For the second year in a row the Hard Rock Hell franchise brings its METAL offering back to the streets of Birmingham with a two day long music festival. Covering three stages and 40 plus bands the metal community here in the genre’s heartland are in for a treat.
The smallest of the three stages is dedicated to the areas local talent and opening the whole festival are The Revival’s favourite up and coming death metal band Ashen Crown. We’ve been there since the bands beginning, from their very first show just last year, through Bloodstock and the Midlands Metal Crusade and onto this. In just a few weeks they will take to the stage alongside the mighty Obituary, but this afternoon they perform to a packed house in Birmingham. Despite the early start time hundreds are there to see Ste and Jay combine their ferocious riffs that meld with Phil’s bass and Chris’s drums deliver a full on onslaught of the senses. Kieran has grown into his front man role since that very first show last year and now commands the stage showing it’s only a matter of time until the lads strike it big!
With the festival still warming up Wrath of the Gods follow on the third stage. A hint of traditional 80’s heavy metal fills the air, brash guitars, grisly vocals and cut of denims. Iron Maiden meets the big four in thrash for a twist in the bands sound. Well rounded and well delivered.
Opening the main stage are Manchester’s Collibus, melodic progressive metal with a stunning vocal performance. Gemma Fox has the voice to slay a thousand dragons, fearsome, aggressive yet almost operatic in nature. The theatrically thrashy guitars compliment the vocals whilst the eccentric bass is unique yet on point. A solid performance to start the main stage with a bang.
Balls to the wall aggression is in order for the main stage when Ballsdeep come on. No frills metal with a
hardcore edge that gives them both a unique sound and on stage energy. Bez bounces around the stage a growling Tasmanian devil who, along with the rest of the band give their all four a full fifty minutes.
As evening draws in the second of the three stages finally opens with Londoners GraVil and their own brand of death metal. Thrash inspired guitars with a dark bass undertone. Gritty vocals in keeping with the bands name delight the ears and please the throngs of on lookers.
In complete contrast on the main stage are NWOBHM outfit Monument. If you close your eyes you would swear this was Bruce Dickinson singing. Dressed like they’ve stepped out of 1982, the denim clad warriors in high tops entertain with wild swirling guitar solos that Dave Murray would be proud of. The Iron Maiden fans among us lap it up!
Whilst the main stage runs strong, the smaller stages continue to throw up some hidden gems. Entertainment wise The Face of Ruin put on one hell of a show, with a vocal emergency in progress the band are relabelled as “Karaoke with The Face of Ruin”. Anthony and Scott from Ghetika step in to help on vocal duties, singing from lyric sheets and apologising for their performances. The rest of the band put on the show you’ve come to expect from them. The finest melodic death metal which tonight comes with this added twist. Despite the setbacks a thoroughly entertaining set down in the basement.
The entertainment meter goes up a notch back on the main stage with Haerken. Dressed as though they’ve just walked off the set of a Robin Hood film, the local death metal outfit add a touch of theatrics to their solid set. The death metal game has been strong throughout today but Haeken have taken it to the next level. From the front right to the back of the balcony their music is lapped up sucked in by the mysticism and kept entwined in the music.
The Dead Crew of Oddwood turn the festival on its head with a complete about turn. A group of pirates singing sea shanties is what we seem to have complete with double bass, accordion and flute. Interesting and surprisingly enthralling, but is this really “metal”?
Bradford’s Ironrat restore normal order on the third stage. Traditional stoner rock goodness, deep bass lines and a groove filled riffs throughout. It’s a similar story up on stage two with Desert Storm growing out their own stoner brand. As they’ve developed over the years they’ve come on leaps and bounds, obviously taking deep influence from Orange Goblin. That classic Goblin sound comes bounding through, Matts vocals getting deeper and darker and judging by the turn out in this smallish room the fans are loving it.
Now we are moving into the big names, the main hall is packed to the point of being unable to move as we await the penultimate band. By now everyone knows about Evil Scarecrow, even if you've never seen them live before you will know they are probably the most fun band you will ever watch live (sorry to the Lawnmower Deth lads, but they have stolen your crown).
As the room darkens, Rock You like a Hurricane rings out through the PA and pryo goes off. Sh*t who gave Evil Scarecrow pyro? This is going to be more fun than anyone possibly imagined. The set list is much the same as it always is, although a tad longer than usual. This staple of the Scarecrow show is what draws you in, opening with Rise and Frankenstein’s Mirror. We are treated to a very much extended Robototron tonight, as usual the whole room dances along, arms waving in synchronisation as band members take it in turns to surf the crowd, instruments in hand.
The fun continues through Dance of the Cyclops and of course Crabulon has the whole pit scurrying side to side. Hurricanado sees a new synchronised dance added to the fans repertoire and one the band promise to roll out on their upcoming headline tour. Whatever you think of the Scarecrow, live you can never fail to walk away with a big smile on your face.
Headliners over on the second stage are Fury who produce a set of sheer magic. Julian's expansive vocals mixed with Becky’s talent on bass leave us in awe, musically they are fantastic and an all-round show that leaves you wanting more!
The day draws to a close with the much anticipated pirate metallers Alestorm, here on an epic quest to drink your beer, steal your rum, and be the greatest damn band that ever did sail the seven seas! Pirate metal really is a thing and it’s here headlining HRH Metal day 1.
The six foot rubber duck on stage should be an indicator that Alestorm are going to be as much fun, if not more, than Evil Scarecrow who have just vacated the same stage. Dressed as Pirates they take to the set with gusto and launch straight into Keelhauled. Bringing to proceedings a blend of part folk metal, part Pirates of the Carribean the crowd lap it up. I’d seen a large number of people dressed as pirates today, more so than your average festival and these lads are exactly why.
The Sunken Norwegian has the whole crowd singing in unison, whilst the highlight of the night (away from the music) is when a circle pit forms, full of pirates and surrounding two men dressed as Banana’s in Pyjamas. Not your everyday sight at a gig! To round out their set are the ever popular Wenches & Mead and F*cked With an Anchor.
Day one of HRH Metal done, its been a whole lot of fun but can day two live up to it?