Cackblabbath have arrived good and early for this year’s instalment of Hard Rock Hell. The eighth year of this festival and it seems to be growing in popularity every time we land here in North Wales. So we’re down the front for the very first band of the weekend, Midnight Messiah.
With a classic metal sound and a look that screams heavy metal, HRH is underway with a very suitable band indeed. Paul and Phil are NWOBHM veterans and that sound still holds strong in their Midnight Messiah incarnation. There is a gritty heavy metal sound to their material that has echoes of their old band Elixir and perhaps more obviously, Saxon.
Their set goes down a storm anyway, with ‘Holy Angel’ and ‘King of the Night’ get heads banging and the beers flowing.
The first night of HRH is always the messiest but also the party vibe is good and strong as ever. With everyone getting suitably oiled in their various fancy dress, there really isn’t a festival quite like this anywhere else. Apart from Hammerfest of course…
Second up is something completely different. If Midnight Messiah were a pretty typical HRH band, The Earls Of Mars are a little bit out there. Proggy and a little bit whacky, frontman Harry leads from the front with vocals and pianos and cuts the figure of a rather extravagant (and young) Richard Branson.
They split the crowd with their mystical stoner tales of flying pigs. Whilst there is a visible dash to the bar from some, most in attendance give The Earls’ a chance and soon realise that they do actually rock despite the upright bass and pianos on stage. CB, surprisingly gets into it, although maybe the wrong contributor is reviewing this particular part of the evening.
Something more tailored towards this CB writer comes up next. Hellion Rising are a nastier beast and easily the heaviest band of the night. The bare chested metallers hit the crowd with their rollicking riffs and all of a sudden we’ve moved up a tempo. Mashing up some heavy doom riffs with a more upbeat stomp, Hellion Rising are not an easy band to pigeon hole. Frontman Matt’s vocals skip between a bouncy Rob Zombie style into a Sebastian Bach style scream on regular rotation. The band also vary their attack of styles too.
Let’s just call them Metal. Really good metal…
Sparks are flying for the traditional HRH Opening Ceremony before Feral Sun hit the stage to their impressive intro tape. They suffer badly with the dreaded festival gremlins early on in their set which gets things off to a shaky start.
Right, time for the HRH house band now.
What can you say about Massive Wagons that we all don’t know already? Like a dodgy rash Massive Wagons seem to get everywhere, and unlike a dodgy rash you don’t mind too much. It’s always difficult to predict the next big thing in the rock world, but if tune-smithery, effort and nice hair are prerequisites then Massive Wagons are already half way there.
Especially the hair.
Tonight’s mid-evening set is undoubtedly the headline show in both the eyes of the HRH organisers and the masses that have crawled from their caravans and chalets to see this show. The northern rock’n’rollers obviously treat it like a headline performance too, naturally. It’s just that right time in the evening before everyone gets a little too smashed.
Not that CB are partaking of course; we’re working…
Massive Wagons are Pwllheli royalty these days and that is proven by the very healthy turnout. They get things off to a rocking start and barely stop for breath for the hour or so they thrill the second stage. Baz has all the moves of the proper rock frontmen, from the air grabs to the crowd energising strut, but the whole band are just oozing good times tonight.
Tonight they are among friends, and as they are every bit as much HRH regulars as most of the HRH regulars we all know enough of the words to enough of the songs to sing (or in some cases shout) along. Or we just make up our own, whevs. OK so they may well have deserved a slot on the bigger stage, but playing to a packed room of (mostly) drunk punters is the Wagon’s natural element. The gritty rock meets glam soundtrack from the ‘Wagons gets the place buzzing but the finale of The Quo’s ‘Down Down’ really sets things off and is sure to be one of the highlights of the weekend.
Brilliant. Right, big name time.
If anyone had told Lizzy Borden that they were playing on the second stage, they don’t seem to have taken any notice. Bringing more arena-filling energy and a healthy dose of Heavy Metal cliche to the party, their theatrical show found a crowd at just the right level of drunkenness to buy RIGHT into it.
Like a slightly silly party band Lizzy Borden light up the night at Hard Rock Hell. Long Live Rock’N’Roll indeed.
Right, back to the bar before the last band of the evening. Now with certain members of team CB being a bit out of touch with the actual lineup there was one of those classic “that bloke looks like Glen from Godsized” comments that draws a deserved array of “you’re an idiot” looks from everyone in earshot.
Yeah, so, last band of the evening were Godsized. 50% of the lineup has changed since the last time we saw the guys live, but if that’s altered their musical trajectory then it doesn’t show here tonight. After the theatrical flourishes of Lizzy Borden, Godsized are the epitome of minimalist no-fucking-around rock.
And so the live music ends for the pre-party to end all pre-parties. Every year we say we’re going to take it easy on the Thursday, every year ends up drunk in someone’s caravan trying to teach them the words to Carradine’s Closet by Druganaut.
This year was no exception.
Hard Rock Hell 8, let’s do this..