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Hellfire II Festival (2009)

November 9, 2009

Hellfire Festival 2009

N.E.C., Birmingham

SATURDAY
It took me about twenty minutes to actually find the first stage, and even then the band still hadn’t started, so I had a feeling this was going to set the tone for the weekend, unfortunately it did. It took me half the day to find the 2nd stage, and no idea what was happening for the main stage till later on, and there was no designated press area. Turns out 2 pieces of A4 paper with printed text were the stage signs! Another thing missing, an audience!
SCAR MY EYES finally kicked things off. They have good ideas but I believe they could do with some guidance in putting them together. But they do have skill, a good direction and potential to carry on of years to come.
G.M.T. were a surprise as I hadn’t looked at the Music Live schedule before hand. First time for me in seeing the legendary Hard Rock n Roll Blues band and they didn’t disappoint, Robin Guy was awesome, such a joy to watch and the band to listen to. I watched with TotalRock DJ, Joel, and we both had a god laugh with the band.
TED MAUL – Death Metal with a great bassist, i liked it! Although the band had a solid wall of drums and guitar pounding out to you, the sound at this stage was quite dire and I didn’t really hear the vocals. Oh, and at this point the stage time is now running a band behind schedule.
THE ROTTED proved to this small crowd why they are at the top of British metal with their brutal punchy riffs and shredding. Again, vocals unclear.
IMICUS open the same stage under a new name with Heavy Rock melodies. The vocal melodies were a bit repetitive but has potential with such a strong powerful voice and a great scream.THE ARUSHA ACCORD are another band I haven’t ever managed to see. I love the music and they sounded awesome, the sound was much better in this smaller conference room. The bassist slapped the entire time, like a metal Mark King, though this giant really needs to grow his hair! I didn’t quite see the point of having two vocalists though as they both sang the same way and style.
ESOTERICA were I think the first band on the third stage to have good levels, though maybe a little quiet, but good levels are important for this atmospheric band the vocals were sung with a lot of passion and the band were all having a good time on stage.
I caught a bit of BENEDICTION whilst in the only bar for the whole festival, so it’s at least worth mentioning they were very heavy and loud!
FEI COMODO had a shorter set than I expected but it was sweet as hell. It didn’t take Marc long to climb the rigging whilst running out front to the crowd.
Only caught the end of SAVAGE MESSIAH, the sounded tight and powerful.
ANVIL really surprised me. I had been thinking there must have been a reason they didn’t get any where for 35 years, but they were good rocking fun and Lips is a fantastic guitarist!
THE PLIGHT were really good Metal Rock n Roll. Groovey riffs and energy.
SENSER were a complete surprise, Rap Metal with addictive riffs. Not my usual kind of interest but the band had a great energy about them and hooked me in for the whole set. You couldn’t help but groove a long. It made me giggle that singer, Heitham, looked like a shorter hairier Robert Downey Jr. but kind of warming, he smiled a lot. Singer Kerstin has vocals reminiscent of Bjork, but without sounding annoying, the dual vocals have wicked dynamic and work so well.
Quickly ran over to catch the end of EXIT 10 playing to a somewhat intimate crowd, but this did not deter them as they were rocking as hard as ever to please the few. The sound was pretty spot on though and the guys seemed to be enjoying themselves.
To finish the night I caught the last half hour of SAXON. As ever, pure good rocking fun, playing the classics and a couple not so regular tracks to the set for a bit of a twist.

SUNDAY
Unfortunately just caught the end of HURON so can’t really add much apart from Metal with a good dose southern groove.
ARTHEMIS were totally rocking. Great energy and performance and really happy to be there.
Birmingham locals, BLACKFISH, simply blew my mind, theres many bands I’d like to call Jazz Metal but they’re not quite there, these crazy punks are!! I guess I could say they are more coherent than The Dillinger Escape Plan, and less so than Biffy Clyro. Amusingly, they call themselves Death Pop. One of the vocalists, though a bit of attitude to the audience, had a really strong voice. I can’t quite place it, at the moment he makes me think of a Joe Strummer / Ian Dury cross. There was innovative use of singing, as well as harmonies, by singing away from the mic. Fun finale too, switching instruments, singing and clapping off mic. Highly recommend watching this band if you’re into any kind of tech, prog and experimental metal!
THE PAINTED SMILES were another wow straight afterwards. A super band of British greats, featuring Mikee from SikTh, Rich from 80’s Matchbox B-line Disaster and James from Johnny Truant. Online the 2 tracks sounded pretty groovy and live they sounded even better! The onstage energy just felt magical especially with the eccentricity of Mikee and Rich fused together, I bloody loved it!
XERATH I think of as Groove Doom, massive wall of riffs!
For NO MADE SENSE the bass was far too loud, talk about brown note, it really made me find it hard to enjoy them. They only managed to get two tracks in their set but this did include the full 9 minutes of Entazes Of Azure and the 11 minute album title track of The Epillanic Choragi. On stage, massive energy and brutally awesome.
TESSERACT – WOW! New vocalist, Dan, is magnificent! Credit to the previous vocalists, but Dan took the band to a whole new level! His vocal range and control (thanks Maz Star for that description) just blew me away, and this was their first gig together!
SPIT LIKE THIS battled through a tough sound mix, I could hardly hear any vocals at all. Vikki was showing off her new freedom with a new wireless pack, what had she been waiting for?!! Cyndi really can wale on that guitar!
THE CUMSHOTS, yes! I had the chance to see their showcase several months ago, unfortunately I was unable so I have had to wait till now, and it was so worth the wait. They were everything I hoped for and expected. Sure the lead vocals were messy, but I was expecting that anyway. Death n roll for sure, climbing, swigging, cutting, drinking, and I even got used as a leaning post for last track, I Drink Alone. Cannot wait to catch them again some time soon.
ABGOTT brought us those darkest dose of Black Metal for the weekend, loud and powerful, though the first time I’d been into this room that day, and as singer Agamoth rightfully pointed out, “why is there a massive trench between us, are we at war?” Who knows why there was a 2 meter barrier. Great front man qualities revving up the crowd and enthusing them with ease.
VIKING SKULL were on top form with their Southern Groove, the best I’ve seen them in fact, undeterred by the low attendance and having a good party onstage.
Just managed to catch the end of TRIGGER THE BLOODSHED, shockingly playing to a room of about 20 people, but boy that drummer is rapid, like a machine gun!!
FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIN didn’t really do much for me, unfortunately the Gothic Doom bored me, but they had good support and those there were there to enjoy them were doing so, including the human pyramid at the front of the crowd!

So lets talk about the festival. The bands all kicked ass and all put on the best show they could. There was not one single band that disappointed or put on a half arced show. That said, with a bill of such bands, where were all the people?! In the city of the birthplace of a founding band of heavy metal, central to the whole country, where were you all?!!
The main stage was fine sound and lighting wise, 2nd stage was alright apart from that ridiculous barrier on Sunday, what were they expecting, a riot?! The 3rd stage was quite poor, the sound was rarely mixed well and the lighting was painful, a full bank of lights pointing into the audiences eyes from the rear of the stage. But, thankfully the bands managed to over throw this disappointment.
I hope the next festival will draw the crowd, because the bands really did kick ass!

Photos
The Cumshots ©2009 Sabrina Dersel
TesseracT ©2009 Kristell Gathoye

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