Hit The Deck Festival Review

Hit The Deck, now in its 5th year, hit Bristol and Nottingham once more with its best line-up to date. With Skindred topping the bill later, we were in for 11 hours of great live music.

Opening the Main Stage were American Dark Rock trio, Calabrese. For the first band on, Calabrese put on a show worthy of a much higher slot. Playing to, shall we say, a select crowd, they played a highly energetic set consisting of some of their finest material. A great show, but disappointing not to see them in front of a much larger crowd.

While Dead! took to the stage at the Fleece, local Exeter band Idiom took to the stage at O2 Academy 1. With a much larger crowd, Idiom played a set that certainly got the crowd warmed up. There was plenty of crowd participation, both shouted lyrics, as well a mosh pit, the set came to an end with vocalist Matt Sharland venturing out into the crowd to conduct the first wall of death of the day.

Following, were Belgium’s Dark Metal band, Oathbreaker. They were a band that certainly caught the attention of the ever-growing Academy crowd. With blood curdling screams from front woman Caro Tanghe, the swelling crowd took steps forward to get a closer look at this intriguing 4-piece. Playing an energetic set of their latest material, it was clear to see that Oathbreaker are a band to look out for amongst the Dark Metal community.

Whilst The Thomas Nicholas Band took to the stage at the Thekla, Allusondrugs took to the stage at O2 Academy 1. They have been on the rise to success, and their performance was nothing short of magical. Playing to a crowd of fans, vocalist Jason Moules had no problem in receiving some assistance from the eager crowd. As a band on the rise, it was clear to see that Allusondrugs are making waves in the scene, and carving a name for themselves. A great performance from a band that I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more of.

Next up were South Carolina Hardcore giants, Hundredth. On tour with While She Sleeps and Cancer Bats, they took to the stage early in the day whilst clashing with northerners, Dead Harts, (who were on stage at the Fleece). For Hundredth it was clear that they were one of the most anticipated bands today. With floor space becoming limited, the band set about storming through a finely arranged set of old classics and brand new tracks off of their highly anticipated third album. Closing with fan favourite, ‘Weathered Town’, the set closed leaving an excited crowd who were well and truly warmed up for the mighty ‘H’ who were up next.

Hacktivist… now a household name amongst the new metal scene. Back to tear up the festival season, Hacktivist are playing Hit The Deck ahead of their highly anticipated first full-length. Playing through a set of classics, they rattled through a class set, containing their fan-favourite cover of ‘Niggas In Paris’. The party vibes well and truly flowing through their faultless performance. Playing new track ‘No Way Back’, the band gave an insight into what can be expected in their debut album. With excitement at a high, they came to a close with ‘Elevate’, a guaranteed party track that had the whole room bouncing. A great performance and one that left the crowd chanting for more.

Returning to the O2 Academy, Monuments were back to tear it up once again. After supporting Karnivool on their last venture, this time they followed in the wake of the destruction left by Hacktivist. This was a set full of the biggest grooves. Featuring tracks from ‘The Amanuensis’, they played an energetic set full of favourites. With heads bobbing throughout the crowd, it was clear to see that Monuments were making a stir in the tech metal scene. Chris Barreto once again made a venture to the crowd as the set finished with ‘I, The Creator’. This was my second time seeing Monuments, and it was great to see them in front of a lively festival crowd compared to their last visit with Karnivool. A much better reception and a performance that was worthy of their slot on the bill.

Next up were a band that needed no introduction. Cancer Bats have been a part of Hit The Deck since the very beginning. This year they have made Hit The Deck a stop off on their UK and European tour with While She Sleeps. With the O2 Academy at near-capacity, Cancer Bats took to the stage. With hands on hearts and fans screaming the lyrics, this was certainly a passionate affair. Playing mainly songs off of their latest release, ‘Searching For Zero’, they raged through a 13 track set of their best tracks, as well as a cover of the Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’, that had the whole room moving. For my first time seeing Cancer Bats, I can say with complete honesty, that they are a band that I would love to see again.

Main support for Hit The Deck Festival came from the mighty While She Sleeps. As a band they are quickly becoming one of the most renowned live bands around, and their performance at Hit The Deck was nothing short of astonishing. Playing many songs from their latest album, ‘Brainwashed’, they had the crowd singing along to every word. Due to a late start earlier in the day, While She Sleeps were only able to play 10 songs, but that didn’t hold them back from causing absolute carnage. Playing old favourites like ‘Seven Hills’ and ‘This Is The Six’ to brand new tracks like ‘Four Walls’ and ‘Our Legacy’, this was a set for the fans, and one that came to an end with the crowd chanting for more. Pure brilliance.

To top off what had already been a stunning day of live music, were Skindred. Another band on todays line up that need very little ein the way of introduction. The kings of party vibes were bringing the ‘Newport Helicopter’ to Bristol. Skindred are a live band like no other, with vocalist Benji Webbe nailing every note, and guitarist Mikey Demus nailing riff after riff, dishing out a punishing assault on the O2. Playing for over an hour, Skindred brought a combination of their best hits as well as a few covers. From ‘Thrift Shop’ to ‘Duality’, Skindred had it all. The highlight of the set being when they initiated their trademark ‘Newport Helicopter’. This was a great set, that was a fitting finish to an incredible day. Without doubt this was the best Hit The Deck line-up to date. We cannot wait to see what they put together for next year.

Hit The Deck is certainly a one day festival that I would recommend. A great sense of community, an awesome line-up, and a superb combination of venues, makes for a day out bar none. One small criticism, in Bristol the venues are a little far apart. We will certainly be keeping an eye out for next year’s line-up to see how the organisers can top this year. A great example of keeping live music alive and supporting the industry.

Review and Photography by Siôn Roe

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