This was the first HRH Vikings event. Like HRH Metal, CROWS and Sleaze, it’s held at an O2 Academy venue rather than a holiday camp. Despite being the first one, it’s proved popular with the place being busy right from the start of the first day. With headliners Turisas and Tyr plus a strong lineup there’s plenty to enjoy.
Day one kicked off on the second stage with Ravenage (not to be confused with The Raven Age), a Yorkshire viking metal band. They’re certainly a good choice to get things underway as they really put in a good performance and get the crowd enjoying themselves (the bars being busy probably helped with that too).
They were followed by Isarnos, a 7 piece band with traditional instruments such as a hurdy gurdy as well as the normal metal band instruments. They’ve got a great folk metal sound and it’s a great set to listen to.
Up next was a band that was definitely out of place on the lineup – Footprints in the custard. They may be popular but their parody metal/punk sound just doesnt fit an event like this.
It’s at this point in the day that the main stage opens and it’s time to start the routine of trudging up and down the stairs between stages. It’s worth it though as after the opening ceremony, Haerken take to the main stage. They have a strong visual image with the costumes they wear and they’ve got great songs too. It’s the heaviest band of the day so far – more death metal than viking or folk metal, but it works well and they go down well with the crowd.
Oakenshield bring more folk metal to the second stage, and it’s another strong performance.
Old corpse road bring their folk and mythology infused brand of black metal to the main stage. It’s heavy but strangely melodic and I really enjoyed it.
The final band of the night on the second stage were Swedish band Eternal fear who put in a great set and showed why they were headlining the second stage. They’re a band I’ll have to try and listen to more as I really enjoyed their set.
Irish Pagan metal band Waylander seemed to struggle. Their celtic folk influenced black metal just didnt seem to be winning the fans over. I think the sound wasn’t doing them any favours – it just didnt seem very clear, so they had their work cut out. It did improve later on but by then it was too late.
Ereb Altor came next. Their love of Bathory is evident in their music – they’re not a Bathory clone, but there’s definitely a strong influcence at work. It’s a very good set and shows the diverse range of bands lumped together under the “viking metal” description – today we’ve had pagan metal, doom, black metal, folk metal and more – so lots of variety but mostly related.
Finally it was time for Turisas and the deafening cheers that greeted them made it clear who most of the fans were really here for today. I’ve seen Turisas a fair few times and they’re generally great, but tonight they go beyond great – this is probably the best I’ve ever seen them. They’re in superb form and seem to be lifted by the amazing crowd response as they race through their set which includes songs such as “To Holmgard and beyond” and “Battle metal”. To end the night though it had to be their famous cover version of Boney M’s “Rasputin”. What other band could get a thousand or so metalheads singing and cheering along to a Boney M song? A fantastic performance to end the first day.
Day two started with the news that Pythia had cancelled, so Valafar would be playing in their slot while the opening act on main stage would now be Frozen in shadows. It’s a shame as I’d been looking forward to seeing Pythia, but sometimes cancellations are unavoidable.
Frozen in shadows are a bit out of place, being melodic death metal, but they were available at short notice (helped by the fact that at least one member was already at the venue the previous day (as a member of Footprints in the custard)
Valafar are a bit out of place – it’s death metal, but very good death metal. They’re a fairly local band, coming from Bradford, and they make the most of the larger crowd they’ve got by being second on the main stage rather than playing as people are still arriving.
On the second stage, Atorc put in a great folk metal set that includes several songs from their forthcoming album. Based on the strength of their set tonight, that album is going to be one to watch out for.
Darkest era are another band that seems a bit out of place on the lineup – they’re more a straight heavy metal band from Northern Ireland.
German viking metal band Obscurity put in a very heavy set – there’s certainly an element of death metal in the music which gives it that faster heavier edge.
Sellsword closed the second stage with a very impressive set. The Yorkshire based band are more power metal than viking metal but they’re damn good at what they do and they put in a really good enjoyable set.
Finsterforst from the Black Forest in Germany came next with some powerful viking metal. The opening couple of songs were very good but not my taste so I took the oportunity to head out of the venue for some much needed food.
Svartsot were next up and brought some great folk metal.
Finally it was time for the final band of the weekend – Tyr. Blending Scandinavian folklore and metal, they’re probably the only metal band anyone has heard of that originates from the Faroe islands. Whereas Turisas have a real fun party atmosphere for their shows, with Tyr it all seems a bit more serious. That’s not to say people arent enjoying it – Tyr go down a storm with the crowd, but it’s a different atmosphere. The vocals are haunting at times, and the music is complex and brilliantly played. It’s fantastic stuff from a band that just doesnt play the UK enough.