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ConcertsHard Rock Hell VII Cirque Du Rock Day 1 & 2 @ Pwllheli, Wales 11/28 & 29

Posted on Friday, December 13 2013 @ 08:30:28 CST by Dean Pedley
Heavy Metal Not only is it the final festival of the year on the UK rock calendar but Hard Rock Hell has a reputation of being the very finest. Top quality organisation, a superb atmosphere and a cross –genre mix of bands old and new guarantees thousands of like minded souls are prepared to make the pilgrimage to a North Wales holiday camp year after year. Dubbed Cirque Du Rock the seventh cycle took place over three days and nights and, in the first of two articles, Sea of Tranquility's roving team of reporters look back on day one and two that included performances by Black Star Riders, Uli Jon Roth, Enuff Z'Nuff and Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell.

Day One

The daunting task of kicking off proceedings falls to Lancaster's Massive Wagons and they deliver a storming set that suggests all the plaudits that are coming their way are very much deserved. Fired up rock 'n' roll with an assured swagger makes certain the Hard Rock Hell experience gets off to an explosive start and upcoming album Fight The System should be well worth checking out. The following day they are back on the acoustic stage and, yet again, they go over incredibly well with the crowd who delight in covers of 'Highway to Hell and 'Johnny B Goode'. A strong work ethic will surely see Massive Wagons rewarded in the years to come. Former Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth plays a lengthy set that draws heavily from his time with the legendary band including 'We'll Burn The Sky' and 'In Trance'. Still retaining his subtle technique and deft touch, Uli's set gives everyone the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere with some inspired guitar playing.

Another veteran guitarist then takes the stage in the shape of Bernie Tormé, the punk rocker who became known in rock circles when he joined Ian Gillan back in the late 70's. Playing as a three piece power trio Bernie leads his band through a raucous hour long set that kicks off with 'Wild Wild West' and climaxes with the Gillan hits 'New Orleans' and 'Trouble'. The eccentric Arthur Brown then appears to give a typically quirky performance that includes mystical dancing, masks, tribal props and other shenanigans although the absence of his infamous flaming headgear during 'Fire' is something of a disappointment. After this bizarre display it was time to get back to some good old school Metal! Attica Rage provided a Hadrian 's Wall of sound to a well inebriated crowd decked in various clown costumes. With their latest album 88MPH Attica Rage have found their groove with the crowd headbanging furiously to the powerful riffs.

Day Two

The first full day of the festival sees the main arena open up and also offers a third stage by way of an acoustic set up that operates for a couple of hours during the afternoon. Signing sessions also provides fans the opportunity to get those cherished items autographed and most of the artists readily mix without the crowd throughout the weekend, all of which makes for a very positive experience. So you thought Motley Crue invented Glam Metal? Think again – Rocky Shades, once of Wrathchild UK, is back with a bang with Rocky Shades' Wildside Riot and their infectious brand of retro-rock 'n' roll draws a huge crowd early in the day. Debut album No Second Take is well featured in the set alongside a couple of nods to Rocky's past including a huge sing-a-long for trash anthem '(Na Na) Nuklear Rokket'. Jameson Raid are one of the lost bands of the NWOBHM era and use HRH to debut both a new line-up and a decent amount of new material. Still fronted by Terry Dark the new line-up sounds in good shape and guitarist Dave Rothan blazes through the solo on signature song 'Seven Days of Splendour'.
arrive at the party with much emphasis on image which they thankfully backed up with a sound to match. Their Scandinavian Goth/glam attack found them new fans to ensure their name is bantered around for their impending return visit. Another highlight of stage two is the oddly named Groan. Their reefer rock was captivating even more so captivating was female drummer Zel who's art for beating her drums into submission with such force you could feel the splinters fling through the air; impressive set.

Over on the main stage are another bunch of NWOBHM veterans in the shape of Tygers Of Pan Tang. Guitarist Rob Weir got the Tygers back together more than a decade ago and they continue to enjoy a large following across much of Europe. A mix of 80's classics such as 'Gangland' and 'Euthanasia' make up their blistering set alongside several tracks from 2012's excellent Ambush album with frontman Jaco Meille giving one of the best vocal performances of the entire weekend. Psychedelic power trio Stubb bring the vibe of the early 70's to the second stage although their fuzz drenched heritage sound would have been more suited to the early hours as opposed to the middle of the afternoon. Crucified Barbara fare well, not being over powered by an enormous stage like the last time they were witnessed at Graspop. Reminiscent of a slightly watered down all-female version of Motörhead, they certainly offer some eye candy for the male contingent (as much as the horrendous lighting would allow) with a well-rehearsed stage craft and ripping solos it was a perfect gap filler.

You can always find a gem amongst these weekends and HRH 7 was no exception, enter Druganaut. With a sound comparable to Clutch on a high calorie diet with dessert served by Down they certainly ticked all the boxes. Fat old riffs belched out of the pristine P.A which captivated the crowd for their full set. Keep your eye on these; big things await this magnificent vat of riffs and vocal prowess. Bringing some power pop melodies to the main stage it's the turn of Chicago's Enuff Z'Nuff, still led by the always smiling bassist / songwriter Chip and now fronted once again by the equally affable Johnny Monaco. Despite a wealth of back catalogue material to choose from the band, recognising this is a festival crowd, deliver a energetic medley of 80's covers that takes in 'Summer of 69', 'Surrender' and 'Don't Stop Believing' alongside classic hits 'Fly High Michelle' and 'New Thing'.

Eye catching young four piece Skarlett Riot have had a good time of things in 2013 with debut album Tear Me Down earning rave reviews and leading to slots at all of the major festivals. Their set is littered with hook friendly up-tempo rockers and when they take it down a notch for the moody 'Broken Wings' leading lady Skarlett has the audience transfixed. Expect great things from this band. With Motörhead currently off the road the team behind HRH pulled off a real coup in getting Phil Campbell along with his All Star Band. They tear through an hour or so of classic rock favourites such as 'Cat Scratch Fever' and 'Jumping Jack Flash' mixed up with 'head anthems 'Iron Fist', 'Killed by Death' and the obligatory 'Ace of Spades'. A pulsating, entertaining set that really got the main stage rocking and set up nicely for the headliners…

When Thin Lizzy became Black Star Riders and delivered a rock solid debut album the naysayers were finally proved wrong. This is a real working band no longer trading on past glories and frontman Ricky Warwick is at his most powerful and dynamic as they roar through 90 minutes that combines new material with Lizzy anthems. Aside from Warwick they have a huge stage presence with the charismatic Marco Mendoza leading the line and guitarists Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson trading riffs, licks and solos at every turn. 'Bound for Glory' and 'Kingdom of the Lost' sit comfortably alongside 'Emerald' and 'The Boys are Back in Town' and when Phil Campbell joins in for the encore of 'Rosalie' it provides the defining moment of the whole festival. Having interviewed them three times tonight we get to witness States Of Panic. Not only do they look the part but they back it up with an incendiary sound of youthful exuberance. Excellent set that brings energy to a part of the night where many would start flagging, with a debut album penned for an early 2014 release these are ones to watch. Cross Eyed Mary fill the stage with as many band members you could cram on there. Their vintage 70's swagger proved to be quite a hit and, apart from the harsh piercing PA, their trip from Ireland proves worthwhile.

So how do you follow a triumphant Classic Rock attack by a band with a bad reputation for dancing in the moonlight? You invite raga- metal, dreadlocked frontman Benji Webbe and his band Skindred to the party. Kicking off with their new single 'Ninja' the place proceeded to go mental. It could have been so much different, luckily the classic rock crowd lapped up the furious blast beats and pounding riffs. Benji is a dying breed, there are not many frontmen in rock today who can command a crowd in this way, complemented with his unmistakable Welsh banter, "I see there's a lot of attractive women in the crowd tonight…..and two ugly ones!!!" With a set that truly made sure sleep was delayed for an hour or so, Skindred were the band of the weekend, no one came close. (Disclaimer: Skindred are what you might call a 'marmite' band and divide opinion even amongst the SoT team, 50% of which opted for an early night after three songs!). Final band of the night is Trippy Wicked, maybe it was the alcohol speaking but they sounded pretty fine. Their Sabbath stoner riffs ensured the alcohol continued to flow from the bar and the more that was served the better the band sounded.

Check back soon for our review of Day Three.

Words by Dean Pedley and Mark Davies
Images by Rob Nankivell of Shoot Plymouth -
Images of Massive Wagons, Arthur Brown, Druganaut and Black Star Riders by Mark Davies
For more of Rob's images from the festival check out

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