Pick Your Rock and Metal

Thursday, March 30, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: Hammerfest 2017 kicked off in a Saintly fashion after a mad dash...

"OVER land and sea and foam..." may be the words from "Show Me To The Way To Go Home" and to some when it comes to Hard Rock Hell it seems that the journey to Camp HRH in Pwllheli is a trip that is coming home to a family of friends.  And, worth it all.

And, when it comes to Hard Rock Hell United for many metalheads, party animals and bearded, long-haired types it is travelling with purpose - the purpose being to rock out, and rock out harder and heavier than most...

A train, a bus, a flight, hire a car and a mad drive through road works, the mountains and valleys of Wales saw our team arrive with minutes to spare before our first interview with the relaxed Gonzo of Armored Saint who was extremely chilled out as sweat and adrenaline coursed through our veins...He even helped out setting up the gear!
Pic By Lizzie Torbitt

Interview done, Thursday at Hammerfest is held on one stage only and it is a time to kick back for many (reviewers included...) and chug a few beverages [Editor's note: even though it was the editor this is not approved!].

It being an HRH event, the headliners on Thursday are always a little special. Hammerfest 2017 was no different.

But the tone of the weekend was perhaps set by the first two acts to mount the stage. The delightfully named Sodomized Cadaver brought their Welsh brand of death metal to warmup/terrify the faint-hearted.

Truth be told many might find their take on brutal lyrical themes a little hard to swallow, but their energetic approach many made the effort to be there for Sodomized Cadaver's efforts as their set progressed.
Pic By Lizzie Torbitt

Despite being full-on heavy there is no mistaking the grins from RSJ and the audience. They may have been unfairly labelled metalcore at time they have heft and might to their appearance on the Hammerfest stage.

No strangers to HRH stages the band batter their 30-minutes - straightforward, no nonsense, heavy and extremely pleasurable.

Technical metal maestros Bloodshot Dawn fill the arena with fills that leave many in awe at the runs: death tech with melodies in every section of searing power.

Featuring many tracks from the 'Demons' album the hour-long set from the south coast crew proved that even when the heaviest comes to the Cove in Hafan Y Mor holiday camp a band can outdo expectations and entertain just through their prowess.
Pic By Lizzie Torbitt

The controversy stoked over Venom Inc through the keyboards of those who weren't born when Mantas and Abaddon first picked up their instruments in the Geordie blackened band. If there were any keyboard warriors at Camp HRH they were not in evidence.

Instead the crowd welcomed the band with open arms, horns aloft and even the occasional outbreak of headbanging...We walked through the 'Seven Gates Of Hell' and sated our 'Bloodlust' after we pledged 'In Nomine Satanas'.

To put it clearly this was a conjuration of the spirit of the mid-80s, when there was a minimum of fucks given in the pursuit of metal excellence.

With the witching hour past but a few minutes the beaming faces of Joey Vera, John Bush and mounted the stage at the Cove venue with the California thrashers kicking out any beer-addled confusion. 'Win Hands Down'? They did from the off, a genuine sense of a band enjoying their time back in the limelight.
Pic By Lizzie Torbitt

Coming just two days after a show on the other side of the Irish Sea in Belfast there is no evidence of weariness, and by the second track 'March of the Saint' the band were feeding off the energy of the band and vice versa.

Whether it was songs from their most recent two releases, or older material here was a clarity of the sense of purpose behind Armored Saint. No way are they on the 'Last Train Home', reaching younger audience members and those that reach back to when the Saints were proving that thrash wasn't one dimensional.

This was a balanced set, and by the time they left the stage well after 1pm there was no doubt that the appetite for more and more Armored Saint new material, as well as their latest live release 'Carpe Noctrum'.

There is no doubt that Armored Saint deserve every accolade heaped upon them on this relatively short UK and Irish visit.
Pic By Lizzie Torbitt

And, such accolades are also to be heaped upon Hard Rock Hell - how did the HRH team manage to organise such good weather!

While it was mild on day one, by Saturday temperatures were nudging 20c. In March! What alchemy was this?

Over the entire weekend some of the coolest places were in the venues before night fell.

Throughout, however, what was clear as always was the organisation behind getting 6,500 people in one place aimed at having metal fun. And, they all did have heavy metal fun.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by LIzzie Torbitt

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