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HRH (Multimedia Organisation) : HRH Doom Vs HRH Stoner III (Festival)

OK, we're not really geared up for live reviews, but I was at the recent HRH Doom Vs HRH Stoner III Festival representing the site, so see what you think about this write-up...

*DvS Flyer*

Back in the day, I believe, we used to cover live gigs fairly regularly, but any facility for that was left out of the last site rewrite in 2007, and it hasn't really been a noticeable omission, at least in my time here. To be honest, I've never had a lot of interest in concert reviews under any circumstances - if you were there, you don't need to be told, if you weren't, it's a bit pointless to read in any great detail. As they say, you can't cross the same river twice - and, likewise, you won't see the same band performance twice, even without considering all the other situational factors to do with the particular show, venue, billing... Once in a while, I guess, I've come across a new band to add to the 'probably worth seeing, sometime' list, but that's about it on the musical front.

Saturday headliners Elder. Photo: SD Photography, headbangersball.co.uk.

On the other hand, I do think it can be quite helpful to have an idea what kind of quality experience you can expect from a venue, and/or a promoter, if you're going to cough up your own money to see what they're offering. So that's basically where this "review" is coming from, and the way of it was this: I've been threatening for a few years now to catch one of Gévaudan's shows, especially since their stomping-ground tends to be in and around the London area, which is kind of on my South Coast doorstep. But with one thing and another, it never quite materialised, until bassist Andy was kind enough to invite me along as a guest to this HRH Doom vs Stoner show in Sheffield at the end of September. It's a lot further than London, sure, but it's pretty much motorway door-to-door and ought to be in the same ballpark journey time as a result, so I figured why not?

Sheffield O2 Academy (official site gallery).

Well, from there it got a bit more expansive, as the extremely helpful Claire from Central Press PR offered me a couple of press passes rather than just guest slots. I arranged for the second to go to site reviewer Nick Harkins, with the idea we'd meet up there, split some interviewing duties and write the day up afterwards - time, unfortunately, did not permit staying for both days of the festival, though we were offered the chance and there was a temptingly strong line-up assembled for the Sunday. Cybernetic Witch Cult saw we were on the "attending" list and got in touch to request an interview as well, so we had some very reasonable grounds to take advantage of of the "Media" tag...

Best laid plans and all that: at the last minute, other commitments meant Nick couldn't come along after all - fortunately, he did have enough time to e-mail me his planned questions for Stoned Jesus, and with some hasty last-minute research I felt I could probably wing it without sounding like too much of a clueless plank. So, I rolled the bike out of the garage on the Saturday morning, and set off as planned. Took longer than I would have liked, thanks to a bunch of enforced 50 mph speed limits on the M1, but I still got there in time for the first act.

Sheffield O2 Academy (official site gallery).

So, the venue: Sheffield O2 Academy. Unreservedly top marks - it's ridiculously easy to access, just a couple of miles of in-city A-roads off of the motorway, and slap-bang unmissable on top of a multi-storey car park where you can leave your transport. The main hall fits in enough bars, food stalls and merch stands to keep everyone happy, and an invariably-crammed smoking area outside (where the friendly security guys eventually stopped even asking to see my pass). The primary stage is a good size, the sound was huge and vibrant, and to keep people occupied between acts there were massive TV screens mounted either side. Upstairs, there's a second stage, and various VIP areas - such as a balcony for viewing the main stage - plus various "quiet"-er side rooms for bands, press, and other guests. Staff and security were all friendly and helpful, and the atmosphere was altogether welcoming.

The promoter was part of the Hard Rock Hell media family,which started out in 2007 as an event promotion company, and steadily expanded to encompass a large number of different event categories - all operating under the HRH banner - coupled with the physical HRH Magazine and HRH Radio station, which succeeded the successful independent TBFM radio recently. This particular festival pulls together the Doom and Stoner arms of the company. And I'd pretty much have to give them unreservedly top marks, as well. Over the last couple of years they've pulled together some consistently strong line-ups under their various billings, mixing some quality up-and-coming acts with veteran and big-name genre bands. Judging by the HRH TV adverts looping through on the screens, there are no plans to change that - even the genres with which I'm only passingly familiar had plenty of names I recognised listed on the billing. Organisationally, they did a thorougly professional job of things - there was a lot of variety across the line-up, all the bands got an hour or more slot on stage, and the overlaps between stages were kept to a satisfactory minimum.

*Parent site*

Arrangement-wise it was mostly pretty slick. A bit of miscommunication on how the press pass thing worked led to me being allowed to wander about the place without any form of ID for a while - one reason I'd rate the security and staff personnel so highly is that they didn't make that into a big deal, but did their level best to assist me in sorting it out. So, I finally met up with Claire, who was every bit as helpful and organised as she had been with the advance arrangements, along with official photographer Simon, whose quality shots adorn this and the accompanying interviews, and to hang out with bands, general folk and all sorts of associated people who were really nice to meet, however briefly. After that, I managed to get my proper work in early, speaking in more detail (and with appended 'proper' live reviews) to Cybernetic Witch Cult, Gévaudan, and Stoned Jesus, giving me some freedom to mix and match how I spent my evening - whch mostly then involved dashing between stages, and heading for the smoking area whenever the opportunity presented. More detail - for what it's worth, bearing in mind the opening paragraph - of my live band impressions is in the linked interviews.

OHHMS. Photo: SD Photography, headbangersball.co.uk.

As far as the line-up went, I really had no complaints. Although Stoner isn't particularly my thing, I can appreciate a balls-out, groove-soaked performance along with the best of them. I wouldn't necessarily want to be listening to any of the earlier bands on LP at home, but on stage here they all put on a pretty decent show, backed by visuals and a PA that made it work (though LA band Ancestors did seem to have a few teething problems at the start of their set). Of all the bands I didn't interview on the night (though I did do a piece with them last year), I'd have to single out OHHMS for delivering an entertainingly raucous sludgy Post Metal set that combined tightness and semi-controlled chaos: kinda what I expected, and they didn't disappoint! Plus, they aired an enormous new track that really showcased their technical skills to the maximum. Desert Storm deserve a mention, too, for their sometime Molly Hatchet-infused southern fried sound. Elephant Tree sounded pretty good, but unfortunately their slot overlapped with both Gévaudan and Cybernetic Witch Cult, so I only got to hear a brief excerpt.

Desert Storm. Photo: SD Photography, headbangersball.co.uk.

Faced with a 4 - 5 hour ride home, I do admit to bailing out before Elder took the stage. Just as well, as it turned out, since the automated ticket system in the car park insisted on trying to charge daily car rates, at £22-odd, rather than the bike charge of £2.50. It took a while to straighten that out, and then my heated grips, annoyingly, chose that moment to fail - so I ended up doing a brief tour of almost every unsalubrious service station in Britain to defrost my fingers along the way. Though, y'know, it's that kind of thing that makes it more of an adventure, and a memorable experience, than just another gig. Still, I was home before sun-up, and it was well worth the trip to do it. A very slick and impressive show.

Click HERE to discuss this review on the doom-metal forum.

Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
Saturday 29th September
Main Stage

14:30 - 15:40 Sedulus
16:00 - 17:05 Ancestors
17:20 - 18:20 Desert Storm
18:40 - 19:40 OHHMS
20:00 - 21:15 Elephant Tree
21:30 - 22:30 Stoned Jesus
22:45 - 00:15 Elder
Stage 2
17:00 - 18:00 The Grudge
18:15 - 19:15 Ritual King
19:30 - 20:30 Gévaudan
20:50 - 21:50 Cybernetic Witch Cult

Sunday 30th September
Main Stage

13:00 - 14:00 Desolate Pathway
14:15 - 15:15 Morass Of Molasses
15:30 - 16:30 Conjurer
16:45 - 17:45 Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard
19:15 - 20:15 Psychedelic Witchcraft
20:30 - 21:30 Conan
21:45 - 23:15 Crowbar
Stage 2
17:00 - 18:00 Buffalode
18:15 - 19:15 Ba'al
19:30 - 20:30 Tuskar
20:45 - 22:00 1968

Duration : Two days

Visit the HRH (Multimedia Organisation) bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-10-24 by Mike Liassides
Vanha - Black Lion
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