Pick Your Rock and Metal

Saturday, April 01, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: Hard Rock Hell United rocks North Wales to the core

WITH unseasonable sunshine greeting those attending Day Two of Hard Rock Hell 2017 it is appropriate to note that while Hammerfest is often the featured title, there is more it than just one set of featured genres of metal.

As well as Hammerfest at the Cove Stage at Hafan Y Mor the Boardwalk sees Stoner, Doom and Thrash bands to enthral and entertain.

However, for fans, reviewers and photographers - even when not beer befuddled - it is impossible to take all acts in. Sure, you can nip from side to side (the stages are only  few short yards apart) but to review the bands properly some acts could not been caught.
Pic by Lizzie Torbitt

Given the smorgasbord of metal talent on show it is hardly a complaint. For the BelfastmetalheadsReunited team it is a privilege to actually be present at Camp HRH and attenord Hard Rock Hell United so we weren't moaning!

With the sun shining we were pleasantly awakened by our neighbours, a collection of Irish, Northern Irish, plus the obligatory Scouser toasting the glorious weather. This was Wales in March - what the hell was going on!

With 20 bands playing in less than 12 hours the first act we took in was the Danish outfit Helhorse - not to be confused with the American band named Hellhorse. The groove was evident from the off as they paraded songs from their three albums to date, including last year's self-titled release.

Mikkel is a commanding and engaging front man, however unlike the bassist and two guitarists he remained full clad throughout...we have no idea why they wore no tops; perhaps it was the weather.

Nevertheless they engaged the early afternoon audience from the off with tracks 'Fortune Favours The Bold', 'My Heaven/Your Hell' and 'And His Name Is Death' stand outs in the 40-minute set.
Pic by Lizzie Torbitt

On the Doom stage amongst the highlights was Gévaudan's set - enough bottom line to shake the innards for the majority of the set.

However, any bands competing against Grand Magus would struggle  as the Nordic warriors were always going to attract many metal loyalists with their tales of heroism set to classic metal music.

The influences of Priest, Rainbow and Purple ooze from the Cove stage, set as if those acts were themselves destined for their own rock Valhalla. For a threesome they always maximise their power and on stage presence, with JB holding all within the grasp of his riffs from his flying 'V'.

'Steel Vs Steel' (with its reference to Blue Oyster Cult) had the crowd rising up even higher as Fox tries to repress his smile as arms and voices are raised up.
Pic by Lizzie Torbitt

Equally' Varangian' and 'Iron Will' provoke an adoring audience response. Grand Magus provide metal excellence.

And, after the Magus came their countrymen Hammerfall with their power metal that rises the temperature even higher in the venue. All the tropes one would expect from such an act are present and correct, but delivered with such sincerity and glee that any thoughts of clichés are thrust aside.

Indeed, there was a certain sense of a celebration in the room from the back to the stage, despite the trials and tribulations of the band's journey to Wales that saw most of the gear and some stage clothe in Amsterdam while motorway delays meant it wasn't long before their allotted time that they began.

Joacim's explanation and cheers, even given the announcement that the set would be shortened by at least one song. With the 'Built To Last' album still fresh for all, Hammerfall chose to reflect live their back catalogue along with more recent releases.
Pic by Lizzie Torbitt

'Blood Bound' has the Cove's roof properly raised, but the closing duo of tracks 'Let The Hammer Fall' and 'Hammer High' has the mass singalong sounding like a crowd of maddened Vikings sating their lust for the fight, and maybe a glorious end across the Rainbow Bridge.

With their aggro grindcore still relevant in the 21st Century Napalm Death are still musically and lyrically current, never diminishing their edge. From their slow-burning opener the crowd's response was frenetic.

By the time the pace quickened the pit was intense, and crowd surfing was rampant...and that is when the gig had to be halted. Someone had fallen. Security stepped in quickly, paramedics were on hand and Barney explained that they would "naff off" for a while to allow treatment.
Pic by Lizzie Torbitt

Thankfully the person concerned seems, at the time of writing, not seriously injured, but the reaction of the band and the staff was measured and appropriate.

After the pause Napalm Death resumed their set, with their familiar intense approach, but the response may have been a little more subdued for a brief time.

As Cancer closed the Hammerfest stage across the way two acts were wrapping things up for the evening under the 'thash' banner. Virus brought irreverent attitude to the table together with a straight, no nonsense sound encapsulating all that is good about like.

An honourable mention, of course, goes to 'The Defective Detective (The Ballad of Inspector Gadget).
Pic by Lizzie Torbitt

Humour was much on the agenda at midnight when Ten Ton Wizard took to the stage for a 40-minute conclusion to Day Two's proceedings. Sure, they have many giggles and laughs in between songs, but it would all be for nowt if they did not have the heavy blues music to back it all up.

They may, at times, seem not to take themselves too seriously but their sound is a well organised aural assault.

Thus we wended our way back to our accommodation...now where were those party animal neighbours for a late night bevvy or two? Asleep! What heresy is this!

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Lizzie Torbitt

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