Gig Review: HRH Metal Festival, Birmingham DAY TWO (18th February 2018)

After a full-on day of metal yesterday the mood at the beginning of day two was unsurprisingly a little sedate and I spotted a few people catching forty-winks in various dark corners of the main room before the bands started… but for every fragile-looking corner-lurker there was someone else valiantly attempting to make a start on their first two-pint glass (more like a vase) of lager of the day. Respect.

Incinery (c) Katie Frost

The first band of the day for me were Incinery from Nottingham in Room 3. There had been some improvements in the lighting since yesterday which made them a pleasure to shoot. Vocalist James was full of power and energy and I thoroughly enjoyed their thrash-metal set.

Opening proceedings on the main stage today were Fire Red Empress. Vocalist Jennifer put 110% into her performance, and was a wonderful front-woman. Their set was powerful and unapologetic from start to finish and they are definitely a band I will keep an eye out for in the future as I really enjoyed their riff-fueled rock and massive vocals.

Next up on the main stage were the gloriously riff-tastic Kaine who I also really enjoyed. Their set was fun and energetic and by this point the hangovers were starting to clear and the crowd were really getting into their performance.  As the band neared the end of their set vocalist and rhythm guitarist Rage Sadler told the crowd that it was one of the most fun gigs they had played in recent years, and it was clear to see that the band were having a great time. Their drummer in particular was one of the happiest I have ever seen, and was so enthusiastic that technicians had to keep rushing onto the stage to stop the kick-drum from falling off the raised platform.

Kaine (c) Katie Frost

I then headed to Room 2 to catch Lifer from South Wales. These guys had a really beefy sound that I could feel pounding in my chest. Lifer had drawn a decent-sized crowd and I could certainly see why – the thunderous bass and drums were expertly paired with great guitar work and gutsy vocals with a punk edge.

Next up were Londoners Nightmare World who brought their unique brand of power / melodic / progressive metal to Room 3. It was a bit of a squeeze to get all six of them onto the relatively small stage but they managed not to bash each-other in the face with guitars and put on a great set.

An hour later in the very same room, another London band took to the stage. One of the first things I noticed about melodic death / groove metal band Skarthia was that they didn’t have a drummer, but this mattered little as the three-piece hit the room with their fast-paced, high-energy sound, accompanied by some great backing drums that vocalist Avichai seemed to be controlling from a little magic black box. Riff-tastic and thoroughly groovy, dude!

Dakesis (c) Katie Frost

I had been looking forward to seeing Birmingham power-metallers Dakesis as I thoroughly enjoyed them the first time I saw them supporting Thunderstone at The Black Heart in London a couple of years ago. The band were clearly popular with the home crowd as Room 2 was pretty packed whilst the four-piece took to the stage. Not only are these guys brilliant musically, they also have a fantastic on-stage chemistry and always look like they are having the best time. Vocalist Gemma commanded the attention of the whole room with her soaring vocals and looked like a beautiful metal warrior-mermaid as she swung her blue hair around. I highly recommend checking them out if they come to a venue near you.

Memoriam (c) Katie Frost

Next on the main stage for me were Memoriam. Vocalist Karl told the crowd how pleased he was that they were playing in their hometown, and there was a lot of pride as he mentioned some of the great metal bands that had come from the city, including Black Sabbath. In my notes I wrote down “heavy, loud & sludgy” and I remember really enjoying their death / grind metal set.

Something very different next as I returned to Room 3 to check out Dead Hands who were a huge amount of fun from the very start. Vocalist Richard wore some very short shorts and risked providing us photographers with a bit of an eye-full as he lunged towards us, and his band-mates were equally energy-filled. Lead guitarist Debbie was almost exhausting to watch as she flung her hair and guitar around whilst effortlessly delivering some incredible riffs. They describe their sound as “mathcore, hardcore, demonic transcendental black metal and grindcore” which I think describes it better than I ever could. They are like nothing I had ever seen before and would definitely go check them out again.

Grave Digger (c) Katie Frost

Closing the festival were old-school metal heroes Grave Digger who had come all the way from Germany. This band date back to 1980 and they still put on a cracking performance – no frills, classic heavy metal at its very best. Opening with “Healed By Metal” – the title track from their latest album released last month – they went on to play a stonking 18-track set of stomping anthems and epic riffs to a very warm reception from the crowd.

So there you have it. I had a lovely time at HRH Metal Festival and discovered some brilliant new bands as well as meeting some lovely people. This year’s event sold out 6 months in advance, so if you fancy coming along next year you had better keep an eye on their website for details of how you can get hold of tickets.

Photos by Katie Frost Photography

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