What do you get when you put some of the hottest names in Heavy Metal, a chuck load of fist-pumping fans and a bit of stand-up comedy in the same room? The 2023 Heavy Music Awards, of course. With this year’s upgrade to the Wembley OVO Arena, the awards ceremony was looking to be more fiercely bold than ever before.
The Heavy Music Awards 2023
Wembley OVO Arena
Words: Monty Sewell
Almost everyone I knew was making their way down to the venue on a gorgeously warm Friday evening to see the big-time who’s who of the industry, watching hopefully as their names would splash onto the scream in nomination. Taking our seats, the musicians, management companies, PR teams, festival organisers and anyone who is anyone filed in to take their champagne scattered tables to the sound of beats music blaring us into anticipation.
Presenter Alex Baker (Planet Rock, Magic FM) bounded onto the stage with the warm presence of a mate down at the pub, welcoming us with words of appreciation and love for the alternative community. It is no doubt that seeing a heavier awards ceremony being held in such an iconic arena venue brought about a sense of pride in this side of the music industry.
Though the mainstream does and will always hold a certain monopoly over the scene, events such as the HMA’s is proof that we are an undying, passionate and prevalent breed.
With the introductions over, the first act of the night, Vukovi strode out onto the stage to the racketing cheers from the audience. The band have had a phenomenal reaction since their debut album release in 2017, going from strength to strength with a thunderous response. The show is a smash out, backed up by their later win in the Best Production section. The band are also joined onstage by Scene Queen, who returned onstage later on in the night to receive the Best International Breakthrough Artist award.
Loathe followed on with another passionately distinguished performance. A technical snag meant, unfortunately, their guitar stack wasn’t putting out any sound, but Loathe members gave us a masterclass in professionalism, playing through the song in its entirety before the sound technicians had sorted the issue.
An ever supportive community, the audience and artists awaiting to hear their names read as champions cheered Loathe on, who in turn refused to let a technical error get in the way of putting on a brilliant show.
As the night moved on, we were gifted with a varying range of individual award presenters, including Sophie Lloyd, comedian Ed Gamble and none other than Mcfly. To say they were out of place would be an understatement, but who doesn’t love a bit of early 2000s pop nostalgia?
Bad Omens took home the Best Album award with The Death Of Piece Of Mind, whilst Skindred won the Best UK Live Artist prize. The latter came with frontman Benji Webbe giving a blazingly animated acceptance speech with quite possibly the best pair of spiked blacked-out sunglasses I have ever seen.
Malevolence grasped the Best Album Artwork with their stunning renaissance-like piece of work for Malicious Intent, whilst Best Festival was won – not unsurprisingly – by Download Festival.
Live performances from Boston Manor, Underoath and Creeper also brought the ceremony way above the average before Halestorm’s Izzy Hale and Joe Hottinger played an acoustic set which guitar virtuoso on the rise Sophie Lloyd added to.
In many ways, it undeniably felt like Halestorm’s night. Alongside their performance, they presented an award before wining one themselves: Best International Artist.
The last leg of the night saw Biffy Clyro win the Pioneer award for their “groundbreaking approach to artistry and presentation” and Daniel P Carter the Icon award for his “exceptional long-standing positive contribution to the heavy music scene.”
A hand has to be given to Alex Baker for his brilliantly off-key presenter composition. His combination of genuine gratitude, knowledge and wisecracks set the tone in between the acts and awards perfectly.
For the artists, there was a similar theme running throughout the acceptance speeches. With the rise in DIY artists steering away from the record labels and taking their careers fully into their own hands, it was brilliant to hear so many of them win these prestigious awards right off the hard work without the – previously thought necessary – powerhouse backing.
Never losing the grandiose touch a large-scale awards ceremony requires, the Heavy Music Awards was a night of excellence dedicated to the brilliantly talented artists who make the community what it is.
But the real treat was getting to witness the scale of the event and the unfailing adoration the artists expressed for their fans, and the direction that this alternative scene was heading in.
With the chance to have your picture taken on the red carpet, adding that extra sprinkle of fun to the night, there was nothing but laughs and words of excitement aloof as the spikes and leather sprawls left Wembley Arena after lights down.
Many of the artists at the event will be playing at Download Festival in just under two weeks. For the first time in its history, the event has completely sold out, adding even more to the rumblings of a growing genre on the rise.
The Heavy Music Awards 2023 – Winners
Best UK Breakthrough Artist
As December Falls
Best Breakthrough Live Artist
Best International Artist
Best UK Live Artist
Best UK Artist
Motionless In White
Best Album Artwork
Best International Breakthrough Artist
Daniel P Carter
Best International Live Artist
Best Breakthrough Album
The H Award
Teddy Rocks Festival