Hammerfest IV – Hammer of Thor review

Posted on 26 March 2012
By Gemma Harris
  • Share:

Hammerfest Weekender delivered a thunderous mix of rock, metal and everything in between.

Now in its fourth year, Hammerfest returned to Pontins in Prestatyn for its annual metal festival party. Despite its grotty appearance, sticky floors and shanty town chalets, this venue has a grim charm about it and was the perfect setting for an auspicious start to festival season 2012.

Headlining the Friday main stage were New York thrashers Anthrax who put on one hell of a show. Their explosive performance was powerful and heavy and greeted by a fully fuelled audience. Anthrax are masters of metal and their best loved tracks such as Caught in a Mosh and the war dance section of Indians sent the crowd into a spasmodic frenzy.

Fast forward 24 hours and closing the Hammerfest weekend on Saturday night with a hyperactive set of true awesomeness were Newport’s finest, Skindred. Their reggae-infused heavy metal sound had everyone bouncing around like lunatics. Skindred are one of the most exciting live acts in the UK right now and their performance was intense as super cool frontman Benji Webbe ripped into a fully loaded set-list, with the likes of Pressure and Cut Dem, finally signing off with Warning.

In between these two colossal headliners was an awesome pick and mix of metal. Nottingham’s finest Evil Scarecrow closed Friday’s second stage and are one of the most entertaining bands we’ve seen in a long while. With songs like Vampyre Trousers, Labotomy and the mega Robototron Evil Scarecrow are more than just another novelty metal band. They are fun, witty, and don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s refreshing to see these guys perform live, their performance is chaotic, noisy and they keep the banter light and funny… not forgetting their rendition to Europe’s Final Countdown for the Metal Generation.

Earlier on in Day One we caught handsome Italian metallers Arthemis. Formed in 1999, boasting six albums and a new drummer on board, these boys opened with a raft of enthusiasm and a fairly decent crowd in tow. Singer Fabio Dessi is a charismatic front-man with an impressive vocal range. The whole band are ridiculously energetic and their rendition of Deep Purple’s Burn is incredible. The boys are scheduled to play alongside the likes of Manowar, Cannibal Corpse and Amon Amarth at Italy’s Gods of Metal festival later in the year.

Over the past 18 months, Trucker Diablo have gone from strength to strength as a band. On the Fresh Blood Stage, they prepared Hammerfest revellers for a lunchtime of aural destruction. Their pitch-perfect no-nonsense, Southern styled rock sound is the music we came for – real head-banging rock.

Hard rock vocalist Tom Harte whipped the crowd into a frothy beer-soaked frenzy. Trucker Diablo deserve greater recognition on the thrash-metal scene and on the strength of today’s performance it can surely only be a matter of time.

Other acts from Friday included the rather weirdly wonderful Nuneaton-based electro metallers Sci Fi Mafia. They’re definitely an interesting watch, if you like monkeys, fire and angle-grinders – a bit of an odd one out at Hammerfest.

By early evening, the Battle Stage opened up for Chimaira, who packed a girthy punch of awesomeness. It was circle pits ahoy… and the audience reaction to Resurrection and Year of the Snake was incredible. Chimaira left heads rattling and got one of the best receptions of the festival.

Next up were Paradise Lost, who sadly were plagued with some sound difficulties, which left the crowd feeling somewhat a little miffed and deflated. However, they fought through and managed to deliver a solid set, including the likes of Forever Failure, the crowd favourite One Second and As I Die. They brought their performance to a close with their mighty Embers Fire… reminding fans of their imminent UK tour next month.

Opening the proceedings for Saturday were Brighton-based noisy buggers Oaf. The rather charming punk-esque two-piece, fronted by shouty vocalist/bassist Dom Lawson and the dapper James Rayment, blasted away any hangovers from the night before with their ferocious brand of rock.

The pair immediately pulled in a crowd, despite it only being midday. Dom has a larger than life stage presence as he rocked out with his bass, all the while performing the most fascinating and rather impressive facial contortions. Meanwhile, James bashed away loudly at his pride and joy (his drum kit). Oaf are a fun pair who love what they do and served as an impressive opener for The Metal Forge Stage.

Death metallers Cerebral Bore took to the stage shortly after with an explosive performance. The Alternative Metal Stage was quite literally a sea of bodies. Vocalist Simone Pluijmers is a formidable creature with a death metal growl capable of making grown men cry. Cerebral Bore are brutal and have the crowd eating from their hand as Simone leads the way, spitting her lyrics with pure venom and force.

We later crammed into the Queen Vic pub in time to get our senses raped by the ferocious sights and sounds of Dripback. Crammed onto the tiny stage it’s a wonder they didn’t do themselves and the crowd an injury as they bash, thrash and smash about the place. These hardcore metallers are still to release their first album but have already amassed a respectable and loyal following. After this weekend they’ve converted many more metalheads into diehard fans. Dripback put on one of the most intense and brutal shows of the weekend. Incredible.

Recently reformed highly theatrical Hell opened with a very dramatic Let Battle Commence, followed by On Earth as It Is in Hell. Frontman David Bower has a commanding stage presence and at times it feels like we’re at the theatre rather than a metal festival.

Next up, with eight studio albums under their belts were battle warriors Amon Amarth. Frontman Johan Hegg took to the stage with his power beard and gave Hammerfest a monumental pounding from the band. Hegg’s roaring vocals drowned out the crowd at times – he’s pretty damn ferocious.

And so endeth this St Patrick’s day weekend of supreme metal in North Wales. One of the best things about Hammerfest is the relaxed nature of the festival, with both fans and bands hanging out together and superb chalet parties where the music eventually ends. It’s a unique experience, one you rarely encounter within any other festival environment. The line-up, organization and the venue were all spot on. Hammerfest committed to kick off the 2012 festival season with one awesome party and it delivered on all accounts – 2012 being its best year so far. If you love your metal and like a good knees-up with a load of like-minded awesome folk, then Hammerfest is definitely worth a gander.

Words: Gemma Harris
Pictures: Lara Cullen, Frank Ralph