The British festival calendar is bursting at the seams when the summer finally hits us, so in order to fill the gaps at the festival downtime some bright spark came up with holding a 3 day event at a holiday camp! Now in its 4th year, Hammerfest is primarily run and organized by Metal Hammer magazine and what a great line up of established and emerging metal talent they put out over 3 indoor stages for the hordes to feast upon.
The first band I catch sight of are the awesome named Firebrand Super Rock, these guys were the first band I ever interviewed and what a class act they've emerged as. Laura Donnelly's vocals are powerful and their pure metal delivery gets the place going nuts even though its early the punters step up to support them. The last minute booking of Fury brought the second stage to their knees with their guitar antics and solos reverberating around Prestatyn long after the guys had left the stage.The next band I catch is The Sanity Days which features all ex- Onslaught Members: Steve Grimmett, Steve Grice, Al Jordan, Jase Stallard. With a sizable crowd they soon rip into old material for the faithful to lap up, a special appearance by Paul "Mo" Mahoney and their job is well and truly done. An AC/DC tribute band to end the night courtesy of Dirty DC and Hammerfest warm up night has almost burned down, with the alcohol content high is off to the relative warm of the chalet until Friday's metal shenanigans really start.
First band on my list today were Kyrbgrider, a three-piece all out rock explosion whose drummer is also the vocalist, which is no mean feat. To be fair they played a tight set to rapturous crowd hell bent on topping up from the night before, an excellent band that should be huge. Italian thrash assault Arthemis are the perfect wall of sound to blow away any murky heads from the night before. It's fierce ferocious delivery se the mood for the day ahead and ensured a respectable flurry of hair was seen banging, look forward to the new album. Sci Fi Mafia was just a piece of visual candy who delivered a Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson industrial mix to the pot. Yes the fire breathing chicks were nice but the monkey masked goons with angle grinders just left the place bemused and full of fucking smoke!
Fury UK works their balls off every time I see them and today is no exception. Another 3 piece whose ethics are very much established in the good old school of rock delivery with some exquisite guitar solos to get you air guitaring and pumping you're fist in the air. Great to see a good turnout for these guys who give it their all and it shows with the awesome crowd reaction. First band on the main stage are retro metallers Diamond Plate who just put all their energy into delivering a full on show in the little time they have. All too young to drink in the U.S these guys are a potent live band and for ones so young should grow and mature like a fine wine.
Slam Cartel on the other hand ensure the quality remains high and entertain with their pure rock credentials gaining momentum and remaining firmly intact. Currently play-listers on Planet Rock Radio when they rock out it's a heavy guitar that greets you with the feel and emotion of old school Free and Led Zepplin, keep an eye out for these guys I'm waiting for the rest of the world to discover them! Waylander and Chimaira seem to pass by without incident and have a loyal following intent on having a damn good time. The latest incarnation of Chimaira leave the hall devastated, with a younger generation lapping it up and an older generation looking as to what the hell just happened. The undeniable melonconic drones of Paradise Lost soon waft through the main hall to a packed out attendance. Nick Holmes preaches from the mic in his dry delivery and the band ensures the atmosphere is kept bleak but overwhelmingly intense. A good precursor to the impending U.K tour, Paradise Lost really are all and more that you would expect, we leave to the bar happy.
Anthrax shocked us all with their latest album Worship Music which after all the politics of recent years delivered a monumental slab of metal. Tonight the 'Thrax roll into town the night after playing London where it was filmed for future release, so tonight they are devastatingly good. Having seen them numerous times in the last few years this is by far the best I've witnessed. Straight into some new material it's good to see the old guard pissing on the new guys and showing them how it's done. Everyone is so pumped for this gig, you can see it in their eyes and the intensity of the energy on stage, 'The Devil you Know', 'Fight 'Em 'Till You Can't' and 'In The End' stand side by side amongst old favorites like 'I Am The Law' and 'Metal Moshing Mad'. Worthy headliners the packed to the rafters arena leave satisfied that one of The Big 4 firmly left it's footprint on Prestatyn. A quick shuffle along to the other stage for the tongue in cheek metal styling's of Evil Scarecrow, who put some humor into their music without being too cheesy. These guys are seriously good musicians and with their loyal followers lapping up all they do it's no wonder they are a band in demand. Last band of the night on the main stage Evile have matured greatly this past 2 years both in sound and delivery. Very much becoming a force to be reckoned with tracks like 'Hail Caesar' and 'Cult' are thrashed out to the remaining alcohol fuelled metal heads still awake.
Final day of Hammerfest begins with the random noise and bass guitar torture of Oaf. Consisting of Metal Hammer scribe Dom Lawson and his mate on drums the cacophony of sound is not unpleasant but is very entertaining in a heavy metal hangover kinda way. Collapse just storm full force onto the stage and even at this early hour the thrash assault has begun in earnest. These guys are sharp in a Pantera meets Devildriver fight to the death, big things await them and the massing crowd agree. Next band to catch my ears are the upcoming skull pounding Dripback who I last saw supporting Lock up and my have they gotten more brutal as time has passed by. These guys just take no prisoners and their sound demands your attention. The main stage heats up from the off with the first band of the night Hell. With an hour long set these guys don't play a gig but put on a mighty performance. Since reforming things have gone ape shit for this band and with the Shakespearean David Bower fronting them you can see why. Blazoned in a thorn crown this is blasphemy that is lapped up only their brand of metal can deliver, an amazing set that truly set the stage alight. The more subdued Wizard follows and whilst they are not bad in what they do the previous band has just overshadowed everything. Dream Evil has no problem in the song department as long as it has the words Heavy and Metal things go fine. The crowd reaching the end of their stamina reserves there's still plenty in there to pump their fists in the air one more time for the inevitable 'Book Of Heavy Metal' which has screams that would send dogs to an early grave. The Vikings have arrived in the form of Amon Amarth who ensures the building is void of vestal virgins once the pillaging begins. Plastic sword, drinking horns and bodies are all thrust into the night sky as they rip into a blistering set of Nordic themed metal, after an hour it all becomes a little one dimensional but still entertaining to say the least. How a raga metal band would go down after that is anybody's guess but Skindred are the secret weapon for tonight and Benji Webbe is the consummate frontman. With fuck heavy riffs combined with a funky backdrop it should not work, but tracks like 'Warning' and 'Doom Riff' rip the place a new poop hole. With the whole crowd taking off their shirts and joining Benji in his 'Newport Helicopter' swing it over your head antics; they leave the stage with people baying for more. Complete surprise band for the weekend Skindred go check them out certainly worth a few bucks of anyone's money. Elimination over on the second stage are laying down some mighty fine thrash riffs to a sadly sparse crowd, these guys crack on and the faithful are rewarded with a workman like performance. Final band on the mainstage for the festival is Criminal, having missed these at Bloodstock last year I was not going to let fatigue and alcohol get the better of me. Anton soon lets his tonsils rip out some powerful metal and if you like your riffs Sepultura style these guys are right up your street.
So another Hammerfest comes to an end and this can only mean the next festivals will be subjected to the great British weather, until then see you guys in the pit.
(Thanks to Claire & Seven for the accreditation.)