Since their reformation, Hell are a band who have gone from strength to strength. Their long delayed debut album Human Remains was album of the year in 2011 for most right minded individuals, and few who experienced their main stage slot at Bloodstock will forget it in a hurry, so their addition to the Hammerfest bill was a very welcome one.
The band have amassed quite a following over the past 12 months, and judging by the number of fans sporting their T-shirts a good number of that following had made the trip to North Wales, with the stampede to the barrier showing just how keen people were to get up close in order to experience the full Hell effect.
Not as close as me though, I was first into the photo pit. Perks of the “job” 🙂
The stage was adorned in the stained glass backdrop that makes up the full “church of Hell” stage set, albeit without the pulpit from which front man David Bower preaches with such effect. Thus was the scene set for my most anticipated performance of the weekend….
As the “Deathsquad” intro tape ended the band burst onto stage in full theatrical effect. Most of the weekend had been spent watching bands in jeans and t-shirts (the bands that is, well, and me), but Hell go all out with their theatrical costumes, providing one of the most visually interesting bands you could ever hope to see, and an absolute dream for a wannabe photographer.
Nice to see someone making an effort…..
The set opened, as usual, with Let Battle Commence and the atmosphere was truly something special. And as the band let rip, the crowd went everso slightly mental. It’s difficult to describe the impact that a Hell live performance has, put quite simply there is no one quite like them around today.
Frontman David Bower works the audience with an incredible, albeit slightly unsettling, intensity. The band’s choreography is well rehearsed, but tonight everything seemed a bit more relaxed, and the constant gigging at some of Europe’s biggest festivals has honed Hell into an incredibly tight unit,
The central focus is, predictably, the band’s incredible frontman, who tonight was sporting an especially bling version of his barbed wire crown of thorns while squeezing more costume changes in one set than many bands bother with in an entire tour. Tonight we saw him switch between Priest, Flagellant, Plague corpse collector and back again over the course of the performance. In theatrical terms I guess you could say David is growing into the role, and he genuinely seems more relaxed up there.
Hell are a band not short of focal points though, and bassist Tony Speakman, so integral to the band’s sound, refuses to be upstaged in the “working the crowd” stakes while Andy Sneap and Kevin Bower delivered a blistering twin-guitar attack, all backed up by Tim Bowlers technical percussion. All of the elements add up to a veritable feast of “proper” old school heavy metal.
But all the theatrical flourish in the world is nothing without the songs to back it up, and Hell certainly have some amazing tunes in their musical arsenal. Tonight we were treated to the bulk of their debut album, with On Earth As It Is In Hell and the curiously appropriate (in this day and age) Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us providing particular highlights.
That’s not to say that everything goes quite to plan though, David’s intro to Save Us should include an exploding bible. And indeed it would have if Kevin had remembered to prime the good book with flash powder 🙂
Tonight was the best I have seen Hell perform. The fact the audience were so into it so quickly definitely helped, as the band and the crowd fed off each others energy. Anyone who wasn’t familiar with Hell before couldn’t help but be sucked in by the whole experience as the band drew a crowd that the next acts on the Hammerfest main stage could not equal.
Band of the weekend… Oh Hell yes !!!!