We continue with our coverage of the Hell’s Heroes festival. Today our reader Michael Thomas Robinson reports on his experiences in Houston. We thank him for the great pictures we are allowed to use for this article. After reading this interview you will realise: Michael has excellent taste in music – and the Epic Metal Blog should take a class trip to Texas next year.
André: Where are you from? And how long did you travel to get to the festival location? Was it your first time there?
Michael: Hell’s Heroes was a blast! We (my wife and I) are from Chicago, IL, which is a little over 1,000 miles north of Houston where the festival took place. While there was some debate about taking a 16-hour road trip, in the end, we opted for the less than 3-hour flight. Yes, this was our first time at the festival. We almost went in 2020, but for obvious reasons that did not materialize.
André: Which bands were your highlights at this year’s Hell’s Heroes festival?
Michael: I firmly believe that Greyhawk is the most underrated power/trad metal band in North America. The Hell’s Heroes ‘Pre-Party’ on Thursday was the second time I have seen them, and they absolutely blew the roof off of the upstairs room of White Oak Music Hall. They are such a well-polished, cohesive unit fronted by Rev’s operatic singing, anchored by a tight rhythm section, and Jesse Berlin being an absolute shred king on the lead guitar. Both times I have had the privilege to see them, they have instant converts of fans. It is a sight to behold. The crowd continued to shout ‘GREYHAWK!’ for some time after the set, which seemed to be well appreciated by the band. Friday was the highlight for me, and it was book-ended by the early outdoor set of Visigoth and the inside closer of Hällas. Anyone who has seen Visigoth live will not be surprised by this. Their six-song set had the crowd in a fervor, singing along to tales of Geralt of Rivia and The Highlander and decrying treachery and necromantic sorcery. Jake affirms his place as one of the best front men in the game by working the audience through epic choruses and rousing verses, with Lee and Jamison providing a dual-guitar onslaught, and Mikey and Matt doing the heavy lifting on drums and bass, respectively. Hällas was the band that confirmed our need to attend Hell’s Heroes this year. We refused to miss out on their first U.S. tour and they were not making it our area of America. From even the soundcheck of “Carry On”, all in attendance knew they were in for a monumental night of powerful and moving adventure rock. The Swedes delivered an epic journey through their discography that included greats such as the aforementioned “Carry On” as well as “Star Rider” and “The Golden City of Semyra” to name a few. By the end, we were exhausted and edified, being nourished on the Isle of Wisdom. As this was the end of their tour, the band themselves appeared to be moved as well, thanking the audience earnestly and embracing each other, with Tommy seemingly tearing up. I would also like to give shout-outs to Tower, Gatekeeper, Ross the Boss, Morgul Blade, Pagan Altar, Unto Others, Sonja, Spectral Wound, Christian Mistress, and Freeways, all of whom were also stand-outs of the weekend.
André: What do you think of the location? Please also tell us something about the atmosphere on the grounds.
Michael: The location was nice. The venue is located on the north side of Houston and has a wide array of delicious eating options, from Tex-Mex to Vietnamese to BBQ to local breweries. There was a cool used bookstore that had some interesting and rare finds. A lot of attendees seemed to stay at to nearby hotel, though we rented an Airbnb that was within walking distance. Speaking to others who had attended in years past, it was a wise move to expand to include the outdoor stage, as I am sure the two indoor stages would have been packed to the brim, with few areas of reprieve. Your readers should note: Houston is VERY humid, which adds another layer to the heat. It is wise that they host it in the spring, and not later in the summer. The general atmosphere on the grounds was one of excitement and camaraderie. We connected with friends that we had met at previous festivals, or had made on online forums, and created new friendships as well! The majority of those in attendance seemed joyful and eager to see many of their favorite bands in one place for long weekend. Band members could be seen mulling around, talking to fans and friends throughout three days. Also in attendance were members of bands who were not even playing the festival, but were there as spectators. You could spot Jason Tarpey of Eternal Champion, Fili and Luna from Intranced, and Maddy and Noah of Blood Star, to name a few. My only gripe would be that there was a significant amount of litter from the audience after each set, though the staff valiantly attempted to rectify it as the crowd would shift between the stages.
André: Which bands would you like to see next year?
Michael: The goal of every US metal festival should be to book Atlantean Kodex. They need to annihilate North America. Would also love Hell’s Heroes to book Seven Sisters, Possessed Steel, Savage Oath, Fer de Lance, and Wheel. Thank you for the questions! I would recommend this fest to anyone interested in Epic Metal and able to attend.