HRH Metal

Saturday’s Review (Part 2).
O2 Academy Birmingham 17th February 2018.

So, after spending the early part of Saturday over on Stages 2 and 3, it was time for things to get underway on Stage 1 and a saving grace in my opinion, when it came down to my personal enjoyment today as the lighting was exceptional, which is why I caught every band playing on it! First up then, Collibus.

My first encounter with this band, was at another fantastically run festival, called SOS Festival which is based up in Manchester, where this band are from. I remember thinking then, what a phenomenally powerful singer Gemma was and still is today! I love the originality in this bands music although it is hard to categorise, so we’ll simply call them a great metal band.

Another band I haven’t seen for a long time is Ballsdeep – since Swampy played on bass, to be honest. I’ve always enjoyed watching this band perform but today’s set was magnificent. Their sound and energy suited the larger stage and the crowd loved them. I was pleased Paul remembered who I was and managed to flip me the middle finger, which he has done in every other show I’ve photographed him at. Bez pondered whether they were the best band the crowd will see today? That’s a bold statement, but they were very good, so a just comment.

Surprisingly, today’s next band up, on the main stage, were an Iron Maiden-esq type band, who go by the name Monument and they were definitely another highlight for me today. I say surprisingly, because I’m not a massive fan of Iron Maiden, I find them a little, how do I put it, over the top but these guys impressed me greatly. Although they follow a similar style, I’d say they were a more stripped back version, yet with the same raw power as Maiden. Peter Ellis is a very charismatic front man, a bit like Bruce, to be fair and I love his style and energy. Not sure how many people know this, but Peter actually makes belts, not your typical trouser belt, no, the kind that gets awarded in sporting events, like wrestling and boxing, which is a fact I find very interesting! What a cool job! As a live music act, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better, more hard working act than these guys. Definitely check out Monument, if you get the chance!

Next up on Stage 1 and yet another band I’ve encountered before, were Haerken but it has been a long time since I’ve seen them perform, so I was looking forward to seeing how these guys have changed – if at all. These local lads opt for a viking/medieval themed style of metal, which is very unique to them but is growing in popularity with live music lovers, as it’s fun to watch. It would appear their stage set up, costumes and props have improved along with their popularity, judging by the crowd that turned out to see them. I’d like to say I’m pretty good friends with Justin, the bands lead singer/rhythm guitar player and Ben, the bands bassist, as I’ve met them at many other festivals over the years. I recall Justin and I being the last two standing at the first ever Beermageddon, many moons ago. They performed at that festival and I recall how much fun they were back then, throwing out plastic swords and watching the crowd attack each other, in a playful way, and this was one of the reasons why I fell in love with this band. I’m happy to report that they’ve lost none of that playful interaction with the crowd or amongst themselves and are every bit as much fun as I remember. Today, we had the band playing the classic game with the audience of who’s louder – Justin’s side or Ben’s side, and with the crowd shouting back at the band, Ben’s side was the clear winner – much to Justin’s disappointment but all in good humour. Ringmaster Monty Blitzfist even joined the band on stage towards the end of their set to help with a song. He wasn’t their only guest of the day, as we also saw a bag pipe player, which is a remarkable instrument that makes a great sound. I’m aware Haerken will be performing at another HRH event this December, aptly named HRH Vikings, so these guys will definitely go down a storm!

The Dread Crew of Oddwood were up next and I can safely say they were the least metal band on today’s bill, but by no means the least interesting. Their self proclaimed style of ‘Heavy Mahogany’ consists of an organ player, a double bassist, a flute player, a drummer and some kind of ukulele (small guitar, you usually see in medieval movies). I believe these guys have been main support on Alestorm’s current tour, so it made sense to include them on today’s bill as they are a very entertaining act indeed. Great fun to watch, musically very unique and very funny, albeit close to the bone humour on occasion. If you’re playing a metal festival, it’s probably a good idea to not alienate your audience, just saying!

With a main stage bill, built around the humour of Alestorm, it was no surprise to see Evil Scarecrow next up on the main stage. Let’s face it, this band generate just about as much fun as you can have, with your clothes on! They are now also every promoters wet dream because they are sure to bring in the crowds. After obtaining a couple of great shots of this band I made a swift exit, simply because I felt as if Princess Luxury was going to gauge out my eye balls every time I pointed my camera at her.

As I’ve seen Evil Scarecrow so much, I thought I’d run on over to Stage 3 to catch the headliners, Elimination, closing the days events out on this stage. Let’s face it, any band that goes up against ES on a bill is going to struggle to pull in the punters, as everyone is usually watching them. Sadly, this was the same situation here, which must be demoralising for any band, however Elimination didn’t let the lack of crowd stop them from giving it their all. I tried desperately to capture these guys, but I’m sad to report I couldn’t even manage one decent picture. Pretty dismal situation, all round then!

And finally, to Alestorm. Apparently, they’re from The Banana Islands in Sierra Leone and are a female fronted smooth jazz band, who are signed with Napalm Records – I did not know that, but it’s good to know! Seriously though, Alestorm are a multi-national pirate metal band originally from Perth, Scotland. Their music is characterised by a pirate theme, and as a result they have been dubbed a “pirate metal” band by many critics and their fan base. After signing to Napalm Records in 2007, their debut album ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’, was released on 25 January 2008. ‘Black Sails at Midnight’, the band’s second album, was released on 27 May 2009. The band’s third album, ‘Back Through Time’, was released on 3 June 2011. The fourth album from the band, ‘Sunset on the Golden Age’, was released in August 2014. Their fifth and latest album ‘No Grave But the Sea’ was released on 26 May 2017. (Credit Wikipedia)

As expected, the crowd went nuts for these guys, with crowd surfers a plenty. Sadly, one lady hurt her foot coming over the barrier, as the security guard couldn’t quite get her to the ground safely. To be honest, there are in fact signs up, in and around the venue that clearly state “No Crowd Surfing. Doing so could get you ejected from the venue”. Security don’t even have an obligation to catch crowd surfers and could, by rights, let the surfer fall onto the metal security rails and the ground, so the fact they put themselves in potential harms way to save crowd surfers is noble. Remember that, the next time you think its a good idea to crowd surf, yeah it’s fun, but you could get hurt. I hope the young lady was ok, after the paramedics looked after her. Thankfully, this didn’t ruin anyone else’s enjoyment and the band continued on with their epic set.

It’s well know that lead singer Christopher Bowes wears a kilt but what isn’t known is does he wear anything else underneath? I’m pleased to report that he does in fact wear boxer shorts, as I got a pretty good view whilst he was flashing me, whilst I was capturing him with my camera!

This is a pretty epic review, even for my standards, just as today was a truly epic event! Some say we had an earthquake today here in Birmingham – I didn’t feel anything other than the bass line from the O2’s epic sound system on the main stage, which probably recorded a reading of 7.1 on the Richter scale today. BOOM!

Review and Photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)

HRH Metal

Saturday’s Review (Part 1).
O2 Academy Birmingham 17th February 2018.

Oh wow Birmingham, this amazing event is now in it’s second year and appears to be getting a great reception, as this year has completely sold out! I feel fairly confident in saying that at least 95% of the those in attendance today were here to see Alestorm, myself included, but before we get to Saturdays headliners, we have a wealth of diverse metal bands to get through and there were some great bands on this weekend, however I’ll be covering the Saturday, whilst Sue is probably busy beavering away, reviewing and editing photos for Sunday! What a team!

Today’s proceedings were spread over all three stages of the O2 Academy in Birmingham which is a purpose built music venue, so you’d expect to see someone you liked on one of the three stages, if someone else you was watching wasn’t to your musical taste.

Stage 3 opened the day with a band called Ashen Crown who are in fact from the West Midlands, which is pretty handy as the stage has been named “Best of Brum”. As these guys were the first band on, it was not surprising the pit was full of photographers so I had to shoot from the sidelines, which was probably a blessing in disguise as my angle was advantageous, considering the lighting conditions that played a major part today, sadly not in a good way. I’m aware Ashen Crown played a major extreme metal event last year, so these guys are well known within the metal community. They categorise themselves simply as metal, but I’d hasten to add they’re borderline doom from what I heard! For those of you who like low growls, screaming guitars and heavy bass lines, then this band are for you.

As the main stage didn’t open up until 3pm and Stage 2 didn’t open up until 5pm either, we had Wrath of the Gods up next, again on Stage 3. Although this band have only been together since last year, they appear to be making a name for themselves, probably due to the talented musicians who make up this band. I encountered Wayne, this bands lead vocalist/guitarist, way back when I first started photographing bands, when he was in Dakesis, who played on the Sunday, incidentally. We’ve been friends on social media ever since, so I’m aware Wayne has a great passion for his guitars, he even re-builds them! Today’s weapon of choice appeared to be a rather striking black and white Ibanez….that’s the extent of my guitar knowledge, I’m afraid, however, I do appreciate a good looking guitar! Apologies to the rest of the band, for not managing to capture them, but my camera doesn’t have the ability to filter out smoke and a lot of it!

The same can be said for the next band on Stage 3 ‘Masters Call’ as I only managed to capture two, rather disappointing images of the bands lead singer, who opts to wear a black hoody, a face mask and blacked out skin. I saw one photographer with her head in her hands, literally in despair. Sure it was atmospheric and probably looked good from the crowd, but not from our perspective. I know I’m probably banging on about this way too much but it angers me, knowing that the first three bands I’ve mentioned here, were probably ecstatic to be playing such a prestigious event such as this, in the knowledge they would be able to reach a much wider audience and get good coverage from the media, but sadly, due to the lighting provided by the venue, this wouldn’t be the case! Annoying, sort it out O2!

I may as well stay on Stage 3, as I only managed to watch another three bands on this stage. Thankfully XIII were one of my bands of the weekend, so I’m glad I persevered, to be honest! This trio hail from Hull and consists of the following, Dan Murray: Lead vocals and guitars, James Oxtoby: Bass and backing vocals and Tom Cope: Drums and they are amazing live. The energy and power these three produce, is nothing short of extraordinary, I was fixated and mesmerized. I’ve been aware of this band for some time now, seeing them appearing on bills, here and there, but I was yet to see this band play live, until today that is! I’m tipping this band for big things, so watch this space!

The most disturbing band name on the bill this weekend has to go to Sodomized Cadavar, which is something Ollie, the bands lead singer appears to be very much aware of and somewhat proud of, from what I can tell. If nothing else, the name does help conjure up that ‘shock factor’ you need to prepare yourself for when watching this band, as they are out of control, where insanity barely comes close. This band were most definitely one of the most extreme of the death metal bands we have encountered, EVER! Great fun though and the crowd, a nearly full house, loved them!

My last band, on Stage 3 was Ironrat, who are from Bradford and are signed to Voltage Records. Having played on stage one, earlier, I saw Ballsdeep guitarist, Paul Priestly in attendance. Having not spoken to him in a long time, I thought I’d go over and say hello. Turns out, Ironrat are one of his favourite bands at the moment and he was happy to see them appear on the same bill as him, which meant he would get the chance to see them play. From what I saw, I was very impressed as they play stoner/rock, which also happens to be one of my favourite genres, at the moment!

Sorry to the rest of the bands, who appeared on this stage but I simply gave up trying to photograph this stage. Sure, I could of struggled on and absorbed your music, but I’m not that gifted as a writer, as this review probably demonstrates!

GraVil opened the days events up over on Stage 2 and this band have been on my radar for sometime thanks to Stampede Press, and I was looking forward to catching their set. Like a lot of the bands on today’s bill, these guys are a first for me which is why I love attending HRH events, as they do support up and coming bands. As with Stage 3, the lighting sucked and there was way too much smoke but by this point, I tried to rise above that and just enjoy the moment. An extreme metal band, from London, these guys are loud, courtesy of Tony and Charlie, who provide a two pronged assault with their guitars. The bands energy levels are right up there with the best of them, with lead singer Grant at the spearhead of the attack on the senses! This band are going places, with an already impressive resamay which reads ‘‘No More Forgiveness’ and is the follow up to GraViL’s debut album ‘Thoughts of A Rising Sun’, which saw the band perform live at Download Festival, Hammerfest and tour the UK with HellYeah. The new album’s lead single ‘Decommissioned’ was premiered on Bloodstock Radio, followed by a feature spot on Metal Hammer’s ‘New Noise III’ cover mount cd. Terrorizer Magazine streamed the album ahead of its release, as well featuring the track ‘One Eyed King’ on their Fear Candy cd. GraViL’s new “punch to the gut” music video ‘Detonate’ recently received premieres by Scuzz TV and Metal Hammer.

Again, apologies to the rest of the bands, who played on Stage 2 but I’d had enough of shooting through smoke, however, I made an exception for Fury, who are a band I love, like brothers. It would appear this band are going through some personnel changes at present, which worried me slightly. I’m aware Jake is on a time out at present, Mart has moved onto a different path with his music and I’ve discovered Al is also soon to be departing, which leaves only JJ left, as an original founding member of the band. On bass, we now see Becky, who I’ve encountered in many other bands before this, and she is an exceptional bass player. On lead guitar, we now see Anthony, who, by all accounts, is also an exceptional and diverse musician.

Before the band took to the stage and as I was talking to a fellow photographer, we were interrupted by a reveller stating that he loved Fury so much, could he possibly buy a photo of the band from tonight’s gig, as a memento? This gesture kind of summed this band up, for me as although the changes within the band are apparent, they haven’t lost any of that magic that I’ve grown to love over the years. If anything, they are better and definitely 25% better looking.

Review and Photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)