Back when the announcement for this festival was made we couldn’t believe our eyes, and after checking it wasn’t April 1st it went straight into the Calendar. As huge fans of the NWOBHM era and it’s surviving bands, our Christmas was going to be coming early with some of the biggest names of the whole movement set to rip the roof off the o2 in where else but ruddy Sheffield.


As we arrived for our first helping of the weekend, Jaguar absolutely set the tone for the whole festival from the off. Their unmistakable energy and raw power that makes us feel at home with NWOBHM was present in abundance, and they didn’t miss a beat. Kicking off with a trio of ‘Dutch Connection’, ‘Battle Cry’ and classic ballad ‘War Machine’, Jaguar showed that they could still produce everything from the brutal speed riffs and drums to the high peaked harmonies that they were known for, and it all came very easy to them. I was particularly intrigued to see how Jarvis Leatherby would fit into the role of lead singer performing such classic material, and man did he make it his own. Bringing his own balls to the wall energy to a band like Jaguar was a match made in heaven, and the packed crowds response was testament to that. After making their way through a number of other crowd pleasers, including a standout favourite of mine in ‘Back Street Woman’, their unfortunately short(and early) set came to a close with a double header of stalwarts ‘Axe Crazy’ and ‘Stormchild’. For us the festival had properly begun, and we wanted more!

Cloven Hoof

Picking up exactly where Jaguar had left off, Cloven Hoof were one of our most anticipated bands of the weekend. They didn’t take long to pull out the self titled anthem ‘Cloven Hoof’, and the room was rocking. It was a shame that they, like Jaguar, were playing on the smaller second stage upstairs in the Academy given their huge stage presence and highly charged playing style, but they made the most of what they had been given and gave the fans a memorable show nonetheless. Maybe it was the rum talking, but when they broke into ‘Highlander’ I was transported to those ruins from the 1989 music video: “Take the head of my enemy, there can be only one!”. Given that we’re all in our mid-to-late twenties, we have only ever been able to dream about a festival lineup like this on our doorstep and it really was a dream to watch. Finishing up in style with my personal favourite ‘Reach for the Sky’ from Dominator, Cloven Hoof left a lasting impression on us for the rest of the day as the big choruses rang on in our heads.


Finally we were able to make our way downstairs to the main stage for the next band on our list, none other than one of the godfathers over all at this festival Witchfynde. Bathed in smoke and fronted by the unequivocally satanic Luther Beltz, it was easy to see that a career spanning more than 40 years stood before us, but the band were as enthused as ever before and seemed to really enjoy the performance. We were treated to a swathe of material from across the six studio albums, naturally coming to a head with the title track from 1984’s Give ‘Em Hell, but I honestly think that material from Play it to Death stands up well against the rest and I really hope they are able to run with the resurgence we’re seeing at the moment and push towards another studio album that will see them keep playing to the sold out crowds that they deserve to be graced with.


Heading into Friday night the main stage was really packed and it was great to see how much of a success this new venture from HRH had been. Blitzkrieg are one of the bands that we have seen a few times before, but they never disappoint and seeing them alongside some of these other names made it feel a lot more real this time around. Kicking things off with ‘Armageddon’, ‘Dark City’ and ‘After Dark’ felt like the band's own twisted testament to Sheffield itself, but they went down well. Their cover of Satan’s ‘Pull the Trigger’ was absolutely uncanny as well, but I can’t put my finger on why...Blitzkrieg are an incredibly hard working band and their extremely well polished execution shows from start to finish, and it’s because of this that they belong up at the top of the bill with the headliners, though to be honest in our eyes they were the Friday night headliner and we treated their slot as such. Sounding out with ‘Buried Alive’ and their time-honoured self titled classic ‘Blitzkrieg’, day one of the festival was done for us and we looked ahead to upping things a notch the following day.

After a hearty breakfast and some of Sheffield’s finest golden nectar we were feeling human again and ready for round two as we headed to the o2, making sure we arrived in time for the mighty Quartz. It was another head scratcher as to why they were playing so early and on the small stage, given that this was a NWOBHM festival and Quartz are widely considered as one of the forerunners of the whole movement, but hey ho we were just happy to see them play. Now my whole lifetime plus ten years has passed by since Quartz were born, but looking at them on stage you would think they were newly formed with a point to prove and they kept up the pace throughout. Quartz play classic British Heavy Metal and they played it well, pumping out hit after hit with highlights in ‘Mainline Rider’, ‘Stand Up and Fight’ and ‘Satan’s Serenade’. Finally, as if David Garner’s tassels weren’t enough of a tribute to the late, great Dio they finished with a wonderful rendition of ‘Heaven and Hell’ in memoriam to what is in my opinion his(and Black Sabbath’s) greatest album. What a start to the day!

Grim Reaper

Next up was easily our most anticipated performance of the weekend. A band that we would have come to Sheffield to see on their own in a heartbeat, the one and only Grim Reaper! As time goes on you wonder if you’re ever going to get the chance to see some of the titans of their age and Grim Reaper had always eluded us, but as Steve Grimmett stepped out through the smoke of the main stage and fired straight into ‘Rock You to Hell’ it was clear that it was finally happening. Nobody missed a beat, least of all Steve as he effortlessly belted out every note and Reaper made their way through a host of classic material including ‘Night of the Vampire’, ‘Fear no Evil’ and ‘Waysted Love’. Grim Reaper had their own tribute lined up for Ronnie as well and treated us to a version of ‘Don’t Talk to Strangers’ with a stick of dynamite attached to it. Finishing in the only way they could, ‘See You in Hell’ was everything we had ever imagined and more, and as far as live songs go it was up there with Manilla Road playing ‘Necropolis’. Since the festival we were stunned to read about the tragic run of events that led to Steve having his leg amputated whilst on tour. I won’t go into details here, but you can join the rest of the Heavy Metal community in helping Steve get what he needs in order to start rebuilding what he’s lost and look to the future Normal over at the You Caring page.

Venom Inc.

And now we come to the main event. Having seen Cronos and co. a couple of years ago I was very eager to see what the rest of the puzzle had to offer, and I can say now that I much preferred this outing. Absolutely rip roaring from the word go, Venom Inc. brought an intensity to the stage that was completely unmatched all weekend and shot through a staggering eighteen songs by my count. Tony Dolan commanded the stage with a fierce grip and brought a possessed and guttural take to Venom’s catalogue that made it his own. Jeffrey Dunn was mesmerising on guitar and somehow didn’t dip in relentlessness throughout. And out the back Anthony Bray was the basis of all of that intensity that we were seeing from the others, smashing his way through every track without pause. I can’t say I really have any standouts from the set because the whole thing was just welded together into one big chunk of concentrated power, and the time flew by. We had no interest in anybody after this as well so we would have gladly let them go on for another two hours, but sadly a two pronged attack of ‘Sons of Satan’ and ‘Witching Hour’ brought things to an epic conclusion as Venom Inc. withdrew reluctantly into the red smoke that lay in their wake.

Well this little experiment from HRH was over, and what a huge success it had been. Their confidence paid off as they announced next year’s event on the Saturday night and with some big names already on the list there’s no doubt that we’ll be back. The NWOBHM movement was so rife with talent that I can see this becoming a regular in the HRH calendar, as well as Denim and Leather’s. For now, thank you Sheffield and thank you team HRH for making it happen again, our next outing with them is this March as we head to Hammerfest once again. Lookout for the preview coming soon \m/

Twitter: @BandsPlayedOn


Artist - Jesters of Destiny
Title - The Sorrows That Refuse to Drown
Label - Ektro

Thirty years after Jesters of Destiny arrived, dropped Fun at the Funeral and disappeared back into the night, they’re finally back with a second full length release courtesy of Ektro Records, and whilst it could never live up to first album, the eccentricity of the band shines through once more and it’s a crazy ride from start to finish. Pick it up on April 4th!



Artist - Hammerfest IX
Date - 23rd- 26th March
Venue - Pwllheli, Wales  

One of our main highlights of the year, this month we’re off to Wales for Hammerfest, HRH’s Heavy Metal flagship. With the return of two Power Metal titans alongside a host of others, this year looks to be one of their best ever. We’ll be covering the whole festival and conducting interviews as well so lookout for the cameras!