To make sure that we covered every band playing (and there were a lot), Topher joined Katie to immerse himself in a sweaty metal venue for two days…
Hard Rock Hell events are widely known around the country for being packed out and well organised. The 17th and 18th February was the no frills “Metal” event in Birmingham’s O2 Academy, promising to be all encompassing and all heavy metal. Taking over each one of the three stages, HRH Metal is in its second year following a successful, sold out weekend in 2017.
The first band of the weekend were Midlands-based Ashen Crown. Performing a solid start to the proceeds with their mix of thrash and death metal, energetically warming up the crowd. They were closely followed by Wrath of the Gods with their more ‘old school’ metal tone, supported with big choruses and ripping guitar work. For myself, staying in room 3 or “The Best of Brum” as it’s known, Master’s Call graced the stage to a fully packed crowd exhibiting a heavy and dirty black metal soundscape.
For my first venture over to the main stage, Ballsdeep pleased a growing audience with a showcase of tight, heavy rock. The vocals particularly stood out today, visceral, melodic and consistently great. In room 2, London based GraVil brought in waves of energy with a charismatic performance.
At Saturday’s halfway point, Warwick’s The Face of Ruin blasted their way through catchy melodic death metal numbers with a slight twist to their usual line up. With usual frontman Alex being away from duty, the band enlisted the help of ex-Gehtika members Ant and Scott. Their song performances were covered well and they gave a decent attempt at engaging an unexpected audience with antics between the songs.
Back on the main stage of Birmingham’s O2 Academy, Haerken brought more than just music to the weekend. Stage banners, lamps and their Anglo-Saxon attire dressed the Academy brilliantly. They put on a huge show for an unsigned act and there was absolutely nothing that separated them from the bigger, signed, touring bands of the weekend. In fact, if there was anything that separated them, it was the fact that Haerken were most likely the stand out band of HRH Metal.
Room 2 hosted the next band Warcrab, giving a grind/doom vibe full of gloomy riffs and a pounding rhythm. Yorkshire’s Ironrat immersed stage 3 with stoner/blues with long instrumental passages and almost straight rock vocals. The feel of the songs were excellent and they were diverse and full of depth. Groovy.
The last band of the day for me was back on the main stage. I have seen Evil Scarecrow perform more times than I can count. From playing with them back in a tiny, empty venue in Kettering way back when, it fills me with a huge amount of joy when I see them play on stages such as this. As always, they were stupidly tight and loud. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand and didn’t even need to prompt for Scarecrow dance classics like “Crabulon” and “Hurricanado”.
The first act of the Sunday, Devil’s Playground, destroyed the place. Almost literally. Brandishing their nu-metal, duel vocal performance they managed to knock out the power to the backline on stage. This rudely interrupted what was a strong, professional performance from the Coventry Metal to the Masses winners. Luckily it didn’t take long before they were able to continue showcasing their craft.
Three piece Vice ripped through a hefty thrash filled set, electrifying room 3 setting the scene nicely for Birmingham’s own The Mighty Wraith. In the vein of modern power metal, The Mighty Wraith’s catalogue is full to the brim of pace and melody.
The stage took a different turn next. Black metal group Trivax hissed and screamed venomous vocals over a gritty, buzzing strain of heavy metal. I was met with Torous on stage 2 who masterly wove their heavy music with the fabric of the Celtic.
Over at the main stage, Italian folk power band Elvenking lit the audience up with a set full of ballads and magic, performing a nimble set of charming vocal and pleasant violin. Contrasted by room 3, the angry Sister Shotgun injected the crowd with power and ferocity as the night drew closer to the final bands of what has been a loud and brilliant two days of heavy metal.
It was the last show for Attica Rage‘s guitarist and it was certainly a damn good send off with a fully packed room 2 at the O2 Academy. Their heavy rock brought a touch of class with dual guitars and rhythmic choruses.
I was ending HRH Metal with an underground favourite, Footprints in the Custard. After chucking inflatable penises into the audience (obviously), Footprints in the Custard entertained the crowd into a delirium with instant hits such as “Willies are for Weeing” and “Wankclaw”. Is there really any other way you’d want it to end?
Photos by Watchmaker Studios