Colourful, diverse and exceptionally vibrant, Hammerfest’s third and final day was the perfect antidote to North Wales’ Arctic chill. HRH Mag’s Rich Holmes reports from Pwllheli…

 

The Emerald Shines Bright

It was fitting that on Saint Patrick’s Day, the sons and daughters of Ireland took their place on the Hammerfest bill. Dead Label’s ultra-tight sinewy thrash punched a hole through Saturday’s proceedings, with drummer Claire Percival propelling her bandmates through a set of muscular metal. Power trio? We’d wholeheartedly agree. Dublin’s Warpath, meanwhile, may have entered to the theme tune to Father Ted, but there was nothing comical about the quintet’s abrasive death/grind…or indeed, their savage reinterpretation of The Flight Of Icarus. Clad in Napalm Death and All Pigs Must Die shirts, it was clear where the lads where coming from…And then we had Hammerfest closers Mael Mordha, who hinted that this might be their last ever show. If that proves to be the case, it would be a shame, as the pagan doom metallers are a formidable proposition, both live and on record. All Eire Will Quake and Pauper Of Souls were just two of the highlights… and their response to the Saint Patrick’s Day shenanigans – The Doom Of The Races Of Eire – was poignant.

Cyco Killers

Hammerfest likes to throw us the odd curveball…and 2018’s event was no different. Canadian quartet Sumo Cyco exist in their own, technicolour space, mainlining the energy of bands like No Doubt and busting some exceptional moves through an astounding cover of Give It Away. Even Skindred’s Benji Webbe couldn’t resist joining vocalist Sever on stage for a bit of a boogie. Metal? Not really. But who cares when a band are this much fun…

Back To The Primitive

‘Fun’ though, isn’t a word that you’d usually use to describe Conan’s trademark caveman battle doom. Ever hairier mainman Jon Davis doesn’t really do stage banter. There are no gimmicks. Certainly no daft stage props. What you do get, though, is a band who’ve re-defined heavy, who are now striding across the globe like a colossus, crushing all before them with the likes of Total Conquest and Gravity Chasm (both aired in all their seismic glory on Saturday). The Merseyside trio have been on an upward curve over the past decade – and they richly deserved their lofty billing.

Death Rears Its Ugly Head…Again

Matching Hammerfest’s Friday line-up blow by blow were a slew of death metal acts from home and abroad. Norway’s Blood Red Throne don’t often make it to these shores, but when they do, they make the most of it…as Saturday’s performance proved. Celebrating 20 years in the game this year, the Kristiansand outfit delivered a masterclass in razor-sharp, brutal death metal, one that pulled in a healthy early evening crowd. Moving a little closer to home, Carlisle’s Triverse Massacre didn’t get the audience their neck snapping death grooves deserved: fellow Cumbrians Repulsive Vision, however, fared better – especially after Skindred’s headline slot drew to a close. Delivering a set that reeked of Autopsy, Scream Bloody Gore-era Death and Stockholm’s finest sons, and driven by Avenger drummer Gary Young, the quartet lacerated Hammerfest with tunes like Corpse Decay. They’re nice guys too.

Bringing The Hammer Down…

Gloryhammer are about escapism, about putting your worries to one side and plunging headlong into cascades of keyboards and triumphant power metal silliness. Cheesy? Certainly, but the Scottish/Swiss fantasy warriors can pull off one hell of a show… and in the case of frontman Thomas Winkler, rock some outrageously shiny pants.

Dred At The Controls…

Just like Friday headliners Sepultura, Skindred have a close affiliation with Hammerfest – and the Hard Rock Hell community as a whole. 2017’s HRH Metal performance was one of the highlights of that city festival and yet again, here was Benji Webbe and the boys releasing the Pressure, unleashing the Ninja and putting us all in a Rat Trap. One of the UK’s most exuberant frontmen can sing a bit too: accompanied by Mikey Demus on acoustic guitar, Webbe graced Saying It Now (a heart wrenching ode to a friend who died from cancer) with a stunning vocal performance. That song’s simple message – that we should all look after each other – resonated deeply on Saturday night.