HRH Mag’s Rich Holmes has been banging his head in Birmingham this weekend at the brilliant HRH Metal festival.

Here’s his verdict on Day One:

 

Headliner Lowdown

Skindred came, saw and conquered Saturday night in Birmingham. The Welsh party starters are a feelgood band, and singer Benji Webbe – resplendent in a silver scarf and waving a Union Jack – is the perfect host, feeding off the crowd’s energy and returning it tenfold.

In these increasingly fraught times, his calls for unity, love and respect were welcomed by an appreciative throng, who he held in the palm of his hand.

But it’s also about the music and the likes of Ninja, Pressure and Trouble – in all their genre mashing glory – showed just how powerful Skindred can be. They’re a force of nature, but one that puts a wide grin on your face, whether you’re headbanging, dancing or twirling your shirt above your head a la ‘Newport Helicopter’.

Yet there may have been a few tears too, as Benji told the heartbreaking story of a close friend who has succumbed to cancer, before delivering a beautiful acoustic version of Saying It Now from last year’s Volume.

There are many great sides to Skindred – and HRH Metal saw all of them – but the band’s passion, their love of life and music, runs through everything they do.

 

Blast From The Past

They are no nostalgia act, as the likes of Resistance Now proved, yet Senser drew heavily on 1994’s Stacked Up, to the delight of girls and boys of a certain age, who remember the fresh faced Londoners taking the world (and The Word) by storm all those years ago.

A defiant No Comply was a particular highlight – and it was thrilling to watch vocalists Heitham Al-Sayed and Kerstin Haigh delivering the verbal body blows.

 

Surprise Package

Anti-Clone. The masked Lincolnshire mob had Stage 3 bouncing with their infectious tech/industrial/Korn-flavoured assault, and looked like they’d stepped straight out of a post apocalyptic horror flick. This was pure entertainment and if they can shake off the inevitable comparisons to a certain Des Moines nine-piece, they could have a bright future. If not, there should be work for them as extras in the next Hostel movie.

 

Metal Spirit

Last month, Raging Speedhorn announced that co-vocalist Frank Regan was to sit out their upcoming tour (including HRH Metal) after being advised by doctors ordering him to take immediate rest. Speedhorn, though, made sure his presence was felt in Birmingham, with John Loughlin and Regan’s tour replacement, RSJ’s Dan Cook, exhorting the crowd to chant Frank’s name loud and clear.

And Savage Messiah bassist Mira Slama must get a mention too, for bravely soldiering on through their incendiary set after suffering a serious leg injury (which eventually hospitalised him). What a pro.

 

Cover of the day

After denouncing Justin Bieber as the mastermind behind the world’s most evil music, Skindred’s Benji Webbe then proceeded to overlay some ragga MCing over the Canadian’s hit, Sorry. They should probably release it as a single.

Def Con One’s Anarchy In The UK came a close second, bringing a typically muscular set to a raucous close. “Does anyone like The Sex Pistols?” asked vocalist Davey. Apparently they did.

 

Ones to watch

HRH Metal openers, Birmingham mob Burden of the Noose, shook everyone out of their slumber with a violent mix of grind, sludge and powerviolence – the fact that they contain former members of Mistress and Godsize comes as no surprise.

Leicester’s Internal Conflict, though, could also be a ‘next big thing’ such was the impact of their sleek, crushingly heavy brand of 21st century metal on the third stage.

 

And there’s more…

From Raging Speedhorn’s red hot sludgecore, Evile’s hyperspeed thrash and Red Rum’s sea shanties to Winter Storm’s dark, symphonic metal and Exist Immortal’s gleaming tech grooves, Saturday’s performances were rich in their variety… with plenty of room for musical exploration.

*Images By HRH Mag Festivals Photographer Simon Dunkerley