance, because I was drunk, somewhere else, I can be forgiven, right. I did hear they went down a storm that day, though! I bet they felt like rock royalty during this performance today, as there was a full pit of photographers, to capture it, probably like at Bloodstock, I’m sure they could get used to this, well, they have the credentials to warrant the attention. I doubt this is the last we’ve seen of this lot!
Opening the main stage, were Bearfist, who originate from Chelmsford. This 4 piece metal band, are still in their infancy, having only formed around 2014, yet their powerful riff fueled musical assault has managed to capture the imagination of music fans and promoters alike. I can only assume opening up the main stage, at any festival, can be both a daunting prospect and a great honor, in equal measure. On the one hand, you set the tone, for the rest of the day and on the other, you have to capture the crowd’s imagination quickly, to keep them engaged, as their beer levels haven’t quite reached optimum acceptable levels yet. I’m happy to report that Bearfist did a sterling job at opening up the main stage and enthralled the crowd remarkably well.
I stayed on the main stage, for the next act, Red Rum, as I was looking forward to seeing them again, as the first time I saw them at Beermageddon Festival, last year and as I recall it was most enjoyable. I think it’s safe to say the nerves were evident on their little eager faces today, but that didn’t deter them from the job in hand. They performed a sterling set, one of the best of the day in fact. I don’t usually listen to folk/pirate metal, or any kind of fantasy based metal for that matter, as a rule, but live, I love it, especially when a band, like this lot, do it so well. Hailing from the idiotic city of Nottingham, which is just up the road from me, I can honestly say, this won’t be the last time I see these guys and girl play, I love them and so did today’s crowd, who are all connoisseurs of metal! 2 thumbs up, ‘me hearties’!
As I’d seen the rest of the opening acts on each of the other two stages, I thought it only fair I make the effort to see Winter Storm, opening up proceedings on stage 2. It also gave me an opportunity to see what the stage/lighting was like, as I’ve never shot this stage before! Winter Storm are a five-piece Dark Melodic Metal band, who do in fact hail from the West Midlands. Two tracks in, Hannah, the band’s lead vocalist, and lead guitarist admitted she was bricking it, but it didn’t show and no one told Wayne, the bands other 7-string guitarists, they should be nervous, as he and the rest of the band appeared to be enjoying their time up on stage 2, a lot. A solid performance, from what I saw, all 20 minutes of it, sadly, that’s the problem with having so many bands playing, it’s inevitable there’s going to be a clash and I had to get back over to the main stage, for Savage Messiah, because I couldn’t miss them, it’s been ages!
I’m aware Savage Messiah have completed their latest album, which is yet to receive a release date. I now know, after today’s performance, the band are awaiting the details of a new record contract and want to make sure they don’t get shafted, by the record label. There’s one thing that can be said for Dave Silver, the dudes a very shrewd business man, which is how he sees his band, a business, which is the right way to conduct yourself, when in a band, just don’t forget to enjoy the music side and why you started making music in the first place! That said, the new tracks I heard sounded pretty cool, so I can’t wait for the release of this album! Today’s performance was a first for me, as I witnessed Mira, the band’s superb bassist, fall and hurt himself quite badly. Being quite concerned, I stopped shooting and hoped someone would also see that Mira was in distress, but no one did, other togs even carried on shooting him, whilst he crawled around the floor in agony, which discussed me greatly. Thankfully, the stage crew did eventually get him back on his feet, only to see him fall again a few moments later. In the end, they got him a stool to sit on, as he hurt his leg quite badly. Thankfully, his bass was fine, which meant he could carry on, through gritted teeth, I might add. Fair play son, the show must go on, as they say, what a trooper. I’m happy to report he’s doing fine now and should make a full recovery. Get some better shoe’s dude, those stages can get quite slippery, clearly!
Although Senser played on the main stage today, they were kind of the odd one out, yet they play alongside many metal bands and appear, quite frequently at HRH events. I can only assume they are close to the band bookers, as they wouldn’t be my first choice, to play at a metal festival. That said, they held their own and the fans, today, appreciated their efforts.
Raging Speedhorn, however, are very much metal and fit into today’s line up, very well! WOW, what energy! These guys have been touring the smaller venues, around the UK, supporting Skindred, of late. Sadly, their second vocalist has taken ill, not sure what the issue is, exactly, but he hasn’t been able to go on tour with his band, so I hope it’s not too serious and he’s going to make a full recovery? Stepping up to the plate and saving the day, is none other than Mr. Dan Cook, RSJ’s front man, who’s own band have also been touring with both RSH and RSJ and by all accounts, was a perfect choice, as today’s set proved. Take a bow son, take a bow. RSJ also feature on today’s lineup, but I didn’t catch their set, sadly.
As Def Con One featured over on stage two next, I made a quick dash over to catch them, as they’d made the effort to come all the way down here, from Newcastle, it was only polite. I’ve seen these guys play a baker’s dozen times now and every time and they never disappoint me. These guys are true professionals, who have mastered their craft, superbly. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore this band now since they’ve played the hallowed halls of Download! SHOW ME YOUR WAR FACE, AGAIN, AGAIN AND AGAIN, as I’ll never get bored of seeing these guys play live. They are also some of the nicest guys I’ve met on the live scene since I started doing this, nearly 10 years ago now, so that’s saying something!
The penultimate act on the main stage today, was the highly anticipated return of one of the greatest ‘modern day’ thrash bands, to emerge from the UK. They go by the name of Evile and I’ve waited A LONG TIME to see these guys play live A LONG TIME! The band is from Huddersfield ( I went to Uni there) in fact, the first time I should of seen these guys, was like 5 years ago when they were playing a hometown show and had label mates, Savage Messiah supporting them. I still to this day, don’t know why I never went up there to see that show and after today’s performance, I’m kicking myself even more now! Evile has managed to capture the true meaning of thrash metal and deliver the goods, with full force. What I witnessed tonight, took me back to the early days of thrash metal, when the genre’s leading bands, Slayer and Metallica were paving the way for this genre, yet they’ve managed to recapture those early days, when we saw those bands for the first time. (well some of us, I was too young) Matt, the band’s lead vocalist admitted it’s been 5 years since the band last played in Birmingham, Jesus, don’t let it be that long before you play again! In fact, I want to see Evile play every metal festival going this summer, even if I’m not there, metalheads all around the world need this band back in their lives! Congrats to Piers Dunno-Fuller, on his appointment as the band’s new (I say new, he’s been with them for years now) lead guitarist, what a guitar player, WOW, what an amazing musician and axe man, although, I already knew this, from his days playing in Fallen Fate, remember them, I miss that band, also! EVILE RULE!
After a long day on my feet, the day’s events draw to a close, with the headliners, Skindred, who also close their extensive touring schedule at tonight’s gig. This means they now have plenty of time to prepare for their headline performance at this year’s Bloodstock festival. Their announcement has split Bloodstockers, right down the middle, from what I can see, but the moaners are probably miserable bastards, who’ve never been to a live gig in their lives and have no idea of the pure explosive power that is Skindred. I have it on good authority, that BOA heads have wanted Skindred to play their festival for a while now, so in 2017, they get their wish! Having seen Skindred live, many times now, I know the fans at BOA won’t be disappointed, as everyone here at HRH Metal can confirm. In Skindred, we trust! I love these guys, bring it on!
To close, I can safely say, I love what I do, I love the people involved with HRH and everyone who attends their events! Until next time, keep it metal, my metal family! Now to go wipe my son’s arse, again, for the 10th time, since I started writing this article, which feels like forever!