Hard Rock Hell Metal Birmingham, Day 2, 12th Febuary
Day two saw us rise with limited damage and after check out we arrived at the O2 in time for one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. Late last year Staffordshire’s Obzidian (9) released their fourth album, the stunning Obliteration Process. Full of thrash metal groove, this was one I was waiting for and the band hit the stage bang on 2pm to a very healthy crowd in arena 3. From the start the band took no prisoners, with the enthusiasm of snarling vocalist Matty Jenks totally infectious. Taking the time to repeatedly thank everyone for attending, the band blasted through a set which included Concrete Psychosis from the 2014 release of the same name along with a couple from Obliteration Process, the storming Sins Here Are Purified and the magnificent stomp of Perish The Thought. The sound these guys make is akin to Lamb Of God with the groove of Pantera, with Baz’s shredding guitar work giving the impression that there was another guitarist hidden away somewhere. Paul Hayward’s drumming evoked the Vinnie Paul and Chris Adler sound whilst Matt Jeff’s infectious bass lines underpinned the whole lot. A great start to day 2.
Opening proceedings in arena 1 was London based symphonic metallers Pythia (4). Unfortunately, the band are not my cup of tea and when Sophie Dorman’s off key vocals kicked in, many in the venue headed elsewhere. With an image that isn’t quite right and songs that are just plain confusing and disjointed, Pythia struggled to impress and even when returning to the arena at the latter part of their set things hadn’t improved. What it did allow was the chance for a quick return to Arena 3 for local thrash merchants Eradikator (8) who had pulled another decent gathering. The band pull no punches, their slayer fused thrash inciting much head banging with vocalist and bassist Pat Cox demanding everyone’s attention. Although the thrash was a little repetitive, Cox wins extra points for his flying V bass whilst the band’s cover of Van Halen’s Panama was one of the highlights of the weekend.
Whilst on record they sound okay, on stage I’m afraid that the classic metal style of Berkshire’s Primitai (6) struggled to maintain attention. Not even the toned flexing of front man Guy Miller was sufficient to maintain focus and after a while the competent band became, well, just a little boring.
Boring is not something you can accuse Worcestershire metallers Fury (9) of being. With the arena 2 very nicely populated the band pulled off one of the sets of the weekend with tracks from their last album Lost in Space mixed nicely with some of their earlier works. Julian Jenkins possesses one of the most brilliant voices in metal today. It is truly astonishing and around the room those who were new to the band were noted to be looking on in awe. Jenkins is no slouch on the guitar either although most of the lead work was let to Jake Beesley; the duel guitar sound reminiscent of early Maiden and Lizzy so pleasing on the ear. What is most impressive about Fury is their genuine enjoyment which they currently display, the whole band having fun and grinning from ear to ear, bassist Martin Trail winning the weekend’s best gurner award by a country mile. The warmth was reciprocated by the audience who were engaged and receptive to the set. Possibly the best set of the weekend.
The main arena witnessed the heaviest set of the weekend with UK black metallers Winterfylleth (9) demonstrate why they have few equals with an hour of astonishing black metal. The band are now more confident than I’ve ever seen them, with bassist Nick Wallwork now taking on a larger share of the vocals. Meanwhile Chris Naughton remains the focal point with a voice that is almost impossible to reconcile to his appearance. The band’s anthemic black metal with its English heritage inspired themes filled the arena, Dan Capp’s vicious riffing splitting heads. Highlights included the title track from last year’s superb The Dark Hereafter, a blistering Warrior Herd from The Divination Of Antiquity and A Valley Thick With Oaks from 2010’s The Mercian Sphere. Overcoming the inevitable technical difficulties that always seem to affect their gigs, certainly when I see them, the band continue to impress with every viewing. Essential viewing in the live arena.
Editor: Unfortunately we missed out on seeing Reign Of Fury as due to Stoneghost pulling out, so they started their elongated set midway through Winterfylleth's as we wanted to get a very good place for Hell, from what I've heard they were excellent bringing in Conscript man Joey Jaycock on lead guitar, shame to miss them but we did manage to catch a bit of Hanging Doll (7) who had their Gothic metal stunted by the terrible sound mix.
And so to our last band of the weekend due to work commitments on Monday but what a way to finish. I’ve seen Hell (9) numerous times over the past few years, in several different locations but it’s when they have a decent size of stage that they really excel. Their set list is pretty settled these days with a mix of songs from Human Remains and 2013’s Curse And Chapter. Opener The Age Of Nefarious saw Dave Bower in full flow, whilst Let Battle Commence allowed Andy Sneap and Kev Bower let rip. The epic Let Battle Commence allowed the theatrics to start in earnest with Bower’s self-flagellation raising a few eyebrows amongst the non-believers in the audience. Despite blowing his wireless microphone and having to resort to a hand held one towards the end of the set, Bower remained the master thespian. The arrival of the plague doctor for Plague & Fyre followed on from one of the highlights of the show, Bower towering above the stage on his stilted goat’s legs and devil horns for Darkhangel. Although the theatrics always catch the eye the music must work and Hell are blisteringly heavy, Tony Speakman’s pounding bass combining with Tim Bowler’s battery from the drum riser. Closing with End Ov Days and the anthemic On Earth As It Is In Hell, the Derbyshire outfit proved once again that they are a must see band at any festival.
With the ears ringing from two blistering days of metal, we departed the O2 for our journey home. A brilliant weekend, friendly punters and a fabulous vibe. We will be back next year!
Editor: Apologies to The Heretic Order, Lawnmower Death and Sodom for missing their sets but travel back we all had early starts on the Monday so a late night return Sunday was not possible, we will see you again. Promise.