Once a year the Hard Rock Hell behemoth rolls into town, transforming Birmingham into a mecca for all British metal fans. For two days every February the festival takes over the O2 Academy and its three rooms, giving us the best names in the industry on the main stage and a plethora of up and coming acts on the two other stages.
Now in it's third year the line up is stronger than ever, and that bill is the main reason the festival is fully sold out!
Opening proceedings on the main stage are local thrashers Eradikator. Hopefully a band familiar to all our readers having covered them at numerous shows around the country over the past few years including their 2017 appearance at Bloodstock. The set, filled with tunes from their upcoming new album, shows a growth in the band’s sound. Building on the heavy influence of the greats of the thrash genre which has always been their foundation. Their well-rounded sound is driven by the awe-inspiring Liam Priest on lead guitar and the beast that is Andy MacNevin on rhythm; delivering the ultimate fast paced assault.
For the second year in a row Ballsdeep are entertaining the festival from the main stage. No frills metal with a hardcore edge, the band provide balls to the wall aggression throughout their 50 minute set. Frontman Bez bouncing around the stage, a man possessed, as the whole band's unique sound batters our senses and provide us with one of the best performances of the day.
Finnish upstarts Lost Society bring with them a buzz that has many waiting in anticipation. They have a youthful vigour about their performance, something that has been somewhat lacking so far today. The energy the band bring entices the audience in, they feed off the band and likewise the band off them. The crowd lap up the youthful angst driven metal performance and are left wanting more.
Raging Speedhorn are stalwarts of the British scene having been around in various guises for 21 years now. They provide the assembled masses with aggression at its very finest. The double vocals of John and Frank dual with intensity as the set offers a varied mix of songs from across their back catalogue. A flurry of early material causes a wave of good friendly violent fun in the what is the best pit action of the weekend by far. Over a twenty-year career there have been some outstanding shows, but tonight here at HRH Metal, that was career defining. A festival steeling performance!
It’ll be hard to follow that, but day one headliners Trollfest have that task. Very few seem to know what to expect from the band who rarely visit these shores, and when the stage gets filled with balloons are intrigue is peaked. Seven Norwegian men take the stage the majority dressed as Disney Princesses (yes you’ve read that correctly) whilst front man ‘Trollmannen’ enters wearing a flash suit and bejewelled with a balloon crown of some magnificence. Seriously you’ll have to look at the photos to get the full scale of the visual masterpiece. Onto the performance, it was a fun folk metal affair, full of dancing and merriment. Taking the visuals aside if you like metal of the folk variety then you’d love this up. If your not a keen folk aficionado then as a one off show it was great, but we remain unconvinced the gimmick would work on the less hard-core fans long term.
Onto day 2 and there are many a hungover looking fan mingling throughout the venue first thing. Fury really get the blood pumping again with the energetic melodic metal and Julian’s expansive vocal range. Swiftly followed by northern fuzz merchants Witch Tripper whose brand of stoner rock was the perfect hangover cure.
UK thrash titans Acid Reign should have put on one of the performances of the weekend, but a last minute illness reduced the five piece to a quartet. The missing guitar somewhat hurt their sound, they were missing their usual depth and vigour and hence slightly lessened the bands usual impact. H still bounces around the stage like a 12 year old boy on acid (no pun intended), climbing the rigging and jumping off speaker sacks. The fans run riot and the crowd surfer count starts climbing for the first time this weekend. Circle pits start everywhere as the arena is a mass of flying bodies, blood, sweat and alcohol all topped off with H performing from the balcony and threatening to launch himself into the crowd.
Dani Filth, of Cradle of Filth fame, brought his other outfit Devilment to the festival. Despite not being the biggest fan of his other band, Devilment provide something else that can even draw Dani’s biggest opposition into the fold. Musically Devilment stand head and shoulders above Cradle and the live show matches this. However vocally Dani regularly switches between his standard tone and what seems to be a high pitch squeal. It is that squeal which is the only downside to their set, a noise that began to grate after some time, but overall a noteworthy performance.
Decapitated return to these shores to close out the festival after their much-publicised troubles in the US, which we need not discuss here. The stage is sparsely dressed save for a few strobes, this is four men, and their instruments here to let the music do all the talking. There is little chat as the band launch through ‘One-Eyed Nation’ and ‘Kill The Cult’, the fans give a raucous response as the set continues. This out and out brutality leaves no room to breathe, death metal supremacy and the ultimate way to close out the weekend.
For three years now this festival has delivered, this year was no exception. From the entertainment of Trollfest to the barbarity of Decapitated there was something for every type of heavy metal fan. But ultimately no one could beat the performance Raging Speedhorn put on. This was the metal world at its very best.