HRH Mag’s Richard Holmes headed to Sheffield for a weekend of British steel… here’s his round-up of day one of HRH NWOBHM II.
Opening HRH NWOBHM at 2pm on Saturday is a tough ask. But Southampton youngsters Toledo Steel rose to the challenge, firing up the O2 Academy with Maiden-inspired ditties such as Speed Killer and Children Of The Sun, and winning over new fans in the process. Warm banter from frontman Rich Rutter, scorching leadwork from Tom Potter and a great atmosphere… on a cold afternoon in Sheffield, it was just what the doctor ordered.
Kent marauders Blackmayne rocked Arena 2 to its core – and must have thought they would be spending the rest of Saturday supping beers with the rest of the HRH NWOBHM crowd. But a late cancellation by Praying Mantis gave the quintet the chance to shine on the main stage. And shine they did. Recently re-ignited after decades out of the game, Blackmayne proved that they can cut it on major festival bills… and earned their place among the big boys.
The NWOBHM movement was famed for its classic songs, its fist-pumping anthems, its gargantuan choruses. And in an era where a metal track can be little more than a collection of riffs bolted together, it takes festivals like this to remind us of the power of great songwriting. From Holocaust’s Heavy Metal Mania, to Avenger’s Under The Hammer and Salem’s Rock Fever, we were treated to a plethora of feel-good, metallic battle hymns throughout the day. And that was before we even got to Mr Ulrich’s favourite Midlanders…
There are fewer better sights in rock than that of a grinning Brian Tatler weaving his magic over Lightning To The Nations and It’s Electric. The guy is part of metal’s DNA, his songs a blueprint for so much we enjoy today: witnessing him in full flow, dishing out sizzling solos and mighty riffs, should be on any metalhead’s bucket list. Yet the guitarist wasn’t the only star of the Diamond Head show this weekend. Singer Rasmus Bom Andersen has the guts and class to make the likes of Helpless his own, and the imperious stage presence to match. The Dane is also one of the reasons why 2016’s self-titled comeback album was such as success. Of course, everyone wants to hear Am I Evil?, but by including the likes of Set My Soul On Fire in the set, Diamond Head showed that they’re determined to stay relevant. Performance of the day? No doubt about it. With this line-up, Tatler has clearly struck gold.
Working Up A Sweat
Some 43 years after they burst out of Newcastle’s club scene to take on the world, Raven are still living up to that ‘athletic rock’ tag – as their HRH NWOBHM set showed. If you could harness the energy released by metal’s own Gallagher brothers, we wouldn’t need to be building nuclear power stations or looking for oil in the Arctic, that’s for sure. After a long day of metal worship, Mark and John – backed here by Fear Factory drummer Mike Heller – re-ignited the Sheffield crowd with a set that drew on bonafide classics like Hell Patrol, All For One and Faster Than The Speed Of Light, all delivered at a frantic pace. Relative newies Battlemarch/Tank Treads and Destroy All Monsters were greeted like old friends and even a malfunctioning headset – meaning Mark Gallagher had to resort to using a mic stand – couldn’t dent the trio’s relentless assault. Want your Saturday night to go off with a bang? Invite Raven to the party.
Exclusive Images By HRH Mag Festivals Photographer Simon Dunkerley