|HRH Doom vs Stoner – Sheffield, O2 Academy – 1 October 2016|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Thursday, 06 October 2016 20:05|
For the past few years, it could possibly be argued that doom and stoner were something of a bolt on to the main Hard Rock Hell events at the twice annual gatherings in north Wales, with three or four bands appearing on the Hafan-Y-Mor compound’s smallest stage, often late in the evening. However, as HRH celebrates its tenth year, the organizers are, quite rightly, diversifying even further and staging more focussed events, such as the just announced HRH Metal event in Birmingham next February and the HRH Blues shebang at Easter.
And the first of these new additions to the roster is this dedicated affair which, despite its slightly confrontational title, sees bands from the doom and stoner subgenres drawing the hordes to south Yorkshire and the home of the franchise’s annual ‘Highway To Hell’ competition.
By the time we negotiate taxis, ‘planes, buses, trains, hotel check-ins and much-needed grubsteaks, it is late afternoon before the UR team arrives at the well-appointed venue, on the edge of Sheffield’s university campus. Unfortunately, this means we have missed Slabdragger, Limb (whom one of my fellow Belfast hallions reported had “smashed it”) and Bong Cauldron, and Electric Citizen are just about to quit the main stage. So, apologies to the bands concerned, and hopefully we’ll catch up with them somewhere down the Uber Rockin’ road!
So, first on our hitlist, especially after having missed them at Bloodstock earlier in the summer, are Oxford noiseniks Desert Storm – and they don’t disappoint the reputation that proceeds them, as they whip up just that in the tiny second room, which is pleasingly rammed to overflowing as the band lay down their hard-hitting brand of psychedelic-infused metal.
On the main stage, Merseyside doom sayers Conan take the button mark “depressive mode” and press it all the way. They deliver dense, broiling walls of hypnotic down-tuned noise that bounces with a dark vibrancy, and their huge slabs of sonics are suitably dark yet enervating.
While Poseidon create dark rumblings from the bottom of the sea on the second stage, Black Spiders seem to be suffering technical problems during the changeover: certainly, guitarist Ozzy Lister doesn’t look happy about something during his line check, resulting in the quintet taking to the stage ten minutes behind schedule.
The hometown lads don’t really fit comfortably into either the ‘doom’ or ‘stoner’ descriptives, although they do veer more towards the former with the heavy bottom end to their thick crunching groove. There’s plenty of punky rawness, such as on ‘Stick It To The Man’, thrown in as well, and this is as much a high energy rock ‘n’ roll performance as it is steeped in the classic metal sensibilities of Sabbath and early Priest. Frontman Pete Spiby oozes charisma of the right sort, and helps to ensure that the floor doesn’t stop bouncing for the entire duration of their set, which receives a deservedly rapturous reception.
Few present realized the significance of this performance, as two days later the Spiders announced that they would no longer spinning their particular metallic web: a fucking massive loss to the British rock scene, as this was a terrific band with a seemingly bright future… but, what a helluva way to go out!
Closing off the first day’s action on the second stage, Vodun certainly win the vote for the most unusual band of the weekend, in terms of their highly distinctive image, line-up and style: but, there’s also plenty of substance, as they deliver a particularly exciting brand of voodoo-fuelled heavy psyche rock, with Oya a powerful and distinctive frontwoman, both visually and vocally. Even if a large proportion of the crowd are merely waiting for the main attractions out on the main stage, the London trio certainly endear themselves to an appreciative gathering.
Angel Witch’s style of classic NWOBHM hasn’t changed much over the past 40 years, even on newer songs such as ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ - but, that’s not a bad thing, as the fans know exactly to expect: and that’s just what they get. Veteran frontman Kevin Heybourne’s interaction with the crowd is curt and to the point, limited to barking the song titles and little else apart from pulling a few well-practised ‘Guitar Star’-style shapes during the multiple overlong guitar solos. The rhythm section are taut, but the sound is the ropiest of the day, with too much high end on both of the guitars, with the result that the rhythm work is lost and the bass floats in and out of the mix. Musically and technically everything is just as you would expect, but the band’s overall stage presence is virtually non-existent, leading to a lacklustre and disappointing performance from a band who still should be able to deliver the goods in much better style than this. Still, they earn an appreciative response from a good proportion of the crowd: it’s just a pity that Heybourne saved all of his enthusiasm (and chat) for their self-titled closer.
With the strains of DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top…’ bouncing off the venue walls, Ben Ward strides confidently and manfully onto the stage and declares “It’s Saturday night… so let’s fucking do this!”. And right from the off every body is swaying moving to Orange Goblin’s slow burning groove. It’s a performance as towering as their vocalist, with Ward constantly encouraging, but without cajoling, the audience to give it their all – and they reciprocate a hundred fold, with the entire floor a sea of writhing bodies, constant circle pits and bodies coming over the barrier at a tsunamic rate.
The Goblins once again prove that not only are they one of the most exciting live bands around but also one of the few who manage to combine the bluesy origins of doom and yeet infuse them with huge doses of classic and modern metal sensibilities, while delivering a positive firestorm of a show in the process.
And so the first day of the inaugural HRH DVS came to a very hot and sweaty end, leaving the only business to be conducted that of finding our way back to our hotel to try and recover just ever so slightly before throwing ourselves back into the fray the next afternoon. Check back tomorrow to find out what went down then…
Early bird tickets for HRH Doom vs Stoner Chapter II, which takes place at the O2 Academy in Sheffied on 30 September and 1 October 2017, are already on sale.
Next up for the HRH faithful is the sold out tenth anniversary edition of Hard Rock Hell itself, at Pwllheli in north Wales from 10 – 13 November. Camp HRH also hosts HRH AOR from 9 – 12 March, HRH Prog from 16 – 19 March, and Hammerfest from 23 – 26 March.
Prior to that, HRH returns to Sheffield for HRH NWOBHM on 2/3 December and HRH Blues on 15/16 April. The newly announced HRH Metal: The St Valentine’s Day Metal Meltdown takes placeHRH Blues at the O2 Academy in Birmingham on 11/12 February.