Birmingham is well and truly the home of heavy. We don’t need to put you through another history lesson on the subject but if there’s anywhere that deserves a festival showcasing some of the best bands from both these shores and abroad it is here. Those fine folk over at Hard Rock Hell realised as much last year and 2018 saw the second iteration of their heaviest event: Hard Rock Hell Metal
Spread across two days and three stages in England’s second city, HRH Metal showcased a mixture of local talent and bands from further afield. The first band the MNN team took in were GraVil. Gracing the Academy 2, up a flight of stairs that felt more and more precarious as the weekend went on. Playing relatively early in the day seems to have left both GraVil and their crowd a little off their game. By design GraVil aren’t going to appeal to everyone but for me their lack of energy on an admittedly small stage was not what I was hoping for from my opening band. 5/10 – Dan Hemming
Sodomized Cadaver, as the name suggests, were never going to be a Christian rock band. The singer proclaimed in a Welsh accent, “I hope we are the most disgusting band you’ve ever seen!”. A relentless barrage of hardcore and death metal ensued, and the small room of the Academy 3 lapped up songs such as ‘Raped by Ebola’ and ‘Vampire of Dusseldorf’. Slightly surreal but entertaining none the less. 7/10 – Neil Aston
The Face of Ruin took to the stage of Academy 3 without their front man Alex Mumford, with Scott and Anthony from Gehtika standing in, declaring they didn’t know the lyrics and karaoke was in order for the next 40 minutes. It didn’t take long for the pair to get into character, and soon were egging the crowd on to shout “Fuck You Alex” to the absent incumbent, all in good fun. Considering the stand ins, The Face of Ruin were tight, delivering an accomplished set. Crushing metal and a lot of fun to watch! 8/10 – NA
Metaprism, all the way from the south coast brought their unique style of metal to midlands, with dual lead singers Theresa and Joey. They looked like they were definitely enjoying themselves as they belted out some great metal. They faced some technical difficulties involving microphones, but dealt with it like consummate professionals, they delivered a solid set and expect big things from these guys in the future. 8/10 – NA
Over on the mainstage for the first time today were The Dread Crew Of Oddwood. their peculiar name summed up those who were unfamiliar with the band’s reaction. Their brand of acoustic ‘pirate’ rock only really fits in here due to their connection with headliners Alestorm, but it was an entertaining change from the riff fuelled carnage up
to now. Are these guys rewriting any rules? No. Do they give a shit? No. They’re fun, they have a goddamn bassoon on stage for goodness sake. The seriousness that can make metal boring and repetitive came to an end here. Oh and they like to play songs about drinking… 7/10 – DH
On to the most serious band you’ll ever watch: Evil Scarecrow. With an 8ft creature looking like a robot copped off with Sauron, ball room dancing and of course Crabulon (Crabulon! Crabulon! Crabulon!) these Midlands based maniacs led by Dr Hell have carved a special place in the hearts of thousands and thousands of metaheads. Pleasuring our ear holes with such classics as ‘The Book Of Doom’ and ‘Hurricanado’ they struggled more than normal to turn off gravity, got everyone hitting, jumping and dodging and showed us all a genetic abomination. All while playing some kick ass metal and looking genuinely grateful to be there. This was the first time they’d played the Academy in Birmingham. I doubt it will be the last. 9/10 – DH
Alestorm were the mainstage headliners for the day. They came on to a heroes welcome and their whole set was as fun and energetic as you’d expect. Musically I’ve never personally got on with the band. They’re good at what they do and as a live band they’re impressive but it has never quite landed for me. After seeing every other person dressed up as a pirate throughout the day it was easy to see that these guys deserve their spot atop the lineup and everyone that packed into the main room will have enjoyed it and when stumbling out of the venue in the early hours of Sunday there would not have been many disappointed with Alestorm or the opening day of HRH Metal as a whole.
Incinery opened stage 3 on Sunday at 14:00 and this thrash metal outfit were playing to a packed house. It felt like an assault, pounding out some slick riffs and blasting drums, the crown chanted “this is war!’ along with front man James. Not an easy slot first thing on a Sunday, but they worked with what was in front of them and set the punters up for the rest of the day. 7/10 – NA
On Stage 2, Lifer, got underway silhouetted against red and blue stage lights behind them, visions of a high intensity police chase occurring. A solid blend of metal and hardcore, vocalist Scriv sporting a t shirt stating ‘I Hate You’ was on form having justsurvived the Wales Earthquake of 2018. Highlight was ‘Year of the Hog’ 6/10 – NA
With their last ever gig, Torous took to the stage to a fantastic reception. Local lads, this obviously was an emotive event. They really were on form, delivering their unique sound and a solid musical performance given the occasion. There was an intensity and a sadness from Marc as he stared out at the audience from under his cap during some momental guitar work. In between songs, he regaled stories of the band travelling on the bus to gigs drinking beer, admitting not much has changed as they arrived in similar style to the venue today. It was a polished performance with GMT on the bass living every note and Tom at the back sticking with great precision. It all came to an end a little too quickly, the crowd wanting more. A swan song to remember. 9/10 – NA
Elvenking were up next on the MainStage, delivering their style of folk/power metal with black paint smeared across their eyes, it was certainly interesting visually. Vocally, their front man, Damnagoras was excellent, and really commanded the stage, but everything else felt flat. No doubt they are more used to headlining their own shows. 6/10 – NA
Memorium followed on the MainStage, local to Birmingham, these veterans of the scene knew a few things about death metal. Unfortunately, their performance was less than memorable, the stage seemed a little too big, the music a little too ambling, this wasn’t a energy packed home show for them. 4/10 – NA
Did I expect to be at a metal gig watching a band called Footprints in the Custard? Not really, but i’m glad the stars aligned and I happened to see this spectacle of a band for the first time! The opening song set the scene, holding aloft his hand, Russ admits his penchant for masturbation led to the writing of this song ‘Wankclaw’. Syncronised head banging from the 5 piece from Manchester ensues to a belter of an opening riff. The interesting thing about FITC is that, albeit they are self described as a comedy metal band, they are heavy and they are seriously good.
The music stands up for itself as legitimate metal, not just the back drop to some hilarious antics. These guys know how to play and know how to put on a show. A real highlight was ‘Gail Platter’. Watching a circle pit develop with several people waving inflatable dicks and a wizard riding around hobby horse (possibly a unicorn), spinning around to a song about Ainsley Harriet and Gail Platt is undoubtably one of the Wonders of the World. It’s metal, it’s excruciatingly funny and they bought the house down in Birmingham. 10/10 – NA
So that was Hard Rock Hell Metal 2018. Being so close to the start of the year it feels like it’s come and gone in a flash. What a flash though. The perfect way to blast out the festival cobwebs for 2018. The festival has already been confirmed to return in 2019 so get prepared to buy tickets early as it will sell out again!
Finally, a massive thank you to the Hard Rock Hell team for having us over the weekend and thank you to Simon Dunkerley & Sean Larkin for the fantastic photography from the festival. Everyone should go and check out their work!