HIGHWAY TO HELL IX, Sheffield, 31.08.18

MARIA GLOVER

 

Highway to Hell, based in Glasgow for 5 years before moving to Sheffield in 2015, is a competition with a difference, "rock factor" open to original UK rock acts and looking to find new talent and give them a chance to break the world market. Previous winners include Bigfoot, Mason Hill and Ryders Creed. It's a great stage for bands to get more momentum and open up opportunities.

 

The Highway to Hell IX National final was held 31st August at the O2 in Sheffield, with finalists At The Sun, Black Tree Vultures, Gin Annie, Novacrow, Pulverise, Ravenbreed, Stillroom, The Outlaw Orchestra, and Valous*.  The room is teeming with musicians, promoters, HRH dark circle and fans of the bands. Each finalist gets to perform 3 original tracks and a cover of their choice - but they must make the cover their own.

 

The big winners on the night were GIN ANNIE who are offered a 5 year Worldwide record contract for 2 albums, coveted slots at HRH festivals and full backing from the HRH Media Division. David Foster, vocalist says, "You never know with a public vote which way things will swing. So all we could do was to give our best show for 4 songs and hope enough people liked us. And guess what? They did! It is absolutely amazing and we cannot thank everyone enough for their support. It sincerely means the world to us. Thank you."

 

A well deserved win, Wolverhampton's GIN ANNIE blew - the - roof - off. They gave the performance of their lives as they belted out 'Falling', 'Chains', and a stunning cover of 'Wishing Well' - which they owned! - before closing with their anthem 'Born To Rock N Roll'. Wolverhampton must've been empty as surely everyone was at the O2 in Sheffield - every single person in the audience was taken along with the band and under the spell of David's smooth voice and a blistering set. An amazing opportunity for the band and hopefully the start of very big things to come. Well done.

Find out more from Gin Annie at: https://www.facebook.com/GinAnnieUK

WICKED STONE came in second, a great guitar-driven band with a massive presence on the stage, filling the room with their brand of classic melodic rock. These guys gave it 300% on the night and the audience was whipped into a frenzy as they threw out addictive riffs and lush vocals, and a cheeky 1000 watt smile Nathan James would be proud of. They tick all the boxes. I loved their rousing performance of 'Another Round' and their cover AC/DC's 'Whole Lotta Rosie' - both of which had the crowd in rapture. AC-who?.... Great show, well done, and well deserved second place.

 

Find out more from Wicked Stone at: https://www.facebook.com/wickedstonemusic/

Third place went to AT THE SUN. They took to the stage early on with a soulful vocal-only intro before the instruments powered in - a pounding drum beat and bass-heavy sound with dirty riffs and a delicious southern twang. Good job I wore my cowboy boots! The short set included  'Devil In Your Eyes' and their cover of Fleetwood Mac's 'Go Your Own Way' which gets the audience singing along. A great set and I'm delighted for them.

 

Find out more from At The Sun at: https://www.facebook.com/atthesunband

Of course, getting to the final is huge in its own right and previous finalists include Massive Wagons and Stone Broken. Well done to all the finalists.

 

NOVACROW were first to take to the stage on the night with big vocals from the female singer, lending to the odd growl, a loud and heavy sound as they tear through a great opening set including 'The Mantra' and their cover song a mega cool version of Steps' 'Tragedy'. Yes. They turned it into a killer rock track. Who knew!  Engaging and fun, a strong front-woman and an impressive guitarist.

Find out more from Novacrow at: https://www.facebook.com/novacrowofficial

BLACK TREE VULTURES have a heavier sound altogether, with a booming bass courtesy of stand-in bassist, more metal with an ultra deep voice and some superb guitar solos. On the night I wonder if the band were a little heavy for the tastes of those who attended as the audience wasn’t as engaged. Each to their own. Excellent set lads - where does that guys voice come from!

 

Find out more from Black Tree Vultures at: https://www.facebook.com/BlackTreeVultures

RAVENBREED are a Welsh band I was hitherto unfamiliar with #mybad. I loved their sound, deep, rumbling vocals and high energy performance, my particular favourite on the night was 'Falling'. This is my kind of band, no gimmicks just straight up hard rock n roll. And I loved their choice of cover 'Jumpin Jack Flash' though I think they could've put a bigger Ravenbreed stamp on it.

 

Find out more from Ravenbreed at: https://www.facebook.com/ravenbreed

THE OUTLAW ORCHESTRA have an authentic deep south sound with double bass and banjo. Their set is fun and captivating, the singer a natural comedian as well as a great vocalist and guitarist. These boys took the cover challenge seriously and blended a medley of 'Devil Woman', 'Ring of Fire' and 'Run To The Hills' in a genius move. I love their image and they are great musicians, their music sounding like it originates from the deep south, but the banjo player needs dungarees! I like  that the banjo isn't always central to the performance, that would delete some of the rock from the performance. I'm looking forward to seeing them again.

 

Find out more from The Outlaw Orchestra at: https://www.facebook.com/theoutlaworchestra

Leeds' PULVERISE were also inventive with their cover, choosing a medley of Cypress Hill - 'Insane in the Brain', 'Rock Superstar' and 'Ain’t Going Out Like That' - to go alongside their own tracks including an immensely insane performance of 'Slam Time'. This is a loud and proud band who create an atmosphere of headbanging raucous revelry. Their sound is rap/metalcore and the lead singer has a great presence on stage. Mammoth performance.

 

Find out more from Pulverise at: https://www.facebook.com/Pulverise

STILLROOM had the hardest, closing slot, when some of the crowd have wandered off to the bar or for a smoke and you’ve seen, as a performer, how good all the other bands are. They are strong musicians but the guitarist really stood out for me, and I think this suggests that there could be better cohesion in the group. Their cover of 'Fortunate Son' went down well for a big finish. Great job.

 

Find out more from Stillroom at: https://www.facebook.com/StillroomRock

An awesome night was had by all and The Idol Dead performed the secret session to close the night. See HRH Sleaze review for a review of The Idol Dead.

 

Set order:

Opening ceremony

Novacrow

At The Sun

Black Tree Vultures

Ravenbreed

Wicked Stone

Gin Annie

The Outlaw Orchestra

Pulverise

Stillroom

Results

Session band - The Idol Dead

 

*Valous had to drop out of the show as their drummer is incapacitated.

Checkout more info from Valous at: https://www.facebook.com/valous.birmingham

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