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Armored Saint and Venom Inc. set the bar high in 2017…so how did Hammerfest’s opening night turn out this year? HRH Mag’s Rich Holmes headed to Pwllheli to find out…

 

Norse By North West

HRH likes its Vikings – so much so that there is a whole festival dedicated to Norse-inspired metal coming up in December. Hammerfest didn’t have to wait that long for its fjord-fix though, as openers Grimner kicked off the party in some style, winning over swathes of new fans and receiving a rapturous send-off as they exited. Fellow Swedes Thyrfing provided the contrast, closing Thursday night’s proceedings with a set of dark, churning black metal which took its cues from Bathory’s Hammerheart era.  With an image to match their sonic intensity, the Stockholm horde planted their flag firmly in Celtic soil – and deserved their place on a spectacular bill.

Animal Magic

Fundamentally, Feed The Rhino are a punk act in a metal band’s body: a sweaty, snarling beast armed with two telecasters and a whole heap of attitude. And after a few years in the shadow of Gallows, the Kent mob are soaring up fans’ ‘must-see’ lists, especially now they’re armed with albums like this year’s The Silence. That record’s opener, Timewave Zero, caught Hammerfest with a jarring uppercut, while Nerve Of A Sinister Killer booted us straight over Mount Snowdon. At one point, Feed The Rhino’s Hammerfest appearance was in doubt: Lee Tobin’s health deteriorated to such an extent earlier this month that the bearded frontman was hospitalised. But just a couple of weeks later here was, prowling the stage like wolf with the scent of blood in its nostrils, or standing tall on the shoulders of his crowd, pumping their energy levels into the red. OK, some of his more melodic vocals didn’t quite hit the mark on this occasion, but we’ll forgive him: the guy is clearly a trooper and Hammerfest will be lucky to witness a better frontman this weekend.

Armageddon Times

With tensions with Russia ratcheting up, Anaal Nathrakh’s Dave Hunt did nothing to quell fears as he launched into Hold Your Children Close And Pray For Oblivion (recent events have brought its lyrics into “sharp relief”, according to the frontman). And surely if the ICBMs start a’flying, you’ll not get a better soundtrack to thermonuclear devastation than an Anaal Nathrakh set. Indeed, one of the most extreme bands Birmingham has ever produced (and we know that’s saying something) are absolutely vital in times like these: their dramatic, apocalyptic, mutant grind is, for many, a cathartic experience, akin to squaring up to annihilation and then giving it a big hug. Hammerfest witnessed the quintet on particularly fine form, as Hunt, partner/mastermind in crime Mick Kenney and their cohorts unleashed the forces of hell in North Wales: just when songs like Depravity Favours The Bold and Monstrum in Animo sounded like they were veering towards the edge of chaos, they were pulled back by a searing riff or enormous, gutsy chorus. The Brummies are masters at this – and it showed last night. While latest opus The Whole Of The Law – justifiably – was a key focus for Nathrakh, there was still time for the band to go back to 2006’s masterpiece Eschaton… and pull Between Shit and Piss We Are Born from the blackened vault. They’ll take some beating, that’s for sure.

Exclusive Images By HRH Festivals Photographer Simon Dunkerley

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