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Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Hammerfest 2014

Hammerfest Hafan-Y-Mor Park North Wales

So once again the metal hordes descend upon North Wales for 3 nights of debauchery in a holiday park. This time it's the Haven in Hafan-Y-Mor Park that hosted the event and on side note it is a much better place to stay than the previous place in Prestatyn. Both stages were across from each other so seeing the bands was easy and the stages were a short walk from the chalets. So onto the important stuff:

Day 1 Thursday
Thursday was fuelled by cider and Sambuca so it was a bit of a blur however we did see some great bands that day.


First were traditional metallers Fury who's NWOBHM styled metal was well delivered and got the miniscule crowd there really getting into it, Fury were struggling with the early first day slot as many had either not checked in or were happy to stay in the accommodation for the set which is a shame because with songs such as Warrior's Prayer the band are really very good live. Still for those of us that ventured into the arena we were rewarded with some good quality metal. 7/10

Back then for a bit more drinking and then once more into the breach:

Death Valley Knights

Bit of an odd one this part hard rock, part European metal and lots of fun this leather clad troupe led the crowd through some boozy rock n roll that was the perfect start to the party. I didn't see much of the set but I would see them again based on what I saw the music was good the vocals were excellent and the atmosphere they create was intoxicating (in both senses). 7/10

Savage Messiah

So one more try for Savage Messiah a band that I have seen three times and three times I've been left unimpressed. This time they were touring their most recent album The Fateful Dark which is quite actually quite good. Live they were tight, full of thrash riffs, melodic solos and the voice of Dave Silver. The band have moved away from their total thrash roots on the album and this has translated to the live arena as they focussed more on their later stuff which means that they now sound a bit more like BFMV than say Testament. Still the crowd seemed to enjoy it and as I said the band performed excellently, they were the best I've ever seen them. 8/10

Day 2 Friday

So the second day and a late start heading into the main arena at 3 and going straight to main stage.


A band that Paul saw at Bloodstock last year this was my first viewing of Shrapnel and bugger me they are good, super-fast, and super heavy and a wee bit scary. All wind milling hair, super speed guitar riffs from Nathan Sadd and Chris Martin, blast beats from Simon Jackson and the aggressive vocals of Jae Hadley. The riffs came thick and fast with all of the songs coming from their debut album (review pending) and in the live arena they really explode into life causing some early pits. With tracks like the Virus Conspires, Braindead, 22 and Titan the Norwich band had the crowd hanging on every lightning fast riff. A great surprise came near the end of the set when the band welcomed Metal Hammer writer (and member of Oaf) on stage for a rendition of Slayer's War Ensemble on which Lawson really let rip vocally (albeit the lyric sheet was needed, possibly due to alcohol ingestion) as Lawson left the stage the band finished the set with their own warhead which ended things as brutally as they had begun. Great way to start the day! 8/10

I missed Attica Rage but from what I heard they played their brand of heavy Motorhead-like rock to an enthusiastic crowd, Attica Rage are always guaranteed a warm welcome due to their position as the HRH/Hammerfest house band and their awesome live reputation. Still next up were:


Now I know nothing about Paragon except that they are power metal band from Germany. Well as soon as they came on stage all leather and metal a huge smile came across my face from the opening of The Legacy this was Teutonic Metal at its best with Helloween and Accept thoroughly copied, still imitation is the best form of flattery. Although if I had to make a comparison I'd say they were a Germanic Saxon. In a whiz of metallic riffage, choreographed stage moves, strong, Biff Byford-like vocals and songs about war, death, fantasy and all the usual nonsense, Paragon managed to win the hearts of the crowd there. This was silly metal that had no real purpose other than to entertain, much like Freedom Call or Bloodbound I found the cheesiness of it all to be quite endearing, here is a band doing what they love an on tracks like frankly mental Tornado and the totally silly Impaler before Thunderstorm finished everything swimmingly (weather obsession maybe?). I would see Paragon again in heartbeat it was the perfect early evening fodder in readiness of what was to come. I knew nothing about Paragon before but now I think I need to hear what their back catalogue is like!! 8/10

A break a beer and back into the arena for what I knew was going to be a good one.

Grand Magus

It was this show that changed my view of Grand Magus forever. In my estimation they went for being a good metal band to a truly great one. With the pre-show track of Manowar's Hail To England (we were in wales but close enough I guess) ringing out and the Signs Of The Hammer were out in force and as the intro music hit a roar came from the largest crowd assembled all day. The three men strolled on and immediately burst into the killer riffage of Kingslayer and then followed it up with Sword Of The Ocean and I, The Jury which incited the first sing along of the set. what I love about Grand Magus is that they are not only great musicians they are also massively heavy live and also very humble each member having a beaming smile on their face throughout, as JB riffed like mad and sang his heart out, Fox provided the power on bass and Ludwig smashed the hell out of his kit! The band went into the massive epic shout along Raven's Guide Our Way and then sped things up with the little played The Shadow Knows, before playing three from their latest album including the epic title track before the final two songs came in the shape of the doomy Iron Will and the heavy as hell Hammer Of The North with its 'woah' refrain ringing out throughout the arena. I've never seen a band that are able to make so many metalheads ecstatically happy, much like Manowar Magus are rapidly becoming a cult band in the UK as their popularity here outstrips their popularity anywhere else. Fast, furious and suitably epic. Magus stole the show!! 10/10

A well needed rest after Magus had shredded my throat, I caught only the beginning of Soilwork but if I'm honest they do nothing for me at all so I went back to get some more fluid and food before the headliners Overkill


New Jersey thrash mob Overkill have been doing this stuff since the 80's and were there from the beginning, never one of the Big 4 but one of the peripheral bands like Testament, Annihilator, Exodus, Forbidden and Death Angel that were possibly as good if not better than their more popular compatriots. From the outset of Come And Get It Overkill grabbed my attention with the awesome rhythm guitars Derek 'The Skull' Tailer making things fast and loud aided by Ron Lipnicki's furious drums, D.D Verni's galloping bass and the lead harmonies of Dave Linsk. Through Wrecking Crew and Electric Rattlesnake the band showed their mettle moving from thrash to straight up classic metal. However the major talking point for me was frontman Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth who has more energy than any frontman outside of Bruce Dickinson. He ran back and for the stage and was totally animated throughout the set, he is also a very funny guy putting on this hard man aura in all the between song banter. The songs spoke for themselves with Rotten To The Core, Ironbound, Hello From The Gutter and Necroshine all awesome songs that got the crowd moving although no track did this more than the Headbanger's Ball favourite Elimination (EEElimnination) which ended the main set before the encore consisted of Horrorscope and their awesome cover of Fuck You! by The Subhumans. This was a triumphant set that I loved as I always thought Overkill were straight up thrash but they mix lots of traditional metal in as well to vary things a bit. A great set from a band I would definitely see again! 9/10

So the first day was over and done with and even though I really wanted to see The Vintage Caravan a 2:30 finish time is not really something wanted so they will have to wait till another time. So off to bed for the last day.

Day 3 Saturday

Saturday came along quickly but again I started late (I'm not good at this early lark am I?) going in for Sound Storm

Sound Storm

So apparently Sound Storm are melodic/symphonic power metal band from Italy. I was interested as they only seemed to bring about 20 people to the main arena so I gave them a chance. So the band came on, guitar, bass, keys, drums and singer all the components and then it struck me why so few people saw them. They are dreadful, the music was very basic, the vocals were awful and the presence was terrible. I saw 1 and half songs and that was enough. I try not to be negative but there is no hope for Sound Storm. 0/10

Breed 77

Thankfully Breed 77 were next and they are at least better than Sound Storm, after a period of turmoil the band are on their Cultura 10th anniversary tour and they played a few choice cuts from that record but the set was much like the last time I saw them. The band drew mainly from their last 2 records and Cultura and mixed their Latin flavoured guitars with chunky metalcore. Paul Isola is a good frontman, his voice is not what it once was but it was his between song banter that got me. He went on little rant about how they've never been cool and that magazines like Kerrang or Metal Hammer never supported them, obviously not realising that it's called Hammerfest for a reason!! Still with a glut of big songs and a lot of energy the band made the hour they had go by quickly and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. Although the same strikes me now as it does on previous occasions, Breed 77 are band that do things by their own rules, sometimes to their own detriment. 7/10


The pace and the joy picked up a bit with Power metal loons Gloryhammer. Founded by Alestorm's Chris Bowes the band are the furthest away from pirates you can get, the band tell the tale of the mythical kingdom of Fife and when a set kicks off with all of the band in medieval style dress (Bowes is usually the evil wizard but forgot the costume so was instead a goblin) singing a song entitled...wait for it... The Unicorn Invasion Of Dundee. Madness then ensued with the band running through their debut telling the story of Angus McFife (epic lunged frontman Thomas Winkler) and his band of men as they fight the wizard. With tracks like the awesome Magic Dragon, Hail To Crail, Quest For The Hammer Of Glory and the 10 minute plus The Epic Rage Of Furious Thunder. This was like Evil Scarecrow meets Dragonforce with a bit of Manowar thrown in for good muscle. The band were excellent guitarist Paul Templing and Bowes played off each other brilliantly and Winkler's voice is truly something else he sounds just like he does on the record which is a feat for anyone. Gloryhammer again brought huge smiles all round and left everyone with a bit of euphoria much like Bowes rum drinking other band does. 8/10

I missed Monster Truck to see them in a more intimate (and sweaty) venue the following night so it was a gap to pack and then back into the arena for German Thrash Metal


With a bigger stage set up than Overkill, one would think where the money was spent. German thrash veterans Kreator had their Phantom Antichrist set up out and with the intro of Mars Mantra the band stormed on stage and plunged straight into the relentless battery of riffage with Phantom Antichrist, From Flood Into Fire, Warcurse and Coma Of Souls/Endless Pain. The band have a no nonsense reputation and for the first part of the set there was little crowd interaction just bludgeoning with riff after riff from founder Mille Petrozza and Sami Yli-Sirnio. The band's style has always leant to the harder edged thrash style of Slayer and was one of the sounds instrumental to the early death metal bands. Pleasure To Kill and Hordes of Chaos came next with circle pits erupting everywhere, Petrozza only taking breaks to incite pits and walls of death during the tracks. The first half ended with Enemy Of God and Phobia the lights stayed off and the band walked off stage. This did stick in the throat a little as it seemed like they were going to finish very early but no back they came guitars in hand as J├╝rgen Reil put himself back behind his drums ready to abuse them again. The pits really started to get brutal now with Violent Revolution, United In Hate, People Of The Lie and Civilization Collapse making up this end again all delivered with laser like precision. However it all fell apart at the end as they came out yet again this time with Mille waving the flag of hate and after two false intros (which referenced Michael Jackson and Judas Priest) they finally played their most well-known song before finishing with Tormentor. For a band that doesn't say much this last part went on a bit too long and killed some of the momentum, they do what they do excellently, my only criticism is that it can all be a little too much, there is no variation it's like being beaten up (although not as much as those in the pit!) Still it was one of the highlights of the weekend and closed things with a bang! 9/10

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