It would be wise to pay attention to the man behind the curtain as well as on the stage. That man is Christian Larson and he’s a fan of heavy metal but not just an ordinary fan.
Larson’s name may not be familiar amongst the average heavy metal fan but the results of his hard work are. That would be two words and some Roman Numerals or Hell’s Heroes V for 2023 or VI for 2024 and so on.
The best way to describe Hell’s Heroes is that it’s a European style heavy metal music festival based in Houston. The only difference is the festival goers don’t pitch tents on the festival grounds. Instead there are the local hotels, motels, Airbnbs or a friend’s couch utilized for lodging.
For the roadtrippers traveling south or in from another direction, the festival is several miles north of downtown Houston. That’s a big plus canceling out a decent amount of Houston traffic.
The names of bands that have graced the stage or stages of Hell’s Heroes in the past are impressive. Triptykon, Possessed, Candlemass, Exciter, Violence, Razor, Satan, Cirith Ungol, Dark Angel, Whiplash and others to name a few. These bands may not have ever stepped foot in Texas if the Hell’s Heroes platform didn’t exist.
How did Hell’s Heroes become a thing? It’s fairly simple and goes back to Larson and his appreciation and passion for heavy metal.
Larson explains, “It all started with there wasn’t anyone really doing anything like I wanted to do in America and especially not even close in Texas.”
It took him several years of trying before everything started coming together.
A trip to a music festival in California before the inaugural Hell’s Heroes in 2017 is an integral piece of Hell’s Heroes lore.
“I went to Frost and Fire and had an amazing time the year before Hell’s Heroes started and thought I could make this happen in Texas,” he said.
Larson would turn to Jarvis Leatherby (Night Demon, Cirith Ungol) from the Frost and Fire Festival for guidance. “He inspired me on a couple different levels to start the festival and was always there when I needed advice.”
That First Hurdle
Once Larson was able to lock in Cirith Ungol for the first Hell’s Heroes, all the other bands he asked to confirm did so fairly easily. He added though, “Getting Cirith Ungol locked down was a bit of work.”
For the first Hell’s Heroes, Larson had a pretty clear vision of what he wanted at the inaugural fest.
Larson just isn’t a person that wanted to put together some bands for a show. It’s more than that. He works for Pegstar Concerts in Houston so booking bands is not a new thing to him.
“I book shows for a living so I know how to do everything.” He added and emphasized, “But there’s a big difference between just putting some bands together and calling it a fest and having an experience that’s great for everyone and the bands.”
Larson wasn’t really sure what would happen the first year for Hell’s Heroes.
“I just put together a lineup I would want to see and hoped people would show up,” he said. “The first year was a really cool experience and I knew half way through the day that it was something special.”
According to Larson, a lot of people traveled in and everyone had a great time but he wanted to make improvements for the following year. The history of Hell’s Heroes shows that this has occurred each year.
The festival has been exceeding Larson’s initial expectations.
“I honestly never thought that it would grow into what it has become. The line up is bands I like and basically my own taste in music of things I want to see.” He added, “After the first year the goal was just to get to sellout the inside. I never thought we would be moving outside like we did this year.”
The business model for Hell’s Heroes really hasn’t changed much. The model stays fairly consistent from year to year.
“I just keep pushing for more every year and getting bands from overseas that don’t usually play here. It’s basically the same model but just keep trying to go bigger and better,” he stated.
Larson attributes the successes of Hell’s Heroes to his personal work experience.
“I book shows and play in bands so I try to combine all my knowledge in both worlds to create an environment where both worlds are the best for everyone.” He added, “ Bands like to have a great time and get treated right.”
As for the fans, he said, “Fans like to have a good experience and see bands they usually don’t get to see.”
It’s not uncommon for fans to travel internationally to attend the festival.
Bands coming in from overseas that normally wouldn’t play Texas have become a key component of Hell’s Heroes and Larson’s ideology for Hell’s Heroes is very simple.
“Basically I just want everyone to have a great time.”
Larson added, “I work and think about the fest all the time. One of the best compliments I get is you can tell it’s curated by one of our own that lives this music.”
Hell’s Heroes is a labor of love according to Larson and he’s always trying to step up the challenge to make the festival even better.
Larson said, “A lot of bands reach out these days and sometimes it’s easier to get a lot of people to play because the word has spread.”
Larson’s network of band relationships plays into the festival lineups as well.
“A lot of the bands that play the festival are friends of mine. I do everything I can do to help people I love. It’s really an honor to bring them to Texas and have them play,” he said.
Larson can’t point to a specific time or turning point for Hell’s Heroes but what he can say is that the festival continues to keep growing organically.
It is important to make note that Hell’s Heroes V moved outdoors at the White Oak Music Hall for the first time in 2023. This allowed bands inside to play the larger stage located downstairs.
The move also takes the capacity to nearly 4000. The festival was close to a sell out but didn’t even though prior Hell Heroes that were held indoors have sold out. Larson is hoping for a sell out in 2024.
Larson’s very grateful for the response over the years, especially in 2023. “I can’t thank everyone enough for supporting the fest and hope it keeps growing.”