The ninth instalment of Hard Rock Hell kicks off just as the UK’s first officially named storm hits our shores. Storm Abigail certainly made the bi-annual trip for Team Cackblabbath to North Wales a bit of a wild one; but it takes more than a bit of wind and rain to stop us getting our fill of what Pwhelli has to offer this year.
The Hard Rock Hell family are made of stern stuff. After unloading our gear into the cabin we head straight for the arena; lo and behold… the outside bar is open and is doing a more than steady trade. Alcohol fights off pneumonia, right?
Thursday nights at Camp HRH are normally a bit of a warm-up affair. A chance to re-group, get settled in and, of course, get monstrously drunk too. This year it’s all a bit different. We’re still getting drunk, but everyone has turned up bright and early this year. The Thursday line-up looks a little tasty tonight…
So we’re in the big hall from the kick off this time. We arrive just as The Screaming Eagles are finishing up, which is not the best of starts because we’re big fans of these guys, but we hit the bar and get ready for the arrival of the big truck.
Trucker Diablo have been long-standing favourites here at Cackblabbath. We haven’t managed to catch the band live since their comeback, so we’re all pumped for this one. Apart from a bit of a line-up tweak, it’s as if they’ve never been away. Fist pumping rock that makes that first pint of the evening go down all the easier.
The Trucker boys had the crappy end of the stick with regards to travelling in the treacherous weather. The Irish Sea might have been a little more choppy than our trip along the A55, but they made it and in time and they receive a glorious reception from the already crammed main hall.
They unload they’re Lizzy-tinged metal to the masses mixing up some old favourites with some new cuts from the recent Pledge funded album. It is inevitably the colossal ‘Drink Beer, Destroy’ that gets everyone in the real party mood however. As if their own song isn’t big enough, they then go on to reel out Metallica’s ‘Seek & Destroy’ with the “Drink Beer Destroy” slotted into the chorus.
Well, that has livened things up a bit!
As the Trucker lads head for the bar, we have Attica Rage up next. “Part of the furniture” would be an apt phrase. They’ve surely played this festival more times than anyone else out there but the Hard Rock Hell faithful just can’t get enough.
Almost as famous for their storming Motorhead covers as they are for their own stuff, it’s no surprise to see Johnny and the boys whipping out an early cover in honour of Phil Taylor who sadly died just today. ‘Killed By Death’ is an appropriately subdued Motorhead cut to mark the occasion and also gets one of the biggest roars of the night.
It may be a grand old Thursday line-up this year, but there is only one real reason that the place is packed to the rafters so early on in the festival. Black Label Society are kicking off their latest European tour right here at HRH and the Wales chapter is out in force to catch Zakk on the only UK date.
The Black Sabbath/Led Zep medley and familiar air raid sirens welcome BLS to the festival. It’s our third time seeing BLS this year so we’re well acquainted with the doom crew at the moment. We can fit in another dose before Christmas, though…
There are a couple of technical issues and the sound seems a bit muddy at times but apart from that BLS sound invincible up there. Zakk plays his vast array of guitars to within an inch of their lives, wheeling out the pinch harmonics like a never ending conveyor of squeals. You can feel the force of this music from half way back in the room!
We’re used to the structure of the show by now. Open up with some massive tunes. ‘Stronger Than Death’ fits that category nicely. We get the mellow piano interlude as Zakk pays tribute to Dime with ‘In This River’ and then, of course, there is SOLO time.
Now if we added up all the time we’ve spent watching Zakk Wylde doing his big solos this year, then we could have probably done something quite productive instead. It’s not the highlight of the show that it should be. Especially not your third taste in quick succession.
The highlight of the show is the huge finale of an extended ‘Concrete Jungle’ into ‘Stillborn’ to finish off the set. A chest beating Zakk and his band of men take a final bow in front of the crowd to crown a pretty fine set.
Of course, the night isn’t over. BLS are simply a warm up for the final band of the night. Or that would seem to be the opinion of a lot of folk round here, anyway… Massive Wagons are going to finish off the night with a bang.
On an evening that has packed in more HRH old favourites than ever, there’s plenty of people still wide awake and ready for Lancaster’s finest to make an appearance.
Barry struts his stuff across the big main stage like no frontman before him on the night. Wielding flags, spinning microphone stands and generally doing a great impression of the aforementioned storm Abigail; he’s mesmerising to watch.
The whole band look to be having a ball, as they always do; and the crowd aren’t too far behind them. A run through some favourites, a Rainbow cover and a taste of the new album make a well-balanced show.
Nothing quite hits the spot like a blast through one of Status Quo’s finest tracks however. With the well lubricated audience gladly helping out with the “Down, down, deeper and down…” bit and quite a few breaking out the dance moves too; Massive Wagons sign off with probably the best moment of the whole night.
Needless to say, a cracking start to the weekend!