Hard Rock Hell 8 Helloween Friday Review

The first full day of the weekend and we’re fresh and ready to go!

Yeah, right… I don’t think we’re ever going to get the hang of this “Taking it steady?” business. We’re not the only ones by the look of the queue at the onsite Starbucks though!


First up over on the second stage we have a fine brace of bands that will be no strangers to supporters of the Midlands live music scene. Piston started off the day to a very healthy crowd and it’s not surprising as it’s frontman Steve’s last gig with the band. They’ve carved out a great little groove for themselves and there’s a little bit of emotion spilling out on the stage towards the end. Obviously no bad feeling in this parting of ways, a sad but equally exciting day for Piston. Their high octane and bluesy rock will surely live on for many years to come, there must be a queue around the block to take over this singer’s role.

The only emotion from SKAM# is pure frenzy. It’s hard to get into it at one o’clock in the afternoon on both sides of the barrier but when you have Matt leading proceedings, it’s a whole lot easier. He bounces around, pulling all the rock faces and oozing more energy than most of the festival site put together. It rubs off too and Skam# are an early highlight to the day as the trio power through some great rock n’ roll tunes and well and truly blow off the cobwebs. ‘No Lies’ and ‘Peacemaker’ are quality cuts and we can only see this band getting bigger and bigger.

Carousel Vertigo Live at Hard Rock Hell 8The missing presumed hungover members of TeamCB arrive in time to catch Carousel Vertigo warming up a decent sized crowd on the second stage. The world needs more great French bands, even if they have had to import a top-notch guitar hero from the USA in the form of Jansen Press, who gave the assembled photographers in the pit something to shoot as he strutted his stuff with his low-slung Les Paul.

It’s not all about the six-stringer though, the band are no slouches either. We were particularly impressed with frontman Vincent Martinez who has one of those down’n’dirty bluesey looks, and a voice to match.

And you know, it even shifted the hangovers.. well a bit. Just what the doctor ordered indeed.

We’d have liked to stick around for longer, but there was quite a big deal happening over on the main stage…

Texas Flood Live at HRH 8 4After making it to Hard Rock Hell via the tough Highway To Hell competition, it was clear from the off that South Wales’ next big thing Texas Flood were here to grab the opportunity with both hands. Those of us who have seen the band before know what to expect, but the uninitiated who had made it out of bed and into the main stage arena were in for a treat as one of the newest additions to the HRH family set about waking everyone up with a jolt of good old Rock’N’Roll.

Ok, Ok, we’re well and truly awake now !!!

No one has the right to be this good at this ungodly (by Hard Rock Hell standards) hour, but the place was packed, the crowd were bouncing along and the band were clearly loving it. There’s nothing quite like making an impression, and our initial impression that Texas Flood would take some beating turned out to be true as they were among the bands of the weekend.

Santa Cruz Live at HRH 8 5Back into the time machine next for a band who want to be Skid Row more than even Skid Row do these days, Santa Cruz brought the hair metal vibe to Wales. They may have divided opinion within TeamCB, but no one could dispute that Santa Cruz went down an absolute storm with the Hard Rock Hell faithful.

No one does 80s hair metal quite like the Scandinavians, and we’re not sure if it’s something they put in the water in Finland (possibly Vodka) but whatever it is, it works.

Right, now for another reformed, revitalised and eagerly anticipated name from the dark and distant past. Persian Risk announced their intentions with 2012’s Once A King, but the anticipation for their show was ratcheted up several notches when their new album Who Am I landed here at CackBlabbath.

Persian Risk Live at Hard Rock Hell 8There’s something satisfying about “proper” no frills heavy metal. Take one front man with personality and presence, add some awesome guitar solos and throw in a chunk of foot-on-the-monitor riffage and you have the perfect ingredients to get an entire room headbanging and air guitaring. (if guitaring is a word… anyway we digress)…

Great to see another bunch of old timers showing the young un’s how it should be done.

Having missed them at their previous Hard Rock Hell appearance back in the Prestatyn days there was no way we were going to make the same mistake twice. Electric Mary are one of those bands who just make it all look so easy, and the HRH masses love ’em. About as classic as proper classic rock can get, they certainly lived up to the pre-festival buzz… these guys are brillaint.

Electric Mary Live at HRH 8 12

The coolest man in a donkey jacket, Rusty epitomises cool as he fronts what is surely one of the best main-stage bands of the weekend.

Buffalo Summer Live at HRH 8 5After a storming debut on the second stage at Hard Rock Hell, Local (as in “from Wales”, there is nowhere local to Pwllheli) heroes Buffalo Summer made a well deserved ascent of the bill to a late afternoon slot on the main stage. This is a band well known to the HRH faithful, and the place was packed for the band’s electric performance.

We kinda liked Buffalo Summer at first look, but with a couple more years of gigging under their collective belts it looks like they’re ready for the big time.

Although the main stage had plenty to offer,  we were drawn to the second stage where The Amorettes played a killer set, as always, and had the crowd going crazy for “Heartbreaker” and “Grab the bull by the horns”.

The Mercy House Live at HRH 8 10cackblabbath.online’s love for The Mercy House is well documented, and after a string of high profile performances at the likes of Download and Bloodstock it looks like the rest of the rock’n’roll fraternity are catching on too. Channeling passion and intensity in equal measure, the force of The Mercy House’s set stops passers by in their tracks at Hard Rock Hell.

Raw and visceral this is how it should be, Rock’n’Roll in all its guitar smashing glory.

One of the newest additions to the Hard Rock Hell family, Western Sand were a band that impressed all of us here at CackBlabbath. Nice to see the newcomers giving the old dogs a run for their money…

Although the big names may have been on the main stage, that doesn’t always (or indeed ever) guarantee that the festival highlights will be found there, with the odd exception. Krokus did the “legendary name at HRH” thing when they came, they did what they do and kept many a metalhead of advancing years happy.

The thing was, well, they just didn’t deliver in the way that we hoped. Good but not great, their set did seem to drag on a bit and by the time it drew to an overlong, self indulgent climax a lot of people were heading for the exits.

Queensryche Live at HRH 8Now for the pre-festival “could go either way” favourite. Last time we saw Queensryche in North Wales they were, quite frankly, awful. Playing a festival set full of songs nobody knew from an album nobody bought may seem like a good idea if you can’t see past your own ego, but for a band with the very greatest of greatest hits to draw on it was one of those things that was memorable for all the wrong reasons. When they were announced as the replacement for WASP when they pulled out memories of that train wreck performance came flooding back….

Well fast forward a couple of years and the egos are still very clearly present, but at least they played some stuff that people actually knew. After opening with Nightrider, Breaking The Silence got everyone singing along and although still not what we’d hoped for as a headline band, they were a lot better than last time.

Really made us miss WASP though.

Spiders Live at HRH 8 10Having had enough of Queensryche, we decamped back to the second stage where one of the pleasant surprises of Hard Rock Hell 8, Sweden’s Spiders put on a stonking show that drew in a load of main stage refugees. They were particularly popular with the male fraternity for some reason…

Hard Rock Hell 8 had already proven itself to be a classic, we’d seen some amazing bands and had an absolute blast. The two stages had been (mostly) pretty busy all day, but in terms of festival clashes the worst (or should that be the best) was saved for last..

Sweden Vs Australia, two pre-festival favourites going head to head…

It may have been the wee sma’ hours when understated Aussies Massive took to the second stage, but any notions of heading to bed were firmly out on hold while Brad and the gang blew the cobwebs away.

Massive Live at HRH 8 18After hearing their debut album Full Throttle a while back Massive have been a band pretty high on the “must see” list, and having missed a couple of opportunities in the seven weeks they’ve been over here there was no way we were missing this one. Over-runs on the main stage meant that they may not have had the biggest crowd but those of us who were there were part of something special.

Over on the main stage, Bonafide end the day with some real style. Hitting their stride from the off, their mix of gritty rock n’ roll and a dash of glam (mainly thanks to Martin and his pouting and strutting) are a perfect finish to the day. The Main Stage is blessed with the loudest sound it has produced all day, and although Bonafide are seemingly left in the dark by the lights man, they put on a show to remember.

Even if remembering things after a day on the beer that started over 12 hours ago isn’t our strong point!

They create a colossal sound with some real AC/DC inspired simplicity. They’ve flown over to Wales especially for this show from the Airbourne tour, that’s probably why they’re on in the small hours, and we can’t help but feel jealous of that double header of a tour on the continent.

Pontus does the lap of honour through the crowd, and a bloody good time was had by all…

Band of the day ? Well Massive were certainly up there for the 2/3rds of TeamCB who chose them… Rob had a different opinion after watching Bonafide though.

Hey, it would be dull if we all agreed on everything.