|Hammerfest IX – Pwllheli, Hafan-Y-Mor Holiday Camp - 25 March 2017|
|Written by Rich Hobson|
|Saturday, 15 April 2017 04:30|
With two days’ worth of stellar performances behind it, Hammerfest IX’s final day has a lot to live up to. Luckily, pulling in the inherently fun Alestorm for a headline set, as well as a closing set from UK death metal legends Cancer and a whole stage dedicated to black metal sets up all the ingredients for a great closer.
The first band up for the day are Fury, a band we first encountered back at the HRH Metal event in February. As was said then, Fury come across as a band very much in love with what they do, a group of earnest guys very much happy to be here. Personality can go a long way to creating an endearing band, but luckily Fury also have the songs and stage presence to match, blasting away hangovers with their brand of ultra-catchy neo-classical metal.
Catchiness isn’t a word often associated with black metal, replaced instead with a sense of the epic, grandiose riffs casting the ears out to the frozen tundras that act as the genre’s spiritual environment. Old Corpse Road, the openers of the HRH Black stage, are the perfect example of this, sounding enormous as they unleash blast-beats and anguished howls at the audience. Old Corpse Road gleefully live up to the genre’s most theatrical elements, combining huge intros and blistering tunes in a distinctive blend.
Heading back over to the main stage, it’s time to enjoy the first of two pirate metal bands booked for the day. Lagerstein enjoy the theatricality of pirate metal more than their counterparts in Alestorm, dressed up in full costume and getting the party in full flow. Clearly one of the more popular subgenres within the metal canon, the amassed costumed pirates respond with vigorous cheers and raised drinks for every song in the set.
Jumping straight back into HRH Black, next up are Norwegian black metal veterans Kampfar. Emaciated and demonic in tone, it’s fair to say that Kampfar know exactly how to strike a balance between despondent walls of sound and hellish imagery. The archetypal black metal band, Kampfar are black metal at its purest.
Heading back towards the main stage, it’s time to check in with Hammerfest (and all round metal) favourites Evil Scarecrow. Masters of ceremony, Evil Scarecrow have honed their craft into a beloved spectacle, the stagecraft around each song almost as important as the tune itself. Undoubtedly ridiculous but undeniably fun, the band’s status as one of the premier comedic-metal mashups wouldn’t hold nearly so much weight if they weren’t also excellent songwriters, tunes like ‘Dance of the Cyclops’, ‘Space Dementia’ and ‘Hurricanado’ easily standing alongside any other up-and-coming metal band on the circuit.
Throw in some big dance-moves (pincers thrown throughout the set easily outnumbering the traditional devil-horns) and colourful on-stage characters (including Chun-Li, Robotron and the iconic ‘Crabulon’ to close) and you’ve got the recipe for a huge spectacle, something which offers a big change from the general more-serious-than-thou atmosphere you might find elsewhere.
Of course, some bands can get away with creating a spectacle without bringing theatricality to the mix… Enter, Alestorm.
The premier pirate metal band, Alestorm’s supremacy comes in no small part thanks to their ability to write a great tune (or 16). Opener ‘Keelhauled’ sets the stage with a massive sing-along, carried across on each and every track from ‘Shipwrecked’ to ‘Wenches & Mead’. Much like Evil Scarecrow before them, Alestorm are gleefully silly but clearly possess the right skills to put on a fantastic show. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bizarre cover (as with Taio Cruz’s ‘Hangover’) or one of their own hits, the band tackle it with an excitable and infectious energy that makes it impossible to not get caught up in their pace.
Closing out the main stage for the Hammerfest IX event are UK death metal legends Cancer. Drawing their sound from death metal’s earliest incarnations, Cancer sound like a cross between Death and early Sepultura, combining slow vicious riffs with bursts of thrash metal energy for a devastatingly fun set. Now approaching their third decade as a band, Cancer haven’t lost any of the fire that made them a vital force in British death metal in the first place.
Closing off the weekend are Irish folk metallers Waylander. Built around Celtic folk melodies and a vicious metal backing, Waylander are decidedly heavier than your usual folk metal fare, throwing elements of black metal into the mix for a unique and distinctive sound. The perfect hybrid act to close off the festival, the band embody folk metal’s inquisitive and experimental nature, bridging the gap between the day’s black metal fare and the folk-inspired sound of Alestorm and their ilk.
With nine years precedent to build the brand, the evolution of Hammerfest (and, to a greater extent the entire HRH brand) is phenomenal. Pulling together acts from around the world, the festival is an opportunity to enjoy some of the best bands from across the metal and rock canon in a comfortable (albeit unusual) environment. Up-and-coming bands from the UK mingle with legendary blasts from the past and genre-specific titans enjoy some of the biggest coverage they’re likely to get on these shores.
From Destruction to Cancer, Alestorm to Napalm Death, the line-up for Hammerfest IX has pushed the event to new levels, an expansive and diverse selection guaranteeing plenty of fun for metalheads of all ages. Whilst areas of the music press worry about the state of guitar music and the metal genre as a whole, events like Hammerfest prove that there is still plenty of love and community spirit to go around, plenty of talent to be nurtured and sustained and no end in sight to the heavy metal legacy.
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © Simon Dunkerley/SD Photography/Hammerfest
All content © Über Rock. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.