Hammerfest VII Saturday Review

BACK at the Bonga Wonga Beach Club in Hafan y Mor the Hammerfest schedulers had a sensible stage time for the return of metal as 3pm – enabling a wander round the doom stage and get some grub in bellies that may be suffering from the previous evenings celebrations.

Also a cure for groaning guts and tender temples are the ridiculously over-the-top antics of Oaf and Friends – comprising drummer – and all round sharp dressed man – James Rayment and Metal Hammer writer Dom Lawson.

Be still all who seek to understand the shouts of “Seagulls” from the audience, it shall come… With wicked banter in between tracks such as ‘Tiny When Erect’ and ‘Disgusted by Your Genetalia’ they were joined by one of the Evil Scarecrows for the anthemic punk rant to ‘Fuck Off Seagull’.

When the hilarity over with the mood definitely shifted to welcome Skálmöld and their Icelandic Viking metal:  their sheer exuberance won over newbies to the Skálmöld experience.

Tales from the Eddas told in their native tongue proved to be no barrier to the enjoyment, as the sheer amount of fun the band appear to be having onstage (which is further reflected by their banter after their show) makes it a proper wake-up call.

Smiles abound and drummer Jón Geir Jóhannsson looks to be the happiest man in Wales. With Baldur Ragnarsson Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson and Björgvin Sigurðsson sharing most of the main vocal duties the rest of the band joined in choruses as the immense figure of bassist Snæbjörn Ragnarsson stalked the stage cajoling the audience.

With all the rolling riffs and death grooves there were still more delicate moments such as when keyboardist Gunnar Ben laid down some hauntingly subtle vocal lines.

The level of positive response to Skálmöld made their Viking cousins – the Norwegian act Einherjer with a tough task ahead of them.

It was a measure of their self-belief and musical guts that many of the crowd who had drifted away after Skálmöld were soon back down the front.

With Frode Glesnes leading from the front the trio may not have the onstage joie de vivre as Skálmöld but nevertheless lay down enough power to stop anyone flagging.

Aksel Herløe’s lead work was precise and Gerhard Storesund solid behind the kit.

While Blackie Lawless once declared the bass as “the tool of ignorance” a live bassist would have added another focal point for the band, rather than their by now almost traditional use of bass fx.

However, that being said, the band proved that despite any reservations they’re still able to deliver on the day.

With all that Viking and Nordic stuff out of the way, it was then a chance to see if Dani Filth’s project Devilment can live up to the hype surrounding ‘The Great and Secret Show’ album on stage.

The answer is a little bit of no and a large bit of yes. Filth, whether you like the pocket-sized Satanist or no, is a commanding presence, striding the stage, cajoling the audience and with a vocal range and style strong enough to scare the devil himself.

Devilment do, however, sound a little bit ‘safe’ compared to Cradle of Filth to some ears, as Colin Parks (lead) and Sam S Junior’s guitar lines at times echo more mainstream metal.

But when they hit stride on the album title track and ‘Girl From Mystery Island’ they explode into life with bassist Nick Johnson, drummer Aaron Boast and Lauren Francis’ swirling keyboards they live up to the hype in a big way.

If it’s possible for Devilment and Cradle of Filth to co-exist then the next album and tour will see them emerge a major force for those who want to dabble in the extreme, but not too extreme side of metal.

Exploring the extremities are the rejuvenated Raging Speedhorn who quite literally roar on too stage with purpose backed by a tanker load of piss and vinegar.

Scowls and roars ripped through the venue: anger and rage in equal measure with a twin-vocal attack, backed by metallic venom and hardcore sensibility.

Rolling around the audience’s heads was a chaotic cauldron of caterwauling angst at modern societal norms.

Frank and John are cajoling all to join the madness with ‘Superscud’, ‘Fuck the Voodooman’ and new song ‘Halfway to Hell’ stand-outs.

Ending with the doom/Sabbath inspired, if over lengthy, conclusion to ‘High Whore’ it is clear that Raging Speedhorn are back with the proverbial vengeance.

If there was one sure bet looking at the line-up it was that Orange Goblin would be one of the highlights of the weekend – consistent and great.

This is heavy metal in its purest form; not distilled by trends or genres. And, when they play ‘The Filthy and The Few’ it is a union between fans and bands that is unbroken and never likely to be broken.

The colossus that is Ben Ward dwarves Ice Giants and eats Titans for breakfast – a voice honed by years of commitment – and between song banter that had pints held in salute to the Goblin.

Martyn Millard is a whirlpool of moves and grooves on bass, while Joe Hoare plays balanced guitar work, letting rip when necessary, and riffing as if possessed by Tony Iommi’s moustache when required.

With Chris Turner’s drums anchoring the sound this was a set par excellence. Confident and conjoined with an audience lapping up every song from ‘The Devil’s Whip’, and ‘The Fog’ through to ‘Red Tide Rising’

Let’s get one thing straight – Orange Goblin have had their detractors in their past because they refuse to compromise. There were no detractors at Hammerfest, everyone was grinning like maniacs, from the youngest to the oldest.

After the exuberance from the Goblin crew Candlemass took a few tracks to get fully into their flow. With talismanic founder Leif Edling absent vocalist Mats Levén took hold of the Candlemass experience, and once warmed up the Swedish doomsters ripped through a set that was simply heavy as rocks from hell.

After the relatively limp start they crushed right through until the dying chords of ‘Solitude’ were greeted by roars of approval across the Bonga Wonga Beach Club. ‘Black Drawf’, although a more recent track, summed up the power of Candlemass.

 With that power comes responsibility. It would be easy for Candlemass to simply churn through their set, but Mats and his cohorts exude the type of stage presence that encapsulates the best of metal without descending into parody.

 For many Candlemass were a gateway band for the doom branch of metal; but after their performance at Hammerfest many more will be joining the legions who take their metal in slab-like doses.

Then a dark presence entered the amusement arcade, casting a pall of Beelzebub-like evil. Yep, Hell were in the house.

‘On Earth As It Is In Hell’ was an appropriate track as David Bower, replete with the Crown Of Thorns led the dark circus of evil theatrics.

Hell sound as fresh now as they have ever done. Yes, the Satanic dabblings are nonsense on one level, but on another level they nod to the ludicrousness of the genre, while staying true to the dark art within it.

Scenesters will never “get” Hell, but the metal brotherhood bonded together at Hammerfest raised horns and pints in equal measure as the Derbyshire act trooped offstage to acclaim and the audience emptied out to head to whatever caravan based parties they could stumble towards.

As they say, it’s best to end the day on a high….

Review by Jonathan Traynor Photography by Jamie Sweetlove

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