Thrash and black metal kick out the festival’s proverbial jams
For seven years now, metalheads from across the UK have been descending upon an out of season holiday camp in North Wales – now in its third year at the current site at Haven, Pwhelli - for three days of self-inflicted liver and neck torture, of beer swigging, headbanging and all round heavy music madness. A place that, during holiday season, is amass with hyperactive children, snotty parents and cheesy, family friendly ‘entertainment,’ Hammerfest is a stark change of pace. But every year I’m told by smiling staff members – hot dog venders, barmen and bouncers – just how much they love it. While the hyperactivity in this weekend’s demographic is just as high – if not higher – than that of your average sugar crazed five year old, I’m always told how refreshing and warming the atmosphere becomes when filled with denim, beards and heavy, forceful music.
Even at just gone five o’clock on an overcast Thursday evening, the buzz around the place is palpable. While ducks waddle around a lake outside the Hammerfest stage, where swan and dragon pedalos are parked, clearly enjoying the respite from their in season pummelling, spirits are high. These vibes are reflected in the odd, dark and playful conversation I stumble upon in the toilets.
“It’s all very homoerotic in here,” slurs one guy mid-piss in the urinal to my left. At six o’clock, he’s already hammered.
“It’s alright mate, I’ve got a cork up my arse. Nothing’s going up there,” comes a reply from my right.
The Hammerfest stage – a dark, pillared room that swallows up phone signal like an alligator on a fish – is more than well attended as Incinery light the fuse to the pre-party. They make it worth the punters leaving their warm, booze filled caravans and trudging through miserable rain and slippyer-than-a-porn-star’s-snatch mud to get to the stage; their heavy thrash battering a fine way to kick things off. Dead, Bound and Buried, an early-set highlight, is a staunch thrash metal opus full of whiplash inducing riffs and their set as a whole flows smoothly. Despite niggling technical difficulties out of the band’s control the Nottingham band go about their business with an impressive professionalism that brings a sharp edge to their set.
But they leave their more deadly weapons at the back of their arsenal. The latter tracks boasting much stronger choruses and lavish with harmonies, breakdowns and spicy solos. Set closer Dawn Of War takes things up a notch one last time, even causing a minion mosh pit in the fancy dress heavy crowd - and how many bands can say that?
Marred by a poor mix, with those niggling technical issues still not wholly resolved, Wrexham symphonic black metallers Hecate Enthroned bring blast beats, guttural growls and a much darker mood 70 miles east. Led mainly by tinkling piano which unfortunately clips in the speakers, there is just something lacking from their set. That being said, they do get heads banging and hair swaying about the place, a flag even held aloft emblazoning their logo. But for me their guitar tone, especially on the clean moments, is a bit weak. They just don’t come across as the most able musicians, a confidence lacking in their set and I feel that spill into the crowd a little.