Simon Dunkerley writes: I hadn’t seen opening act MORE play for 33 years. In fact the last time was at Monster Of Rock – the original Download before all the hype took over and turned it into the money making circus it is today.
Although none of the original line up are in the band Baz Nicols is still on bass from 1982, which is fair play, and drummer Steve Rix only replaced Andy Burton a few years ago.
The set today was spread over their two albums Warhead and Blood & Thunder and was a great show of NWOBHM in both music and stage terms, with highlights ‘We Are The Band’ and set finisher ‘Atomic Rock’. Guitar work was a combination of Dave John Ross and the legend that is Chris Tsangarides. Definitely a great way to start the day.
Black State Highway certainly pack a punch of raw rock blues that’s smacks you between the eyes and dirty riffs that rip your ears off. Fronted by Latvian singer Liva Steinberga whose rough-edged voice really does make the band stand out from the other female fronted ones this weekend. With the setlist from their debut self-titled album they played a storming set and one of my favourites over the weekend.
The final band over on stage 2 was the Broken Chords, a three piece high energy fast paced rock and roll band and boy where they here to have fun. At a time of night when the crowd may have been thinking of chilling out they were hit smack in the face by huge slabs of rock and roll from the slower hard hitting ‘Get Some’ to the 100mph ‘Live and Let Loose’. Bare footed Aid on bass and guitar/vocalist Joe make for a power packed show and pile the rhythms atop the hard hitting Jamie on drums.
Stage 1 today kicked off with two great bands, Old Man Lizard and Witchrider. Both new to me but both with a really great sound. Old Man Lizard tend toward the stoner/groove rock sound and as a three-piece throw in thick bass lines and great fuzzed up guitar riffs and licks. A great set although I would have liked to have seen them on stage 2 with a larger crowd.
Following them was Witchrider, who keep the stoner/desert/70′s fuzz feel going but add in a harder edge. Again a great set and another band to keep an eye/ear out for.
Following on with a female vocals theme Blues Pills have a fair amount of media hype to live up to. Having bagged the support slot on the current Rivals Sons they are about to get exposure to a lot more potential fans. Fronted by Elin Larsson whose demure stage presence gives forth amazing vocals that helps give the band the vintage rock sound that is all the favour at present.
Standout for me though was the amazing riff and lead work from young guitarist Dorian Sorriaux who made it look effortless easy and produced amazing guitar work that linked the whole sound together. If there was ever a case of take the blue pill or the red one well this was certainly the time to take the blue one.
Progressive rockers Bigelf … amused and bemused in equal measure. Frontman Damon Fox comes across as part Arthur Brown and part deranged circus ringmaster.
Now, another one of my favourite bands of the weekend – Truckfighters - a perfect mix of stage presence and energy and deep stoner grooves. Stoner bands generally don’t move around much but guitarist Dango (Niklas Källgren) spends most of his time mid-air whilst ripping out yet another huge fuzzed out riff.
From Sweden and formed back in 2001 they have a number of albums out there including the latest release ‘Universe’ of which a number of tracks including ‘Mind Control’, ‘The Chairman’ and ‘Lifted’.
Whilst stoner/desert/sludge/fuzztastic rock or whatever you want to call it has always been around since the early 90′s it seems to be have been making a huge resurgence in recent times which in my mind is a great thing. As a unit these guys are tight and exciting with pounding bass lines and drums, over fuzzed guitars and energy. If you get the chance to catch them make sure you do and get down to the front and be prepared for a wild set.
David Wilson writes: Progressive rockers Bigelf who amused and bemused in equal measure. Frontman Damon Fox comes across as part Arthur Brown and part deranged circus ringmaster.
Flanked by banks of keyboards centre stage he certainly provided a focal point for the show. The band’s sprawling hard edged prog doesn’t make for the easiest of listens and wasn’t really my cup of tea, however there were those in the growing crowd who did appreciate the band’s efforts and by the end of the set they drew an appreciative cheer,
The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal spawned a number of great bands in the early 80′s and a few who perhaps were in the right place at the right time to put it kindly. One who were in the former category are Diamond Head and with a little help from a certain Lars Ulrich and his little beat combo the band’s music has found a whole new market and no doubt helped keep the band afloat financially.
That’s not to say though that the band has only survived due to the Metallica link, far from it, Diamond Head are still a live force to be reckoned with. Brian Tatler can still crank out the riffs with style and looked as though he was loving his work.
New vocalist, Rasmus Anderson, was only drafted into the band a few weeks before the show at short notice but looked at ease in his new position. His voice was perfect for the Diamond Head back catalogue as the guys ran through a crowd pleasing greatest hits set. The biggest cheers were saved for ‘Sucking My Love’, ‘Helpless’ and the ultimate set closer ‘Am I Evil?’ which was accompanied by raised fists and banging heads, metal at its best.
Another guitarist who has developed a ‘lived in’ look over the years is Michael Schenker. Like Tatler, though, Schenker has lost none of his playing prowess and with his ‘Temple Of Rock’ he is putting on some of the best shows of his life. Opening the show with ‘Doctor, Doctor’ was a master-stroke that had the rammed hall bouncing from the first chords.
Doogie White was in good voice as the band tore through a set culled from all periods of Schenker’s career including the odd Scorpions and UFO tracks. Set highlights included ‘Lovedrive’, ‘Coast To Coast’ and the UFO classic ‘Shoot, Shoot’. It was refreshing to hear a few of the lesser known classics in the set although it is always a pleasure to hear ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ live.
It wasn’t all nostalgia though as there were a few tracks included from the band’s last album ‘Bridge The Gap’ and even a track from the forthcoming release entitled ‘Vigilante Man’ which sounded excellent. ‘Rock Bottom’, complete with an extended Schenker solo, brought the curtain down on a crowd pleasing set and my high point of the weekend.
Having missed the opening night on the Thursday I was keen to get to Hafan Y Mor, I had yet to sample the new site as my last foray to Wales was for Hammerfest a couple of years ago at the old Prestatyn venue.
The new home, I was glad to find, is a lot more modern and inviting. The layout of the halls is also more user friendly with only a short hop between stage 1 and stage 2 and an open bar in the paved area between the two which was put to good use in the unseasonably warm weather across the weekend.
Simon Dunkerley writes: The last band on stage is The Vintage Caravan who played a few years ago and closed stage 2. These young guys all the way from sunny Iceland are here to give us one final blast of how it should be done, dare I say but another band pushing the 70’s vintage rock mix but – hey – it sounds good.
Touring their debut album Voyage which was thankfully released on gatefold double clear vinyl, none of those silly unreadable CD liners. They put on a great energetic show kicking off with one of the best tracks on the album ‘Craving’ and also included the short but knockout ‘Cocaine Sally’ and ‘Let Me Be’. What a way to end a hugely exciting and interesting weekend of music.
The Hard Rock Hell franchise know how to put on a slick, rocking weekend and HRH 8 was no exception. The team did a great job over the weekend to ensure that all tastes were catered for, there was definitely something for everyone. With plenty of events planned for 2015 I would recommend you plan a trip to North Wales. A similarly sunny weekend is not guaranteed, but a rocking one certainly!
Reporting: David Wilson and Simon Dunkerley
Photos: Simon Dunkerley
In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 10 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.
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Featured Albums w/c 25 May (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 FM Synchronized (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 THE ROCKET DOLLS The Art Of Disconnect (indie)
14:00-16:00 BEN KUNDER Searching For The Stranger (indie)
Power Plays w/c 11 May (Mon-Fri)
THE MERCY KILLS Alone (Golden Robot Records)
DEAD REYNOLDS By Your Side (indie)
THE JAILBIRDS Watery Grave (Golden Robot Records)
ALI MASS & MICKY MOODY These Times (Last Man Music)
MASSIVE WAGONS Bangin In Your Stereo (Earache)
UDO We Are One (AFM Records)
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