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)