Hard Rock Hell United, Hafan Y Môr , Pwllheli
As the rain lashed down on the North Wales coastline, the first party of the Musipedia crew arrived at the holiday camp which would be the base for a weekend of metal and partying. The second platoon arrived shortly afterwards with the final division joining later that evening.
For the uninitiated, Hafan Y Môr is a holiday complex which sprawls over a large acreage and comprises a mix of chalets and static caravans of varying sizes. We were allocated two very comfortable chalets at the South of the complex, which suited our needs very well.
This year, the gods of metal had chosen to cross the streams. Hammerfest, now in its seventh incarnation, contained the majority of the heavier stuff, such as Winterfylleth and Raging Speedhorn. The acts for this section of the weekend were confined to the Bonga Wonga Beach Club, located at the rear of the onsite pub, The Mash And Barrel. Meanwhile, the much larger Cove venue played host to the plethora of AOR acts who were booked for HRH AOR; FM, H.E.A.T and impressively Night Ranger amongst the cohort. The smallest stage, the Boardwalk saw the smaller doom, sleaze and thrash acts. During the weekend we had substantial debate about the reasons for merging the Hammerfest and AOR events; we don’t know the reasons for definite but speculated that sales for a rather weak Hammerfest line up (in comparison with recent years) had forced the organisers to pool their resources. Obviously the pay cheque for bands such as Night Ranger would have been reasonably high.
As usual, we got onto the serious job of drinking as soon as we arrived and by the time we headed to the Boardwalk the crew were already very relaxed and ready to party. Pig Iron (7) were not the first band to hit the stage but were afforded the honour of our initial view. Very good they were too, with a sound akin to The Answer and Trucker Diablo, solid Southern hard rock with a UK twist. Vocalist Johnny Ogle commanded the front of the stage with the confidence of a man who had done this many times before, playing a mean harmonica too whilst the stomp was provided by guitarist Dan Edwards. A range of tracks from old and new got the early evening crowd in good spirits and their rock crossed over the genres and raised a smile all around. A quick dash to Bonga Wonga was well worth it as neoclassical pirate metallers Redrum seen by some of the crew supporting Alestorm recently kicked up a right good storm. Redrum (8) have a pretty damn fine approach, party metal with a smile. The crowd, by now all suitably lubricated, responded fully with some mighty jigging and head banging. The Nottingham outfit blasted through 45 minutes of great fun, with vocalist Dave Everitt and guitarist Sam Wood (with bouzouki at one point) the main focal points. (Possible bonus point for a cover of Taking The Hobbits To Isengard - Ed) Good stuff.
Unfortunately, the evening ended on a bit of a musical downer as British NWOBHM outfit Blitzkrieg (4) served up a quite horrible set which really proved the adage that sometimes you really should let sleeping dogs lie. Blitzkrieg were just rubbish I'm afraid, with original (and Satan) vocalist Brian Ross particularly uninspiring. Suffice to say our party voted with our feet and retired to a game of beer pong with our last group of weary travellers.
The victors at beer pong emerged blinking into the midday light (well the true victor was still out for the count most of the day - Ed) with some quite filthy hangovers on Friday morning. The combination of Coors light, Guinness and gin rightly showing no remorse (how anyone drinks Coors is beyond me). The positive on day 2 was that there was little to attract us until 4pm when Winterfylleth were on. After some restorative brunch, the crew saddled up and headed to Bonga Wonga to see the best UK black metal outfit around at the moment, Winterfylleth (8). With a complex and technical approach to their compositions, a decent sound is essential for Winterfylleth. However, this was anything but crystal and the band batted valiantly against some of the worst sound quality possible. The frustration of this was evident on the faces of the band, However, Winterfylleth rarely deliver band shows and in the past three viewings I have had with them they have been excellent. Blasting through tracks from all four albums including A Careworn Heart and Whisper Of The Elements from last year’s awesome The Divinity Of Antiquity, Winterfylleth’s set demonstrated how much the band have developed their song writing. A sterling performance in the face of adversity. Disappointingly, the same cannot be said of Italians Elvenking (5) whose image and music was conflicted and confusing. Cross The Defiled with A7X and then mix in a bit of folk metal with a splash of Turisas and you get Elvenking. It could have been brilliant. It wasn't. At many gigs and festivals you get to a stage where you begin to wonder if any band is really going to do anything for you. It was beginning to feel a bit like that … and then Xentrix (9) arrived on stage. The Preston outfit delivered the most perfect hour of UK thrash metal and basically blew the bollocks off all of those assembled in the room. Hammering through a range of old classics and a couple of newbies from their forthcoming album including the brutal There Will Be Consequences, the band absolutely nailed it and to say that their new album is now eagerly anticipated at MoM Towers would be an understatement.
Heading back to Bonga Wonga after refreshments, we’d hoped to catch the last few songs from Angel Witch but surprisingly the bands were running well ahead of the scheduled listing and we missed them. So, it was time for the first headliners of the weekend, US outfit Kamelot (6). Several of the crew are big Kamelot fans and were excited as we headed into the arena. However, an atrocious sound combined with some over indulgence from front man Tommy Karevik, a tedious drum solo, a keyboard solo and yes, the dreaded and most feared bass solo from Sean Tibbets contrived to make this headline show something of an anti-climax.
Saturday dawned bright and cold. Hangovers were slightly fewer in number and the early risers headed to the Boardwalk to catch Phase Reverse from Greece. The Athenians had apparently travelled to Pwllheli just for this gig and were rewarded with an enthusiastic reaction from the hardy but reasonably healthy (in numbers anyway) crowd. There is something massively endearing about the enthusiasm of bands who have made such an effort and Phase Reverse (8), and particularly their vocalist Takis, could not stop grinning at the enthusiastic welcome. The audience were rewarded with forty minutes of solid heavy metal, an infusion of Black Label Society, Down and more traditional Southern Metal with even the odd dash of Pantera for good measure. Some excellent beardage too. Unfortunately one of the bands we were hoping to see, Steak, had transport problems and so we headed back to Bonga Wonga to see Skalmold, unbelievably at Ant’s recommendation. As usual, the fucker wasn't wrong and the Icelandic six piece pulled off one of the weekend’s more memorable performances. Skalmold (8) use three guitarists and keyboards but also have any of the five ‘outfield’ players singing, often all at once. The Icelandic feel is evident in their music, with huge similarities at times with their compatriots Solstafir. Singing in Icelandic also helps of course and provides the mysticism that often comes when you can’t understand a word! Heavy as hell at times, subtle and light at others, Skalmold had everyone smiling and banging along.
A quick break for refreshments and then a return to see Devilment. Devilment (7) have been around for a couple of years but gained more media attention when diminutive Cradle of Filth main man Dani Filth helped out on vocals and subsequently joined the band for live dates. Musically the band are excellent. Tight and heavy, some superior riffage spliced with Gothic style keyboards from Lauren Francis. However, Filth’s vocals are something of an acquired taste and I just don’t like them. His high pitched falsetto combined with his black metal growl just remind me of a budget King Diamond. However, Devilment got a decent reception and as I said, musically were pretty impressive. Having steered clear of the throng kicking it off with Raging Speedhorn (I just don’t get this band) it was time to party with everyone’s favourite biker band, Orange fucking Goblin (9). Having heckled man mountain Ben Ward (from a distance!) as we headed to the arena, all bar one of our party assembled for forty five minutes of absolute quality (He was presumably deep in his other engagement - Ed). Once again the sound in Bonga Wonga was dreadful but there is no such thing as a bad Orange Goblin show. Blasting through a well-paced set which included classics such as Saruman's Wish alongside newish tracks from their excellent Back From The Abyss, Ward once again demonstrated why he is one of the best British frontmen around, exhorting more effort from the packed crowd whilst grinning manically. Ably supported by Joe Hoare on guitar, Martyn Millard on bass and drummer Chris Turner, the band brought an excellent set to a close with Red Tide Rising. Having seen the band twice in four months, I can’t wait to see them again in the slightly larger surroundings at BOA. Brilliant stuff.
As Marche Funebre rang out across Bonga Wonga, the sparse crowd welcomed the mighty doom legends Candlemass (9) to the stage. No messing about, straight into Mirror Mirror and those crushing Sabbathesque riffs were immediately raining down. Whilst this was by no means the classic Candlemass line-up, with Leif Edling absent due to illness, the guys on stage were well worthy of the Candlemass banner. Stand in bassist Jörgen Sandström was excellent whilst vocalist Mats Leven filled the shoes of those before him with ease. Highlights included Bewitched, Black Dwarf, and a stunning At The Gallows End before the inevitable finale of Solitude which had the hairs standing on the back of the neck. A lifetime’s ambition completed. Candlemass were worthy of their headline status and amongst the highlights of the week.
Disappointingly there was an excruciating clash for the final dose of metal. Over at the Boardwalk the always fabulous Evil Scarecrow were scuttling left and right whilst the majority of the crew held their ground for an hour of Hell (8) (all apart from Paul who had enough of humanity and headed for an earlier night – well he is very old). As usual, Dave Bower and his cohorts delivered a storming set, adding in some old favourites and some rarely played tracks to their recent set supporting Saxon around the UK. Opening with the Age Of Nefarious and closing with Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us the band were unable to put on the full show that we’d been treated to at BOA a couple of years ago but did throw in some flashpots and the obligatory thrashing to cast the Devil out. Plague And Fyre, Land Of The Living Dead and End Ov Days were amongst the highlights. Although a couple of the gang managed to catch the last couple of songs from the mighty Scarecrow in a packed to the rafters Boardwalk, not enough was observed to produce a fair review.
So another weekend, another festival for the MoM crew. Highlights? Well, some of the UK’s finest thrash in Xentrix, some joy from Greece and unexpected fun from Skalmold. Sleeping in a fully fitted chalet with hot water, heating and cooking facilities was absolutely brilliant and pisses all over the camping experience. And then there was the company. Absolutely first class, despite the vomit and alcohol induced man hugs. The negatives? Well, the line up wasn't as strong as previous years. The sound in Bonga Wonga was atrocious and remained so through virtually every band’s set. The AOR stage was rammed on the one and only time we ventured into the Cove; maybe that's where all the money had been spent?