This was the first HRH event to be held in Birmingham, and was the first HRH metal. One of many HRH events, it’s clearly aimed at the same fans as Hammerfest, but in a location far more convenient for many people.
The event has three stages, with the main stage not kicking off till a couple of hours after the smallest stage. Given that, I’d expected attendance for the first bands on the small stage to be fairly low, especially since many people were still travelling or checking into hotels at 1pm, but it was good to see that there was a good crowd there right from the start, with the first bands playing to a full Academy 3. Burden of Noose and Bloodyard both put in great sets to get the weekend off to a good start.
Bearfist kicked off proceedings on stage one with some strong tunes, loud shouty vocals and plenty of power. They went down well and the crowd steadily grew during their set.
Next up was Red Rum, bringing their brand of pirate metal to Birmingham. Opening with some keyboards may have had one or two people wondering what was going on – keyboards at a metal festival! It didn’t take long though before the guitars kicked in and the crowd started to realise this was definitely metal, not anything more lightweight. They put in a great set and the crowd certainly looked to be having fun.
Local band Winter Storm opened stage 2, and clearly weren’t expecting too many people to come and see them when there were bands playing on the other stages, but they clearly have more fans than they realised as the Academy 2 was full of people as they took to the stage. Despite the nerves expressed by singer Hannah Fieldhouse, they didn’t let it affect their performance and the part of their set I saw before heading off to see Savage Messiah was great.
Savage Messiah never disappoint, but today they put in a performance that showed just how dedicated they are to what they do. Fairly early in their set, bassist Mira Slama collapsed as his right knee gave out, but rather than stopping and limping off stage, he carried on playing as he lay on the stage in pain before a crew member came over to help lift him to his feet for him to carry on with the rest of the set.
Sadly I had to skip the rest of the day due to unforseen circumstances.
Sunday for me kicked off with Pythia on the main stage. While I’ve seen them dozens of times before, this was only my second time since they recruited Sophie Dorman to replace Emily Ovenden on vocals, so I was looking forward to seeing how she’d settled in. The answer as it turned out, is extremely well. She’s grown in confidence a lot since she joined and is now a good performer as well as being a talented singer. Her vocals are less operatic than Emily’s, so don’t suit some of the songs as well, but seem more suited than others. As we’ve seen with other bands such as Nightwish, a new singer can only demonstrate their full potential when new material comes along, so lets hope Pythia get a new album written and recorded soon. In the past Pythia never had a keyboard player for live shows and relied on backing tapes, but this new lineup is different as it includes in Marcus Matusiak a keyboard player who does play live rather than just on albums. He doesn’t play traditional keyboards but instead uses a keytar so he’s a lot more mobile and able to interact with the rest of the band. It definitely adds a lot to the live shows.
Primitai then bring us a good solid set of good old fashioned heavy metal with a twin guitar sound. It’s a good set as always from these guys.
Hanging Doll were playing one of their first shows in a long time on the third stage so I skipped Winterfylleth to go and check them out. Having split up and had management issues when their former drummer quit, they’ve finally reformed and are back to making music. While they’re not quite 100% yet, they’re certainly getting back to form, so hopefully we can look forward to a new album and more live dates before long.
Hell were next on the main stage. They’re a band that mixes a theatrical performance with great music. Even stripped of their pyros as they are tonight, they still have plenty of ways to entertain the fans. It’s a superb performance musically and vocally so the theatrics are just the icing on the cake rather than being used to mask any shortcomings. They always put in a great set and tonight is no different and they make me glad that like all the bands on the bill they have a good long set.
Lawnmower Deth came next and despite both bands coming from Nottingham and Hell’s guitarist Andy Sneap being responsible for producing Lawnmower Deth’s “Mowdeer” EP wasy back in the late 80s, the two bands are very different. The only real similarity is that both like to entertain the crowd – Hell with their theatrical performance style and Lawnmower Deth with…insanity. When you have a set that includes songs such as “Did you spill my pint”, “Flying killer cobs” and “Watch out grandma here comes a lawnmower” then you’re never going to get a boring performance, but when you have a stage throw that includes large green beach-balls being thrown around the venue, a pervy giant rabbit running around on stage, someone being put in a gunge tank for “Sheep dip” amongst other antics, and plenty of people in the crowd waving inflatable chainsaws then it takes comedy/insanity levels to a new high. Amongst the comedy they manage to get a circle pit going. It’s a fantastic set and a real highlight of the weekend.
Tonight’s headliner was thrash legends Sodom. After the crazy antics and fun of Lawnmower Deth, Sodom delivered a no-frills set of top quality German thrash metal. While they were hard to fault, for me it just felt a bit flat after Lawnmower Deth, whereas normally I’d have enjoyed Sodom a lot more. A worthy headliner to end the weekend.