Hard Rock Hell 8 Helloween Saturday Review

Opening up the days proceedings were another name from the dark and distant past. Only at HRH would you find many fans who remembered More opening Monsters Of Rock in 1981, but like a lot of their NWOBHM contemporaries these guys undoubtedly still have “it”.

More LIve at HRH 878Perhaps best known for having legendary producer Chris Tsangerides on guitar, More were one of the surprises of the weekend. They may have occupied a lowly position on the bill but the second stage was packed even before they came on, and if you want to make a room full of *ahem* more mature metalheads happy just throw in a cover version (well kinda, Chris co-wrote it) of a classic. We were heading across to catch the openers on the main stage, but the opening riff of Judas Priest’s Touch Of Evil stopped us in our tracks.

Bugger to sing if you’re not Rob Halford though, and Chris’ attempts to keep a straight face at the almost-hittong-the-high-note of “you’re possessing me” did make us smile.

Opening up the main stage are Old Man Lizard. It’s a bit of a disappointing turn-out really, as the vast main stage area is hardly fit to burst, but it is pretty early by festival standards and you can’t blame people for taking it easy at the start of a good 14 hour music marathon. Legs, livers and general liveliness are all suffering under the strain of the HRH endurance test.

Those of us who did venture down bright and early (with Starbucks in hand) are rewarded by a great display of sludgey stoner rock with a bit of an added twang. They look and sound like they have just been shipped in from those hallowed Georgia swamplands where Baroness and Black Tusk have been dredging up their monstrous noises over the past decade. They’re from Suffolk though, so we’ll have to watch out for these chaps in the future…

Witchrider LIve at HRH 857You have to feel really sorry for Witchrider. When they started there were more people on stage than in the audience, the joys of an early slot… you start off playing to three people, and two of them leave. Well we liked ’em, something a bit different from the usual HRH classic rock and metal fare and the cavernous main stage arena filled up, a bit, as the set went on and more people managed to drag themselves out of bed.

Heavy Metal Kids are a blast from the past. Now made up of a couple of original members and helped along by some new faces including vocalist Paul Manzi. They make an impressive old noise and the second stage is by far more popular this morning/early afternoon as the place is rammed.  Justin on guitar gets on with his days workout whilst peeling off the riffs as he jumps on the spot to the beat of the music for a pretty impressive length of time. Very energetic for this last day of the festival, we in the audience can only dream of such energy…

Here’s another band to put you to shame:

Sweden’s high energy rockers Truckfighters are up next on the main stage. Bringing the sound of the desert, straight from Sweden to North Wales, Truckfighters are a perfect festival band. Really easy to get along with and just lose yourself in the relentless riffs.

Dango spends more time in flight than he does on the ground and Ozo isn’t afraid to leap about when not taking care of the vocal duties. They look like they’ve just strolled off the beach in their board shorts and as the set of fuzzy rock goes on, you just start to forget about the cold wet Welsh day that is just outside.

Tracks like ‘Mind Control’ get everyone in the smallish crowd down the front in synchronised headbanging and the hour flashes by in a glorious stoner buzz.

Some bands take what they do very seriously, Pist are not one of those bands. You know your drunk mate who tries to get everyone singing along at parties, or the bus stop, or waiting in line at McDonalds ? Well those people have a new high priest in Pist (and very probably pissed) frontman Chris.

We really, really liked ’em.

Vardis LIve at HRH 832Another resurrected name from the dark and distant past now, proving that old NWOBHM bands never die, Vardis have got the place absolutely bouncing.

If there’s one thing guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and get you nodding along, it’s a spot of “route one” rock’n’roll from those nice Grifter lads. To be honest, there aren’t too many surprises in the Grifter set this afternoon, but that doesn’t matter much to us. With the new album ‘Return of the Bearded Brethren’ still pretty fresh and new it’s no surprise to have a set leaning towards the new material. They’ve been playing the cowbell heavy ‘Bow Down to the Monkey’ for quite a while now though and no Grifter show is complete without a run through ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ is it?

As Ollie says “Everyone loves Black Sabbath” and we’re not going to argue with that.

It’s a brisk and upbeat set that’s all too easy to boogie away to. Even though it’s the last day of the most gruelling beer fuelled festival out there, there are plenty of people moving along to Grifter’s big riffs and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more easy going and likeable band on the festival circuit. While they are easily embraced by the stoner community, there’s plenty to attract in the any breed of rock fan from metal to blues.

New single ‘Princess Leia’ crowns another triumphant set by sounding absolutely enormous and a little bit more thrashy than on the record and by the time it’s all over our only regret being that the show isn’t a bit longer.

The second stage is again bursting at the seams in anticipation for Thundermother. It’s yet another all girl rock band. The girls are taking over HRH this year and Thundermother aren’t playing second fiddle to anyone. CackBlabbath did hear someone describe them as being AC/DC in hotpants. Now be careful what image you get in your head there, because if you’re imagining Brian Johnson strutting around trying to keep himself tucked in then you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. Thundermother’s Clare looks a damn sight better in hotpants and the band know how to rock too. No nonsense rock n’ roll, perfect for this time in the evening.

PLAY THAT SONG… “Here’s one off the last album”… NO PLAY THAT SONG… “anyone want to hear a new one ?”… NO PLAY THAT F’KIN SONG…

Yep, it’s Diamond Head who do what they do with a minimum of fuss. We were taking bets on if they’d play Am I Evil… not really of course.

Over on the second stage it’s time for our appointment with the always improving Blackwolf who have come on a long way since we last caught them. Tight, melodic and the match for any of the “classic rock” revivalists in the UK the ‘wolf chaps set the scene nicely for what was to be one of the highlights of the whole weekend…

Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock Live at HRH 8 12

The band of the weekend for 2/3 of team CackBlabbath at Hard Rock Hell, Michael Schenker finally has a stable line up that provides the perfect foil for his considerable talents. Doogie White is quite simply one of the best front men around, and at HRH 8 he had the crowd bouncing along from the start.

And what a start. Most bands keep their “big” tunes for the end of their set, but not Herr Schenker. As an opener Doctor Doctor is absolutely unbeatable. The setlist includes the obligatory MSG tunes but for me the highlights were some of the newer tracks, which go down an absolute storm.

CackBlabbath’s weekend at HRH came to a suitably sing-along-ey conclusion with a suitably epic set from another veteran name with at least one song that most of the population of the planet knows and with that it was time to drag our sorry selves off in searck of food and sleep in preparation for Sunday’s epic drive home. Given the lineup we didn’t expect the 2014 installment of Hard Rock Hell to be up there with the best, but that just shows you how wrong you can be. This is an event that just keeps on getting better and better.

So… same time next year ??