Hard Rock Hell (Metal Meltdown) Day One - 11-12th February 2017 - O2 Academy Birmingham
Birmingham is without a doubt the home of metal. It was only fitting that Hard Rock Hell chose this prestigious area of the world to host their first ever dedicated weekend to the genre above all other genres. Welcome to Hard Rock Hell, Metal Meltdown.
This two day collection of explosive music was headlined by Skindred and Sodom, but the lineup was full of incredible bands. Sadly I didn't get to see them all, but let me guide you through my experience of the weekend.
Before any bands started, I took a walk through the 'festival'. HRH had essentially walked up to the O2 Academy and instead of being happy with just one room like most, they turned round and said, 'Nope, it's all ours now.' With the use of all three stages, they made great use of the connecting hallways between rooms and even managed to set up food stalls, a few shops and of course used all of the Academy bars. At any point you were less than a minute from the rest of the action - it worked amazingly. There was no bleed through of sound from anywhere else if you were watching a band and it all seemed to flow effortlessly.
To kick the weekend off, Stage 3 ('Best Of Brum') was the place to be (mainly due to it being the only place to be). Burden of the Noose, a local Sludge/Grind group, came onto the stage to an absolutely packed room. The crowd spilt out into the hallway and the roar as BOTN took to the stage was deafening. With massive grins on their faces, they launched into the opening song and it was obvious why they were chosen to launch this two-dayer. From the first to the last song they made the small Academy 3 stage feel like a festival stage, commanding the crowd and getting everyone pumped up. They certainly gained a fair few fans from their set and it would be great to see them bumped up the bill.
Next up was Bloodyard, who we chatted to pre-festival (which you can listen to here). The female fronted thrash metal piece burst into the set and knocked it out of the park. The room continued to move with energy and the crowd continued to grow in size, a great sign to come for the weekend ahead. The thrash continued and the heads kept banging for the set, until it was time for Bloodyard to sadly leave the stage.
We ventured off to grab something to eat and enjoy the main stage as Red Rum climbed aboard. As a fan of theirs, it was great to see them with such a high up position on the bill and the crowd they drew matched it. Continuing their tradition of pirate metal and high octane music, they showed everyone there that Alestorm are not the only Pirate themed band to listen to. My heart sang Yo Ho Ho the moment their set started and continued throughout as the shantys blasted out from every speaker and the tales of seven seas rang through my ears.
Next up was a venture upstairs as the 2nd stage opened up. Midlands based Winter Storm (who we also spoke to in our podcast) are kicking things off, with their take of the melodic metal genre. The set varies with music from different points of their career, until they announce they're playing a new song - from their upcoming concept album. Like most, those words sent shivers down my spine. However, I was absolutely amazed by the new track and it blew me away. When this album hits, its going to change things for this band. I can't wait.
Next on my list was Anti-Clone - a band I'd heard incredible things about, with people raving about their music and insisting that I do anything I can to even catch them in passing. Having seen them, I'm now one of those people. With all members donning twisted and creepy masks, the noise this Grimsby based horde made was unreal. With a heavy gear grinding backing sound and vocals that are on par with, nay better than, Corey Taylor, I can see why they are raved about. So now it's my turn to say it: Go see Anti Clone.
At this point I relaxed upstairs with a few drinks, enjoying Senser, which bought back an old school feeling. But my main highlight of the weekend was to follow - Raging Speedhorn. These guys exploded back in 2016 and are going even harder in 2017. I'm going to quickly summarise their performance. Best. Ever. With it being their last time out on stage with RSJ frontman Dan Cook, it seemed fitting and almost like a goodbye show. With a set that almost defined Speedhorn, it was non stop craziness. We even had a stage invasion from none other than Benji from Skindred! Damn Speedhorn, damn.
It was then time to sprint upstairs to catch the 2nd stage headliners, Feed The Rhino. Now this wasn't my first rodeo with FTR, so I knew not to stand against the barrier. I was instantly proven right as the lead singer literally launched himself onto it, balanced by a security guard. These guys didn't just provide a phenomenal stage show, the music was hardcore, fast and brutal, just what the crowd needed. Easily the highlight of stage 2 for the weekend.
Finally, it was Skindred time! And goddamn it, at this point, the crowd were gagging for it. With the main room jam packed, (mostly as all the other stages were closed), the air was electric. As the Imperial March played the band took to the stage and the set began. For those who have seen Skindred before, I'll spare you the details. For those who haven't, all I will say, is go. It's difficult to describe one, it's best left to be experienced. It was a fitting end to the first day of this amazing festival and it also showed everyone why Skindred were chosen to headline. Day 2 had a lot to live up to.