HRH United encompasses two festivals this year – HRH AOR and Hammerfest. I’m here purely for Hammerfest and although I’m a little disappointed to find the AOR festival has claimed the main arena stage, there’s still plenty to look forward to over the next couple of days.
Arriving at Camp HRH in Pwllheli on Thursday night, by the time I get here there’s only two Hammerfest bands left to see. So, after a quick check-in and dumping of gear into our caravan, it’s time to get stuck in amongst the metal revellers in these ever familiar holiday park surroundings.
Bull Riff Stampede
Must admit I’d only listened to Bull Riff Stampede for the first time just before leaving home, but what I’d heard certainly help power the journey to get me here in time to see them. These dudes are anger-filled thrashers of the highest standard, reminiscent of Exodus and Megadeth, yet original enough to be carving their own path. Openers ‘Enraging The Beast’ and ‘Thrashing Machine’ smash the Hammerfest audience around the face and show Bull Riff Stampede mean some serious business. The set has track after track of passionate, technical brutality with guitarist/vocalist Dave Garnett and former Blaze Bayley guitarist Jay Walsh trading heavy riffs and soloing a wave of ferocity upon us. ‘Bled to the Arena’, ‘Pieces of Hate’ and ‘Advance and Conquer’ are three great examples of tuneage which differ, but blend well into a thrash and death metal combo. Evil Scarecrow’s Monty Blitzfist fills in on drums tonight, along with bassist Rod Boston – who both power at full pelt to the end. ‘Central Embodiment of Evil’ and ‘ Mindless Heresy’ complete a stunning introduction to this Hammerfest weekender, with Bull Riff Stampede laying down the marker.
The first night at any HRH event is about having a party. There’s no better way for Hammerfesters to go about this than with New York City’s Tragedy: A Metal Tribute To The Bee Gees & Beyond. An over-the-top bombast of disco, metal, glitter and magic – this really is the number one party band for any rock fan, particular for those of a certain age. Amongst the glamorous spangle and make-up comes rockin’ versions of ‘Night Fever’, Abba’s ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’ and Toto’s ‘Africa’. Genius mash up’s include ‘It’s Raining Men’ with Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’ and a King (Neil) Diamond version of ‘Sweet Caroline’. Whilst I defy anybody not to be grinning like an idiot throughout the set, it should be noted that the band are gifted muso’s, although with their stage antics, banter and being camper than a row of tents, you’d be forgiven for overlooking that fact. A version of the Grease classic ‘You’re the One That I Want’ has a doom-laden verse which leads into a thrash chorus, and the Hall & Oates number ‘Maneater’ is given the Tragedy treatment referencing “the beast of Hammerfest City”. Tonight Tragedy prove themselves to be superb musical and comedic entertainment and the crowd at Hammerfest love every minute. Finishing up with ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ and ‘Stayin’ Alive’ lead vocalist Disco Mountain Man reminds us that “The Bee Gees wrote a lot of songs .. for us to sing!”
Review & Photography: Steve Johnston // Rock Music Photographer