Live Review: Holy Roar X

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Holy Roar X, a one day festival celebrating ten years of the eponymous record label on Saturday 25/5/16 at The Dome and Boston Music Rooms, featured a staggered line up across two stages, 18 bands for £15, and Hang The Bastard as co–headliners on what was (possibly) their last ever gig with original vocalist Chris Barling. As an aside, if we take that second figure of 18 and divide it by two, you will arrive at the approximate number of beers consumed on a personal basis, so don’t expect a comprehensive, well balanced or insightful review it’s a little patchy in places, and there were a few bands who I just didn’t have much to take away from.

With my ears still ringing from Holy Roar’s warm up gig at The Unicorn Camden the night before (listen to: Wren and Conjurer), I arrived halfway through Up River’s set. Despite being left unsure about their melodic hardcore (after a whole 15 minutes you say?), I was convinced to go and listen to some more.

Eulogy were OK but overall didn’t do it for me, but they did have some good riffs. Svalbard, on the bigger Boston Music Rooms stage, played a solid set of their melodic, tremolo–picked and reverb–heavy metallic hardcore (‘Can I have, like, nine years of reverb?’), with yet another new bass guitarist, and sounded great.

I realised around two bands in that I was going to keep moving from stage to stage without a break for the next nine hours in order to see every minute of every set, or miss out on a band or two in order to compliment the beer consumed thus far with food. I opted for ‘not hardcore’, and, foolishly, decided to do so during Haast Eagled’s set. However, I can confirm that the quality of the second half of their set matched the vegan dhal I enjoyed during the first half, with their thick lurching doom really complimenting the lentils and special spices. One of the strengths of Holy Roar as a label is the diversity of its bands, who still make sense when placed together. How, you ask? Another pint please, I say.

Body Hound looked like they were having a great time on stage, and those cats could play. In particular, guitarist Calvin Rhodes was shredding away. I felt that some vocals, preferably screaming and/or shouting (I’m not fussy) would have made me a big fan, but their instrumental set up came very close and I’m certainly going to give them another listen. If you’re a fan of instrumental heavy music that’s almost jazz at points definitely listen to these guys.

Slabdragger were fucking cool. Wallow in that sludge, worship that riff, pray to that monolith, listen to Slabdragger. Despite hearing good things, I purposely missed Departures (sorry) to get in place for Hang The Bastard. I was a bit worried after not really enjoying their set at The Old Blue Last in April, but they came out and stomped everybody’s asses and ears with the whole of Hellfire Reign and then some deeper cuts. I loved how they really dragged the beat on the slower sections, and just think that Chris Barling is the better vocalist for their style of music. I nearly shed a tear when it ended, and wished that they had played just one more song or a few more songs or a few more albums or for a few more hours. However, an insider tip suggests there will actually be one more gig later this year with vocal duties split between vocalists old and new before it’s all over, so daub away those tears and keep an eye out. I spent the next day humming The Year Is One through ringing ears.

After Hang The Bastard I wasn’t expecting Rolo Tomassiwho I’m still not sure if I’m a fan of after several years (so…I guess not then), to top them, but given what I have heard I was expecting some sonic weirdness. Unfortunately I never really got that, and overall found them to be solid but indistinctive, something I didn’t think I would ever find myself saying. I enjoyed it, but couldn’t really pinpoint moments that stuck out. It wouldn’t be fair or true to say they played a bad set, I just think their music is not for me, and the environment (towards back of room, full of beer, ears ringing from Hang The Bastard) (did I mentioned Hang The Bastard?) didn’t help.

Overall, Holy Roar X was an excellent gig. It was well set–up and featured a line up that was a good representation and celebration of Holy Roar, and I heard several bands for the first time who I’m now a fan of. Here’s to 10 more years.