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HAMMERFEST IV, Prestatyn, North Wales
16-17 March 2012
Hammerfest has always been a festival that has intrigued me. The thought
of the metal masses invading Pontins for a weekend of fun and frolics
sounded like a grand plan, but being a fair hike from Central Scotland I
had never ventured forth. So it was decided that I would combine
the festival with a family weekend away and, accommodation hastily arranged, we headed in convoy down the M6
on the Friday morning.
intention was to get to Prestatyn in time to catch Irish rockers Trucker
Diablo in the early afternoon, but traffic meant that we arrived at the
site just as the guys were due to be striking their last chords which
was a shame, hopefully I will catch up with them later in the year as
their album 'The Devil Rhythm'is a cracker.
Friday March 16
So once we were signed in and with wristbands in place we headed for the
second stage and Italian thrash metallers Arthemis. The band had
drawn a good crowd who were rewarded with a fantastic set.
mix of thrash and power metal the guys put on a powerful display.
Frontman Fabio Dessi was in his element and played the crowd like a pro,
well like Paul Stanley to be exact, and his enthusiasm was infectious.
highlights included opener 'Scars On Scars', a cover of Deep Purple's
'Burn' and a new song written in honour of their Hammerfest appearance
entitled 'Metal Hammer', no sucking up there then ! This was a great
performance, definitely a band to catch again in the future.
Following Arthemis we hot footed it around to catch Nottingham rockers
Spirytus who play a blend of bass heavy funk rock, sounding like
a mix of Korn and early Faith No More.
They put in
a decent shift but weren't my cup of tea, so after a few numbers we
headed off to regroup with the rest of the family and get booked in to
our cheap and cheerful caravan, a top tip if you find the on site
accommodation a bit pricey, there are plenty of cheap caravans available
close by if you do a bit of web surfing.
After settling in it was back for more metal. First up we had Irish
Celtic heavyweights Waylander who were highly entertaining. They
infuse death metal with celtic touches and are the only rock band I have
encountered with a guy playing lead tin whistle.
was fairly sparse at the start, but grew as the set progressed and by
the last number Waylander had proved themselves worthy of their main
Next up were Slam Cartel who are gaining a lot of airplay with
their current single 'Wishing Eye'. Playing on the second stage just
before Chimaira hit the main stage probably wasn't the best of slots,
but the guys put on a good show for those that ventured away from the
the set was the aforementioned single, but the band proved to be more
than a one trick pony putting in a strong set, but as stated they did
suffer from the fact they clashed with Chimaira and that is where we
Chimaira attracted arguably the biggest crowd of the weekend, the
hall was rammed by the time the band hit the stage and launched into
hardcore metal went down an absolute storm with the crowd bouncing along
throughout the set. There were highlights aplenty including 'Power
Trip', 'The Flame'and set closer 'Resurrection' which rounded off a
It would be a brave band that followed Chimaira and that dubious honour
fell to doom merchants Paradise Lost. By the time PL hit the
stage we had managed to sneak into the VIP seating area as having been
up from 6am we were starting to flag, unfortunately Paradise Lost almost
sent me to the land of nod.
that they are a bad band, just that they are a bit, well, boring after a
while and sandwiched between Chimaria and Anthrax this became painfully
obvious. They went down well though so maybe I am in the minority, each
to their own.
The band I was here to see though were the mighty Anthrax and
they didn't disappoint. From the opening bars of 'Hell On Earth' to the
closing strains of 'I Am The Law', this was a fantastic set.
was in great form, stomping around the stage pulling faces all the while
and Joey Belladonna was in fine voice. The set consisted of both classic
oldies including 'Indians', 'Madhouse' and 'Death Rider' coupled with
tracks from their latest excellent album 'Worship Music'.
band put in an energetic shift, especially Frankie Bello who still
looks the same as he did back in 1986! After the 'thrax set though, the
early start really did kick in so we headed for the exit to rest and
recuperate for Saturday's onslaught.
Saturday 17 March
After a day spent sightseeing in nearby Conwy, my wife and I headed back
to Stalag 13, sorry Pontins, for another evening of metal madness.
the stage on arrival were German power metal outfit Wizard. The
band's set was marred with a few technical problems, but they still
managed to produce the goods, even if the guitarist had to sit down for
a couple of numbers until his guitar issues got sorted out. Another good
start to the night though.
More power metal followed supplied by Swedish crew Dream Evil who
played a blinder. DE provided a consummate display sounding not unlike a
heavy version of The Scorpions in part.
'Immortal' the crowd lapped up their brand of metal. Vocalist Niklas
Isfeldt had a good rapport throughout including declaring at one point
that the band are renowned for their stupid lyrics just before playing
'Fire! Battle! In Metal!', I couldn't argue with that.
even managed to get a few lighters in the air during 'The Chosen One'
and by the time we reached the final number of the hour long set, 'The
Book Of Heavy Metal', the crowd were singing along enthusiastically,
bad lyrics or not.
A quick jaunt to the second stage after this saw us catching a couple of
numbers by Snakebite. They play a decent hardcore metal and were
going down well with the small crowd. We though had a date in Valhalla,
ok back at the main stage, with the mighty Amon Amarth.
As the intro tape died and the guys launched into 'War Of The Gods' you
could tell it was going to be a classic show.
This was my
first live encounter with Amon Amarth and it certainly won't be the
last. Johan Hegg stalked the stage like a rampaging viking warrior with
a soundtrack to lay waste to all in his path. 'Destroyer Of The
Universe', 'Death In Fire' and 'Twilight Of The Thunder God' make
looting and pillaging seem tame in comparison. Rounding off with the
saga of the 'Guardians Of Asgaard', Amon Amarth put in, what was for
me, the set of the weekend which I didn't think I would be saying after
witnessing Anthrax on the Friday. By Odin's beard, they were good!
With time marching on once more we once again ventured back to the
second stage and caught Elimination mid set. Thrash is the name
of the game here and they were ok but nothing special so with Skindred
due start their headline set we trailed back once more.
With the crowd suitably warmed up after Amon Amarth, anticipation was
high as Skindred's 'Empire' intro tape rolled and as Benji and co
kicked into 'Ratrace' the masses bounced for all they were worth, all
except me that is.
listened to Skindred on several occasions, but they do nothing for me.
They do put on an energetic show and Benji is an enigmatic frontman, but
their reggae/metal crossover does nothing for me, I was most definitely
in the minority though, so after a few numbers we headed for the exit
whilst Amon Amarth was still fresh in the mind.
Hammerfest is a great event as I hoped it would be and was well worth
the journey down. It proved to be a well organised affair with friendly
and helpful staff throughout.
As I say, if
you miss out on the on site accommodation or find it too pricey, then
the local caravan parks make a good alternative, especially if - like us
- you have under 18's in your party. As long weekends go, North Wales in
March was a bit of a cracker, hell, even the sun shone.