Metal came to Birmingham last weekend (not that it ever leaves) and a smörgåsbord of (predominantly) UK bands laid waste to a sea of metal fans who’d travelled far and wide to soak up two days of carnage!
HRH Metal 2017….here’s how it went:
Tasked with opening the day’s festivities on Stage 3 were sludge/doom/grind quintet Burden Of Noose  who were fortunate to play to a packed room despite it being only 1pm. Thirty minutes of slightly repetitive white noise interspersed with Sabbathian doom passages (and some fairy one-dimensional screaming) followed but Burden Of Noose still proved a lively way to kick off HRH Metal 2017. Next up were death metal / groove monsters Bloodyard  who unleashed a barrage of mosh-pit friendly tunes headed-up by the fervent vocals of banshee front-woman Donna Hurd. Taking their cues from early 90’s death metal, Bloodyard are a force to be reckoned with and they have the tracks to back it up; “Dead Relics”, taken from 2015’s Darker Rage EP, proving particularly ferocious! The fury of the metal maelstrom known as Internal Conflict  followed and proved that 2015’s The Rising Tide is just as infectious in the flesh as it is on record. Technical and tenacious (bassist Pete Lord-Murray is a frickin’ nutcase!), Internal Conflict are a live band of considerable passion and power.
Over to the Main Stage and Pirate/Fantasy metallers Red Rum  upped the fun factor by a level only usually achievable after consuming gallons of a Pirate’s favourite tipple! Heavy as fuck but full of humour and led by a frontman who can growl and sing with the best of ’em (his pirate impression ain’t too bad either, Arrr, Jim Lad!), this particular brand of Red Rum went down very well! Melodic thrashers Savage Messiah  then hit the stage….and the floor! Bassist Míra Sláma seemed to be having a problem keeping his knee cap in place and ended up on his back on two occasions. Regardless, the dude soldiered on and Savage Messiah delivered a masterclass in high quality thrash/metal. Perhaps a few too many new tracks were aired but there’s no denying that Savage Messiah are a UK metal band with global appeal.
A hop and a skip over to Stage 2 to catch RSJ  was mandatory as Dan Cook and co. are always a monstrous proposition….and that reputation was certainly confirmed with a brutal performance of punishingly tight tech metal. A guest appearence from Raging Speedhorn’s John Loughlin added extra clout to the caustic “Hit The Road Jack” but it’s the uncharacteristically anthemic “Fuck Off Joe”, taken from last years outstanding Giant Glenn album, which provided that special, memorable, moment.
Nipping over to Stage 3 in time to catch a few Left For Red  tracks found their groove laced prog-ish metal rumbling through the assembled throng. With plenty of chewy riffs to clamp onto they’re a meaty, yet accessible, proposition but man-mountain frontman LC – while blessed with a versatile voice – looked oddly uncomfortable at times and at odds with the confidence oozing from his bandmates.
Back to the Main Stage and longstanding agit rap-rockers Senser  were offering something unique, something challenging and ultimately, something utterly absorbing; their political diatribes backed by a band of considerable talent who churn out shit-kicking groove after groove. A little bit bonkers but also fiercely intelligent, few bands can combine industrial metal, rap, noise, poetry and challenging subject matter as well as these pioneers. Even the hard-to-please hardened metallers were convinced by the end of Senser’s outstanding set. The Main Stage continued to be the place to be (even though Ballsdeep were on Stage 3 and we were gutted of the typically inevitable clash) but Raging Speedhorn  are unstoppable at the moment (even without Frank Regan sharing vocal duties, RSJ frontman Dan Cook ably stepping into Frank’s shoes instead) and simply could not be missed. With the bullish John Laughlin demanding the crowd bend to his every command, RSH laid down the gauntlet for the entire weekend. Few bands can match the Speedhorn for ferocity and fun and the likes of “The Hate Song”, “Thumper” and new tracks “Bring Out Your Dead” and “Ten Of Swords” showcased a plethora of punishing material that decimated the 02 Academy.
Unsurprisingly Skindred  then operated at another level entirely. This band are one of the UK’s finest headlining acts and it’d take an idiot not to recognise that when on form – and they were on form – precious few can match them for execution and diversity of material. “Ninja” was a highlight but Skindred’s entire set was a sight to behold! What a way to end one hell of a metal day!
XVII  had the pleasure of opening up Sunday’s proceedings and they provided a full-on metal experience featuring savage breakdowns, a shit-load of riffs and energy that belied the early(ish) hour. Nice way to start the day. Obzidian , the UK’s answer to Lamb Of God, then set to work savaging ears with their modern metal onslaught. A metallic wrecking ball, each spine-shattering scream and bulldozing riff hit with maximum impact and a packed room responded accordingly. These guys will be big! The semi-melodic thrash of Eradikator  then kept the momentum going but lacked that killer track to make them truly memorable. Still, a good thrashin’ always goes down well and Eradikator are good enough to warrant keeping on our radar. Pelugion  (not Pelugian!) are starting to become something very special indeed and their endless supply of grooves, soul and Sabbath meets Kyuss inspired riffs had the entire room bouncing, clapping and head-banging for the duration of their set. These guys are seriously on to something and tracks such as “Monster” are beyond catchy, in fact they come across as effortless….and that’s the hallmark of a great band. See these guys the next opportunity you get!
We pegged Fury  as the band not to miss at HRH 2017 and it turns out we were bang on the money as there aren’t many bands out there delivering pure metal as convincingly as these guys! Remember when the likes of Accept, Helloween, Gamma Ray and Iced Earth were churning out soaring vocals, concept albums and true metal riffage like there was no tomorrow? Well, Fury are here to provide the same amount of classic thrills and the likes of “Lost In Space”, “When the Hammer Falls” and a few older, thrashier numbers wowed a packed crowd.
The Main Stage then had us enthralled for the remainder of the day beginning with UK black metallers Winterfylleth  who delivered an extreme metal showcase packed with jaw-dropping moments. Black metal can be an acquired taste – and Winterfylleth’s tidalwave of tremolo riffing probably challenged those unaccustomed to its icy blasts – but Chris Naughton and the boys offer a different, folky, take on BM and unleashed plenty of vicious grooves to get heads-a-banging. Incidentally, their liberal use of almost shamanic chants prompted the biggest goosebump-raising moments of the entire festival. Talking of goosebumps, few bands out there put on a show quite like Hell  and despite a few technical hiccups, these fearless bastions of occult metal delivered an experience and a multitude of memorable moments. Whether it’s the endlessly quotable dramatic delivery of frontman David Bower or the synchronised moves of Andy Sneap, Kev Bower and Tony Speakman, any sense of cheesiness is waylaid by the sheer spectacle of it all. Pomp and ceremony set to thrilling 80’s inspired HEAVY METAL! How on earth (or in Hell) do you follow that? Easy, book Lawnmower fuckin’ Deth! If you fail to get a kick out of the gonzo antics of Lawnmower Deth  then you probably take life (and thrash metal) far too seriously. Pete, Paddy and the boys appear to be on the bill of every festival going at the moment but that doesn’t mean that the likes of “Egg Sandwich” etc are going stale (that’s the best joke we’ve got!). In fact, Lawnmower Deth are always a breath of fresh air, thrashin’ hard and fast and taking crowd participation to a new level. Pure entertainment.
On to the main event.
Sodom  are a thrash institution and were quite rightly greeted with chants of “Sodom, “Sodom” at every given opportunity. The band seemed to soak up the adulation too, delivering a setlist that covered everything from their blackened thrash beginnings right up to today’s more streamlined modern thrash approach. The crowd were treated to everything from “Outbreak Of Evil” (taken from their debut EP released a shocking 33 years ago), to thrash classics “Agent Orange”, “Nuclear Winter” & “Sodomy and Lust” and the groove-drenched likes of “M-16” and “In War And Pieces”. Frankly, these German pioneers of thrash were perfect and solidified their place as thrash veterans with plenty still to offer. In a weekend packed to the rafters with UK talent it took just one trio of Germans to show them all what this game is really all about….unwavering commitment, a back catalogue of riches and a flawless, heavy-as-fuck delivery. Inspirational!
A cracking, well-run, weekend that predominantly highlighted the sheer breadth of talent in the UK metal scene while being topped off by the might of thrash titans Sodom; all in all, HRH Metal 2017 was an unmitigated success!