Brazilian flair, NOLA grit and a little Welsh gold…Friday at Hammerfest X had all of this and more. HRH Mag’s Rich Holmes has the lowdown…
Old Favourites, New Visionaries
Hammerfest has always been a place to re-connect with metal’s veterans, but it has also given a platform to younger bands who are chomping at the bit. Friday evening, for instance, saw the much loved Blaze Bayley ripping through the likes of A Thousand Years and Maiden’s Man On The Edge, while on the second stage, Canterbury quintet OHHMS matched the intensity of 2017 debut album The Fool with a frenzied performance – bassist Chainy in particular seemed to be enjoying himself as he was hoisted aloft by the crowd. Londoners Limb, meanwhile, teased Hammerfest with cuts from their soon to be released third album, before lurching into a sludge-kicking version of 19th century murder ballad Down By The Banks Of The Ohio. It was a bit different to Olivia Newton-John’s version, let’s put it that way.
Louisiana, Belo Horizonte, Stockholm, Kristiansand…bands have come from far and wide to play Hammerfest X. For Redwood Avenue, though, all it took was a short hop from their home town of Pwllheli for them to hit Stage 2 at 3pm. The youngsters’ muscular, technically astute aggression was a big hit…and not just with their fervent local following.
Acid Reign’s livewire frontman Howard ‘H’ Smith was making up for lost time yesterday. His reinvigorated Brit thrashers were due to play Hammerfest 2016 only for a road closure to halt them in their tracks en route. This time they arrived in good time for their late afternoon slot…and we’re glad it was second time lucky. From ascending the speaker stacks (‘now I know what it feels like to be tall’) – and then worrying how he was going to get down – to going off on a nice little surf through his audience, to baiting the VIPs, H threw a party few were going to forget in a hurry.
Shades Of Death
Currently on tour with Sepultura, New Orleans’ blackened thrashers Goatwhore, German tech-death proggers Obscura and New Jersey brutalists Fit For An Autopsy all have their own take on extremity…and anchored Hammerfest in deeply heavy waters. Goatwhore were the pick of the bunch, reminding us how metal should be played with a vicious set brimming with vitriol, malevolence and spikes. Bearing Teeth For Revolt and Fucked By Satan incinerated Hammerfest with pure hellfire… and even Ben Falgoust’s broken leg didn’t stop the frontman commanding his infernal legions. Obscura’s intricate shredding seemed tame in comparison, but for any budding guitarists in the crowd, songs like The Anticosmic Overload were a spectacular lesson in sweep picking and dynamic fretwork… and would probably have sent them back to the drawing board.
Wales Is A Sepulnation
A decade ago, Brazil’s finest export graced the very first Hammerfest – so it was fitting that Sepultura were back for the festival’s tenth anniversary. And with all the media noise and tension surrounding the long departed Cavalera brothers, you often forget that this quartet remain one of the most explosive live acts on the planet… and that in albums like 2017’s Machine Messiah, they’re still writing invigorating, intriguing heavy metal which rips up the rule book. Unsurprisingly, Derrick Green, Andreas Kisser, Paulo Jr and Eloy Casagrande brought their A-game (well, they don’t really have another one) to Pwllheli… and the significance of this show was not lost on the towering Green, whose praise for the festival was heartfelt. And the Seps’ birthday present to Hammerfest was gratefully received: Machine Messiah’s hardcore-spiked I Am The Enemy proved it could stand toe to toe with the likes of Territory, Desperate Cry and Arise had the old schoolers in tears, Refuse/Resist gave state brutality a middle finger and there was even room for Ratamahatta’s storm of tribal percussion. Belo Horizonte is a long way from North Wales…but on this night, the bonds were there for all to see.
Exclusive Images By HRH Festivals Photographer Simon Dunkerley