Another year, another venue but Hammerfest V goes on with the same spirit that it has done for the previous years. Yes there may have been a number of people complaining about the new venue, the line up etc but these are the ones that forget that Hammerfest has grown bigger than just a gig, it is now a community, a gathering of like-minded metalheads who come together to enjoy a weekend of excellent music, beer, wandering giants, meeting friends and fun.
This is the first event in the year from the Hammerfest clan. The others being Hard Rock Hell AOR, HRH Prog both in April, HRH Road Trip, HRH Ibiza and HardRockHell in Nov/Dec and all being run by the tireless crew at Chic Festivals of Fleur, Terri, Clair and Jenny to name but a few. Keep up the great work guys.
The lineup this year did have a few changes at the last minute and one in particular was that Texas Hippie Coalition were not to appear, I was really looking forward to seeing them play, also not there were Huntress. However this meant that another favorite of mine was included in Savage Messiah.
We arrived on Thursday and checking was issue free both at the VIP area and the Media suite. Finding the Caravan was a bit more awkward as the numbering system was a bit askew but we finally get settled and unpacked all the beer.
A note on the accommodation: those who have been to Prestatyn will know the quality of the chalets was OK, but these caravans were a good few levels above. Comfy, warm well equipped and a good fridge. So beers cracked heavenwards we headed over to stage 2 for the evening entertainment.
Thursday 14 March
Opening up the Samurai Stage Manchester based THE GODDAMN ELECTRIC. Not the easiest slot of the weekend to work with but they hit the stage running with their brand of Hard Rock blues groove music. The set based mainly around the release of their new album “Snakebite” certainly hit the right chords and the crowd started filling in and getting into them.
Fronted by Tommy whose powerful and gritty vocals cut through the steady backline of bass (Justin) and drums (Gavin) and complements the riff ripping guitar (Al) their sound is very precise and gritty.
Tommy is a very visual and upfront singer and gets upclose with the audience to bring them into the whole show that is The Goddamn Electric. Having listened to the album before the show and then seen the live performance I know I want to see more of these guys and a full set at one of their upcoming gigs, look out for the album launch gig in Manchester and London.
BLACK ACID SOULS played to a now pretty full 2nd stage, Their Rock Metal sound forces its way out of the speakers and smacks you round the head and says “listen to me”. The band, formed in 2008, are touring now after the release of their Deadly Sins album with its combination of driving rhythm section and dual guitar riffs. Their powerful, razor sharp metallic sound was received by the crowd with the intensity that it was delivered.
Next up VICIOUS NATURE, a four piece that has members from Cloven Hoof, Marshall Law and Cerebral Fix and between them have numerous albums behind them. Their current band – while not being long formed – are building up a good following in the Midlands Metal Scene and now have a set at Hammerfest, playing tracks off their current EP “Fight For Your Life”. A balls out set ensures they have gained alot of new followers.
Following next was SAVAGE MESSIAH, a late addition to the bill but one that was gladly received by the masses. After a late night set last year where they finished the festival they get a midday slot this year and have already drawn in a full crowd. Another blistering set by them goes to show that the quality of the acts this year are second to none and this was still only the first day.
The rest of the day was a bit broken up as beers and food in the form of beer were sought and gladly found at the stage bars and also the outdoor Jagermeister bar. Beer prices were pretty reasonable as was the selection. The staff at all the bars were excellent all weekend and queuing, if any, was down to a couple of minutes.
Other bands on this stage were DYSCARNATE, SACRED MOTHER TONGUE and SISTER SIN; the night was finished off by KRUSHER. Stage 2 had given a damm good day of music and an insight into what were going to expect for the rest of the weekend.
Friday 15 March
We were woken by the lovely sound of rain on the roof and squawking seagulls, not the best thing for a hangover. Today was going to be a busy day of music with over 25 bands performing on 3 stages. The 3rd stage was The Barrell pub which unfortunately we didn’t make it over to which was a pity really as there were 4 very good bands on performing acoustic sets.
Friday Dragon Stage
While the day kicked off with THE IDOL DEAD, CHEMICALS OF DEMOCRACY and ARTHEMIS.
My first band on this stage today was ATTICA RAGE, a Glasgow based band formed back in 2005 who have been building up a loyal clan of followers are now touring on the back of their album 88MPH. Their stage show and sound was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. IRON SAVIOUR and ENSLAVED continue on the afternoons metal feast.
The crowd had been getting wilder all day and when HATEBREED hit the stage the full on moshpit took shape and the crowd surfers were out in force giving security some catching to do in the pit. Hatebreed gave us a full on onslaught of their thrash metal punk sound that was as good as ever and Jamie Jasta gave an awesome set.
KILLING JOKE did what you would expect from a band with their heritage, a well laid out set covering all their work. Led by Jaz Coleman who paraded round the stage giving a polished performance, while it was a great set it didn’t seem to get the crowd fully ignited, Maybe they were all still fazed by Hatebreed.
The final slot on Stage 1 for the evening – or by now early morning – was SCIFI MAFIA. As the stages were running late and this was billed as the aftershow party it seemed that most of the arena had headed off for the night so by the time Scifi Mafia took to the stage their was only a skeleton crowd left.
Compared to last year’s mid afternoon show when there must have been 2000+ this year there was no more than a few hundred. This did not detract from the show that we witnessed. Once the gremlins of a dead guitar amp had been sorted out all our senses were hit by the band.
Musically there style of psycho mind bending rhythms and metal ripping guitar sends you mind to a place that brings back memories of Hawkwind and Lemmy with a touch of Steve Hillage just for fun.
This linked with the visuals of the scantily clad maidens of the AREA 51 crew of fire who toy with the flames and contort themselves for your visual pleasure. You actually feel part of the show and can’t help but get involved with it. This was received full on by the lucky ones that had stayed to the finish and what an end to an excellent day of fun and frolics.
Friday Jagermeister Stage
TRIAXIS were one of the crowd favorites of the day on this stage and they did what they do best and delivered a great set of classic metal sounds. The rest of the day on this stage was furious and we only caught a song or two from the bands but the crowd as always on stage 2 was giving it all and enjoying the music and experience that is Hammerfest.
Bands on were ANCIENT ASCENDANT, IRON KNIGHTS who were awesome, RSJ, CAYNE, CHIMP SPANNER, BLOODSHOT DAWN, ABSOLVA (featuring Chris Appleton and Martin McNee from FURY UK) and WINTERFYLETH.
LIFER, all I can say is WOW, as hard and as heavy as you want, these guys were great. The moshpIt was in full flow and from the sidelines looked pretty goddam brutal but no one seemed hurt too bad.
These guys were staying in two vans down from us and when they arrive a blow up sheep appeared in the window but was noted for its absence the following morning, I reckon the guys must have been celebrating and the poor sheep was the worse for wear.
One of my best new bands of the weekend for me was VIZA, never seen them before but when a metal band includes an Oud as one of their instruments you know you are in for something special.
There sound is reminiscent of System of a Down and indeed they have recently toured with Serj Tankian. Led by a charismatic frontman they produce a great live and clean sound, I’ve gotta get to see these guys again.
Last band here was EVIL SCARECROW who I missed due to being on the other stage, we’ve seen them a few times previously and know how good their set is.
Saturday 16 March
With so much good music on today it was always going tobe a toss up between stages. Stage 1 won out for a lot of todays music for me but there was some real gems here on stage 2. OAF, FLAYED DISCIPLE, DRIVE and MONUMENT openend up the stage and the snippets I heard from them wereall great and the full crowds supported this brief assessment.
BULL RIFF STAMPEDE were an in-your-face thrash metal band only formed a few years ago and hailing from the south west/midlands. They show that thrash is still king and play a balls out set that is dutifully moshed and headbanged to by the assembled crowd. A storming set that sets them in good stead for their upcoming summer of gigs and festivals.
DEF CON ONE are groove metal and punk rolled into one. Another first for me, Davey Meikle blasts out ripping vocals and covers every inch of the stage trying to whip up as many of the moshers as he can. The set included 10Bullets, Warface and Give Me Strength.
Awesome set and sound from these geordies and certainly one of the best on this stage today. Although the last music of the weekend was on this stage in the form of M:PIRE OF EVIL who I heard great accounts of, our battered and bruised bodies had given up on us for the weekend.
Rising Sun Stage
The day kicked off with COMMANDER IN CHIEF, SHEER and 4ARM.
Then followed by HEIDEVOLK, a Dutch folk metal outfit. A strange mix of Folk and Viking metal and they delivered an interesting set, followed by SENSOR and SODOM.
ANGEL WITCH were next to take the stage, a UK band back from the days of NWOBMH. Kicking off with Atlantic, Confused and Dead Sea Scrolls they played an awesome set, and finishing off with the classic Angel Witch.
ST VITUS were a totally unknown band to me. After seeing the show and then doing a bit of research about them I can see where the doom stoner label comes from (or as I heard it mentioned they sound like a Saxon 45 single played on 33, of course only those of a certain era will even know what those numbers mean).
Scott “Wino” Weinrich, Wino for short commanded center stage and while a mover he isn’t he manages to intimidate the crowd with his unfaltering stare and this in itself would make the show if it wasn’t for the activities of guitarist Dave Chandler who as well as being all over the stage also went into the pit and toyed with the crowd.
Wino at one point had a go at the security who were stepping in and stopping someone from smoking in the audience. While this would have been a noble thing to do in the past, in the unfortunate clinical times of today it is frowned upon and indeed as Wino tried to get more to light up they all soon ceased when security swiftly ejected someone for taking up the dare. Neither the less a great set and I’m damm glad we saw them.
NAPALM DEATH were without doubt the wildest band of the weekend and ended up with the biggest moshpit and wildest crowd, their Grindcore whipped up the crowd who were after finishing off the weekend in style. They kicked off with Circumspect which went straight into Error In The Signals.
The set itself was as brutal as it gets and songs from the entire catalogue were pounded out for our pleasure, if you call ear deafening a pleasure. My favourites of the night were Mass Appeal Madness and Suffer the Children. I only got kicked in the head once during the set but hey that’s all part of the gig, isn’t it?!
After another farewell beer this was the end of the weekend for us and what a damm good weekend it was. I must take time to mention the staff; all the staff be it bar staff, security, stewards, shop staff, camp personnel, Chic festival and any others working there, all did a great job and hopefully emjoyed the event as much as we did.
A great lineup, great accommodation, great people but above all the spirit of Hammerfest lives on and will continue to as long as we all make it. Roll on Hammerfest 6 Book of the Dead.
Review and photos by Simon Dunkerley
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