Hammerfest VII Thursday Review

Bonga Wonga Beach Club – an unlikely named venue for Hammerfest VII, but simply perfect for a feast of metal that rocked North Wales to the core.

Hard Rock Hell United, located just outside Pwhelli on the holiday site of Hafan y Mor. Though it is an unlikely venue, for those that have never been there before the caravan park makes an almost perfect setting – stages indoors and caravans to (get limited) sleep within.

As well as Hammerfest there was an AOR stage, and a stage that saw Doom, Stoner and Sleaze acts.

Bonga Wonga Beach Club – an unlikely named venue for Hammerfest VII, but simply perfect for a feast of metal that rocked North Wales to the core.

HRH United, located just outside Pwhelli, on the holiday site of Hafan y Mor. Though it is an unlikely venue, to those that have never been there before, the caravan park makes an almost perfect setting – stages indoors and caravans to get (limited) sleep within.

As well as Hammerfest there was an HRH AOR 3, and a stage that specialised in Doom, Stoner and Sleaze acts.

The level of variety and the sheer number of acts across the stages meant it was simply impossible for the Devils Gate Media team to cover every act. As a result we concentrated on the brutality of the Bonga Wonga Beach Club…

When the holidaymakers are at Hafan y Mor this is an amusement arcade, but for Hammerfest, the slot machines, games and pool tables are pushed aside and the stage becomes the focus.

With plenty room for punters to view from a range of vantage points Day One of Hammerfest opened with Nottingham thrashers Incinery.

 As it was billed as the pre-party proceedings, they were on stage at 5pm, when many were just checking into their caravans and chalets. The band, nevertheless, made the best of it: heads down, no nonsense opener to lift a glass to. Enjoyable.

 After the brightness of thrashing came darkness in the shape of Hecate Enthroned, who brought their blackened death metal to the Hammerfest stage.

 At times a little derivative, they still brought some nice dark grooves, with intensity and some slick guitar interchanges. The Liverpool act describe themselves as scornful and brutal, and in some of their songs they rose up just enough to avoid clichés.

 With more and more gathering, October Fire further energised the room and produced a mixture of hardcore and metal which had a post-rock vibe that saw pints held aloft in tribute. The level of performance brought the room alive as the Oxfordshire four-piece pounded the boards.

With the audience pumped up the gathering of Minions (yes, metallers dressed as the Minions from Despicable Me films) and Piratical rockers intensified as Red Rum took the stage.

Of course the nonsensical sea shanties are as nonsensical as they seem. But Pirate Metal is blessed with an awareness of itself. It is silly, it is stupid, but as Red Rum roared through a set that lifted spirits amongst, even those who had travelled far to Hammerfest.

To demonstrate the diversity of the bands on show, piracy on the high seas gave way to the rage of metal/hardcore in the shape of RSJ. The York-based band have many fans across the UK, as even most of the piratical masses stayed put to bathe in the venom.

The boundary between hardcore and extreme metal is a fine one; sometimes the blurring can unify the forces. RSJ did just that. Instead of dissipating the party atmosphere created by Red Rum it kept the momentum of the evening going.

RSJ have the experience not to have to prove anything, but they reinforced their stature once again, with a bad attitude to the world outside the confines of Hammerfest, which translates as a good attitude inside the Bonga Wonga Beach Club.

Way back in the mists of time, when fogs swirled around ancient forests the Celtic tribes in Scotland, Ireland and Wales kept the darkness at bay with songs. War, battles and fights celebrated with pagan tales.

Fast forward to the 20th Century and the folk songs were appropriated by metal. And amongst the first to bring the two together was Waylander.

Despite the 21st Century seeing more and more take up the pagan/folk metal sword, Waylander remain as founding fathers – their status acknowledged by the audience intensity down the front.

Emerging daubed in war paint the metal and folk merged into a maelstrom of mystic tales as ArdChieftain O’Hagan leading the dance with Saul and Tor’s guitars supplemented by Dave’s whistle. O’Hagan declared that Waylander were a band from the “Emerald Isle, from the province of Ulster”, many of whom denizens were present at the front. The hall rocked and rolled along to the primeval pounding, and in a nice touch Dave trumped the guitar pick throwing into the crowd by tossing his whistle to an audience member.

With the founders of folk metal leaving the stage one of the original members of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal came to deliver time travel to the days when the UK was shaking the stale rock of the 70s into a glorious melange of edgier muscular metal.

To today’s extreme metal fans Blitzkrieg may sound ‘tame’, but they were among the cadre of acts that blazed a trail and influenced all that followed.

Led by Brian Ross they launched into a set that celebrated the 30th anniversary of ‘A Time of Changes’. It may have been the 30th birthday of that release, but this was a release that was intended to be recorded before the four-year hiatus of Blitzkreig in 1981.

Ross may be the only original member, but the spirit of the NWOBHM was alive in the hall.

‘Hell To Pay’, the title track, ‘Pull The Trigger’ and the band’s eponymous song (‘Blitzkrieg’) still sounded fresh and vibrant, and were given a warm greeting despite many present not being born either before ‘A Time of Changes’ let alone the 1981 ‘Buried Alive’ release.

This was a par excellence performance from the veterans that showed that they are still very much a viable act in 2015.

As a warm down act ended the evening the crowds from all the stages wobbled their way back to caravans intent on keeping the party alive until day two of Hammerfest VII.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Photography by Jamie Sweetlove

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