After the high of Saturday there was a more subdued feeling around the smaller arena as the early unplugged sessions got underway with CADENCE NOIR and DEVILFIRE. A little thin on the ground at this early hour, the previous long day had obviously taken its toll on many revellers.
The first band I caught was BOOTYARD BANDITS who for this gig had Brad from Massive singing and playing with them and you know what? It was brilliant. A band full of energy and having the dynamic frontman endlessly stalking around the small stage just added to that. Describing themselves as country rock from wild west Worcester, you get the idea of what these guys are all about. They are fun but also great musicians with great songs. A good wake up for many.
Heading over for the opening band of the day on the main stage CHEMIA. Not a band I had heard of before so as always, I was looking forward to seeing something new.
Another change of layout for the VIP area today. Now there was a proper crush barrier hugging the front of the stage and all around the small jutting runway again no safety / photographers pit so it was going to be another day for us photographers of pick a spot somewhere near the barrier where you could see the stage and just stay there. Some seats remained in the VIP area before the main crowd barrier but we were told that these would all be removed for the headline bands. At least I’d be in the thick of it so to speak.
Back to CHEMIA which means chemistry, the Polish band know how to rock! – high energy guitars, stonkingly good beats and a vocal to banish everything out of your brain other than Luke’s voice itself. Currently supporting Michael Monroe on tour, you can see why and with a new single, ‘Modern Times’ released they are a band to watch.
Australia seems to able to produce some really good hard rock bands and I’m very pleased to say they have done so again with ABLAZE. Danny Slaviero is dynamic, likable and can hold a note but this band isn’t so much about the vocal but more about the band. Floods of riffs from lead guitarist Ben Anderson who throws himself into them with abandon equally matched by Matt Dynon on rhythm.
I really liked the sound of ‘Just A Taste’ their new single. Catchy hooks and licks a plenty! The music may be serious but the band really aren’t clearly enjoying themselves and even sharing a bottle of something alcoholic on stage ceremoniously. Not sure how they were standing let alone playing. Their debut album ‘No Chaser’ is out now and the band are currently touring – definitely worth catching live.
How do you pack out a room mid-afternoon? By having HAND OF DIMES play that’s how.
I’m glad I had my spot – I was now hemmed in barely able to lift my camera up as my ears were filled with the marvellous tones of Nev MacDonald’s voice. Just wow! From the off the level of professionalism and experience in the stage ricocheted off the chart.
The band’s debut album ‘Raise’ was released a couple of years ago and each song on it is pure brilliance and hearing the songs again today is just a treat. The funky grooving bass lines from Mark Maybry and the guitars from both Nev himself and Colin Edwards are working together in harmony whilst the keyboards and harmonica from Neil Garland pack out the music with everything that’s good and David Stephenson plays out the tempo with serious blues swagger.
But it’s Nev’s voice… the guy next to me turned to me and just said ‘Wow’, the look on his face said “oh my fucking good God” as Jacob’s Ladder and the big long note towards the end which Nev revisited twice, just so that everyone got it, blew everyone’s socks off. This is a blues rock band, this is a band who entertain and delight every time I see them, a masterclass from the maestros for all the young pretenders at HRH. A new album in the pipeline – please not too long before you hit the road again guys, I need my HOD fix again.
The atmosphere after that set was amazing. People all talking to each other about what they had just seen and heard, a palpable buzz in the room which was killed in the first 5 minutes of ZODIAC MINDWARP’s set.
Oh dear. My mum always said that if you can’t say anything nice then you shouldn’t say anything at all, so with this in mind, perhaps I should just leave this part of my review here but feel as though a few words are apt.
The band have had a great career and are icons of their era but that is now firmly in the past. Z himself, now a stumbling, bumbling singer who was either very unwell or has major issues, and a guitarist, Cobalt Stargazer, trying his hardest to keep everything together but struggling to get Z to function.
A drummer, Rob Vom and bassist named ‘The Beast’ who looked like they didn’t particularly want to be there but did give a performance at least. Oh, ok I’ll stop. Remember the good times for this band, the classic songs of a generation, I’ll erase this gig from my memory bank.
One band who are still at the top of their game releasing a new album ‘The Coffin Trian’ earlier this year are DIAMOND HEAD. They ripped the stage apart at Stonedeaf festival this summer and I knew they would be just what was needed to get the levels of enjoyment back up to where Hand of Dimes had left them.
Brian Tatler is a guitar god, a master of the fretboard and strings, a demon of the riffs and that is exactly who we got today. The room had now packed out again after the mass exodus that had taken place during the previous set. Fists in the air, everyone was singing along with Rasmus who blew away the smoke with his energy and stage presence.
The band have been going since 1976 and Karl Wilcox behind the kit tapping the tubs since 1991 so the cohesiveness is evident from the off, Abbz and Dean also having been in the band for quite a few years between them and the voice of Rasmus now so familiar, as he has been in situ for about 5 years now, they feel established as a line-up.
Diamond Head will always be one of those bands that should have been huge worldwide and I never worked out why they weren’t with many bands including rather famously Metallica siting them as one of their major influences, and now today, here in this room in Great Yarmouth they are Kings, Masters of Metal, getting the accolade and appreciation they deserve.
A flood of metal, masses of melodies, bucket loads of riffs and licks. When they played ‘Am I Evil?” I thought the walls would cave in under the volume of singing. A fabulous set of old songs and new and all sitting alongside each other perfectly. Diamond Head have their sound and it’s a rather good one.
From Kings of Metal, to the Queen of Metal DORO. This pint size pocket rocket of talent hit the stage at 100 miles per hour and didn’t stop. I had not seen Doro before but after hearing about how good she was incessantly from the minute I arrived at HRH on Wednesday, I was hoping she would live up to expectations and she did. And more.
The crowd were with her from even before the first note, she waved from side stage as she waited to go on and the crowd roared. The electricity in the air resulted in a push forward and more people packing themselves in tight.
A room full of happy faces sang every word with the Queen of Metal or to the Queen of Metal as she turned the mic to the crowd constantly encouraging participation and enjoyment. Her band were equally up to the task, flamboyant guitarists Bas Maas and Luca Princiotta provide the metal edged snarling guitars as Nick Douglas delivers equally on bass. Johnny Dee pounds out the pace relentlessly but the star is absolutely Doro herself.
She has a presence on stage that I haven’t seen for a long time, getting the best out of her band but also the crowd. Playing songs from throughout her career and telling the stories behind them, a stand-out was a stripped down version of ‘Breaking The Law’ which as it evolved got its teeth out and this is why Doro is the Queen of Metal. A title well deserved.
It felt like she had been on stage for 10 minutes but as the set finished Johnny Davis from HRH joined Doro on stage to award her ‘Angel of Rock’ an award voted for by HRH which Doro had over 77% of the vote. I was now not amazed by the number of votes she got – who else has the career and the songs!
I was now so tightly hemmed in I could barely breath as the legend which is MICHAEL MONROE flounced onto the stage to ‘One Man Gang’, all hair, eyeliner, glowstick in hand as he cavorted around all the time never missing a note, dropping into the splits, climbing up onto the barrier at the end of the runway conducting the crowd, this was incredible. ‘Last Train To Tokyo’ quickly followed by ’Junk Planet’, the guy is like the energiser bunny, doesn’t stop, doesn’t slow down, this is fast and furious but as equally engaging as the previous performance from Doro.
Everyone in the room is enjoying themselves but I am massively jostled away from near the barrier and the lack of air in the crush saw not just me heading for the door but quite a few others too. Nothing to be taken away from Mike Monroe, he is awesome and a must see on his current tour.
So many bands I had missed today on the second stage but I felt lucky that I could duck out to see Wolf Jaw close things on the second stage and also the festival itself.
Wolf Jaw are one of the best bands to have come out of the midlands for a considerable time, they are shoulders above many in their genre and this is not just the songs it’s the voice. Tom Leighton has a distinctive voice, sometimes edgy and hard, sometimes flooded with blues tones but it’s the mix of it all and the aggression, anger, angst and emotion that cuts through to your soul when he sings.
Pair that with Dale Tonks on bass and Karl Selickis on drums and these three guys should like a 6 piece rock band. I love classic rock, I love the sound of twin guitars, bass, drums, keys but somehow these 3 guys give such a flooded-out sound I love it.
The room was packed out – people stood in the doorway trying to see, Wolf Jaw need a spot on the main stage, they owned that room, their music overtook that coming from the bleed in from the main stage, all you could hear was Wolf Jaw.
Playing songs from debut album, ‘Starting Gun’ and some new tracks from their very recently released second album ‘The Heart Won’t Listen’ including ‘Piece of Me’ you could not fail but be impressed by them. Throw in a quick Sabbath cover with lead vocals from Dale and everyone including those seeing them for the first time were won over. A band with a huge future.
HRH have delivered another great festival of music, the variety of the bands was just brilliant. The venue itself was good, the security guys lovely and all my fellow media folks fabulous, just requires a few tweaks to make this new home for the festival even better and the future of live music and friendship within the Rock music fan community is well and truly in safe hands.
Review and photos by Lindsay Smith
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
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