Anticipation doesn’t even come close as the journey unfolded towards the first festival of the year. It may not have been under canvas, but yours truly and uber-tog Gobi were like school kids at the prospect of what was to come. Alcoholic oblivion? Rhetorical question. The finest that metal had to offer? Oh yes, and then some… uncharacteristically blue skies were overhead as we arrived. Check in was swift and cheery, and Roman soldiers and ladies in togas had got to be a result. Enough said – add whatever witticism you feel appropriate… Enough of the pre-amble, to the bands…

Accept
Accept
Accept
Accept
Accept

The Mercy House appeared to pitch themselves between classic rock and grunge, with a sleaze vibe thrown in just in case you weren’t sure. Think Soundgarden crossed with Voodoo Johnson and you wouldn’t be far off. The lead guitarist’s lap of the venue – oh the joys of wireless – was reminiscent of Dakesis’ Wayne’s soloing epics, otherwise this was clearly a case of warm up material.

Ravenface sounded like they were in a (sloppy) rehearsal. Weak vocalist, combined with run of the mill nu metal, didn’t inspire confidence. Oh for a band who could inspire. Perhaps there wasn’t long to wait…

My Ruin
My Ruin
My Ruin
My Ruin

Arceye, thankfully, restored faith immediately. Stylish from the off they shouldn’t have been playing a) this stage or b) so early on. From the moment they took the stage they looked a different class, and their musical tightness – and ability – was startlingly evident. Combining the chugginess of trash with the precision and tempo changes of modern prog sounds like a disaster, but Arceye accomplished it horrifyingly easily. Tellingly a new – as yet untitled – song was introduced half way through, and it sat so comfortably that you’d have thought it was one of the earliest songs they’d written and played. Staggering. Every component fitted perfectly. A bright future awaits….

A trip to the press area followed for the first interview of the weekend, so the next band witnessed was Holy Grail who opened on the main stage. Tight as they were, underwhelming springs to mind. After their initial impact they lost their way – despite the fact that they had a monumental bassist who seemed to want to claim anonymity – and the vocalist’s impressive lung-power couldn’t quite save them. Attention span lapsed, it was time to hot foot it to stage two where Feed The Rhino were lurking. Energetic as they were, they were stereotypically modern extreme metal. Pinches galore, enormous beat-downs. Solid enough, but you’ve heard it all so many times before.

Bleed From Within
Bleed From Within
Bleed From Within
Bleed From Within

Sylosis are oft touted as the future of British heavy metal. Despite the hype, I fail to see how. Yes they’re tight, and undeniably energetic, but originality and power? Non-existent. If you want to see a Trivium tribute band look no further.

Breed 77 continued the theme before Wolf resurrected a sceptic’s faith in humanity. Or at least traditional metal. There can be few better festival bands on the metal circuit at the moment; Wolf controlled the audience from the word go and united all and sundry with just under an hour of grin-inducing, high energy, rock and roll. Combining fine stage presence with an enviable collection of songs – “The Bite” was stunning early on, with “Hail Caesar” and “Speed On” being my particular favourites as the set progressed – Wolf had the crowd at their mercy, and delivered stylishly. Much as I enjoyed Arceye’s set, Wolf had thrown down the gauntlet for ‘set of the day’….

Turisas
Turisas
Turisas
Turisas

Entertaining as I’m sure Turisas were, having seen them several times before I’m afraid it was time to seek sustenance prior to the last few hours of metal oblivion. Bleed From Within annihilated from the word go, and were as surgical and brutal as we’ve come to expect. They are a band who are exceptionally good at what they do, with power, groove, and immense beatdowns, all sending the pit into meltdown. Regrettably they clashed with both Turisas, Accept, and the media bar opening, so audience numbers were unsurprisingly low. They deserved far better.

And so nostalgia time had finally arrived. Just under thirty years ago Accept were the first rock band I saw live (supporting Judas Priest at the Birmingham Odeon) and the intervening three decades have treated them well. It was all about the older material for me – good as the new album is – with classic after classic being unleashed. How about this for five tracks, back to back, early on – “Breaker”, “Restless & Wild”, “Son Of A Bitch”, “Metal Heart”, and “Neon Nights”? Genius. All delivered with such swagger and at such crushing volume (on a par with SunnO>>> and Eyehategod) that jaw dropping doesn’t come close. Then again, if you thought that was impressive, how about a final three of “Princess Of The Dawn”, “Up To The Limit”, and “Burning”? That intro pre-empted inevitable first encore “Fast As A Shark” before “Balls To The Wall” completed an hour and a half that was as enjoyable as seeing the band in the early to mid eighties. Good as Wolf were, Accept were band of the day by a considerable margin.

Sylosis
Sylosis

How do you follow that? Well, you couldn’t. My Ruin couldn’t hold my attention for any length of time (although to be fair Tairrie B was clearly struggling with a throat problem but battled on gamely), Ill Nino contributed a well executed set of groove metal that got several huge circle pits going, but the prospect of an early night with a few quiet beers seemed way more appealing than Blitzkrieg. Clearly I’m getting old….

The best laid plans to coin an expression. Day two got under way with the need for a fry up, a hair of the dog (or half the pelt), and a cure from the Accept-induced ear-ringing to be sought rapidly – although not necessarily in that order. Consequently Beholder lost out to a bacon and sausage butty and a trip to the nearest Offie. Sorry fellas.

Holy Grail
Holy Grail
Holy Grail

Power Quest became the first band witnessed of the day. Power metal with a hangover. Not a good mixture. My attention waned almost instantly and it took some persuasion for me to stay put to watch Svart Crown. Thank the metal gods that I did, as they pummelled their way through forty-five minutes of stunningly good extreme metal. Cross “Reign in Blood” era Slayer with blackened death metal in the style of say Behemoth and you’ll get the drift. Stage two was sparsely populated, but those in attendance witnessed a very special set indeed. Which is more than can be said for the efforts of Deadly Circus Fire. They won the award for ‘longest intro of the weekend’ and there was a guitar smashing early on, but as soon as they started playing the wheels fell off. Stage outfits and make up aside I can think of few positives, with the painful thinness of their overall sound being the real killer blow.

Interviewing duties wiped out all but ten minutes of Cthonic’s appearance. What I saw was impressive, but insufficient to really pass judgement. Almost in the blink of an eye it was time for the main stage to whir in to life – well for Attica Rage to appear anyway. Ordinary classic rock would sum things up adequately enough. The angle grinder performance artists on either side of the stage were far more entertaining than the band. Grand Magus, then, did what Grand Magus do – good old fashioned classic rock from a gifted trio of musicians. Entombed’s drummer filled in at short notice and added an interesting dynamic. Otherwise it was business as usual, with “Like The Oar Strikes The Water” setting a high standard early on. Their hour on stage whistled by, always a good sign….

Satyricon
Satyricon
Satyricon
Satyricon

A hastily re-arranged visit to the press area for the last interview of the weekend put paid to viewing Entombed, although trusted sources advised me that – as usual – they played a blinder.

Satyricon were as polished as ever, dispensing with a keyboard player for this performance. The set leant heavily on material from “The Age Of Nero” and “Now, Diabolical”, with “Black Crow On A Tombstone”, “The Pentagram Burns”, and the ever reliable “K.I.N.G.” being the highlights. The closing double whammy of “Fuel For Hatred” and “Mother North” rounded off a stylish performance. Old school black metal fans would have undoubtedly not approved, otherwise there could have been few complaints. Satyr is a magnetic frontman and Frost’s drumming has to be seen to be believed, especially his windmilling whilst blasting at ridiculous speeds. A close call, but for me they just pipped Accept for set of the weekend.

Time for a quick beer before setting up permanent residence on stage two for the triple thrash assault that was assembled to close the festival. Gama Bomb were as blisteringly fast as ever, and pulverised relentlessly for forty minutes. Frenzied pitting was a suitable accompaniment. Onslaught were as reliable as ever, culling tracks from their two most recent albums, as well as raiding the vaults for classic after classic. Chug and groove were abundant, and the sound engineer for their set had to be applauded for the impressive balance and tone he conjured up. “Let There Be Death”, “Metal Forces”, and closer “Power From Hell” were the obvious highlights. A tour of the UK in June was announced which has to be one for the diary of any serious thrash fan.

Entombed
Entombed
Entombed
Entombed

Evile anchored the event appearing on stage at twenty to two in the morning. Not an easy time to start it has to be said. It took them a while to warm up, but when they did they were highly entertaining. “We Who Are About To Die” appeared relatively early on, and seemed to have been subjected to a change to a much slower tempo, before the band unveiled the first live performance of a song off album three. “Eternal Empire” bodes well for this release, a change of direction to the first two albums towards more technical territories with tempo changes galore. A crushing final onslaught of “Bathe In Blood”, “Thrasher”, and “Infected Nation” sent the pit into ever increasing fervour and rounded off Hammerfest III in fine style.

Final thoughts? Pontins may be under new management but for Hammerfest III it was business as usual. Well organised as ever, stage times almost Central European in their accuracy, and with a new – but metal sympathetic – security crew, it was very nearly an unmitigated success. With the exception of stage clashes on day two, there was nothing to fault. I await announcements of the lineup for Hammerfest IV with interest – see you there!!!

Hammerfest III Festival Review by Chop

Hammerfest III Festival Photography by Gobinder JhittaEmail Gobinder

One Response to “Hammerfest III @ Pontins, Prestatyn, UK – Friday 18 – Saturday 19 March 2011”

  1. Keenan Talbert Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this after our chat about your course a few weeks ago, Sania. As for the exhibition? I say: GO FOR IT! I’m right behind you

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