Pick Your Rock and Metal

Thursday, November 30, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: HRH XI Day Three- as intense as ever

BEDRAGGLED but beaming the Hard Rock Hell hordes emerged from their accommodation ready to take on another day of music and mayhem in North Wales.

Debutantes, stunned from the first two days wandered around considering who to see, and when, while seasoned HRH types settled down to convenient positions to sample the aural fare and near the bars. (Hint - the outside bar is best if you time it right...)

But beers aside (not aside too often, mind you) the music was again a mighty, belly busting feast of hard rock.

Again, the continual shuffling between the two venues trying to cram in the guitar-driven sounds led to much back-and-forth across the few yards separating the two.

And, once again the offering was mighty. That may seem overly effusive, but it was a day or delight for everyone dedicated to enjoying the best of rock - from blues driven, through to prog metal and balls to the wall rockn' out.

Whether it was Western Sand wowing stage two and Bad Touch vying to outdo them, or Lynch Mob and Reef wanting everyone to raise their hands up there was almost unanimous acclaim for the line-up.

The feast devoured by fans proved that they were insatiable. Whether it was King Creature, Lynch Mob, Black Whiskey, or Von Hertzen Brothers they were all greeted with applause and more than a few roars of approval.

For many the aforementioned Von Hertzen Brothers were new found favourites. The Finnish act caught the right mood, showcasing tracks from their latest album 'War is Over' from the off and delivering with poise and panache. There was more texture from the band than in 100 Welsh blankets.

The Saturday headliners, Black Star Riders, are an act that have developed in a few short years as a Lizzy off-shoot to a potent band with their own identity.

Warwick, Johnson, Gorham et al were there to impress, however, there was a whiff of a band that was using HRH as their warm-up for their UK tour. Not that mattered for most. We were under Heavy Fire...

With three albums under their belt it was refreshing to see that they no longer rely on peppering their set with TL numbers, as songs such as 'Testify Or Say Goodbye', 'Hey Judas' and the textured 'Soldierstown' stand on their own strengths.

Sure we expected it all to conclude with a rabble-rousing 'Whiskey In The Jar' but for many 'The Killer Instinct' and 'Bound For Glory' were the highlights.

As the midnight hour struck the weekend concluded with 'Dead City Ruins' ripping it up...

HRH XI ended...and most already looking to HRH XII.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh and Lizzie Torbitt

See Lizzie's gallery here.
See Darren's gallery here.

ALBUM REVIEW: Technical, extreme and glorious from Bloodshot Dawn on Reanimation

PORTSMOUTH melodic tech death maestros Bloodshot Dawn return with their third full length brain blender 'Reanimation' with a shedload of guests to add flourishes to an already packed album of six-string splendour.

The first track 'Seared Earth' throws you straight into a cement mixer of sweep picking and tight double bass drumming. It's ridiculously technical, the riffs are crushing, the bass thunderous and the vocals full of unrepentant fury. The leadwork is a joy to behold in its blend of supreme technicality and pure undiluted melody. That's how you open an album.

'Graviton Nightmare' hurls riff after riff at you. Insane drums and paralysing leadwork assault you, turning your brain into a hot goopy mess. The melody is fantastic, a real headbanger of a track. The vocal work adds a layer of aggression to the hefty madness and that solo will have the hairs on your arms standing on end.

Track three, 'Survival Evolved' has a really futuristic sound to it. It's brilliantly structured and super heavy. Again the leadwork is otherworldly and the pounding bass and brutal drumming compliment it perfectly. The vocals are so intense, matching the ferocity and technical prowess of the music.

The next track 'Upon the Throne of Fear' assaults you from the first note with intense double bass drumming and demented riffing. The vocals are utterly demonic and the leadwork is sickeningly intricate. It's an absolute beast of a song, a stand out track.

'Controlled Consciousness' is bassy, dynamic and packed with tasty riffs and relentless drumming. It's faster than a squirrel that's been force-fed amphetamines and so tech heavy it has Bill Gates scratching his head. The vocals are grinding and powerful and the solo will melt your face clean off your skull.

Track six, 'Soul Affliction' starts of nice and heavy only to become even heavier as the vocals, pummelling guitar riffs and unforgiving drum work. The unbelievably skilled solos will turn you into a transdimentional space goat. You'll lose yourself in a galaxy of flowing madness and absolute brutality.

'Shackled' is hook heavy, catchy and superbly written. The guitars have a melodic quality to the riffs, the drums and bass compliment them perfectly. The vocals are so strong, maintaining a level of nasty aggression throughout and the guitar leads are completely dripping in melody and virtuosity. One of the best structured songs on the album.

And, 'Battle for the Omniverse' is a pounding monster of a track, showcasing unparalleled musicianship and an ear for excellent songwriting. It walks the line between brutal death metal and melodic death metal without wobbling once. The guitars are absolutely stunning, the drums are limb splitting and the vocals cut through you like a knife as the bass suffocates you. The leadwork is yet again out of this world.

The penultimate track 'DNA Reacquisition', an instrumental, is more of a midpaced affair, wonderfully melodic. At just over a minute and a half in length it'll send chills up your spine and it's the perfect setup for the final song.

'Reanimated' is crushing. The riffs and drums are surgical in their execution. The vocals are aggressive and the bass devastates everything. The highlight, much like the rest of the album, is the leadwork which is oozing melodic proficiency in abundance.

Fans of brutal and technically proficient and insanely melodic music would do well to pick this gem up. It's a space age blast of riffs, shredding, blasting drums and leadwork that'll fry your nervous system.

Review by Phil Noonan.

LIVE REVIEW: HRH XI - Friday mayhem

"FRIDAY night's here, what's the scene, nothing to do, if you know what I mean" were the opening lines of Stiff Little Fingers ode to desolate nights in Northern Ireland titled 'Here We Are Nowheee'. But on Friday at HRH XI there was too much to do rather than nothing.

With bands battling for the audience's attention across two stages timing was everything, however, such was the quality on display that it, as always as HRH, the dilemma was to chose what bands to catch - and where the queues at the bar were the shortest...

Yes, unlike many other fests HRH has such a spread of bars that, apart from the outdoor bar, you can still hear the bands playing.

Competing with the Airbourne documentary on the main stage Those Damn Crows set the bar high for the rest of the day; really high. It's fair to say that there were few bands that were as good across the weekend. There was a grim determination about the band to completely engage and enthral with a hard edge and a steely stare, matched with a wry grin. Excellent.

As if fired up by seeing their predecessors performance Kingbreaker mounted the stage determined to enthral. Spinky commanding all of the stage - painted face and a voice caressing and curdling the souls of the unwary. The London four-piece's sense of musical drama captured their essence and a true sensibility of what hard rock should deliver - it's fucking show business!

With the afternoon rolling on the pressure to do reviews, pictures and interviews always has all review teams, no matter how big or small is in constant motion. That's not a complaint: it is a privilege to be there, meet the acts and take the time to absorb the acts and drink in the atmosphere.

The competition between the stages was intense throughout the day. From Systeria on the main stage through to Fire Red Empress on stage two the smorgasbord of rock captured the spirit of the day.

And, that was the reality of the day (and Saturday too). Whether it was catching a few moments of The New Roses, or Florence Black the choice was always excellent.

The impressive performance of Chasing Dragons clashed with the end of the ever-reliable Tyketto, but the night was owned by the stage one headliners, Airbourne.

Energy, like static electricity buzzed off the stage, crackling and producing a roar of approval, Airbourne do what they do and they do it damn well.

The clichéd comparisons with DC are now long past - they are 'Running Wild' and the audience definitely have done 'Too Much, Too Young'.

Sure, all the usual stunts from Joel are on display, and they don't vary their set too much, but Airbourne are there with one purpose: to rock the fuck out of the place. That is all.

And, we had to it all again tomorrow...

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh and Lizzie Torbitt as indicated.

See Lizzie's gallery here.
See Darren's gallery here.