Hard Rock Hell XI – Pwllheli, Hafan y Môr Holiday Camp – 11 November 2017 Print
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Saturday, 18 November 2017 04:40

The third and final morning of HRH’s 11th chapter dawned, much like the one before, distinctly chilly, with a swirling breeze gusting in over the sea and through our remote caravan park. The rain that had spat briefly on us the previous day had arrived in vengeance overnight before passing on its merry journey eastward, leaving the smell of wet grass lingering in the air as we drive up the coast to Camp HRH.


Due to the previous evening’s incident, DQ is still in considerable pain, and therefore we take the difficult decision to eschew the action on the main stage and set up our own miniature camp at the side of the smaller one across the boulevard. And, it has to be admitted immediately, that the security guys are amazing from the off – fetching herself a chair so she can rest her ankle between forays into the pit, ensuring that she gets checked over by the inhouse medical team… and even acting as an occasional crutch (a role also fulfilled throughout the day, with consummate good humour, by our good friend Rob from Midland Metalheads) as she ventures to the front of the stage to grab those valuable photographs that accompany these humble words and make them look all the prettier! Well done guys, and thanks due.


Now, on to the music (after all, that’s what we’re here for, right boys ‘n’ girls?).


Beth Blade & The Beautiful Disasters 7


One act which DQ had been determined not to miss this weekend was Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters. We hobble into the venue just as they’re reaching the end of their first song, and it is immediately obvious that they are much heavier live than on album. Beth herself dominates the stage with confidence and charm, grinding like a true guitar hero, falling to her knees and bouncing around like a lunatic when not belting out her lyrics with a voice strong enough to bend steel girders. She definitely, and defiantly, proves that ‘This Bitch Bites’ as she gets ‘Down N Dirty’ with a nice line in sleazy guitar riffs, held together with some big-bottomed rhythms and coupled with a healthy dose of catchy chorus, all topped off with a strident positive attitude that suggests Beth is determined to get where she wants to go with her music – and is prepared to trample all over anyone who gets in her way…


HRH veterans Western Sand play the sort of hard rockin’ music designed to be blasted out of big trucks as they pummel their way down the long dusty highways, their big crunchy riffs coupled with equally expansive melodies – and some really nice southern blues touches, as highlighted early on in their set on the gorgeous ‘Mississippi Queen’. Again, like many of the bands to grace the second stage over the course of the weekend, it’s bold and decisive and in your face. But, they are a mere appetiser for what is to come over the rest of the day…


Bad Touch 7


Perhaps the one of highest profile of the second stage acts, Bad Touch deliver traditional hard rock infused with a healthy dose of soul (appropriately, their intro tape is the late James Brown) and an equally generous measure of blues infused in its heart. Despite claiming to have had only three hours sleep – singer Stevie Westwood constantly reminds us that they just kicked off their first ever headline tour the previous evening – they display plenty of energy… and the audience reciprocate (just as they did for the two acts before them). They take the chance of unveiling a new song, ‘Where I Belong’, the deep southern blues vibe of which would, along with the likes of ‘Cowboy Outlaw’ and ’99 Per Cent’, sit easily in the catalogues of the Skynyrd or Hatchet clans.


By complete contrast, and not for the last time today, Syron Vanes inject some serious traditional heavy metal into the proceedings. It’s maybe an ill-timed move as, although they do manage to retain the attention of a small band of diehard horn-raising metallians, there does seem to be a severe loss in momentum. Nevertheless, they deliver some neat riffs underpinned by taut rhythms and topped off decent melodies and reasonably catchy choruses, all delivered with tightness and aplomb.


Burnt Out Wreck 6


Another band I personally had been looking forward to seeing was Burnt Out Wreck, the new project from Heavy Pettin’s Gary Moat, which has seen him step out from behind the drumkit and take over vocal duties. I raved about their debut album back in February, and was really anticipating their live show having the same effect – and, once again, I was not disappointed: far from it. Moat proves that neither he nor his bandmates live up to their moniker, but are a re-energised musical force, whose infectious brand of rock ‘n’ roll gets heads nodding right from the off – and even a few couples dancing at the same time. One of the highlight sets of the weekend.


Things get decidedly heavy again with Hark and their well-informed doom-infused groove. They’re obviously not to everyone’s taste, however, as the crowd has thinned out quite a bit – maybe the parpy progginess of the Von Hertzen Brothers was more soothing to some of the hangovers undoubtedly kicking in at this stage. Nevertheless, the Swansea deliver dark, dense riffs which match the twilight descending outside and they back their sound up with plenty of growl and heft.


Louder Still 8


The crowd has dwindled even further by the time Louder Still mount the stage. No, to be brutally honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a band with such a stupid fucking name: I mean it brings with it all sorts of Bad News/Spinal Tap/Steel Panther connotations… What we actually get is heavy blues rock built on a concrete solid foundation and delivered with pace and passion, via driving riffs and a neat line in vocal harmonies on the choruses, all propelled along by thick, thumping bass lines and precise percussion. Thankfully, the crowd grows as their set progresses, as they deliver a set of songs that make you want to ‘Let Your Hair Down’ and unleash ‘The Devil Inside’.


The Blanko’s dense gothic psychedelia signals another complete change of mood. The Finns somehow manage to blend HIM-esque sleaziness with elements of Muse- and Rush-esque progression, yet underpinned with a raw metallic sensibility, especially in Jyri Tikka’s thrumming bass lines. At times, the changes in style and tempo are confusing – just as you are getting into the vibe of one song, either it or the next one flies off in a completely different direction than from where you thought it was headed – but it is an intriguing mix which captivates just as much as it perplexes others. Still, I’ll be looking out for them if they ever pass UR’s doorway again.


The Brink 8


By complete contrast (again), The Brink deliver unto us raucous, hip-grinding sleaze with West Coast meets Scandi sensibilities, and they are just the kick up the ass the event needs at this time of the evening. Tom Quick has a tremendous voice with a good range, which he knows how to use, and the beautifully crafted songs are matched by the tight musicianship, especially on the part of the three-man rhythm section. And, in Lexi Laine the Sheffield band (who are just about to head out on tour with Graham Bonnet) also possess an enormously talented shredder who can stand toe to toe with any of the current crop of young axeslingers and give them a good seeing to.


And another change in mood… with King Creature, the emphasis is on riffs – big ass riffs that purr and thrum and seep into your pores with a sublime energy. Snappy, precise percussion underpins the massive bass lines, while the twin guitars drive forward like stampeding bulls with a toreador in their sights. They heavily showcase songs from their forthcoming album – another one to add to my wish list for the upcoming present exchanging season – with the stand-out for me being ‘Break The Fuck Down’, which has a Lizzy-esque feel, which is ironic considering who are due to headline the main stage around half an hour after the Cornish quartet finish their set.


Black Whiskey - they obviously have some Irish blood in them, with using the correct spelling of the gold stuff - play traditional hard rock built on the sort of chunky bass that makes DQ go weak at the knees (bad ankle or not!). There is a nice dense feel to Kev Ingles’ guitar which matches this grunt beautifully. They are acutely aware of their positioning on the bill – “we’re here to keep you amused until Black Star Riders come on, so we’ll try to do that until then,” remarks vocalist Simon Gordon – but this is no mere time-filler of an act as they deliver a confident and solid performance: how some of the crowd are still standing at this stage, never mind boogying their butts off, is a testament to the sheer quality of all the acts showcased on this “secondary” stage over the past ten hours or so. With Gordon heavily plugging a new album due early in 2018, it looks like there’ll be another dent in the ÜR credit card before too long.


Black Whiskey 2


It’s here that the ÜR team decides to call it a day and beat the post-gig rush out the gates. We would have loved to have counted all the bands in and counted them all out again, but events conspired against us: nevertheless, we waved cheerio to another edition of HRH and made our way into the cold night air with a warm glow in our hearts and the comforting knowledge that rock ‘n’ roll, despite what a certain loud-mouthed multi-millionaire showman may assert, is very much alive and kicking and, for the time being, possessed of a rich pool of talent which deserves the support of each and every true fan out there.


It would be extremely remiss of us to sign off our coverage without a few well-deserved thanks. Firstly, to all the team at HRH for another superbly organized event, delivered with efficiency and a love for what they do. Secondly, and as already intimated, to the wonderful security team, who carried out their duties with professionalism, courtesy and a constant smile on their faces: your mammies should be proud of each and every one of you. And finally, but by no means least, to all the togs with whom it was our pleasure to work over the weekend: again, professional in every regard and always willing to help each other out… as big David said, “we don’t do this rival websites shit very well, do we?” No, we don’t brother – but what we do is do it the way it should be done… so, here’s to the next time\m/


PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © The Dark Queen/Uber Rock. You can view our full gallery of photographs HERE.


HRH XI takes place from 8 – 11 November 2018. Acts confirmed so far include Saxon, The Dead Daisies, Girlschool, Femme Fatale, Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Thunderstick, Ryders Creed, The Rising Souls, The Dukes Of Bordello and Renegade Twelve. Tickets are on sale now.


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