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DJ WILL Recaps The 2024 HELL'S HEROES VI Festival

By DJ WILL, KNAC.COM Personality
Tuesday, April 16, 2024 @ 5:31 PM


March 21st-23rd, 2024 At White Oak Music Hall In Houston, TX

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Photos By DJ Will With Day 2 Contributions From Larry Petro/Petrofyed Photography

Weeks after coming off the latest epic installment of the Monsters of Rock Cruise out of Florida, HELL'S HEROES VI Fest in Houston, TX was lurking on my calendar and while I was undecided if I was going to pull the trigger and go, once I cleared a path from work, I was good to go.

"Shades (and Greys) Of Europe"

Day 1

I flew in early Thursday morning during a godawful relentless rainstorm...which luckily was going to last just tonight. Checked into a nearby Airbnb and stayed dry before venturing back out to brave the elements. Ubered to the venue and by the time I got sorted I was off and running to catch the first act up for me in the afternoon: GIRLSCHOOL playing all their known classics (for the last time in the US, just like CIRITH UNGOL the following day). Weather conditions were nothing new to them as Kim emphatically said during the first few songs in their set, "we brought the rain with us!"

Sound issues would factor in with everything going on but they made the most of it including an unfortunate string break during "Nothing to Lose". While Kim was motioning for a backup axe she was handed Larry Barrigan from HELSTAR's "evil" black Tracii Guns Kramer model as back up instead which didn't look out of place at an event like this! All in all, a good set to get things going amongst the mud/rain soaked masses.

GIRLSCHOOL Set

  • "Demolition Boys"
  • "C'mon Let's Go"
  • "The Hunter"
  • "Future Flash"
  • "Kick It Down"
  • "Nothing to Lose"
  • "It Is What It Is"
  • "Race With the Devil"
  • "Bomber" (MOTORHEAD Cover)
  • "Emergency"
The weather was still fairly miserable so I took a moment to check out the venue grounds for a bit before heading indoors to see DESTRUCTOR and later NIGHT DEMON (more on that later). The merch vendors, food trucks and metal market folks all had great stuff for sale as you would imagine... you don't have to be in Europe to find cool metal swag. The vendors also had to deal with the elements as well and even with tents Mother Nature could give 2 f's as they all got hit hard and had to shut down later in the evening. I also enjoyed checking out every 3rd persons' battle vest as each one was more intense and detailed than the next.

Next up on the Lawn Stage: Houston's own HELSTAR who incidentally would go on to play a few sets during Hell's Heroes, one of which was filling in the slot by a cancelled AGENT STEEL. During the 2nd set we all got a nice surprise of Remnants of War sections, debuted a new song "Seek Out Your Sins" which was pretty good, and guitarist Juan Garcia came out during the "Agents Of Steel" encore. A small compromise considering but the rabid crowd ate it up. This iteration of HELSTAR I was seeing for the 1st time live. It was nice to reconnect with Larry and meet the current members as I recalled my Metal Blade days promoting their records. I do want to commend James "Vampiro" Rivera committing to the 'bit' throughout the weekend complete with cape, fangs and a "Coffin" entrance. Loved it! Commendable even in the "daylight".

HELSTAR Set 1

  • "Awaken unto Darkness"
  • "To Sleep, Per Chance to Scream"
  • "Harker's Tale (Mass of Death)"
  • "To Their Death Beds They Fell"
  • "Black Wings of Solitude"
  • "Black Cathedral"
  • "Baptized in Blood"
HELSTAR Set 2 - Friday
  • "Conquest"
  • "Evil Reign"
  • "The King Is Dead"
  • "The King of Hell"
  • "Seek Out Your Sins" (New Song first time performed live)
  • "Burning Star"
  • "Agents of Steel"
DORO would be the next act up outside doing an all classic WARLOCK set with a few exceptions...Great crowd energy audience participation as expected.

DORO Set

  • "I Rule The Ruins"
  • "Earthshaker Rock"
  • "Burning The Witches"
  • "East Meets West"
  • "Metal Racer"
  • "Hellbound"
  • "Raise Your Fist in The Air"
  • "Breaking The Law"(Judas Priest cover)
  • "Time For Justice"
  • "All We Are"
  • "True as Steel"
  • "Fight For Rock"
"Abandon All Hope of Ye Who Enter"

After DORO's set, An announcement was made and everything was covered up as there was a pending lightning strike warning so all outdoor activity was put on a temporary hold and everyone was asked to shut down and head for protection. It was a bit chaotic for the inside venue for capacity reasons so security was guiding everyone to head to the Raven's Nest adjacent to the venue (where HH after hours would also take place) and take shelter until things died down. After a 20-30 minute delay AUTOPSY performed (a slightly shortened set). I haven't seen them in a long while and it was a brutal set worth the wait.

AUTOPSY Set

  • "Charred Remains"
  • "Service For a Vacant Coffin"
  • "Disembowel"
  • "Gasping For Air"
  • "Ridden With Disease"
  • "Pagan Saviour"
  • "Impending Dread" (live debut)
  • "Severed Survival"
Last band for indoors was NIGHT DEMON who surprised many with an all "covers" set.... great idea...great choices but 1/2 way in I dipped outside to get up front for CANDLEMASS..the Main Event for tonight.

NIGHT DEMON

  • "Night of the Demon" (DEMON cover)
  • "Killers" (IRON MAIDEN cover)
  • "Road Racin'" (RIOT cover)
  • "Lightning to the Nations" (DIAMOND HEAD cover)
  • "The Sun Goes Down" (THIN LIZZY cover)
They played longer but I left at this point....

"Doom Gloom and Time Restraints"

Despite technical issues, CANDLEMASS brought the doom! They sounded great up by the barricade where I was with everyone else for the duration. Vocalist Johan Langqvist brought his serious baritone delivery here as the band's original 1st singer, which not too many remember (except for the diehards). It was great to hear him sing Nightfall in its entirely, a release I helped promote back in the day.

CANDLEMASS Set:

  • "The Well of Souls"
  • "Codex Gigas"
  • "At the Gallows End"
  • "Samaritan"
  • "Dark Are the Veils of Death"
  • "Mourners Lament"
  • "Bewitched"
  • "Mirror Mirror"
  • "Crystal Ball"
  • "Solitude"
  • "Under The Oak" (1/2)
The last song in the set was going to be "Solitude" but the band were told they could do one more song after, which ended up being "Under The Oak" (a 7 min song). Unfortunately due to the weather delays and technical matters, the collective time restraints had CANDLEMASS come to a screeching halt 1/2 way through "Oak". 10pm on the dot. I get city ordinances, fines, etc but it was still jarring as we all wished they were given an opportunity to finish on a high note (or perhaps a "shorter" song i.e "Bells.." or "Dark Reflections")

Mother Nature won this round but we all weren't taking an L the next 2 days of soon to be clear skies!

Closing out Hell's Heroes Fest VI Day 1 was the official After Party inside where Ben and Sammy from GOATWHORE fronted MORBID TALES, an all CELTIC FROST covers project which I was pleasantly surprised by as I had no idea going in. A killer set and done well in the low visibility inside leading into MIDNIGHT from Ohio who just destroyed that place to close out a very challenging 1st night.

One noticeable audio thing that transpired but returned on the last day: FOH finally switched up the VENOM "Welcome To Hell" PA playback on a loop and dove into a tradition normal playlist at some point. I know it was a low priority but I would've gladly put together 30+ hours of music and you'd never hear the same song 2x....just sayin'....!

Day 2

Aftermath Shades of Hell...

I decided take a lil break before heading into Day 2... I got a hold of Ben Huggins from THE GALACTIC COWBOYS for lunch who I've know for over 2 decades. It was nice to get caught up with him. Hopefully one day they'll take the stage again in their hometown...

I was definitely pacing myself going in even if bad weather was no longer a factor as I traveled light but it was still going to be a long day. First up for me was OMEN out at the Lawn Stage. An incredible response to their set and the current frontman Nikos Migus had some real elements of former vocalist JD Kimball I felt. They were another early Metal Blade band that was a tough sell back in the day but not at Hell's Heroes as all ages were singing along to the lyrics. My favorites from the set: "Warning of Danger" and the Encore of "Battle Cry".

OMEN Set:

  • "Death Rider"
  • "Teeth of the Hydra"
  • "Hell's Gates"
  • "March On"
  • "The Axeman"
  • "Warning of Danger"
  • "In the Arena"
  • "Battle Cry"
I found myself walking the grounds again to soak up the atmosphere of what was put together here in Houston. So many fans from all parts of the world were in attendance and quite a few of them to my suprise recognized me from either the ANVIL or Get Thrashed documentaries which both were so long ago I forgot what an impression they've left.I was most humbled by the acknowledgments and accolades. Hell, and one metalhead remembered me from my first time at Wacken 22 years ago (!!). Crazy. Time passes but Metal is ageless!

Austin, Texas Twisted Time Signature Insanity

I had seen Jason with DANGEROUS TOYS weeks prior but this was a debut of sorts for me seeing him in the first band of his that was on my radar back in the day. WATCHTOWER haven't been to the West Coast in decades and to me they did not disappoint, Along with Doug Keyser, Rick Colaluca and Ron Jarzombek, all were as tight as they could be with selections from the 1st 2 releases. Not a lot of pit action for them but that's not to say the crowd wasn't into it. Their material doesn't lend itself to a consistent thrash double bass and buzzsaw guitar work. We all watched with appreciation of their musicianship plus I even caught a generous "shout out" from Jason right before "Energetic Disassembly" from the stage.

I had poked my head in a bit for CAULDRON but I found mostly it was the outdoor stage that offered the most without the restraints of space (I did make it back up in there the next night).

The Bookend Of Doom

CANDLEMASS yesterday and now SOLITUDE AETURNUS. Wow. A rare show....first in ages. The other Double Duty Madman on site this afternoon besides Christian and HELSTAR was guitarist and founder John Perez who also served as CANDLEMASS TM the night before. No rest for the wicked! Really enjoyed this set. Crowd was electric. Quite a few songs I had forgotten about but nice to hear again in a live setting. Robert Lowe vocals......just epic.

SOLITUDE AETURNUS Set:

  • "Opaque Divinity"
  • "Dream of Immortality"
  • "Haunting the Obscure"
  • "Days of Prayer"
  • "Destiny Falls to Ruin"
  • "The Hourglass"
  • "The 9th Day: Awakening"
  • "Eternal (Dreams Part II)"
  • "Black Castle"
  • "Sightless"
  • "Seeds of the Desolate"
Wrapping up the night (before the insanity of the Hell's Heroes Afterparty Part 2) was QUEENSRYCHE. What can I say other than total professionals, and I appreciated their friendship and hospitality. I will defer my review to our fearless Editor who in addition took some amazing live shots. Check out that review and full photo gallery HERE.

NUNSLAUGHTER performed the 2nd night of After party festivities indoors to close things out. Relentless, full force death metal! Machine gun drumming....just laid waste to all in attendance.

Day 3

On this last day I was feeling it, but forged on to deal with whatever lies ahead.

Saw a little of EARLY MOODS and most of NECROFIER at the indoors stage as I missed them back in February on the West Coast. For as dark as this place gets it really sets the tone because other than the banner, the movement of the players on the stage, because without the red light illumination, you cannot see your hand in front of your face!

NECROFIER Set:

  • "The Black Flame Burns"
  • "To the Wolves"
  • "Darker than the Night"
  • "On Wings of Death We Burn the Sky"
  • "Forbidden Light of the Black Moon"
  • "Total Southern Darkness"
Later on one of the swap meet vendors had a special guest pop in not originally scheduled for Hell's Heroes but nonetheless, I was able to take advantage of this rare opportunity with some early intel that he might show up. Richie Stotts, guitarist from THE PLASMATICS (!!) was in town for an event after this fest. He held court for a while as we talked and got caught up with what he's been up to. It was a surreal moment for me as I last saw him in person 1989 opening for THE RAMONES!

I made a point to really pace myself today but definitely made sure to catch as much as I could. CIRITH UNGOL's Final tour, ROTTING CHRIST, TANK, DEMOLITION HAMMER (who had the most insane pit action of all bands I saw) and SODOM who closed out this last night with a punishing thrash set.

I opted to bypass the final aftershow party this time and headed to the bar next door and hung until they tossed us out, plus with an early morning flight there was no point in sleeping, so I stayed up all night until I headed to the airport.

A huge amount of thanks to Christian Larson and his crew/staff for a wonderful experience despite some early hardships on that first day. Everyone persevered and that's what it's all about. All in the name of metal!

Pure rockers do not miss the opportunity to attend the next installment! I guarantee you won't be disappointed. SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC!

DJ WILL

Check out some more photos from the festival!
Photos By DJ Will With Day 2 Contributions From Larry Petro/Petrofyed Photography


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