Can’t say I do these HRH festivals very often, but I guess they’re a laugh – someone even brought along a toy unicorn on a stick!
ETHEREAL SIN were on at 3pm, which was a bit of a bummer because I wasn’t banking on getting there that early, but if a Japanese band playing epic fantasy battle metal is in your town, well, I think you should go and support them. SIGH are the only band from that country I’ve ever really been familiar with ( saw them in ’95 when they were supporting BALSAGOTH, ( who cancelled! ) ), a band with bombastic arrangements and really, really great BM vocals. ETHEREAL SIN have the same raspy throat timbre actually – a good start – but unlike SIGH the music is more straightforward, and dare I say, global? Whatever, they certainly look and sound great – check out this video! ( Although any of you romantic chaps should observe that the keyboard player seems to have turned into a man for this particular tour ).
They kicked off with a traditional pentatonic intro on some koto strings and then gave the hundred or so people who had made the effort to arrive early a blistering performance, like it was their finest hour. Apparently they have four albums and have been going since 1997 – shame on me for not knowing! The vocalist really put in the effort to communicate with the audience is a very humble way, which many people seemed to find very endearing. Definitely a sound tailored for the world market.
There is a staple type of band that plays at these events, kind of like bluesy ‘dad metal’ that doesn’t really work for me, so after a quick poke around in the other rooms, the next band I wanted to check out were also on the main stage – WITCHSORROW. I’d come across the name before, but have neglected doom for a few years, and only heard one track by them online. It sounded heavy, and it was sure they’d be good. Surely?
First impressions of the three-piece on stage is that they look like a clean-cut ELECTRIC WIZARD – speaking of which, I remember seeing Tim Bagshaw half-playfully kicking Jus Osborne on stage once, which at least showed they had some kind of chemistry, even if it was a pressing hatred, but tonight this band don’t really seem to connect with each other at all, and certainly not with the audience. They do all the right things, but something in the music seems very much missing to my ears. Lots of people like them though, so it must just be me. Stage too big? Maybe they’re better in the studio?
Upstairs in Bar Two, DIE KUR, who I was not particularly expecting to be good, were actually really good. The first song I heard them play is a good song – I know that should be a given, for a band to have great songs, but it is a rare thing these days, and I am impelled to type it out ( I messaged them and it’s called Legacy of the Fox – the recorded stuff accentuates the heaviness of things, but live they are a bit more spacey and trippy ) They have a violin player, but he uses the instrument to contribute interesting, meaningful sounds to the music, like another synthesiser. They are down as an industrial band when you google them, but to me they sound like a cross between Chaos AD era SEPULTURA, early SLIPKNOT ( in the pre-conscious, pre-arena rock phase, when they still sounded like a garage grindcore act ) crossed with space rock like GONG and HAWKWIND, and this is all held together by a vocalist who manages the rise and fall of the energy in the room the same way an MC would do it at a dance event, or on a pirate drum and bass radio station maybe. And lots of people are dancing! Very likeable chaps. A good band to have at your party perhaps?
We watched a bit of SKILTRON in the main room – Argentinian folk metal, but with a Geordie on vocals? I don’t know much about them but if that guy is really playing the bagpipes then he deserves a round of applause. The crowd loved them and there was lots of drunken dancing. Not quite as funny as Alestorm, but fair play!
The next band that were really good were IMPAVIDUS, in fact, easily the best band of the day, certainly for ferocity. It all began with a blast-beat, and a really good one at that. Over the set I was thinking, ‘What a great drummer!’. The cynic in me was waiting for something to be rubbish, but that point never came. Pretty much bomb proof! They kind of use the same musical methods as ARCH ENEMY – all that dirty / clean thing – but aren’t as boring and formulaic like that band, no, IMPAVIDUS are really full of rage and the scales are tipped well towards the heavier side of things, with that old school Swedish sound in the guitars – Entombed, and maybe a bit of Carcass. The vocals are filthy, she has a really great raspy sound, like some of the greats! Watching them, you can tell every band member pulls their weight. Probably something bigger will come from this lot – a band to watch if you are into this scene.
The main point of coming to HRH was to see XENTRIX, after reviewing their new album here. Would they be any good? The new stuff is pretty good actually, better than the old in my opinion, so Bury The Pain and There Will Be Consequences sound relevant, whilst oldie For Whose Advantage sounds a bit dirge-like and boring. I can say that they definitely seemed a bit unrehearsed in the stage presence department, but then they are old-school, I guess. It depends on your mood whether you can listen to slow chugging thrash – basically listening to a lot of ‘E’ – but by this point, after six hours, HRH is over for me, so as they closed with oldie No Compromise, I decided it was time to go home, find some chips, and drink lots of cups of tea in order to water down the extortionately priced San Miguel I’d consumed ( a beer that my barmaid daughter observes actually has five different ways of pronouncing, depending on your social caste. How do you order it? ).
Well, I hope any of you who went had a great time! A festival with a few surprises – a great way to discover some new bands, actually – and I guess a real bargain if you buy a two day ticket!