HRH VIKINGS II, 30 November-01 December, Sheffield (UK)


What an amazing lineup for the second edition of this festival located in Sheffield, England, including favorite bands and some I've never seen, like Finntroll and Cruachan. Back in March, when I heard that there were few 2-day passes available, I booked it immediatly. Also at that time I booked flights and hotel, and gladly didn't book train because tickets were not available. The chosen voyage was to fly from Lisbon to Manchester (direct flight and not expensive, bought with such advance) and then by train from the airport to Sheffield.

And why am I glad for not booking train? Two months before the flight, TAP Air Portugal decided to change both flights schedule from afternoons to mornings. WTF TAP, maybe next time I will choose a more reliable company?! And better never fly on the same day of shows.

So, on the morning of the 29th, I arrived to Manchester, with good weather but cold. Used some time to know the main city landscapes, like the Town Hall, John Rylands Library (where are you Harry Potter?), the University of Manchester and the Manchester Cathedral. Then I went to the railway station and found why the english trains have these days such bad fame: the train to Sheffield delayed more than 40 minutes. Arriving by night, the hotel was found easily, not far from the station.

DAY 1:

As doors for registration were opening only at 13h00, I took the morning for some Sheffield sightseeing, interesting little town. Some time before 13h00 I went to O2 Academy, located at the city center and quite near to the hotel. Small queue there to enter, efficient and fast registration, wrist strap and here I was inside. I had some time to walk around and see some merch booths. The venue has excellent conditions, with a capacity for almost 2400 persons, a large stage and good lighting. Two screens were advertising other HRH (Hard Rock Hell, by the way) events including the HRH Vikings III next year. Three bands were schedulled for the second stage, two of them I pretended to see, so I missed completely DEADWOOD LAKE and FEN.

The first band of the festival, SHADOWFLAG, started to play on the main stage at the exact time of 14h30. Previously I haven't heard much about this band and I'm not a proper Black Metal fan, but they were interesting, with face paints and a reasonable sound. With two vocals many times in synchronization, I retained several good parts and really enjoyed, specially the song "And Hell Walking Laughing" from their second album. There was too much smoke, difficulting a lot my amateur photographic work.

The second band was RANNOCH, Progressive Death Metal from the UK. Also I didn't know much about them and what I heard before didn't call my attention. On stage there were three members, two guitars, one bass, no drummer, and among the three, there were 21 strings! Both guitarists played on 8 strings, so the music was quite original and elaborated, enjoyed the instrumental parts but the vocals were too screaming death to my taste. At the end they threw some CDs to the public, I believe it was their last Age of the Locust EP.

THE INFERNAL SEA was next, another Black Metal band from the UK. The vocalist uses a mask like Gaerea and the guitars and bass a molded mask with long noses. What I saw demonstrated a band with good experience and stage presence. Some of the songs were reasonable, while others were too black. But I didn't see all set, I moved to the second stage.

The second stage was on the first floor, I had to ask. It's on a small room, low ceiling and low stage. The venue announces a capacity for 600 persons, but it seems too much to me. Anyway I stayed on the front row, near the door, and the room got quite crowded, so I may got a wrong impression.

FJORDS is a Progressive Melo Death band from the UK. Despite existing since 2004 they just released their first album, Onirica, one week before this show. What I heard before caught my interest, so definitively that was a band to see. And the show corresponded completely, a good melodic band, good vocals both harsh and clean, and clever constructions introducing some acoustic moments. Some parts reminded me Insomnium or Moonshade. Also in this stage, too much smoke.

I stayed at the front row on stage 2 because SKYCLAD was next. It was strange that an established and well known band like Skyclad to be thrown to this small stage. Anyway the six members managed to accomodate in the space and delivered a reasonable show. Kevin Ridley is a good show man, with is peculiar vocal tone and guitars, both electrical and acoustic. And the violinist, Georgina, was the member that moved the most. Starting with Earth Mother, the Sun and the Furious Host, particularly appreciated was Change is Coming from their last album. I had to leave before the end of the show, to get a good place for what is coming on stage 1. This was my second Skyclad show, also on the first one, Leyendas del Rock 2016, they played on the smaller stage and I didn't see the full show. Maybe next time.

So back to stage 1, I got a place on the front row, my portuguese flag hanging on the fence. Again the Italian Power Metalers ELVENKING had an excellent performance, only a minor technical problem with the drums. The violin, so important for the Elvenking sound, was not so audible, at least where I was. The new album Reader of the Ruins, excellent by the way, was a major reference, and the song Silverseal works quite well alive. The public had a very supportive reaction and even there was a first crowdsurfing. The sound and lighting on the Milagre Metaleiro Open Air 2018, first time I saw them, were better, but anyway a quite good show.

And finally SKÁLMÖLD, my favorite band of all lineup. At that time, I was surrounded by die-hard fans, it's incredible that, where Skálmöld plays, there are always a legion of faithfull fans (well, like me, it was my fourth show). Being this the last show before the 10 years party shows in Reikjavik and an undefined hold period, it should be special. All members gave the usual sympathy and strongly encouraged the audience that answered accordingly. I believe that many more fans were converted to the Icelanders. Songs like Narfi, Móri, Að vetri or Kvaðning are always memorable events! At the end, a young lady near to me was crying of emotion. I only regret not being able to speak with the band at the end.

Fun fact: my mobile ring for 15 years is Trollhammaren, and this was my first FINNTROLL show. So emotions continued after Skálmöld. The Finnish nice goblins (or trolls) that sing mostly in Swedish took the stage. Four of the six members have long goblinish ears (as well as some on the audience), giving a fun touch to the show. Despite not releasing originals since 2013, the fan base is still huge. It was a good and happy set and... ending without Trollhammaren? No way, it was the first of two songs on the encore. And around 00h30 the show ended. There were several crowdsurfings, but i believe the reaction to Skálmöld was stronger.

DAY 2:

After a good rest, a short walk and lunch, at around 14h00 I was back to O2 Academy. I checked the bands and festival merch booth, that I didn't notice the first day, and, has warned by the organization, the TShirt festival was already sold out except XL size. For this day I pretended to stay only at stage 1, so I didn't see WYRDSTAEF, WOLVENCROWN and NECRONAUTICAL. For that day I was particularly curious about Deus Mori, Atorc and Red Rum.

I heard previously some songs from DEUS MORI and found it quite good. I'm not a Black Metal fan, some of the major bands on this genre, that I saw alive, didn't tell me nothing. But... this recent English band, formed in 2018 and with only an EP released this year, is quite thrilling. The scenery with a barbed wire fence, cared face paints and clothes, excellent vocals and players, made this a memorable show. The music, besides the black elements, also incorporates some speed, good riffs and military marchs. A spoken outro ended the show. This band will be famous in a near future, for sure.

As I was expecting to be stand up for the last five bands and as Doom is not my beach, I opted to sit down during this band and save my feet, but with visibility to the stage. ELDERSEER is a pure Doom band from the UK. They started with a horn but the music is pure Doom. I only find interesting one of the last songs, less doomy and with a good guitar work.

I also had much curiosity about ATORC, a Folk Metal band from UK, what I heard before was quite interesting. And it exceeded my expectations, good and varied folk, several catchy songs, like Under the Raven Banner or Shieldwall. The male vocals, two ladies on keyboards and violin, guitar, bass and drums were all well conjugated and very empathic. The public answered quite well, participating in a great folk party. The vocalist threw several patches to the public (one more to sew in my vest), as well as signed setlists at the end. Definitively a band to see again, who knows maybe in Portugal or Spain. And a side note, their first video was released on the day of the show.

I was now ready for some Pirate Metal from the UK and, mates, this was the most amusing performance in all festival. The RED RUM's vocals has a charisma proportional to his weight, one of the first sentences was "Who is drunk already?" During the show he drank a bottle of "rum", gave several bits on a pineapple, set half the audience to sat down and row, and maintain a fun dialog with everybody. There's no need for rubber ducks to deliver an excellent pirate show. The music was great, all musicians, including a young lady on keyboards clearly were enjoying themselves. Some songs highlighted: Rise from the Deep, Red Rum, Ragnarok.

Next it was the Celtic Folk Black Metal of CRUACHAN. Coming from Ireland, all members with celtic skirts, painted celtic symbols and good stage presence, they offered also a quite reasonable show. During a bass technical problem, we even got a violin cover improvisation of the Game of Thrones score, and quite good by the way. All songs were good but Queen of War and The Harp, the Lion, the Dragon and the Sword, this one with the participation of the public, had my preference.

This was my third HEIDEVOLK concert, so I had not many surprises. Clearly this was a favorite band for the public, with circle pits, mosh pits, crowdsurfings. The two vocalists, the main band identity, were perfectly coordinated and called a lot for the public. There was a problem with the battery, strangely there was no technician to help and it was the drummer that had to fix it, getting and applying tape. Of course the main hit Vulgaris Magistrais couldn't be missed and got everybody wild. I also enjoyed a lot A Wolf In My Heart, from the last album. And there was too much smoke.

And finally one of the headliners to close the festival. I like MOONSORROW's music but I was not convinced with their performance the only time I saw the band (Vagos, Portugal, 2013). To me, the intricate long songs don't result so well alive, sometimes a little boring (maybe I was accusing some fatigue, but also the public was not very participative), and too much smoke didn't help. Anyway, it was a better and longer show, compared to the first I saw, but not the highlight of the festival.

It was a great festival, glad I went.

What I liked more: the bands (of course), venue, sound and lighting, organization, no problem in taking my reflex camera, not expensive (50 pounds without promotion), places to sit, many old-timers attending (in Portugal most are on the sofa), licensed merch booths with original stuff.

What I liked less: too much smoke, stage 2 too small, no contact with the bands.

Meanwhile the HRH VIKINGS III was announced a couple days before with also a quite good lineup: Ensiferum, Burning Witches, Thyrfing, Warkings, Metsatoll, Skyforger, Grimner, Vanaheim, Gwydion (debut in England for my friends), Kull, Convent and some more. For the first selling days, the price was just 25 pounds (well, it's almost free for such quality lineup). Of course the festival is already sold out.

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