It was clear tonight that every band owed a great deal to Holy Roar Records’ mastermind Alex Fitzpatrick. Bands referred to him on stage as not just a great help for their band’s musical journey, but as a friend and mentor to them. Tonight was a testament to the work Alex has achieved with Holy Roar Records and a reminder of its contribution to the music scene. The atmosphere at HRX was fantastic, no egos or bad characters, and bands were milling with fans and punters. Everyone was equal and most likely would have to return to a day job on Monday, but this weekend was a fantastic escape.
Opening the day were Helpless from Plymouth who were simply a great start to the day. Helpless are a no nonsense band, they go out on stage, get stuck into their craft and then leave making us want more. Their music is hard to pin down to a genre: a mixture of metal, punk, hardcore, and math rock, yet it is not a complete abomination, but something incredibly catchy and ferocious. Keep an eye on this band.
Up next was Up River who played their EP Undertow in full for what would be their first and last time playing it live. Up River took a while to get going, but when they did it was a case of a little too late due to their short set. The band’s hardcore was well executed and it’s easy to see shirtless frontman Harry Huntington becoming a leading figure in the scene, but there was often a case of deja vu with their hardcore. Still, they were enjoyable and will no doubt grow as a band.
Eulogy were really good fun. Their hardcore is the style that does what it says on the tin: ignite mosh pits, cause chaos, and get fists pumping. Their music didn’t add anything new to the table in an already over-crowded hardcore scene, but at the same time it doesn’t need to. I was hugely impressed by Eulogy even if their music was by the numbers at parts.
Svalbard sounded absolutely huge, their music clearly built for filling large venues. The band were one of the highlights of the day and a fantastic reminder of why they are so special. The riffs engulfed the venue with not a note off key. The material from One Day All This Will End was powerful, the melodies soared and the dual vocals of Serena Cherry and Liam Phelan were flawless. I’ve said this so many times but this band are damn unique, a mixture of various elements of metal, punk, and hardcore that works so well you’d kick yourself for not thinking of it yourself. Simply fantastic!
Most likely the darkest band of the day, Haast’s Eagled were also the heaviest. Riffs rolled out thick and fast with the strength of an iron giant. The band’s music was reminiscent of a young Conan but with an interesting dynamic of clean and unclean vocals. The contrasts were strong too, at points quiet and calm before switching to the traditional loud stomp that has defined doom music. It’s great to see bands like Haast’s Eagled continue to push doom metal’s boundaries like this, keep it going lads.
A band known for their relentless touring with many people in the media suggesting they could be as big as Architects, Woking’s Employed to Serve wasted no time in making the stage their own. The last show for guitarist James Jackson was emotional and playing their excellent Greyer Than You Remember in full was a fitting finale for a talented guitarist. Employed to Serve were so exciting to watch with the band igniting one of the largest pits of the day, complete with a crowd surfer. This is a band who are built for big stages and will definitely go far. Simply amazing.
Traveling all the way from the USA, Meek is Murder were one of the highlights of the day. Their sharp, lively hardcore was a real treat for the ears and it was a joy to see it well-received by a crowd hungry for new music. Obliterating the crowd with music that was vicious and straight to the point, this band made a lasting impression and as soon as I got home I instantly listened to more of their music. Off stage the band could not be more different from their music: polite, humble, and grateful for the chance to play the UK. Please come back soon lads!
You could forgive The Long Haul for being a bit rusty as it was their first gig for three years. The hardcore band’s one off reunion for HRX was a delight for old fans, but for some people who hadn’t heard the band before left slightly disappointed. Their set was a perfect example of being over too soon, it took a while for them to get going but it was simply a case of a little too late. But the people wearing The Long Haul T-shirts were happy and that’s what matters.
One of the most interesting bands of the day were the mighty Body Hound. The group has been on my radar for a while after picking up their excellent Rhombus Now album. Body Hound are a band very much about being consistently challenging yet with a strong sense of order behind it. The instrumental four-piece were energetic and breath taking. A joy to watch and a must-see for fans of all things post-hardcore.
After missing Apologies, I Have None to have a much needed sit down and bite to eat, I eagerly awaited up front to catch We Never Learned to Live. I had been a fan of them since getting their Silently, I Threw Them Skyward album as a present but live they simply blew me away. WNLTL are simply just mesmerising live, the emotion and honesty in Sean Mahon‘s vocals was unparalleled across the festival. It was just a beautiful display, this band deserves to be bigger than Elvis.
We Never Learned to Live were interviewed after their performance, you can read that chat here.
After the intensity of WNLTL, it was handy that Giants were on hand to lighten the mood. Their energetic, upbeat hardcore was a joy to watch and given the size of the mosh pit, it seems the rest of the venue were fans of it too. The band came across as regular dudes who loved playing to their fans, which is part of the appeal. They’re not going to reinvent the wheel but tonight’s show has shown why their profile has risen so highly.
Ohhms are without a doubt one of the best bands this country has produced in recent years, from humble beginnings in Kent to playing Hevy, Temples, Desertfest, ArcTanGent, and Damnation Festival to name a few, and the chance to share the stage with the likes of Conan, Bongripper, and The Skull to name a few. But tonight they took it back to where it all began, their debut EP Bloom. The band on stage were chaotic, crashing into each other during the set and swinging their instruments about wildly, yet the music did not suffer from it. The crowd itself lapped up every minute of it: moshing, crowd surfing, and singing back the lyrics. It was such an intense performance, even spine-chilling at points. But the show was one of the highlights of the day, heavier than a mammoth stampede and just simply jaw dropping.
After HRX I interviewed Paul from OHHMs, you can read that chat here.
Another band playing a special set, Vales were playing their Clarity EP for the last time. This is an EP that clearly means a lot to the fans who became the living embodiment of energy, giving it all for one of their favourite EPs. But the fans were only great because the band was great: full of anger, energy, and style that many bands could take notes from.
When Slabdragger walked on stage they were greeted with a heroes welcome and their set justified that welcome. Slabdragger are one of the leading lights of the British sludge scene and it is undeniable at this point that they’re going to go far. Tonight’s set was a reminder of just how damn good they are. As soon as they opened with ‘Evacuate’ from their excellent album Rise of the Dawncrusher, pandemonium broke out. The band then interestingly opted to go for ‘Dawncrusher Rising’ from the album, yet the fifteen minute song did not kill the momentum as the audience stood there captivated at the riff wizardry they were witnessing on stage. The second half of the set was a blast from the past as the band played ‘Erroneous Maximus’ and ‘Murky Fen’ from their debut Regress, with a triumphant ‘Murky Fen’ being one of the biggest sing-a-longs of the day. Ending with a cover of Frank Zappa’s ‘Muffin Man,’ Slabdragger came, they saw, they conquered.
Yusuf Tary was interviewed after the show, you can read that chat here.
All good things must come to an end and sadly Hang the Bastard will be hanging up their guitars after six years and seventeen bassists. But the band was reuniting with original vocalist Chris Harding to perform their Holy Roar release Hellfire Reign in full for the first and last time. As someone who has seen the sludge incarnation of the band twice, it was odd to see the original hardcore material again, but not unwelcome. As soon as ‘Acid Bath Vampire’ started, the room erupted and a big mosh pit engulfed the entire venue. There was a flurry of crowdsurfers, stagedivers and pure uncontrolled violence in the pit. Despite a guitar strap breaking and a few technical issues, the show was outstanding and probably the best of the weekend. The band ploughed through the album with time for a few extra songs full of energy and a drive that many of their peers lacked. Without a doubt a truly special band and if this was the last show, they went out with a bang. This is a band that I believe never realised their full potential and for a short time they were one of Britain’s best exports, but they leave behind some truly magnificent material. Thanks for everything guys, come back soon!
If any band could headline HRX it had to be Rolo Tomassi, one of the first bands on the label and one whose history is so entwined with Holy Roar. The band were simply explosive and played a very special through-the-ages set, including early crowd pleasers such as the ferocious ‘Party Wounds’ to material from the critically acclaimed Grievances. Vocalist Eva Spence was a whirlwind on stage while the band behind her were a well-oiled machine. The band held the audience in the palm of their hand for the hour they were on stage, a perfect end to a brilliant, well-organised one day festival celebrating all things Holy Roar.
What an absolutely outstanding day, showcasing some of the best of the UK’s underground. In their ten years, Holy Roar Records have achieved so much, but this is just the beginning.
Employed to Serve
Meek is Murder
The Long Haul
We Never Learned to Live
Hang the Bastard
Holy Roar Records