It’s the inaugural edition of Hard Rock Hell: Doom Vs Stoner and fans of the genres advance towards Sheffield for a weekend of great bands and pies. For the first edition of hopefully many, the organisers have definitely pulled together a line-up of class acts that is sure to be hard to top next year for the second chapter in the DVS story. For the fans, it’s a chance to watch their favourite bands all in one place and enjoy a weekend of pure unadulterated heavy music. For those new to the genre being dragged along by a friend or a significant other, its an opportunity to see what these genres are all about and what a magnificent introduction they had.
Things begin for us with one of our favourite bands of the year. Slabdragger are opening the whole event
and as we stand around watching their sound check, we couldn’t wait to see them perform. As usual the band sound monstrously huge and we couldn’t think of a better opener to the weekend. Having only just seen them a couple of months back at The Underworld, London, this feels like one of the biggest crowds they’ve played too and at 2.30pm on a Saturday no less. The band are pleasantly surprised when the crowd indicates that they have heard the first Slabdragger album when asked. But looking from the balcony down to the masses, its easy to see that there are an incredible amount of the bands fans there which is great.
Another familiar bunch of faces for us come in the form of Limb. Again, just seeing them in a supporting slot with Dopethrone & Gurt (who both should be considered for next years’ edition) they tear the place down. We can’t help but feel like proud fathers seeing them deliver on the big stage in front of so many people. There’s no denying it. The band just oozes ‘cool’ as they strut their stuff on stage and whilst they were down a member enlisting the services of the weird and wonderful Vodun’s Marassa, the band sounded as big and as bold as they ever have.
Electric Citizen feels like they draw a bit of a short straw and its not entirely their fault in all honestly. The band are good. Better than good, they’re great but having to follow the likes of Slabdragger and Limb, their sound which is very cool blend of Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd in places falls a little flat at times. It’s a great set that may be hindered a little by the energy and spark of the opening bands and whilst it may take a little time to get back into it, the band do well to draw the people in and by the end of the set, there is a feeling of grandeur and excitement once more as they end in the biggest way they can.
UK Heroes Conan have been all over the place lately. You name it. Shows with the likes of Sleep, Slots at this years Desertfest and many many more. It only feels right that they be apart of this event and from the sounds of things, the crowd agrees. Make no mistake this is the band that really takes things to another level on the day and they sound massive only outshined by the masses of fans all chanting the Conan name in unison as loud as they could.
There is something that feels a little out of place when Angel Witch hit the stage. Its not really a band that we would associate with the genres. That being said, who cares! At this point, we’re all drunk and getting into the swing of things and the NWOBHM kings are here to keep that party flame alight and they do just that. Their set list hasn’t changed much lately but that’s ok because ‘Angel Of Death’ & ‘Angel Witch’ are the songs everyone wants to hear and party to.
To no surprise, the busiest we see the room all day is for the appearance of Orange Goblin who headline the first day successfully. What has been a busy day just got a whole lot busier as the band take to the stage and kick things off with ‘Scorpionica’ which elicits a huge response as the fans make themselves known. Vocalist Ben Ward absolutely owns his stage as the band lays waste to Sheffield. There may have been a whole heap of other great bands on this stage on Day 1 but this was Orange Goblins stage all along.
One of the surprises of the day comes from Regulus who blended atmosphere with sheer heaviness. Plenty of nodding heads all around for the band who’s set consisted of mainly new stuff. There are moments of old however with tracks such as ‘Big Business’ from their debut album and it fills the academy nicely.
And whilst the former may have been a nice surprise, something that definitely was no surprise to us was
Ohhms who grabbed each and every soul packed into the the O2 Academy and proceeded to smash each and every one of them to pieces with their crushing music. Its undeniable, they didn’t just come to conquer, they came to obliterate. To leave nothing alive in its wake and that’s what they did and if one thing is certain, its that time moved far too quickly during their set which felt like was over far too quick.
Trippy Wicked were in fact pretty wicked. Oh and very drunk. The band did well to try and fill an hour’s worth of stage time but at times it was easy to get distracted. Kicking things off in front of pretty much no one, it didn’t take long for the band and their sound to lure folks back from their food and drinks. “Its nice to play a smaller stage than we are used to’ the band jokes as they enter another song. Shortly after, having acknowledged that they are at a stoner fest, they request all lights on the stage to be changed to green. Of course the lighting guy obliges and the sound of cheers feel the room. The band are good fun and play great music but the set time may have been just a tad too long.
In their haze of red light, the photographer’s worst nightmare, Witchsorrow play to a crowd who are probably on their last legs and need a pick me up. Fortunately, Witchsorrow are indeed that pick me up. Its hard not to be drawn in by the band as their wall of sound smacks you in the face. The shroud of red only adds to the atmosphere that is their doomy and sludgy music that has most captivated from the get go.
A different kind of energy comes to the stage shortly after though and much like the previous day that had Angel Witch in the same slot, Raging Speedhorn are swinging for the fences and have come to really tear the place apart. In true speedhorn fashion, its relentless from start to finish. ‘Hate Song’, ‘Knives’, ‘Thumper’ are all a part of the set list obviously. There is chaos, beer, beer and chaos combined and that’s in-between the music and the fans going wild.
The festivals main attraction is here. Whilst it’s a Sunday night and people more than likely have work in the morning, the crowd is still as big as it should be for such a headliner. UK Doom legends Candlemass are here to show everyone how its done. Playing everything from ‘Mirror Mirror’ to ‘Solitude’ with an added encore featuring ‘A Sorcerer's Pledge’. No stone was left unturned and with the fans almost certainly getting their moneys worth in this one performance alone.
Overall Hard Rock Hell: Doom Vs Stoner delivered on all aspects. The venue was well used offering two stages within the same building. Ample opportunity to come and go from the venue as you please as well as decent on site amenities. Coming from the east, it was a new experience to be able to eat pies at a metal show. God bless you northerners. There isn’t much more to say. Great bands, great venue, well organized. We can’t wait until next year!
All photos taken by Jay Russell - JPR Photography
Full galleries coming soon.