Hammerfest 4 Review Part 2 – Saturday
by Nicholas Holmes
Photos by Tess Donohoe (www.tessdonohoe.com)
It is noon on a grey Saturday at a North Wales holiday camp, and heads are sore after the long night before. However, some hardy souls are up or have not even been to bed. Just as the previous day’s action closed with the ridiculous spectacle of Lawnmower Deth, the bizarre duo Oaf have stumbled onto the small stage in the Queen Vic pub to begin the second day of Hammerfest in equally ludicrous fashion. One of them is recognisable as Metal Hammer’s own Dom Lawson. It seems his, ahem, project is a form of music therapy. Arguably some may need therapy after prolonged exposure to Oaf-ishness! They are actually very funny, and Lawson drops some great stand-up style lines between the shouting, screaming, punk rackets. Apologising for a merch fuck up, he quips, “If you are a 4ft 2 woman with no boobs or a big fat fella like me, we’ve got T-shirts just for you!” Returning to the therapy theme, he explains one song is based on a Will Self book about mental illness, responding to a heckler with, “ I exist in a big hole, my friend!” This is followed by “Fuck Off Seagull!”, which is exactly as it sounds but also contains a hilarious spoken word part about “stealing a sausage from furious arthritic grasp…” He then dedicates a funked up track to crap drunk dancers, “The crushing reality is you are a cunt. We are all cunts. Let’s be cunts together!!!” A track from the duo’s debut, “Botheration”, delicately titled “Massive When Flaccid, Tiny When Erect” is the final feedback-ridden sonic insult. Marvellous.
Later on the main stage, Wizard are warming up the crowd with their traditional sound. Sometimes referred to as the German Manowar, tracks like “Defenders of Metal” taken from 2001’s “Head of the Deceiver” show the band is also influenced by the likes of Dio. They receive a good response from a gradually increasing audience.
Sweden’s Dream Evil are the brainchild of revered producer Fredrik Nordstrom (At The Gates, Dark Tranquility, Opeth). Songs such as “Children of the Night” have an ’80s rock vibe, and would not sound out of place on some of that era’s action movies. Unfortunately Niklas Isfeldt’s vocals strain and seem to wander off key in places, but the likes of “Chasing The Dragon” show the kind of precise musicianship you’d expect from a band led by a seasoned tech-head.
The Scandinavian invasion continues with fellow Swedes Amon Amarth providing what would be a chilling soundtrack to an actual Viking invasion. Their Nordic myth-influenced death metal is truly crushing, fronted by the imposing man-mountain vocalist Johan Hegg. Strobes flash and hair flails in synchronised windmills as the band bludgeon the audience with songs including “Destroyer of the Universe”, “For Victory or Death” and “Free Will Sacrifice”. Hegg pauses to toast St Patrick’s Day, and “drink like an Irishman!” when he chugs a horn of beer and then passes it to a fan. There are some slower, more brooding phases too, such as the atmospheric “Under The Northern Star”. They deliver a final two song blast of “Twilight of the Thunder God” and “Guardians of Asgaard”. A brilliantly brutal performance.
The stage is then set for the return of Wales’ own Skindred, who are preceded by a hip hop-style mix of Darth Vader’s “Imperial March” theme. There is little doubt Benji Webbe is one of the best frontman in the business, and tonight he proves why. There is a crazy party vibe in the air, and it reaches fever pitch when the band hit the stage blasting through “Rat Race” and “Trouble”. The latter features an interlude of Metallica’s “Sad But True”, and for the first of many times fists wave and bodies fly in all directions. During the whole set, which includes tracks “Cut Dem” and “Doom Riff” from new album “Union Black”, the crowd is in the palm of Webbe’s hand. Decked out in white from head to toe and sporting a Union Jack, possibly in a riposte to racists, he commands his audience formidably. At one point he tells the entire room to sit down – and they do so, as if in a trance. The place goes mental to “Destroy The Dancefloor” and early classic “Nobody”, before a ripping encore of “Stand For Something” and “Warning”. Mindblowing.
Following the Welsh wonders, it is a quick dash to the second stage to catch Holosade, from the North East of England. Vocalist Philip De Sade appears in a silver mask and a cape and seems a little nervous at first. The band formed in the mid-80s and their sound is very much in the vein of classic British metal. The lyric themes are likewise, with titles such as “Madame Guillotine” and “Nightmare Reality” – loosely based on the movie The Hitcher. De Sade unmasks and loses the cape to reveal a bald head, and he seems more confident as the set goes on to include “Psycho” and “Eternal Life”. The latter is introduced as being about Ancient Egypt, and features galloping Maiden-style riffs. A good solid performance by an older band that would be new to many.
One of the great things about Hammerfest is the opportunity to discover new bands – or ones that have been around ages and may have been overlooked. Criminal fit the latter, and are fantastic. Ostensibly playing to replace US thrashers Exodus, frontman Anton Reisnegger dismisses the idea as “fucking impossible – one of the best bands ever!” His own Chilean-British collective are mighty in their own right, with savage tracks like “21st Century Paranoia” and “Still Born” in their sonic arsenal. The influence of classic Slayer is very evident in some of the riffs and sounds, and there are hints of Death and early Sepultura. The hardcore that stay to watch lap it up, cheering the band on noisily. Anton responds in kind, thanking them and encouraging them to chant along to “Cancer”’s final chugs. He then suggests they “get wrecked” before closer “Self Destruction”. Very good.
Londoners Savage Messiah have the honour of closing Hammerfest 4, and being the very last band on they pull a large crowd. Their songs and sound indicate very strong Big 4 influences, with dashes of NWOBHM. They air a lot of new material from latest album “Plague of Conscience”, including the sprawling title track and the equally epic “Carnival of Souls”. They play shorter songs too, such as bass led “In Thought Alone” and galloping “Shadowbound”. In the early hours of the morning it may not be the best idea to play guitar and drum solos, especially when the bar is closing! The crowd actually don’t seem to mind, and most stay for the grand finale of “Six Feet Under The Gun”. A satisfying end to what has been a fantastic event. As the audience walk, stagger and crawl back to the chalets, there is already banter of “see you next year!”
For the review of Friday at Hammerfest 4, click here.
Hard Rock Hell Ibiza Road Trip http://www.hrhroadtrip.com/
Hard Rock Hell 6 http://www.hardrockhell.com/
Hammerfest 5 http://www.hammerfest.co.uk/
Dream Evil http://www.dreamevil.se/
Amon Amarth http://www.amonamarth.com/
Savage Messiah https://www.facebook.com/SavageMessiahMetal