Hafan y Moor Holiday Park,
Pwllheli, North Wales
Friday 16th March DAY ONE
Review by Rick Tilley & Beth Jones
As we have never done press for any HRH events before, we were very excited and honoured to be asked to cover this year’s Hammerfest, especially as it was the 10th Anniversary. Due to work commitments and children, we didn’t get there until the Friday morning and, once we arrived, it was straight to ‘work’!
The first band of the day was Callus, an up and coming three-piece from the North of England. Fast, fuzzy and doomy with great riffs, they reminded me in places of Candlemass at their heaviest, with harsh vocals. As the set progressed however, they got faster, went through a Metallica phase and ended up with the speed and precision of Megadeth. They gave an incredibly tight performance and their drummer, Ryan Ormerod, was amazing. It was a great sound, heavy but melodic at the same time and they had bags of stage presence considering there were only three of them. These guys are absolutely a name to be looking out for. Apparently, there was a big run on their EP/Merch after they played so I’m not the only one who thought they were damn fine!
Next up on Stage 2 were Sergeant Thunderhoof. A Psychedelic Stoner/Doom Metal outfit from Bath who gave us a set which was a lot more melancholy, slower and angsty, but still heavy! They are a new name to me and whilst they are great musicians it felt a bit flat after seeing Callus, who were a very hard act to follow. That’s not a criticism of the band, more the fact that it takes a while for me to appreciate some Stoner bands. The lead singer has a great voice though and they were very catchy when they got going. I fully intend to familiarize myself with their material though as they have much potential!
After taking in Sergeant Thunderhoof and having a brief wander round the Merch Market in the second stage hall, we moved over to the main arena for a blast of ‘HEAVY’ metal in the shape of BallsDeep! They were their usual manic selves and were packing out the room with their loyal following. They gave us some seriously heavy grooves and an energy packed show, their own tagline of ‘Aggressive Not Progressive’ sums them up perfectly. These guys are always worth watching and the new screens/lights (new to me anyway) at the back of the stage that were being used for all the main stage bands really added to the effect.
Needing a drink and a nice sit down after the head wobbling from BallsDeep, we nipped back over to second stage to catch local band Redwood Avenue. These guys were another new name to me. They offered a more modern metal mixture of harsh verses and sung choruses… it’s quite a Djenty, math metal style feel. They were good, but for me the music needs more of a hook; it felt a little disjointed in places but the guys are only young so this will hopefully come with time, and they pulled in a good crowd to watch them which is always a good sign!
One of the ‘definite, must see’ bands we had earmarked to watch were up next on the Main Stage – Triaxis – and what an absolute pleasure it was to witness their fantastic performance at what was sadly their last ever gig. I first saw them over 5 years ago with a very different line-up but it didn’t feel wrong watching them today. Becky Baldwin is a beast on the Bass, Angel Wolf-Black has a stunning voice and Dakesis guitarist, Matt Jones, who had taken over guitar duties for this gig, was utterly blistering. Triaxis might be no more but they certainly went out with a bang and leave many great memories!
After a little break, next up for us was the brilliantly mental Acid Reign. As you would expect, they were absolutely awesome, utterly hilarious…and very very silly. A stage manager’s worst nightmare, it’s like the last 30 odd years hadn’t happened! They may be older and greyer but the energy levels are incredible, with vocalist Howard charging round the stage like ‘Roadrunner’, practicing his free running skills on the monitors and speaker cabs! Loads of younger bands could learn a thing or two from these guys. With energy coming out of every orifice they provided us with non-stop jokes and laughs, but were still musically perfect. This is a band on top of their game. By the end Howard was “totally fucked”- his words. To be honest, we were just watching them! A great set from a formidable band.
We stayed in the main arena for the next act on our wish list – Blaze Bayley. This was the first time I’ve seen Blaze with the guys from Absolva backing him and bloody hell it’s good! Blaze still has a great set of pipes and is an imposing presence onstage, Chris Appleton (who pulls some awesome Cheshire Cat grins when he’s playing) is a really underrated guitarist both in this band and Absolva, as are Karl and Martin. These guys just do not stop working and are in the midst of another leg of a massive world tour which doesn’t seem to have stopped for 18 months. The amount of gigs played has turned these four into a metal machine so tight it’s like spandex!
After the last couple of classic acts on the main stage, we decided it was time to thrash it up again and headed over to Stage 2 for Critical Solution, who are a pretty good Thrash band from Norway! They look like fairly young guys and probably need slightly catchier tunes to take it to the next level, however, they played very well live. They have been around for a while but they are a new name to me and I will be checking out their studio output considering how much I love thrash.
Wanting to cover as much as possible, we left Critical Solution a little early, and nipped back across to the main stage to catch some of German band Obscura. We were met by a barrage of seven string guitars, a six string bass, polyrhythmic time signatures, very harsh vocals and schizophrenic songs. It was pretty much impossible to see the band through the incredible amount of dry ice that filled the whole stage area and that made it difficult to really connect with them. Technically, they were outstanding, but musically they left me feeling a bit cold. However they had pulled in a good crowd and were giving a great performance, if you like that sort of thing …and there are plenty that do!
Heading back to the second stage again, next up were UK Thrashers Mörti Viventi. Having loved the album “The Day The Dead Returned…”, which Dawn reviewed last year (READ IT HERE https://ever-metal.com/2016/05/19/morti-viventi-the-day-the-dead-returned/), when MV was just a one man band, I was really looking forward to seeing Mörti Viventi as a full live band, especially as I had missed them at Uprising last year due to my interview schedule, and they didn’t disappoint. They gave us great solid Thrash, in the vein of Testament, with catchy chunky riffs, super solos and tunes that overall packed a good punch. I’d really love to see them play a full, headline set somewhere but it’s great to see them get some recognition!
So to the headliners on the Main stage…Sepultura! We don’t really need to say much about them. They are always outstanding and have been for so long. Vocalist Derrick Green has now been with the band for TWENTY years (where has the time gone?) and prowled the stage like a demon, whilst Andreas Kisser leaves you completely floored with his guitar work. We would have loved to have watched more of the show but, as a disabled person and with a girlfriend who is only 5ft and is the one trying to get some photos, due to the sheer number of people in the main arena, it was incredibly difficult to find anywhere to stand comfortably. Recently it has seemed overcrowded in the main arena for headline bands. It was the same for Saxon two years ago at Hard Rock Hell and it takes away some of the enjoyment. We both ended up getting too claustrophobic to even hear the music anymore and that was a shame.
After suffering as long as we both could in the main arena we went back to Stage 2 to watch Southend On Sea Metalheads Forged In Black, another great band who Ever Metal reviewed recently (Check out Tsarina’s thoughts on their most recent EP “Sinner Sanctorum” HERE https://ever-metal.com/2018/01/15/forged-in-black-sinner-sanctorum-ep/). When we walked into the second stage arena, we were met with an almost completely empty room. Okay, most people wanted to see Sepultura, but I think something has to be done with the scheduling. I know it’s very difficult at a Festival and you are never going to be able to see everyone you want but when a band is going onstage at 11pm to literally nobody at one of the ‘big events’ of the year then something needs to change. However Forged In Black were absolutely superb and gave us an extremely tight display of great, hard hitting, old school metal, laced with lovely guitar work, excellent vocals and fabulous stage presence. I felt a bit sorry for them but, nonetheless, they played their proverbial arses off and the crowd did start to fill out a little as the set went on. If you missed them then you missed a treat!!
Other than the feeling of overcrowding in the main arena and the ‘undercrowding’ of the other near the end, the first day at Hammerfest X was an absolute blinder. Loads of great bands proving that the quality from the bottom of the bill to the top is incredible, loads of friendly faces, many people in fancy dress putting a smile on your face and the usual array of stalls managing to make you part with your hard earned cash! For us the bands of the day were Triaxis, Acid Reign, Blaze Bayley, Forged In Black and especially Callus, who impressed us massively, in fact we spent most of the day saying “yeah they were good, but not as good as Callus!” We went to bed very tired but very happy, looking forward with excitement to the next day – a day filled not only with great bands, but also a packed interview schedule!
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Richard Tilley, Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
All photographs are the property of Beth Jones and PhotograBee – www.facebook.com/PhotograBeeImages