Hammerfest 2009 - Rated!
United Kingdom | 30 April 2009
With great music and stunning sunshine, Hammerfest had a debut to remember, says Ross Baker.
Overall – 8/10
Hammerfest, a two-day music festival featuring a mix of heavy metal’s vanguard and new blood is the brainchild of Metal Hammer magazine and the promoters of Hard Rock Hell. The event is based at the Pontins Holiday Camp in Prestatyn, Wales across three stages and has an age restriction of 16. Turnout was strong on both days particularly for heavyweights Opeth and Sepultura.
The weather was very pleasant all weekend with lots of sun which made sitting outside the Queen Victoria Pub, in which the third stage was based, an absolute joy. The only problem with this was that a couple of the smaller third stage bands were neglected in favour of the glorious sunshine.
Also, while there were no queues, it was annoying to find that the main entrance was not an exit after 5pm, which meant that to get to the chalets you had to walk right around the building for some inexplicable reason.
Getting There and Back – 7/10
Pontins is ten minutes walk from Prestatyn train station with plenty of car parking for motorists. However with no shuttle buses from the station, festival-goers had to grab a cab if you didn’t have a car.
The Site – 8/10
The three rooms that made up the stages were more than adequate apart from the third stage which was in the Queen Victoria pub. The main two arenas were very well attended and there were no queues to get into each stage which gave everyone opportunity to check out all their favourite bands. Capacity during headline acts on both stages was close to full and there was plenty of seating for those who needed a rest from the day’s excesses and the high seats at the back of the main stage provided an excellent viewpoint and access for the disabled. The Jagermeister stage also gave fans the opportunity to meet bands and see a great acoustic set from Attica Rage on the Saturday.
Atmosphere – 8/10
Hammerfest had a fantastic atmosphere with fans moshing, partying and dressing up in all sorts of costumes if they fancied. There were circle pits but no fighting. There were, however, a few idiots who littered the chalet site with loo roll and one broken window, but nothing that should put venue owners off hosting more events of this nature in the future. The security was helpful and friendly and there was a real atmosphere of solidarity amongst music fans.
The Swedish masters made the main stage their own with another commanding performance from their back catalogue. Vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt is a laugh riot with his unassuming nature and sharp wit which is a real change from your standard metal frontman. Musically their mix of 70’s progressive rock ballads and savage death metal is popular with the old and young alike. Musically highlights were an inspired rendition of ‘The Hessian Peel’. which sent shivers down the spine and the savage moshpit fury inspired by ‘Deliverance’.
The Rotted 8/10
The London grind metal mob are like a gang-fight set to music: all tattoos, booze and rock ‘n’ roll cool. Undoubtedly the most energetic group of the weekend, they pound through a white knuckle ride of a set. Lead vocalist Ben is as aggressive as an extra from the film ‘Romper Stomper’ but with fantastically humorous lyrics like “With twenty Bensons and a bottle of White Lightning. I’m gonna get wrecked or I’m gonna die trying." The audience went mad for them from the word go and a very tidy cover of The Cro-Mags hardcore anthem ‘Hard Times’ had them eating out of their hands.
Considering that Derrick Green has fronted the band for over a decade, since they parted ways with former vocalist Max Cavalera, it would be ludicrous to call him the new guy anymore. Green is a more compelling and confident frontman since he debuted with the group in 1998, but you still can’t help but feel that he’s the Ronnie Dio to Cavalera’s Ozzy. That said, Green is a commanding presence live, reminiscent of Arnie’s nemesis the Predator: all flailing dreadlocks and drill sergeant like intensity. Guitarist Andreas Kisser chips in with some sharp riffs and speed metal licks and new drummer Jean hold down the tribal rhythms. Tracks like opener ‘Moloko Mesto’ bring the ultra-violence of Antony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’ kicking and screaming into the noughties and older cuts like the incendiary ‘Territory’ and anthem of civil unrest ‘Refuse/Resist’ still prove that, despite missing half their classic line up, the Seps are still a mean bunch of droogs not to be messed with.
When it comes to big riffs and low end might, there’s none better than the old Witchfinders themselves - Cathedral. Lee Dorrian and co take to the stage and deliver a set full of heavyweight musical muscle the only way they can. Tracks like newbie ‘Open Mind Surgery’ and classic cut ‘Ride’ redefine the term elephantine with guitarist Gaz Jennings delivering chops that would make Tony Iommi himself shiver. Finishing with their calling card ‘Hopkins Witchfinder General’ they leave their mark on a stunned and rapturous audience. Roll on next year.
Exit Ten 7/10
Exit Ten’s emotionally tinged hard rock draws a big crowd on stage one. The soaring vocals of singer Ryan are what really make these Reading natives stand out from their heavier peers on the bill. ‘Godspeed’ and ‘Warriors’ have bags of passion and the fact that they are able to blend Ryan’s striking voice with nail-biting guitar-work would indicate a very bright future for them.
Mia Hope 5/10
Despite having a member of former Brit tech metal heroes Eden Maine amongst their ranks, Mia Hope’s Converge/ Dillinger Escape Plan type off beat approach to metal-core sounds messy and unfocussed with too many ideas jockeying for position. ‘50 Year Storm’ is punishing and has some nice classic rock style guitar work but its all too soon before the band just over complicate things with ill advised breakdowns and standard sandpapered larynx vocals - a wasted opportunity.
Open The Skies 3/10
You have to feel sorry for Open The Skies who experience the lowest turnout of the festival by far. With everyone either watching Tyr’s Nordic pagan metal or the football match in the corner of the pub, they are fighting a losing battle from square one but frankly their formulaic and repetitive approach to post hardcore does nothing to entice punters to dump their pint and get down the front. “I won’t forget those years but they won’t forget me either,” they bleat. From the looks of this room, lads, there are a few people that might beg to differ.
The convenient layout of the venue that made getting from stage to stage a breeze. Coupled with the Jagermeister acoustic stage catering for the fans outside and the cafeteria serving a quality full breakfast for only three quid.
The faffing about of bands sound checking in between performances that seemed to take longer than usual. Particularly before the headliners on Saturday.
A man wearing some Jagermeister bandanas as a nappy dancing in the moshpit during Cathedral. Fortunately this was a fashion that didn’t catch on.
By Ross Baker