Hammerfest 3 Saturday Review

After the excesses of the night before a nice quiet start to Saturday’s entertainment would have been nice. But as the first band on the second stage were the awesome Beholder there wasn’t much chance of that and they proceeded to blow the cobwebs away and showed just why they are so hotly tipped for great things.

There are worse ways to start a Saturday 🙂

Powerquest are one of those bands that are in danger of becoming their own tribute act. With a series of line-up changes that make occupying Spinal Tap’s drum stool look like a stable position. Members have come and gone, with the current incarnation being entirely new apart from founder member / keyboard player Steve Williams. There is no denying that this is a massively talented lineup and it was good to see the new material getting a good reception as the band neatly avoided sticking to a “greatest hits” set. Hopefully the slightly less widdly-widdly power metal from the live show will be something they have carried over into the forthcoming new album.

My top new discovery of the festival were definitely Deadly Circus Fire. We were cornered by their PR to interview them before their set and after chatting in the ball pool took a real liking to the guys. It was a favourable impression was enhanced by seeing them play live. They certainly looked the part in their distinctive black, white and blood spattered facepaint and their Tool-esque proggy metal was very well received by the ever growing crowd they attracted.

While Deadly Circus Fire were doing their thing on the second stage I headed off to the pub for for one gig I didn’t want to miss. Oaf are an, erm, interesting band in many ways. Drummer James is about as out of place at a heavy metal festival as it is possible to imagine, with his rather dapper image and neat line in bow-ties while bassist Dom is your typical shouty long haired metalhead.

Oaf are drum and bass in the most literal sense, played by two middle aged men that can’t quite believe that anyone is paying them any attention. It’s clever, funny punk rock with song titles like Wanking With A Fistful Of Shit and We Know Why You’re Rubbish At Darts pointing towards a not entirely serious take on life.

After Oaf I had some interview duties to perform but made my excuses and left in time for one of the must-see bands of the weekend, Brighton’s Furyon. The band opened with their upcoming single Disappear Again which is arguably one of the best rock songs to come out of the UK in recent years. It really has everything, including one of the biggest choruses EVER and some stunning guitar playing.

No, scratch that, all of Furyon’s guitar playing is stunning. Regular guitarist Chris Green is off doing rock star stuff in the states but in Solsikk’s Chris Webb they have found an absolutely perfect stand-in. It’s difficult to imagine anyone stepping into a band like Furyon with such a distinct two-guitar sound but this guy does it, trading riffs and solos with Pat “The Shred” Heath like he’d been there all along. I’d love to see these two go head to head in one of the shred duels the band often include in their headline shows.

As is a Hammerfest / HRH tradition Scotland’s Attica Rage opened the main stage and got the partisan crowd going. They are virtually the Prestatyn house band and they always seem to rise to the occasion. I still get the feeling that they are missing something though, there’s a spark that I just don’t feel.

There were sparks aplenty next on the main stage, and after the tribulations they had getting here and the cancellation of their UK tour I was delighted that I would finally get to acquaint myself with Grand Magus who, inspite of  playing with a stand in drummer, put on a stunningly good old-school heavy metal show.

Grand Magus are a power trio in the classic sense and I was massively impressed with them from the moment they opened with Kingslayer I must admit I was hooked. Although the inevitable festival gremlins struck Grand Magus that didn’t detract from what was a masterclass in good old fashioned heavy metal, with the title track from the last album Hammer Of The North providing the sort of audience reaction of which festival memories are made.

Grand Magus were going to be a hard act to follow for those up next on the main stage, but before that I headed across to the second stage where a veritable feast of thrash was kicked off by the bafflingly-still-unsigned Mutant. This is yet another band who must surely be snapped up by a record label soon.

The co-headline bands for tonight were Satyricon, who seem to take themselves very seriously indeed and Sabaton who, on the other hand, just seem to be happy to be on stage doing what they do.

I must confess I didn’t think much of Satyricon, so Team CB adjourned for food and left them doing their serious metal thing to their serious metal fans. We had to make sure we were back in time for tonight’s REAL headliners…..

After the serious grown up metal of Satyricon, Sabaton were a completely different beast. I mean their intro tape is The Final Countdown FFS, if you want to get a metal crowd going then THAT’s the song to use..

As long as you can follow it up, that is 🙂

Luckily Sabaton can, and do, follow it up and as the last strains of Europe’s biggest hit fade away the chant starts..Sab-A-Ton, Sab-A-Ton. From the usual informal poll of who’s wearing what t-shirts it’s clear that loads of people are here to see Sabaton and the massive sing-along that started with the intro tape continued through Ghost Division, Uprising and pretty much the entire set. For me they did save the best ’til last with the awesome Panzer Battalion bringing the main set to a close before they left the stage. This was the first time I had seen Sabaton live and it certainly won’t be the last and it’s fair to say they weren’t at all what I expected.

Well, they were good for a start 🙂

Right, back to the second stage for another helping of thrash…..

Another hotly anticipated set (well, by me anyway) was Irish thrashers Gama Bomb who have had a busy couple of years, including a UK support tour with Sepultura and a daunting US trek sharing a van with fellow thrashers Evile. Well if Philly and the boys were worn out from their exhausting schedule it certainly didn’t show as they put on their usual fun-filled show. I mean honestly this is a band who always look as though they are having as much fun up on stage as the audience are watching. Whereas many of their contemporaries try to capture the spirit of 80s thrash and fail, Gama Bomb totally succeed with racks like Hammer Slammer and Bullet Belt.

A brilliant set, and I’ve come to expect nothing less from these guys.

After the energy of Mutant and Gama Bomb I must confess I was slightly disappointed by Thrash elder statesmen Onslaught. Their last album was brillint and they put on a storming show at Bloodstock last year but tonight things just didn’t seem to gel for them.

And on that note Hammerfest 3 cane to an end for Team CB. This was one of the best festival experiences for ages, there are bigger festivals but it is undeniable that there is nothing else that quite captures the atmosphere of Hammerfest, well apart from Hard Rock Hell maybe…

See you next year.