|HRH Doom vs Stoner – Sheffield, O2 Academy – 2 October|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Friday, 07 October 2016 20:00|
The second day of HRH’s new DvS franchise dawned clear and crisp, with your Über team enjoying the view over Steel City while sipping bucks fizz and nibbling canapés on the balcony of our penthouse suite (as if – a can of own brand lager and a bench on the city’s Park Green is about as far as our expense account stretches!)… before catching the fruitless first half of what turned out to be another disappointing footie “experience” and heading into the darkness for another ten hours or so of loud metal music and over-priced pisswater (yeah, Somersby’s isn’t exactly our favourite brand of cider).
We’re among the very few that have made the effort to get there for the start, as openers Kroh take to the Academy’s main stage to deliver their brand of gothic doom. Oliwia Sobieszek delivers Siouxsie-like vocals over dense melodies and concrete solid slabs of riffage from guitarist Paul Kenney. The result is a Lucifer-ish vibe which is actually quite spooky given the earliness of the hour, and the paucity of the crowd, although numbers thankfully grow steadily during their impressively passionate set.
The wonderfully-named Sergeant Thunderhoof open with a classic metal sound coupled with both a huge bottom end and a sense of cheekiness – opener ‘Reptilian Woman’ (from last year’s ‘Rise Of The Hoof’ album) features the lyrics ‘She’s a hell of a woman/She’s got snakes for thighs’, delivered with appropriate hand gestures from vocalist Dan Flitcroft – before easily slipping into more traditional doom territory. Their solid riffs and melodies attract a good number of the growing crowd to the barrier: however, a bit more animation and excitement in their delivery could have led to some of the same from the audience, who definitely wanted to enjoy themselves more, and their set lagged badly with its slower middle section.
Regulus – who have just signed to HRH’s affiliate Off Yer Rocka Recordings – deliver the biggest riffs of the day so far, and some of the weekend. Their dense melodies are packed with plenty of energy, which translates to their collective performance, as they use every inch of the stage, and frontman Luke Jennings interacts well with crowd. The band as a whole exude positivity, while the songs buzz and hum with raw enthusiasm combined with honed technique. My personal discovery of the weekend, and I can’t wait for the album, which is due next Spring.
OHMMS’ chaotic noise and highly energetic stage show certainly ups the intensity levels, with the venue walls virtually shaking with both the volume level and the amount of movement both on the stage and the floor, while Brule open the second stage to a large crowd appreciative of their appropriately furious salvos of hardcore-tinged density.
With the first two bands having cut their sets short, the early arrival of Trippy Wicked catches most people (including the inhouse cameramen) unawares, and they start to an almost empty room; however, realization soon dawns and very soon nearly everyone has drifted in from the smoking area to enjoy their chunky NOLA-style psyched-out blooziness. It’s traditional doom played with taut simplicity and an effective level of dark forbidding: they also prove that the genre can be saucy, with the suitably ludicrous ‘Clothes On My Floor’, which is definitely a sure-fire crowd-pleaser in the midst of a set of sure-fire crowd-pleasers.
Back next door, Suffolk country-sludgers Old Man Lizard are having all sorts of problems, having to stop the show twice due to guitarist Jack Newnham first breaking a string and then suffering a separate technical issue. However, the trio carry on with smiles on their faces and proceed, amidst the stoppages, to deliver a beautifully cacophonous downtuned psychedelic soundtrack to the now early evening, and they keep the audience rapt and focussed on their equally so performance.
A stage bathed in red light complements the sense of impending doom that Witchsorrow’s deep, hypnotic, occult rhythms and slabs of riffs bring. Their massive wall of sound is held down by a behemothic bottom end, while at the same time is darkly energetic amid the layers of atmospherics, as the trio summon the faithful to their particular celebration of the Sabbath, and the latter answer with unanswering and unswerving loyalty. All that’s really missing is a hanging tree, as Necroskull preaches his dark sermons with suitably macabre enjoyment of the moment.
The wall of controlled feedback that precedes the six members of Raging Speedhorn onto the stage is no preparation from the pure fury they subsequently unleash. The most genre-crossing and –defying act on the weekend bill, they are intensity incarnate, as evinced when, right from the off, they incite at least two fullscale mosh pits at any one time – feck, they even manage to keep a pit going in the lull between the songs! RSH’s brand of doomcore is the perfect blend of fiery intensity and dark brutality, guaranteed to light up any stage or festival, and tonight they once again show why they are one of the most insanely compulsive live acts on the circuit.
There is no doubt that, for many, RSH were the “must see” band of the day, as a goodly number head for the exits during the subsequent changeover: but, then, that might also be something to do with the fact that the venue’s five bars have long since started to run out of vital supplies of alcohol, with the shutters being pulled down on most of them (by all accounts, it was a record-setting weekend in terms of booze sales). Which is a real shame, as Candlemass are making one of their rare appearances on these shores – and a towering performance it is too. Mats Levén looks extremely comfortable up front, as if he has been leading the doom legends for their entire three decades, while it’s great to see Leif Edling back to full fitness and where he should be – holding down the bottom end of the sound with his foundation-shattering bass rumbles. The set is largely an encapsulation of their 30+ year career, delivering exactly what the audience want to hear it and in the way they want to hear it – delivered by masters of their art.
And so the curtain came down on the inaugural HRH DvS, and we made our say back (via the worst KFC in the whole of the British Isles), to our penthouse/park bench. I must say that it was, as we would expect from the HRH team, an extremely well-run affair in a venue which is extremely well suited for the event, both in its location and its facilities (I promise we won’t mention the over-priced booze again… oops!). Compliments must go to the security staff for the handling of the various pits, especially during the Orange Goblin and Raging Speedhorn sets. Which only leaves us one question: can we do it all again very soon? Oh, we can…! Great! Looking forward to it already…
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.