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Hard Rock Hell 9

Hafan y Mor Pwllheli – Thursday 12.11.15.

Christmas has come early or so it would seem, looking at the line up for HRH9! Thursday is usually a day for travelling up to Pwllheli, Gwynedd, North Wales and thankfully the weather wasn’t as bad as first thought. Once the usual sign-in was completed, it’s time to hit the beer as the music doesn’t usually start until the evening, which gives people plenty of time to get settled in and meet up with friends. For those who have signed up to the Dark Circle, which is HRH’s fan club of sorts, the party starts early in the Mash and Barrel Bar, where they have set aside a room specifically for these guys. I saw what was going on and went in with my camera, not sure if I was allowed to, but HRH tends to employ a lot of the same crew, so we’re almost like family. Thankfully, the security guy recognised me from previous years and almost seemed pleased to see me and let me in! Once inside I could see the beer was already flowing and to help the party start with a bang, we had the mighty Trucker Diablo playing, who have recently joined the fold of “Off Yer Rocka” Recordings.

Just so we’re clear, Chic PR runs the HRH brand and all their associated events. They also run the record label, “Off Yer Rocka” Recordings, which now see’s some of the best bands that the rock industry has to offer signed to it and when you have so many great bands signed to your label, why not feature them on your festival? Current signings are, The Qureboys / Bonafide / Pig Iron / Screaming Eagles / Massive Wagons / Attica Rage / SKAM / The Texas Flood / Arthemis / Afterlife / Vargas Blues Band / Trucker Diablo and the new arrivals Chase the Ace, from Israel!

Thursday’s entertainment, which usually takes place on the 2nd stage, had this year been set up to take place on the main stage, which, in my opinion worked much better and of the five bands billed for tonight, four were in fact Off Yer Rocka signings, with the exception of the mighty Black Label Society, who I was most looking forward to seeing play again, here at HRH 9, what a booking, well done HRH!

Irish lads, Screaming Eagles started tonight off in fabulous style. This year I’d brought my parents along, as I knew they would love this festival and thankfully they did, so much so, that they’ve already bought a room for HRH X. Next year promises to be this festivals best year yet, as it will be celebrating ten years in the game, but I’m getting ahead of myself a little!

Screaming Eagles were my folks favourite band of the evening, so much so, that my old man rushed off to buy their latest album from the merch area! Although their set featured many of their own tracks, for those that may not be familiar with the band, they dropped in two covers into the set so people could relate with the band, one was a Led Zeppelin cover and the other was an ACDC cover. A quality act in deed!

Chris Fry - Screaming Eagles

Next up and fresh from their performance to the Dark Circle masses were Trucker Diablo. This was in fact the first (second) time I’ve had the pleasure seeing them play live, however I am very much aware of who they are and had been looking forward to seeing them play at HRH and my patience clearly paid off, as I got to see them play twice in one night! It seemed tonight was a night for cover versions, as Trucker did a track, ‘Seek and Destroy’, by Metallica, but here’s the twist – they changed the words to “drink beer, destroy” and it worked well and got the crowd singing along with them!

Tom Harte - Trucker Diablo

HRH’s house band, Attica Rage were next up and these guys always deliver and I’m glad they featured the best cover version of ‘Crazy Horses’ that I’ve ever heard (probably the only cover version) in tonight’s set, but it always goes down well with the HRH faithful. After speaking with the band, apparently, this track, by the “The Osmonds” no less, the least rock band ever, is the riff that the guys in Attica Rage wished they’d wrote themselves!

Stevie Bell - Attica Rage

You don’t usually encounter diva’s at HRH, but if anyone was going to be a diva, it was going to be Zakk Wylde, well he wasn’t really a diva, but he was twenty minutes late, which had the crowd cheering for his ass to hurry up onto the stage. To be fair, I was pretty excited about seeing him again, as the last time I saw him he was brilliant! That knowledge made me wise to the fact that during the first song would tag a massive mouthful of water and spit it out towards the crowd and I’ve never seen photographers move so fast!

Zak Wylde - Black Label Society

Simply put, Black Label Society are one of those must see bands, for any lover of any music featuring a guitar! He loves a solo and we love him for it!

Black Label Society

Full Set list consisted of: 1.The Beginning 2.Funeral Bell 3.Bleed For Me 4.Heart Of Darkness 5.Suicide Messiah 6.My Dying Time 7.Damn The Flood -guitar solo- 8.Godspeed 9.Angel of Mercy 10.In This River 11.Blessed Hellride 12.Concrete Jungle 13.Stillborn

As Black Label Society were the headline act for tonight, HRH always close with an act after for all of those who wish to continue on and party, and as it was the first night, most people stayed to enjoy Massive Wagon’s set. As I know this band quite well, in my interview with Carl and Adam, I had asked them how it felt to have Zakk Wylde support them? (not really – but it sounded good) and you can see that interview here.

Massive Wagons have a great following and very loyal fan base, and you just need to look at the bands pledge page to see that these guys are loved by many. However, someone in the crowd thought it would be funny to throw beer over lead vocalist Barry, who took it well, saying “best shot ever that” and to be fair, it was a great shot and was pretty funny the first time, but then some idiot tried to do it again, and that wasn’t called for.

Bowz Bouskill - Massive Wagons

These guys earned their beer this weekend as they played three times over the course of the weekend and that is quite an achievement in it’s self!

Review by Jay Hawkins with photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK) and Neil Reed Photography.

Black Label Society

With Support From Crobot and Black Tusk.
Rock City Nottingham 18th February 2015.

Tonight’s gig was the stuff of dreams and one that’s been in my diary for a while now. With such an incredible line up, which I’m dubbing an American Invasion, it was certainly one I wasn’t prepared to miss!

Getting to Nottingham, with all the road works about just lately, is an absolute nightmare. With early doors of 6pm, I managed to leave work 10mins early and drove like a bat out of hell to get to Rock City in time. Thankfully, despite my panic the first band didn’t take to the stage until 6.45pm, but I didn’t know that at the time. I arrived all a fluster, but I’d made it and in time to see the first of two great support acts.

Crobot are from the small town of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, which was home for these guys but of late they have been a touring band, so a van or tour bus is where they currently reside – I hope its comfortable? I first discovered “Something Supernatural” the bands debut album, after speaking with legendary bassist Rex Brown, who mentioned them in an interview as they were touring with Kill Devil Hill at the time. Last year alone, Crobot toured with Chevelle, Clutch, The Sword, Truckfighters, KYNG and more, in addition to playing festivals such as SXSW and Rock on the Range. This year, the band are already linked with the following tours, Limp Bizkit, Buckcherry, fellow Wind Up Records band Filter and obviously tonight’s main event, the legendary Black Label Society.

Brandon Yeagley - Crobot

Crobot describes their music as “Dirty. Groove. Rock.” Personally, they remind me of bands such as Buffalo Summer and Scorpion Child. Tonight’s set was incredible, a little dark on the lighting but the sound was immense! These guys are certainly a band you need to see live! After their set, I saw all four band members walking around the venue talking to people, posing for photos, signing CD’s and most importantly, vinyl copies of their latest album. Sadly I missed getting my album signed!

Another American band up next, with a shift in genres to heavy sludge metal, courtesy of Black Tusk, from Savannah, Georgia. Apparently, these guys all grew up together and lived on the same street, after continuously jamming they officially formed back in 2006. Now signed to Relapse Records, these guys have already released five studio albums, the latest being “Tend No Wounds” which is heavy as f*ck! I’m also digging their latest two track EP ‘Vulture’s Eye’, released last year. These guys are good friends with Baroness’ guitarist and vocalist John Dyer Baizley, who is also a painter and creates all of Black Tusk’s album artwork!

The band, themselves have coined the phrase “Swamp Metal” to describe their sound and is more a reference to the climate in which they have created their music, personally, I get lost with all these sub genres so lets just say, they are a heavy metal band, with fantastic energy, who produce great music.

Andrew Fidler - Black Tusk

My only criticism of tonight’s set, was the lack of variety between tracks, each track started to sound like the last by the end of the set. Being only a three piece, it must be hard to vary the sound I guess, but what they do, they do well. No one person is responsible for the vocals, which I though unique, all three had a go which you don’t see all that often, if ever!

Corey Barhorst - Black Tusk

That said, the bands final track of the night really changed things up, it’s intro was quite touching though, Andrew’s (vocals and guitar) brother died in a motorcycle accident, so they paid tribute to his memory and the crowd were invited to do the same, which they did, beautifully, RIP sir. Black Tusk then proceeded to blast out one of the best tracks in their set tonight. Awesome! Sadly, I couldn’t capture or find their set list on the interweb, so apologies.

So Black Label Society then, who hail from Los Angeles, California. From what I can gather, some, if not all his fans have labelled Mr Zakk Wylde as god! Personally I’d say he’s the gladiator of metal, but what do I know! Whilst stood in his presence, I did feel some what inferior though, I must say, well the guy is built like a brick shit house! I wouldn’t wanna cross him and for that reason, I’m going to try and make this review extra special, oh and I’m not a huge fan of Kanye West either!

In all seriousness I’m pretty much a new comer when it comes to this artist, yes, I hang my head in shame. I’ve known of tracks like “Crazy Horse” and “Concrete Jungle” for like forever, but it wasn’t until I was given a copy of the bands latest album “Catacombs of the Black Vatican” which was one of my top 10 albums of 2014 I might add, that I really got into Black Label society. Lets just say I’ve been relishing the opportunity to revisit all their previous albums, there’s nine in total, that’s not including the two live albums!

Zakk Wylde... Black Label Society

Black Label Society are a band first and foremost, formed when lead vocalist and guitarist Zakk fell out with Ozzy Osbourne back in 1996 (I see a pattern emerging here, what with Jake E Lee, see that review also). The full band consists of Zakk Wylde – Vocals/ Guitar, John DeServio – Bass, Jeff Fabb – Drums and Dario Lorina – Guitar. During my research I did discover that Robert Trujillo (now in Metallica) used to head up bass duties for BLS, it’s a small world a? Sadly, even with Zakk’s epic guitar solo’s, three tracks ain’t very long and I didn’t want to miss any photographic opportunities capturing this iconic figure of metal, so sorry to the rest of the band, as I didn’t get any shots of you guys!

Zakk Wylde - BLS

Before tonight’s EPIC set, the stage was shrouded in mystery as a massive Black Label Society curtain blocked our view, which is the first time I’ve seen this happen at this venue. As the stage was readied for the messiah’s presence, we waiting in anticipation – you could cut the tension with a knife! Tonight’s show was pretty much a sell out, therefore floor space was at a premium but we’re metal fans, we get on! As the band took to the stage, I could see from the side, as I waited to get into the pit, a stage hand, handed Zakk his guitar and gave him a congratulatory hug then left him to ready himself. As the first notes rung out, the curtain dropped and all was revealed! After the crew got rid of the curtain, us togs were allowed to enter, by now though, our numbers seemed to have multiplied three fold since the support acts, which really pisses me off! If you’re going to review a show, review the whole show, not just the headliners, anyway, I digress!

Zakk Wylde - Black Label Society

What separates BLS with other acts, in my opinion, is they know how to entertain a crowd. The lighting tonight was second to non, which is as rare as rocking horse shit. The sound made your ears bleed, which every metal head loves god bless you my child and the band were energetic with Zakk posing at every available opportunity. Couple that with an amazing set list, which spans nearly three decades, each and every person in the crowd singing back to the band, at the top of their voices, you can’t fail to have a fantastic time. Simply put, tonight’s set was a master class in live music and entertainment. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you check out BLS when they play Bloodstock festival in the summer, I predict that will be an insane show, also! Thanks for reading Peace!

Full Set List:

1.Whole Lotta Sabbath 2.The Beginning… At Last 3.Funeral Bell 4.Bleed for Me 5.Heart of Darkness 6.Suicide Messiah 7.My Dying Time 8.Damn the Flood 9.Guitar Solo 10.Godspeed Hell Bound 11.Angel of Mercy 12.In This River 13.The Blessed Hellride 14.Concrete Jungle 15.Stillborn

Review and Photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)

Black Label Society

With Support from Black Tusk and Crobot.

The Institute, Birmingham, 12th February 2015.

As we waited for Black Label Society to come on stage, a homage to rock and metal echoed around the room. A fusing together of Led Zepplin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and Black Sabbaths ‘War Pigs’ was a great intro to the next ninety minutes of monstrous metal that was about to unfold. Front man Zakk Wylde is well known for providing his axe guitar services to Ozzy Osbourne, but tonight he was fully unleashed to show the world his brilliance. Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society did not disappoint as they tore up the stage.

Black Label Society

With an insane number of Marshall Amps lined up behind him, this mountain of a musician proudly took to the centre stage atop his personal podium to shake the room senseless starting with ‘The Beginning… At Last’ from the latest album ‘Catacombs of the Black Vatican’, thus beginning one of the loudest gigs out on tour at the moment. The full mass of Wylde’s muscle and hair pounded through track after track.

Zakk Wylde - Black Label Society

Although Wylde tends to be the focus of attention for Black Label Society, fellow band members John DeServio (bass, backing vocals), Jeff Fabb (drums) and Dario Lorina (rhythm guitar, backing vocals)all showed off their great talents; each being an awesome visual metal act in their own right.

John DeServio, Zakk Wylde and Dario Larino - Black Label Society

A ten minute guitar solo demonstrated Wylde’s mastery of the power chords before effortlessly dropping behind the piano for a delicate playing of ‘In This River’, with the track dedicated to Dimebag Darrell. The twin necked guitar was brought out for a frenzied ‘Blessed Hellride’ before ‘Stillborn’ concluded things. No half hearted wait for an encore, just a simple finish to an exemplary night of hard rocking with the Birmingham Black Label Chapter.

Crowd Shot

Black Tusk were flying the flag for Sludge Metal. This is a new genre for me, but if you like your metal music as a wall of thunderous sound with high octane growling vocals then this is for you. Tragedy befell the band last year when their bass player Jonathan Athon passed away. However the band has continued and has one hell of a live show to offer. They’ve certainly earned praise for tonight’s performance that was bursting with energy with plenty of folks in the crowd seeming to appreciate them.

Black Tusk

Crobot opened the night. They certainly could do with a bit more extra space on stage because they are energetic with lots of sudden expansive movements. You can hear and see hints of classic rock and heavy metal from the 70’s and 80’s but they project a feeling that is bang up to date. They openly hero worship Clutch but there’s a magic here that see’s the band perform beyond those that have influenced them. The reception they get at the end of their set is vigorous. Hopefully Crobot have a lot of new fans, I know I’m one of them!


See all the pictures from the night here:

Review and Photography by Stephen Turner.