Gig review: HAMMERFEST – Pwllheli, Wales, 13-15 March 2014

HAMMERFEST - Pwllheli, Wales, 13-15 March 2014

It’s been a long cold wet winter but now is the time for the Hammer Horde to rise up and make their way to the first of the HRH festivals of the year, Hammerfest VI Book Of The Dead.

Now well established in its new home of Hafan Y Mor and like previous years sold out well before the event, in fact tickets for the event next year went on sale before this year’s event and by the end of the festival all of the royalty and VIP tickets were sold out.

The site itself is quite large and well laid out and the two stages whilst both totally different are great for the band and the audience, sound and lighting is great for both also.

Stage 1 being on multi levels allows for easy viewing for those that want it and a large area in front of the stage for moshing of which there is plenty over the weekend.

Stage 2 whilst smaller usually has some of the best acts over the weekend so must not be dismissed, also linked to this stage is the metal market.

Skam! - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 13 March 2014

Thursday 13 March

Thursday night as ever is party night and it’s where the weekend starts for the DC, VIP and
Royalty ticket holders. There are many in fancy dress, some more fancy than others and some downright bad, but all having fun.

All the bands tonight are on stage 2 and the action starts with Leicester based rockers Skam!, a 3 piece hard rock band that play pure no-frills hard rock.

They have toured and played around the country and are set to go up a few levels this year after recent media attention and signing to Off Yer Rocka Recordings. Musically and visually they put on a great show with huge riffage from Steve on guitar, gut churning bass and every facial expression he can muster from Matt, and drummer Ray all over his kit.

They deliver a tight and hard set with a number of tracks off their new album ‘Peacemaker’ due out soon which all go down well with the crowd.

Heavy Metal/Thrashers Fury seemed to be having as much of a good time as the crowd and a great version of Drunken Sailor unsurprisingly got the rather drunk crowd singing along.

Defy All Reasons - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 13 March 2014

Keeping it local-ish HRH Highway To Hell winners Defy All Reasons have been around for three or so years now honing their sound and released their debut EP last year.

In a short but sweet set we hear their heavier side with ‘Shake it’ and ‘Blame It On The Lick and Rock N Roll’ with big riffs and meaty rhythms topped with gruff yet clear vocals to their more melodic side with ‘Coming Home’.

I felt they didn’t really have to cover Bon Jovi’s ‘Dead or Alive’ as their own songs are strong enough to stand up on their own.   They are currently working on their debut album and played one of their new tracks ‘Nasty Dream’ which went down very well.

Anihilated - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 13 March 2014

Thrash Metal was formed way back in the days when the brashness and disfunctionality of punk spawned with heavy metal. Anihilated were amongst the pioneers and having reformed back in 2010 and with two original members remaining (Si Cobb, Bass Vocals and Bod, Drums) are back playing and releasing new material.

The set tonight comes entirely from the two more recent albums, ‘Scorched Earth Policy’ and ‘Deviant’ and kicks off with ‘Death To The Deviant’ and straight away thrash lives on.  ‘We Are Legion’ gets the crowd singing back with as much energy as the band.  An awesome set and one of my highlights of the weekend.

Death Valley Knights are four heavy metal madmen hailing from London.  Clad in badged cut-off’s they look the part and with the huge riffs and lead breaks they certainly sound the part. Unsurprisingly ‘Shut Up And Drink’ went down very well with the crowd as did an excellent cover of  ‘Balls To The Wall’.

Unfortunately I only caught two tracks of Savage Messiah a hard hitting four-piece from London.  This was the first time I had seen them with their new bass player Mira Slama and, yet again, two songs sounded convincing.

After a great night of music and copious amounts of alcohol the raucous crowd awaited the final band of the night the Bee Gees Tribute Tragedy. Definitely tongue in cheek but highly entertaining.

Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 13-15 March 2014

Friday 14 March

Oft-overlooked Belfast thrash metallers Sinocence opened the day’s music and finished with ‘Metalbox’  a hard hitting track that really shows them off .

The Bastard Sons ended up doing two sets as one of the later bands didn’t turn up, they played in-yer-face hard and heavy blues rock with ear-tearing vocals from JJ and with stomping grooves they showcased material from their EP ‘Roads’.

A quick run over to the acoustic stage to catch festival stalwarts Attica Rage who were also appearing on the main stage later in the day. They played a great set of mainly covers which included ‘Wishing Well’ and ‘Crazy Horses’ a song we’d suggested to them the day before and that went down well withn the slowly-assembling crowd.

To The Bones, a four-piece from Bolton played an energetic stoner/metal set – gruff dirty vocals, gutsy bass and riffs – unfortunately again not witnessed by too many people.

Stage 1 finally kicked off with Shrapnel, self-proclaimed carriers of the thrash/speed metal flame and kicking off with ‘Kingdom Come’ from their new album ‘The Virus Conspiracies’.  They have the ability to stand up with the big boys and indeed a cover of Slayer’s ‘War Ensemble’ certainly hits the spot.  Definitely another weekend highlight.

Over on stage 2 Collisions mix DnB, thrash and metal which – combined with the exuberant delivery of vocalist Olly – hit the spot.

Attica Rage - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 13 March 2014

Attica Rage over on stage 1 were yet again delivering a hard and heavy set that was this time being recorded for their upcoming live DVD.

I’ve seen them on numerous occasions now and they never fail to satisfy, the interaction between the band onstage keeps the sound tight and precise whilst the banter from Jonny with the crowd all makes for a great time.  Yet another great show by these old school rockers.

Enthroned - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 14 March 2014

Finally the living dead started to emerge from their caravans and the arenas started to fill up, Enthroned  managed to liven them up as they hit stage 1: black metallers, whitened faces, and heavy riffs.

Grand Magus - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 14 March 2014

Grand Magus hailing from Sweden were powerful, brutal and stoner all rolled into one tight punchy package and currently touring their latest album ‘Triumph and Power’ from which they played a couple of tracks.  Their set was largely based around previous albums and singer JB finally energised the crowd.  Perhaps my favourite set of the weekend.

Soilwork  were another of the big bands of the weekend and another from the Nuclear Blast label they powered through a storming set which left the crowd suitably charged and waiting for tonight’s headliners.

Overkill - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 14 March 2014

Overkill who somehow managed to take forever to come on stage guided us through their back catalogue but a few from the soon to be released album ‘White Devil Armory’ wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Original members Blitz (vocals) and DD Vernie(bass) used every inch of the stage as they tore through ‘Come And Get It’, ‘Wrecking Crew’ and ‘Electric Rattlesnake’; it hardly goes unnoticed that Blitz takes a large number of breaks between and during the songs.

They end their set with ‘Elimination’ and then come out to a well-shouted-for encore of ‘Horrorscope’ and finally finishing with a great version of the ‘Subhumans – F..K You’ a quality set by a quality band who certainly did their headline slot credit.

Vintage Caravan - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 14 March 2014

Relative newcomers Vintage Caravan had to follow Feed The Rhino‘s energetic hardcore set which had frontman Lee Tobim spending most of his time off the stage.  These young Icelandic rockers powered through a great set based mainly around their new album ‘Voyage’ and with 70′s influenced tracks like ‘Expand Your Mind’ and ‘Do You Remember’.   Another of my favourite sets.

Saturday 15 March

The sun is shining and we were ready for the final chapter of the “Book Of The Dead”, perhaps describing more the punters’ demeanour after three heavily-fuelled nights.

Oaf describe their music as hardcore prog amongst other things.  James (drums) is suitable attired in a swanky three-piece suit whilst Dom (vocals,bass) looks like he woke up 10 minutes ago after passing out in a drunken stupor. I am sure some in the crowd could identify with this.  Definitely a great way to start the day and a great crowd.

Derision are northern metallers who with vocalist Tony rip out a great hard n heavy thrash metal set certainly good enough for main stage whilst Greece-based Maplerun were an absolute joy to watch and – with a great variety of influences – listen to.

Huron - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 15 March 2014

On stage 1 Glaswegians Afterlife included their great single ‘Energy’ which shows off the searing vocals and driving rhythm section whilst Huron from the deep south, Plymouth that is, impressed with their heavier metal groove. A great cover of Testament’s ‘Into The Pit’ went down well as did the free T-shirts.

Over on stage 2 Sound Storm mixed metal and theatrics to showcase their 2012 album ‘Immortalia’.

Monster Truck - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 15 March 2014

One of the most talked about bands of the weekend was Monster Truck.  The band’s relatively short lifespan belies the buzz around them.  But songs like ‘The Lion’, ‘Undercover Love’ and ‘Sweet Mountain River’ recall the music you grew up with – but a modern edge to it and its roots firmly in the days where flares were the cool jeans to wear and denim blue was the only colour to be seen in.

Unleashed - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 15 March 2014

After a few songs from Unleashed you had to check that there wasn’t a Viking longboat tied up outside.  The Swedish death metallers sing about Viking folklore but with tight-as-hell musicianship.

A set that spanned all their albums, they gave us ‘Blood Of Lies’, ‘Don’t Want To Be Reborn’ and ‘Death Metal Victory’ which it must have been for one over-moshed fan who hollered -  ‘They’re f—-n mental mate’ – before disappearing back into the pit.

God Damm were a late replacement on stage 2  a two-piece who produce raw stripped down rock/stoner/metal and, for me, another highlight.

CoC - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 15 March 2014

C.O.C are one of those bands that don’t tour often but when they do tickets disappear. The last time I saw them was over 10 or so years ago and they blew me away then.

Currently touring as a three-piece consisting of founding members bassist/vocalist Mike Dean, drummer/vocalist Reed Mullin and guitarist Woody Weathermanas and from all accounts they are back to their best.

With a large percentage of the set coming from the last album ‘Corrosion of Conformity’ – which finally sees the band producing music to match the early albums again but with a slightly southern edge.

Kicking off with ‘The Moneychangers’ and ‘On Your Way’, it is instantly evident that it may be over 30 years since they first started out but they put in a performance second to none.  ‘Deliverance’ drew a huge roar from the crowd but not including ‘Albatross’ is a bit of a mystery.

Finishing off the main set with the eloquently named ‘Priest Brains’ leaves time for a quick breather before an encore of  ‘Technocracy’, although I would have liked to hear a few more tracks.  Overall another awesome set and worth the 10+ year wait since the last time I saw them.

Kreator - Hammerfest, Pwllheli, Wales, 15 March 2014

As we approach headliners Kreator the room is totally full and the floor area packed.  When the band emerge and kick straight into ‘Phantom Antichrist’ there is no holding them back; crowd surfers atop and security working like mad as the set rolls on through ‘Warcurse’ and ‘Coma of Souls’.

With vocal duties split between the two original members Miland (guitar) and Jurgen (drums) and solidly backed by the two axemen Christian (bass) and Sami (guitar) we witnessed an immense set of classic thrash at its best.  The circle-pit expanded like the beer-filled girth of many of the punters over the weekend.

As we reflected on a wonderful weekend of metal it was evident that stage 2 was the best stage overall as there were so many really excellent bands and new bands making for a very interesting festival.

However, sadly, there was definitely a noticeable lack of punters willing to come out and support the early bands meaning they were playing awesome sets to only a handful of people.

I’m not sure if numbers were down this year or whether people were just staying in their caravans and partying before coming out later in the day/evening and if this is the case then all I can say to them is: Sod the private parties and get out there and support the bands!

Review and photos by Simon Dunkerley

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