This year’s HRH Metal took place at the weekend in Birmingham. It’s the second year of the event, and the lineup was definitely appealing. The festival appeals to a lot of the same people as Hammerfest but for many people Birmingham is just easier to get to. With three stages there was plenty of choice for people.
I arrived on the Saturday in time for the first act on the main stage – Collibus. They get the weekend off to a great start with a really good set. Gemma Fox does a great job on vocals and really puts everything she’s got into her performance. A band well worth checking out if you havent already.
Over on the third stage, Masters call were blasting out their dark blackened death metal. I think the lighting engineer took the dark and blackened bit too literally as they were playing in almost complete darkness. They’ve got a good sized audience and sounded pretty good from what I heard. I’d have liked to listen longer but after watching Collibus I only managed to catch part of their set.
Ballsdeep were next up – a band that it’s probably not safe to google on any work computer as you’re likely to get some very dodgy search results. This band deliver heavy aggressive metal and do it extremely well and the crowd certainly seem to enjoy their set as much as the band look to be enjoying themselves on stage.
Monument were next up. I’ve seen them several times before and they’ve always been good, but tonight is the best I’ve seen them – they seem to thrive on the larger stage and having a good crowd. With their twin guitar sound inspired by some of the best British heavy metal bands they sound great and really go down well with the crowd. They’re not just good musically, but have the stage presence needed to take things up a level from the earlier bands.
Local band Haerken were next up. They have a strong visual image with the costumes they wear which works well, but image is nothing without the right music to back it up with, and happily Haerken have plenty of talent in that respect. Their death metal sounds great and as with every other time I’ve seen them, they put in an impressive set. Along with the other bands on the main stage so far today they really show how much talent there is in the UK music scene.
The Dread crew of oddwood were next up. They’re on tour with Alestorm on the “Piratefest” tour so I’d guessed they were pirate themed but since I hadnt had time to check them out I wasn’t sure what to expect from them. Featuring more traditional instruments rather than a standard metal band, they have a very different sound to Alestorm, but damn they’re good. It’s a great set and they draw a big crowd. Definitely a band I want to hear more from.
Evil Scarecrow came next to separate the two pirate themed bands with their own brand of lunacy. They’re a perfect band for festivals as not only are they very good musically, they get the audience more involved than any other band I’ve seen, whether it’s scuttling left and right during “Crabulon”, Waltzing during “Dance of the cyclops” or doing the robot motions during “Robototron”. It’s so much fun that there’s no surprise to find the main stage area absolutely packed with people watching them. It’s not just limited to getting the audience to do things – Brother Pain is introduced and after doing a handstand jumps down from the stage and dives into the crowd to deliver high fives. Monty Blitzfist takes things a step further by not just going into the crowd, he goes on top of the crowd and plays a drum while he’s supported by the crowd. Their stage props have improved over the years and add to the fun, although since someone was more than a little enthusiastic with the smoke machine, it was quite hard to see at time (and the backstage area was so full of smoke nobody could see a thing). I felt sorry for the bands on the other stages as going up against Evil Scarecrow must have reduced their audience – I’d have liked to watch Fury but was enjoying Evil Scarecrow too much to leave them and see Fury. A fantastic fun set.
Finally it was time for tonight’s headliner – Alestorm. Clearly they were a very popular choice to headline given how packed the main stage area is, and also by the number of people dressed up as pirates. Currently celebrating the 10th anniversary of the release of their debut album, the band set out to deliver what people were there to hear – lots of fun pirate themed metal. I think that’s the key thing with Alestorm – it’s fun. They don’t take themselves too seriously (as evidenced by the giant rubber duck sitting at the back of the stage), and people simply have fun at their gigs. They took to the stage following an intro tape of the Blazing Saddles theme – not an obvious choice I have to admit, but a fun one.
Their pirate theming means songs about pirates (obviously) and plenty of songs about drinking, including a Taio Cruz cover – Hangover. It’s a great fun set that ends with “Shipwrecked” before a three song encore that concludes with the song least likely to ever be played on the radio…”Fucked with an anchor”. The outro tape has to be the strangest choice for any metal band ever though – Mr Blobby.