Another year, another HRH Vikings chapter has been completed, and what a chapter that was! There were so many good bands this year, and so I’ll try and provide my own experiences of the second installment of the festival, and how excited I am about Chapter 3! (You’ll understand why!)
Day 1 – Saturday
After a sober night for me (but not for many others I know!) at The Dove and Rainbow, it was time to make our way to the O2 Academy Sheffield for the first day of music and jigging. The wristband queuing was a little different this year. There were only two of us under my name, so it wasn’t too bad to get wristbands and all of us in the queue. However, for larger groups there wasn’t really a defined queuing system and a bit of confusion. Do you get your wristbands and then leave to then come back in? A lot of people were awkwardly hovering in the foyer for their friends in the queue. The other issue for me personally was that the wristband exchange was in the cloakroom area, and so there was no clear distinction between cloakroom and wristbands, so I (and my partner) ended up carrying my large coat around for the day.
The venue had a large main room which you entered straight into, and they had also opened up Academy 2, which unfortunately filled up quickly and was left bottle necked because there was only one door open for it. I believe last year they had two doors available, which would definitely have helped foot traffic this year. There were a few stalls around, featuring patches, clothing, and accessories, the merch stall, and a larger choice of food (with vegan options) where you could also get a tea of coffee. Coffee was definitely required for me on Day 2!
We arrived in plenty of time for the beginning of the festival. The first band on were Shadowflag (merch, Spotify, Facebook). As many of you will know if you read my reviews or follow my Facebook page (shameless plug), I am not the biggest fan of black metal. However, if there wasn’t anyone of interest playing a festival at the time and these guys were on, I’d definitely give them another shot. The dual vocals was a good combination for me.
There was a lot of black/atmospheric bands on after Shadowflag, which personally I’m not a big fan of, so it was off to the local Wetherspoons for a couple of drinks and some food before more folk metal (which you can never have enough of in my humble opinion!)
It was off to the Academy 2 when we returned for some Skyclad (merch, Spotify, Facebook). It was a very sweaty and crowded room, but we managed to squeeze through the back of the crowd to the other side of the room where there was a little bit more space. It was an incredible set, and despite the sweatiness, I did manage a good bit of dancing and jigging! Skyclad are a band that have been on my radar for a while with one or two songs, and I’d definitely see them again!
There was a little bit of overlap, but back down on the main stage was Elvenking (merch, Spotify, Facebook). Admittedly, I didn’t see as much of their set as I would like as I needed some fresh(er) air and to cool down a little after a sweaty Skyclad, but they had lots of energy and the crowd were thoroughly enjoying themselves. I remember first seeing Elvenking at HRH Metal last year, and going straight to the merch stall afterwards to buy a t-shirt. I hope many people did the same this year.
Next on the main stage were two bands who I love but have never managed to see live before. First up was Skálmöld (merch, Spotify, Facebook), who are sadly going on hiatus next year. They were everything I imagined and more. From the more folky, dancey tracks, to the harder hitting powerful songs, there was something for every Skálmöld fan, and those who hadn’t heard of them before. The acapella vocals were beautiful and spine tingling as well. Although few, if anyone, could understand the Icelandic lyrics, there were still a lot of attempts at singing along, including from myself!
The headliners for Saturday were the incredible Finntroll (merch, Spotify, Facebook)! And what a time for me to not feel well with heartburn! I did have a very kind boyfriend who ran out to get some antacids for me, so I still managed to enjoy a good portion of it, albeit not quite as jiggy and dancey as I would hope to have been (the rest of the crowd were though)! They played all the tracks that I’m really familiar with, and now I’m going to have to have a deeper dive into their back catalogue to have a good listen at the other material I haven’t heard of yet.
After all that dancing, jigging, and heartburn, it was definitely time to go back to the hotel and enjoy a good sleep before Day 2!
Day 2 – Sunday
Sunday was a later start at the festival for me, and a later morning. We got to Wetherspoons too late for the breakfast menu, so burgers for breakfast it was! I also neglected to have some form of caffeine, and so I was very grateful for the extra food stall at the O2 a little later in the day!
Again the day started with bands in genres I wasn’t too keen on, so we didn’t arrive until Atorc (merch, Spotify, Facebook) were due to take the stage. I would have liked to have seen Wyrdstæf (Facebook) on the second stage a little earlier, but after the issues with the stage the previous day, I decided to give them a miss as I had seen them at Warhorns Festival earlier this year.
Atorc were incredible. If you had read my reviews of their EP and album, you will know that I am not a particular fan of the recording quality, however, live is a completely different story. They took over the main stage and packed out the room. They really did deserve that main stage slot. There were jig pits everywhere, including three pirates!
A little bit of a downer on their set (which is certainly no fault of theirs) was the two older men in the crowd in front of me who deemed it appropriate to zoom in to only the female members of the band to take photos of their faces. It was a little bit creepy and uncomfortable, and I do wish I’d said something at the time. This behaviour and objectification should have no place in the metal scene.
Next up were pirates Red Rum (merch, Spotify, Facebook)! They’re allowed at the HRH Vikings party, not only because they produce amazing jig pits (and now rowing pits), but Vikings were pirates of both land and sea! There were many a jig pit for this set, and we were treated to not one, not two, but THREE incredible covers in their hour long set. One is a cover that most will be familiar with, the ever popular They’re Taking The Hobbits To Isengard, which everyone always expects at a Red Rum show now. We also heard a cover of Seven Drunken Nights by The Dubliners, and my personal highlight, a Limp Bizkit cover Rowin’ which had most of the crowd on the now sticky floor rowing in sync for the entire song. (Boo to those who were boring and stayed stood up!)
Another band I need to research more into is Cruachan (merch, Spotify, Facebook), and they were on the stage next. There was a good mix of folky tracks and darker, more black metal themed tracks to keep everyone happy. I reviewed their latest release Nine Years of Blood a while ago, and definitely need to delve more into their back catalogue. There were a lot of happy audience members, and some great nerdy jokes from the band.
The penultimate band, and one of the reasons I started Ostara Metal in the first place, was Heidevolk (merch, Spotify, Facebook). They bring such energy to the room, and it was great to see them on a larger stage after seeing two of their shows a few years ago when they toured with Old Corpse Road and Sellsword. It was that tour that inspired me to start this little blog! As usual they crushed it with their mix of more atmospheric tracks and their upbeat jiggy tracks. I am an absolute sucker for acapella vocals, and there were plenty of those going around, particularly when the band has two dedicated vocalists!
Finally, to close out the festival, the mighty Moonsorrow (merch, Spotify, Facebook) took to the stage. Another band I dip in and out of, but have been lucky enough to have seen a couple of times now, I thoroughly enjoyed their set. My poor feet were aching from standing up for two days (instead of my usual desk job where I sit in an office chair all day), so I did do some seated headbanging for a while. The lighting was perfect to add to the atmosphere, but an absolute pain for novice photographers trying to fix their phone settings when the band members were all backlit! Moonsorrow are back on the list of bands I need to explore more. (I should really actually write this list down!)
Apart from the bottle necking in the Academy 2 room, the festival ran really smoothly for me, and it was more organised than last year. The addition of another (vegan) food stall for those who didn’t want to leave the venue, as well as plenty of non-alcoholic options for us boring lot who don’t want to get annihilated was great. I feel like there was just about enough seating when people needed to have a bit of a rest, and the overall atmosphere was amazing.
Every band I saw put everything into their performance, and the crowds responded accordingly. I know there were a lot of sore heads and tired bodies in the Wetherspoons on Monday morning! I know that many people will be back next year for more Vikings!
HRH Vikings Chapter III
In an unexpected (and for me amazing) turn of events, HRH announced the first bands for Chapter III before Chapter II had even begun. I straight away bought tickets, because let’s face it with the number of bands playing and the quality of them, £25 a ticket for a weekend is an absolute steal. You can buy tickets for HRH Vikings Chapter III here.
Next year’s festival already includes my favourite Swedes Grimner and dickhead Dutchmen Vanaheim, as well as Warkings, Skyforger, Valafar, and first headliners Ensiferum! Who will I be seeing in the crowd?