HRH Metal 2020 – Birmingham O2 Academy – Full Weekend Review
Storm Dennis very nearly curtailed our efforts to attend HRH Metal’s 4th shindig at Birmingham’s O2 Academy but we made it, a little late, a little windswept, but ready for a weekend of heavy fuckin’ metal!
HRH Metal 2020….here’s how it went:
Fellow Portsmouth lads Dendera  hit the stage as soon as we entered the O2 and this is a band who’s heavy metal / power metal has never failed to impress on every occasion we’ve caught them in the past. With frontman Ashley Edison proving as commanding as ever – and with a voice to match – Dendera slayed with their older material while also airing a few new tracks, which bode well for this year’s brand new album. These guys should be huge, such is their ability to meld classic Maiden with a modern heaviness!
Nipping off to Stage 3 in time to witness Recall The Remains  was a wise move as these guys are a truly ferocious unit; one that is building on a buzz that’s more than warranted and they did not waste their opportunity to impress the assembled throng. With a double-pronged vocal attack and a scintillating mix of extreme metal influences this is a band that you simply must see live!
Off to Stage 2 and London’s Helgrind  were next up and those bemoaning the demise of Slayer would do well to check out these fiery fuckers. Helgrind don’t fuck about, they simply unleash a torrent of thrash riffs with little remorse but plenty of head banging fun and they turned out to be one of our highlights of the weekend. Blistering!
We managed to catch the last 20 minutes of NWOBHM legends Blitzkrieg‘s  set and these loud and proud veterans made us wish we’d soaked up their whole hour on the O2’s largest stage. With Brian Ross still leading the charge you know you’re in capable hands and it’s always a thrill to hear “Blitzkrieg” itself in a live setting. Professionals at work!
Land of The Lost were sadly a no-show due to illness so it was down to Lullaby For A Unicorn  to take their place on the main stage while they gave it their best (unnecessary gyrating female ‘dancers’ aside), Lord of The Lost were sorely missed. Transients‘  melodic metalcore was suitably feisty – but lacked originality – so it was down to the nutters in Raised By Owls  to raise energy levels with their own superbly funny take on traditional grindcore. There’s never a dull moment with these guys and a cheap crowd-surfing Mr Blobby knock-off and a little bit of grindcore / death metal karaoke only added to the party atmosphere.
It seemed like most of the O2 were here to see Evil Scarecrow  and the response they received to the inevitable likes of “Crabulon” and “Robototron” was a scuttling joy to behold. If you’ve seen ’em before you know exactly what to expect but we suppose there’s no point in messing with a winning formula when it’s blatantly this popular! All together now, “Crabulon”, “Crabulon”, “Crabulon”……
For the next few hours the main stage was then the place to be as Equilibrium  and Rhapsody Of Fire  bought European metal to the Birmingham masses. Equilibrium’s symphonic folk metal was astonishingly heavy at times, mesmerisingly expressive at others and, with an almost 20 year history, their setlist was suitably vast and suitably varied. However, Rhapsody of Fire were quite rightly headliners with their theatrical symphonic power metal proving irresistible, overblown and oh so ostentatious! “Dargor , Shadowlord of the Black Mountain” was an undisputed highlight but, in truth, their whole 90 minute set was mesmerising.
We rose a little late on Sunday (it’s fuckin’ Sunday after all) and with a sore head and neck after yesterday’s shenanigans we found ourselves face to face with Ethereal Sin  after missing Vice completely (sorry lads). This self-described elegiac black metal horde from Japan have been around since 1997 and they can clearly command a stage. If symphonic melodic pagan black metal is your thing then we’d imagine that Ethereal Sin are already on your radar…..we, on the other hand, weren’t so keen. However, there’s no denying these guys have the skills to pay those black metal bills!
Heavy, heavy doom metallers Witchsorrow  followed and they were as sonically crushing as expected. What they lack in diversity, is made up for in Sabbath-esque riffs and this 3-piece certainly left already aching necks in absolute tatters. In comparison, Die Kur  were confusing, disjointed and lacking in cohesion. Moments of promise shone through – and frontman Ays Kura has a distinctive roar – but overall their industrial metal melding of styles didn’t strike a chord with us.
Let’s make one thing clear from the outset, Krysthla  are one of, if not the, most exciting banks in the UK right now. So, expectations were high as they hit the main stage and, unsurprisingly, they did not disappoint. The likes of “Reawaken”, “White Castles”, “Depths” and “Zero Sum Game” are simply colossal and, in a live setting, there’s an added edge of extreme aggression and technicality which only adds to the overall effect! Mark our words, these guys are future headliners!
Scheduling clashes meant we sadly missed most of Promethium’s  set but what we did see….we liked! Melodic and impassioned, Promethium specialise in hard-hitting metal with plenty of clout and catchiness. In an ideal world we’d have spent the entire 40 mins with ’em.
Again, Impavidus  had an unfortunate clash with Xentrix so we only caught the start of their set but with Michelle Adamson’s feral vocals – and a ferocious performance from John Badger behind the kit – they had the crowd enraptured. This death metal crew is full of groove and their organic channeling of Carcass and Bolt Thrower offers plenty of tasty metal to chow down on!
Uk thrash legends Xentrix  annihilated the main stage with much of their electrifying set taken from ‘new’ album Bury The Pain. While original frontman Chris Astley will always be missed only a fool would deny that Bull Riff Stampede’s Jay Walsh has settled in exceptionally well and made the role his own. This was a powerhouse performance from a band having a new lease of life and while old classics such as “Questions”, “For Whose Advantage?” and “No Compromise” were welcomed like old friends, it was “There Will Be Consequences” and “The Red Mist Descends” (taken from 2019’s Bury The Pain) that hit the hardest!
The honour of closing out the weekend fell to The Three Tremors  and watching these 3 banshees of metal (Tim “Ripper” Owens, Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin and Sean “The Hell Destroyer” Peck) out screech each other for an hour was an ear-splitting joy to behold. Over the top, preposterous and bleeding true metal, things got even better when Blaze Bayley made an appearance and The Ripper and Blaze ably belted out Priest’s “Breaking The Law”. While the quality of the songs sometimes lets them down, in a live setting you can’t help but be swept away by The Three Tremors in full flight and, let’s face it, any opportunity to watch Tim “Ripper” Owens do his thing should be grasped with both hands. Altogether now….”INVADERS FROM THE SKYEEEEEEE!!!!!”
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