The Sheffield O2 once again played host to the second instalment of HRH Doom v Stoner. Whilst it’s questionable whether all the bands that played over the 2 days fit into either camp, the common denominator was undoubtedly great heavy music with riffs to burn. This event was well organised, had a real community feel to it and it was great to meet up with friends from all over the country and also make new acquaintances.
As with most festivals I turned up with a list of bands that I wanted to see. However, as usual the endless socialising with friends old and new over a few beers meant that I only got to see about 75% of the bands on my list! However, I also got to see a few bands that weren’t on my list – more about them below!
First up on the main stage on day 1 were local boys Kurokuma, who I last saw playing the Allfather album release show in Chatham. They’ve come a long way since then and kick the day off in fine style with their heavy prog/sludge/experimental sound – a bit like OHHMS they defy categorisation!. Incorporating bongos and tribal style drumming (reminiscent of Sepultura) in your set always gets a thumbs up from me and Kurokuma deservedly pull a sizable crowd.
Next on the main stage are a band I’ve never heard of before but boy am I glad that I went to watch them. I was out the back of the venue catching some air when the psychedelic stoner sounds of Red Spektor from Stoke-on-Trent tempted me in. Bathed in red for the whole set the 3 piece offer up a collection of heavy blues infused tracks mainly drawn from their debut self titled release, which I’ve subsequently acquired! Lead singer and guitarist John Scane (he of the black trilby) is a great frontman and the band do not look out of place on a stage that I assume is probably one of the largest they’ve played on to date. These guys were definitely my find of the weekend and I’d highly recommend that you check them out asap if you’re a fan of Hendrix, Sabbath, Zeppelin etc.
I only discovered the superbly named AWOOGA when they were announced as late additions for the festival. Having listened to their “Alpha” ep a few times on Bandcamp I was looking forward to seeing how their rock mash-up style would translate to the live environment. Very well is the answer as they blew away the second stage crowd with their prog, sludge, psych etc. etc. stylings. I can hear nods to many bands in their sound, from the likes of Tool and Mastodon to even Radiohead. Unfortunately I only saw half their set as I wanted to catch Boss Keloid downstairs. However, it was definitely enough to leave me wanting more AWOOGA!
I’ve seen Boss Keloid a few times now and they’ve never been anything except superb. Thankfully today was no exception as they disintegrate the main stage with their epic sludge onslaught. From opening track “Lung Mountain” through to the stupendously mesmerising closer “Hot Priest” the guys are on fine form and hold the crowd entranced. Lead singer Alex is once again the magnificent ring leader of the band, with his soaring voice being superbly accompanied by the brilliant aural journey created by Paul, Adam and Stephen. Having just recorded the follow up to “Herb Your Enthusiasm” at Skyhammer Studios I’m expecting big things from these guys over the next year. Don’t miss out on the buzz. Check them out NOW!
Doom legends Saint Vitus need no introduction and their appearance in Sheffield is well anticipated by the now well lubricated crowd. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen them and now with original singer Scott Reagers back in the fold this was a set not to be missed. Having seen guitar wizard Dave Chandler on 2 crutches in the bar earlier I was slightly concerned whether he could still crank out those epic doom riffs. Thankfully my concerns were unfounded as he stood stage right firing off riff after riff from that iconic white Flying V – what a great guitar sound he has too! Scott was also on fine form, no doubt aided by the mug of tea that he sipped from between songs! Their 10 song set consisted of 3 classics from their legendary self titled debut album (the title track, “White Magic/Black Magic” and the superb “Burial At Sea”) and a smattering of other doom standards such as “War Is Our Destiny” and “Dark World”. Finishing their set with the absolute masterpiece that is “Born Too Late” was a great way to end an hours worth of high quality doom metal that has often been copied but hardly ever bettered. Come back soon guys. Long live Saint Vitus.
From the sluggish movement of most people it would appear that a good night was had by all! My head was definitely on the fragile side and there was only one thing to remedy it. That’s right, more loud music and huge riffs, and thankfully the Sunday line-up would provide this in spades!
As I amble in to the O2 Grave Lines are on stage and doing their utmost best to liven up the assembled throng. I have to admit that the couple of times I’ve seen Grave Lines before I’ve not warmed to them for some reason. However, the penny finally dropped this time and I really enjoyed the 4 or 5 songs of sludgy doom noise that I heard. I look forward to seeing them again!
In my opinion Bast’s debut album “Spectres” is one of the best metal releases of the past 5 years. Furthermore, they always deliver live whether on a small stage in Camden or a bigger stage like Bloodstock or Desertfest. Therefore, their set is one of my most anticipated of the weekend and I am keen to hear their new material. The confidence in the new material is evident as the band only play one track from their debut (if my memory serves me correctly!) in their superbly sounding and tight set. As I said to the three guys afterwards, the opening track that is aired is in my view constitutes what Bast have been working towards since Spectres. In its 10 plus minutes it contains all the elements and styles that make Bast such a good band – from post and black metal through to doom and sludge segments. It truly is an impressive start and a superb sounding track that I cannot wait to hear on vinyl. The other new tracks that are aired are suitably awesome and rightfully pull a sizable crowd into the main arena. Bast’s second album cannot come soon enough and on the strength of the material that I’ve heard to date should catapult the band into the higher echelons of the metal universe.
The crowd has rightfully increased by the time that Serpent Venom hit the main stage. These four guys are one of the best doom metal bands around at the moment and deserve to be seen and heard by more people. They certainly hit the floor running as they launch straight into “Four Walls of Solitude” from their superb “Carnal Altar” debut. It’s immediately apparent that the sound is great as we’re engulfed by Roland’s huge riffs and Gary’s soaring vocals. One look at the crowd evidences that they’re digging the set as heads are nodding in time all around me as further epics such as “The Outsider”, “Pilgrims of the Sun” and “Let Them Starve” are unleashed. The two new tracks that are aired “(Pillars” and “The Ills” according to the set list that I see later – cheers Bruce) seem to continue in a similar vein and definitely whet the appetite for the third album that cannot come soon enough. Closing the set with the almighty doom of “Devilshire” is a masterstroke and leaves the crowd with huge grins on their faces. Plain and simply this is how doom metal should be done – great stuff guys!
The crushingly brutal Slabdragger are next up on the main stage and their phasers sure as hell are not set to stun today as they destroy the ever growing crowd. Kicking off proceedings as usual with the opening track from their superb “Rise of the Dawncrusher” album (“Mercenary Blues”), Slabdragger are on fire today and pummel the baying mob of a crowd with their sludge heavy sound. The set is predominantly pulled from “Rise of the Dawncrusher”, with “Evacuate” being a particular highlight as Yusuf and Sam lose their collective shit on the stage! The final track of the day is a real treat as they launch into their cover of Frank Zappa’s “Muffin Man”, which is soon to be released on their split with the mighty Wren (Mother of Beef and the Magic of Invention on Holy Roar Records). They sure do the song a great service and leave the crowd with huge grins on their faces and wanting more. Now about that new album guys!!
Slabdragger are always a tough act to follow but Leeds based Black Moth are well up to the task. Having seen them recently play a blinding set on the Sophie stage at Bloodstock I was looking forward to catching them in more intimate surroundings. From the off they were in fine form as they launched into “Undead King of Rock ‘n’ Roll from their second album “Condemned to Hope”. Harriett Bevan’s vocals are spot on and the sound is great (which is a trend for the whole weekend – well done the soundman!) throughout as they play tracks from both their current albums. Entwined with this are a number of tracks from their forthcoming third album “Anatomical Venus” (due for release in January 2018 on New Heavy Sounds/Candlelight Records), with first single “Moonbow” being a particular highlight. The only small gripe is that like a few other bands, the hour long set just seems a bit too long and maybe 45 minutes would be better, which would also allow time for another band on the main stage. However, this is a very minor issue that does not take detract from the overall enjoyment of the set. If you know what’s good for you (and you’re in the area), you’ll catch Black Moth at either one of their upcoming headline shows in Leeds and London or their support set with the mighty Orange Goblin at their now annual Christmas gig at the Electric Ballroom in Camden on 22nd December.
The unfortunate late pulling out of the legendary My Dying Bride meant that German rockers Kadavar were bumped up to Sunday headliners. Whilst I was disappointed that MDB were not playing (I’ve not seen them live since their heavier period in the early 90’s – yes I’m that old!!), Kadavar were one of the bands that I was eager to see as I hadn’t caught them live before. Their retro rock infused self titled debut and follow up “Abra Kadavar” are two of the best rock albums of the past few years and whilst third album “Berlin” did not quite hit the same heights, it was still a great album. Showing confidence in their recently released fourth album “Rough Times” they commenced their set with the double whammy of the title track and “Skeleton Blues”, both of which sounded superb. What was to follow was one of the best sets that I’d seen in quite a while. The beer was flowing and I found myself getting lost in their Zeppelin and Sabbath influenced sounds. If this makes sense they sounded incredibly tight but also had a real loose almost “jam-like” grove going on, which was quite frankly superb! Tracks such as “Goddess of Dawn”, “Purple Sage” and “Die Baby Die” sounded awesome and closing track (one of my faves) “Come Back Life” was a brilliant way to end another fantastic weekend in Sheffield. Set of the weekend? You bet it was!!
Roll on DvS III in 2018.