HRH United III / Hammerfest 9 Friday Review

Rise and shine, day two awaits… a quick walk on the beach first though! Through the many years of coming here, we’ve never set foot on the beach (whilst sober) but this morning it’s wonderful weather and we’re soaking up the sun and sea air before inevitably hitting the Guinness again.

3 Desert Storm HRH CackBlabbathBack in the arena, it’s Desert Storm with the job of getting this party restarted. Hammerfest veterans, they are a little low down the bill today for such a quality band. They have a gig tonight in Bristol however, so no doubt they need to get moving on a beaut of a day like today.

Any cobwebs lingering will always be immediately blown away by Matt Ryan and today is no different. As usual, he looks like he’s just got out of bed but he acts as the HRH alarm call for anyone not quite in the land of the living yet!

‘Omniscient’ never fails to get us going and if we weren’t in the mood for a beer when we walked in; we are now! Superb, as always, Desert Storm are ace.

Helhorse HRH 101

From a band we have seen loads, to a band we’ve never heard of at all. Helhorse appear on stage bare chested and looking considerably unnerving. Imagine going back to your caravan and seeing these dudes half naked in your kitchen…

Actually don’t do that.

Anyway, despite our reservations, Helhorse are actually a bit good. Hailing from Copenhagen, they look thrilled to be hitting the stage in North Wales in the mid afternoon.  They’ve “Driven a long way to be here”. No doubt about that.

Despite sparse turnout to begin with, stragglers wander in after a couple of songs to witness the energy bomb that is Helhorse. When the dual vocals kick off it all goes a bit mad, and I think we’ve found a band we want to hear more from already today.

3 Duster? CackBlabbathKeeping up with the Stoners, Church of Lies are up next. It definitely doesn’t say Church of Lies on the program, the Clashfinder or ahem… on some reviews. But it is… we’ve seen these guys on lots of tasty bills around the Midlands and they are mighty good and today is proof of that.

It’s just a shame that half the punters will go home and download Dusteroid’s latest LP on the strength of it.

No offence to Dusteroid, of course.

Speaking of mad-hatters, Boss Keloid fit that category well. Easily dumped into the doom and stoner category, they have quite a few more strings to their bow than the average also-ran, but their main charm is making you smile form ear to ear. Always a pleasure to catch Wigan’s finest..

6 Boss K CackBlabbath

The Raven Age are quite big news at the moment, and their new found fame (on the back of a 70-odd date jaunt around the world in Ed Force One) meant that the main arena had filled up considerably for their early doors slot. The new album has been on repeat for the past couple of weeks at CB’s northern HQ, and the chance to see the band live again was not one to be missed.

7 The Raven Age CackBlabbathNow I know there are rumblings that The Raven Age are only big news because of THAT familial link, but at Hammerfest they proved that they can deliver, and deliver they did with an ever expanding number wandering in to see what all the fuss is about.

The Raven Age aren’t easy to squeeze into any one genre, prefixing their more melodic moments with the assurance that they aren’t about to play a ballad at Hammerfest.. Don’t judge a book by its cover or, for that matter, a song by its intro.

Download beckons next for The Raven Age and we think they’ll go down a storm there.

We had no idea who was doing all the bloody shouting on stage 2 after that, turned out it was Pist.

Injecting a little more venom into proceedings than our previous show in the main arena, Pist take Hammerfest by the balls a squeeze tight! They may be rough around the edges but they can’t half make us headbang and shows like this are what the second stage at Hammerfest are all about. Raw and energising and maybe a little bit scary.

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Two stages so lots of backwards and forwards between them.. Via the outside bar which was doing a roaring trade in the unexpected Welsh sunshine. Not that we would partake in anything like that, we’re working.

Things have been tweaked for 2017,  It’s usually the same faces you spot at these festivals, especially in the HRH festival circle. With the addition and division of different branches we were curious to see if it would attract a whole new batch of metal heads. HRH Prog, Metal, AOR, Hammerfest and Sleaze are now separate events and this has divided opinion on social media. We met some of the usual suspects that have been with Hard Rock Hell since the dawn of time and there was a 50/50 spit among the bonafide-faithful. They voiced their concerns and their approval many times. Lots of “It’s ok, but…” but most agreeing “this is far better”.

One thing is for sure, Jonni, Fleur and those lovely peeps keep doing something right, because this caravan site has been jam packed all day. The Empire is growing, the hard rock hell brand is taking over every genre, one festival at a time.

And we f*cking loves it! (said with welsh accent)


More stonery doom goodness with Gevaudan and some mighty fine purple flares too!

Nightmare World-HRH United-IainCackBlabbath-1Back on main stage next for a spot of Nightmare World. Classic rocky vibe, until they kick in the riff for In the Fullness of Time, which goes off like a bomb.

The band are keen to get on with things “Let’s plough straight on with the album, this is defiance”. but things don’t go to plan and some technical issue or other leaves time to kill… so the frontman jumps down off the stage and asks the front row their names and generally has a chat until the issues in stage sorted and we’re straight back on with the burden of proof.

After an appointment in the press area with The Raven Age  it was a mad dash back up the hill for an eagerly awaited appointment with Skyclad. We arrived just as they were battering through Inequality Street, and although we’d missed the start of their set they were still (for 2/3rds of the team) one of the bands of the weekend.

8 Skyclad CackBlabbath

The band are a guitarist short today due to some serious sounding issues back home, so Dave has his work cut out but they plough on and make the best of it.

There had apparently been some other issues earlier on, not sure what happened but after a cheery “thanks for sticking around in spite of everything” we were treated to their take on Thin Lizzy’s Emerald for the ultimate “we want more” moment.

Back to the second stage and we’re just in time to hear “We are Geuvadan and we play doom”. As if the acoustic evisceration wasn’t a clue to the genre. They snap us right out of any folky shenanigans we were just experiencing over the road and put us well and truly back into head nodding mode. Always nice to have a bit of a rest.

Grand Magus 101Right, time to get the viking drinking horns out. Time to grow a proper beard. Time for some proper heavy metal. It’s time for Grand Magus.

Hammerfest has really come alive, and the place is bouncing as the crowd chanting the bands name. J.B. reckons it’s not quite loud enough though “I don’t remember when we were here last time” he says with a smile, “but those guys were loud as fuck”..

And after a count of three we’re given the chance to out-roar our younger selves.

‘Steel Vs Steel’ keeps things bowling along as we’re reminded that Sword Songs of almost a year old. To celebrate the birthday tonight we’re treated to a first performance of ‘Forged in Iron’.

I may be wrong, but I think there may be a bit of a metallurgical obsession emerging… Grand Magus go through the periodic table metal section throughout their set, but it’s ‘Steel Vs Steel’ that we’ll still be humming this time tomorrow.

We also get ‘Freja’s Choice’ as another first time played live song but to finish things off it’s the well oiled classic that is ‘Hammer Of The North’ for which the Hammerfest crowd really come to life and do themselves proud. Fist pumps from the front to the back of the room and we get to practice our best viking accent at full volume.

Hammerfall-HRH United-IainCackBlabbath-1Surely Grand Magus will be headlining next time they visit this place? The Hammerfest crowd like Grand Magus, which meant only a sparse few were in the second stage to catch the young upstarts making an unholy noise on there. You do have to feel for bands when the gods of festival clashes dump on them like this, but the few who stuck around to watch The Ever Living were in for a treat.

Not a band we knew anything about, but they certainly grabbed our attention, unlike Hammerfall who got a pretty unanimous “meh” from Team CB…

…who could all be found in the second stage watching (and feeling, viscerally) Slabdragger laying down the glacially heavy riffs to a decent crowd. How can a three piece make so much noise? We’ve no idea but they looked like they were on course to out-Conan Conan.

Slabdragger-HRH United-IainCackBlabbath-4

Slabdragger were the last in the Doom line for HRH Friday and after checking the foundations hadn’t been damaged by the London 3 piece’s thunder it was time for stage 2 to hit the gas for HRH Thrash.

Battle jackets at the ready, Team CB are always up for an evening of Thrash.

Solitary-HRH United-IainCackBlabbath-1First up among the speed merchants were the impressive Solitary who didn’t fuck about in getting the metalheads down the barrier headbanging in a way they could only regret the next morning. Architects Of Sin gave us a great introduction to the new album.

23 years since they kicked off, and Solitary go down an absolute storm. We’d have loved to stick around for more of their set, but there was the small matter of some legends coming up back on the main stage.

Team CB made their way back across (and it was still sunny, how un-HRH weather-wise) and after a quick refreshment stop at the outdoor bar we squeezed into the already packed venue to experience the power and the fury that can only be Napalm Death.

Not the classic line-up tonight as Shane is away bludgeoning crowds with Brujeria but when things go as fast and hard as Napalm Death, who’s keeping an attendance register. Barney’s brummy overtones are enough to put us right at home in the company of grind core’s favourite sons.

Napalm Death-HRH United-IainCackBlabbath-1Alas things didn’t quite go to plan. About 20 minutes into the set it became clear that someone in the crowd was in a bad way. After some confusion about wether they should start again or not the band left the stage and a shore time later HRH head honcho Jonni took the stage and asked that the place be evacuated so the poor bugger on the ground could be attended to.

It was really nice to see that everyone complied, the HRH family genuinely concerned for one of their own.

Really hope the guy was OK.

Napalm Death were choking to get on with things, and they did eventually, picking up where they’d left off with a spot taste of Fear, Emptiness, Despair getting a rare outing before we nip one album further back in time for Quarrantine.

Napalm Death are still the milestone by which all their heir apparent are measured… and no one has topped them yet.

Warlord-HRH United-IainCackBlabbath-1While the paramedics dealt with the casualty in the main stage we headed across to Stage 2 where the thrash-a-thon was still in full swing. This time it was the mighty Warlord who were laying down the buzz saw riffs.

That brings us to our only real complaint about the new improved HRH united format. Rather than mixing things up on the second stage you get a few bands from (more or less) the same genre in a row, so if you don’t like Thrash, or Doom, or Black Metal then you’re a bit snookered for 3 hours if the main stage delights aren’t to your stage. We get the genre specific headline but it’d be nice to mix things up a bit.

It’s all metal after all.

And we don’t let those Genre snobs into Pwllheli.

After a quick visit to the on-site Burger King for some traditional Welsh cuisine and a quick visit to the bar we headed back into the second stage where Virus were trying to find the way backstage.

Thankfully they did.

Virus-HRH United-IainCackBlabbath-1Scotland’s own Virus were the last band of the Thrash triple bill. They’re one of the names that appear regularly on Hard Rock Hell line-ups and they’re always damn good fun with frontman Coke Findlay always having a great rapport with the audience. It’s proper old school thrash, but there’s definitely a thick vein of humour running through it too.

Yep, that’s how you give a crowd Multiple Wargasms. So Coke, you wanted to hear “Hey that Virus were really good and I was thoroughly entertained by their new shit”

Well you were, and I was 🙂

Could anyone steal Grand Magus’ band of the day crown? Well right from the off it was clear that Destruction had something to say about that. As fans of all things “old school” the announcement that the Germans would be making an appearance made us happy, but not as happy as when we were headbanging down the front and chanting along to the classic ‘Nailed To The Cross’.

Sore necks, sore throats, job done !!

Destruction-HRH United-IainCackBlabbath-1

There was even a guest appearance from that shy, retiring Ol Drake bloke, who got one of the biggest cheers of the day when he came on stage to add an extra shreddy something to Destruction’s already formidable sound.

Thrash. Till. Death.

Ten Foot Wizard-HRH United-IainCackBlabbath-1After some straight up old school thrash to bring the main stage to a close it was time for something a bit different. No, scrub that, Ten F0ot Wizard were a lot different.

Hell, we were even promised inflatables!!

Lycra leggings, a home made Slayer vest top and enough energy to keep the battle weary Hard Rock Hellions going, TFW grabbed their midnight slot by the proverbials and didn’t let go.

It was about as fun a 40 minutes as we had all weekend, and the band were having a blast too with much high kicking and leaping about. Another new name on us, Ten Foot Wizard are a band you need to check out.

Lycra leggings optional.

And that’s that for the Friday. More of the same tomorrow please!! As we made way to out chalet for the evening we bumped into Slabdragger, out looking for an after party. Sam had clearly loved the whole HRH vibe and was in full on party mode as  he happily blethered about being on stage, loving Wales and exchanged fashion tips about Polish lager branded leather waistcoats.