HRH Mag’s Richard Holmes gives us the lowdown on an explosive night out in North Wales…

Let’s Get This Party Started…

Want proof of metal’s diversity – and its ability to lay down a challenge? Thursday night at Hammerfest would have been a good place to spend a few hours. From the splattering death metal of Sodomized Cadaver, to the multi-layered sludgecore of RSJ, to Bloodshot Dawn’s elegant technical death/thrash, Thursday’s opening salvos gave the festival a punch in the guts… and the crowd plenty to think about.

York’s RSJ, in particular, seemed intent on sparking Hammerfest into life, with frontman Dan Cook – fresh from his stint with Raging Speedhorn – handing out his mic to eager fans who fancied adding their own growls to the band’s raging sonic torrent. Cook also had some nice words to say about Wales (“a fucking beautiful country”) though not without doing his bit for the Yorkshire tourist board too…

Welcome To (Hard Rock) Hell

Recently signed to Nuclear Blast, Venom Inc. are on a roll: Abaddon, Mantas and Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan might have to use the ‘Inc.’ suffix, but to many fans, they are the ‘real’ Venom. And this set strengthened their claim to that illustrious name.

Looking like a bunch of post-apocalyptic mercenaries (you certainly wouldn’t want to owe the muscular geordies any money), Venom Inc. tore into Hammerfest, cutting through a baying crowd with songs like Live Like An Angel, Die Like A Devil, Angel Dust and Don’t Burn The Witch. Warhead was just one of many highlights, a nuclear detonation of a tune played in all its world-ending glory.

Put simply, this was raw, nasty heavy metal, dragged up from the gutter and spewed out by men who’ve lived and breathed rock and roll for decades. Set of the festival? Certainly an early contender.

Saint Marches On

Speaking recently to HRH Mag, John Bush talked about the ‘emotional investment’ that the singer and his high school buddies have put into Armored Saint – and that was very much in evidence last night. They’re having fun, they’re passionate about their music and creatively the quintet are in the form of their lives.

What’s very clear is that the LA metallers don’t believe in living on past glories, so it was no surprise that 2015’s Win Hands Down album made its presence felt, with both the title track and a phenomenal  Mess (complete with an eco-conscious intro from their frontman) played like the anthems they are.

Of course there was room for some ‘oldies’ too: March Of the Saint bristled with energy, Reign Of Fire was red hot, and Last Train Home gave Bush the chance to show – once again – why he’s still one of rock’s most admired vocalists.

Following Venom Inc. was a tough ask, but Armored Saint are hardened veterans too, and their return to British shores was a triumphant one. Even a stern-faced security guard, ushering a spritely Bush down from a speaker stack, couldn’t spoil the party.

*Exclusive Images By HRH Festivals Photographer Simon Dunkerley