In the dark, mirky depths of Northern Wales, in a peaceful, untouched town, an army of...
Don't worry, this isn't one of those stories!
Friday 12th of November saw a mass of metalheads take to the rural, winding roads of North Wales, for another round of Hard Rock Hell Festival.
Sat amongst a beautiful setting in the arse-end of Wales was a collective of die-hard music fans, a line-up of the best established and up-and-coming bands in the business, and a large team of press - all eager for a weekend of complete carnage, if by carnage we mean a good drink, and respectful enjoyment of great music of the best quality.
The general vibe of the festival is never anything less than epic, and HRH9 proved to meet the same ridiculously high standards.
Thursday had a later starting time to allow everyone time to arrive at their accommodation and settle in, or rather... prepare for a few days of little sleep, drink and great music.
kickstarting the festival in style was rising Irish rockers, The Screaming Eagles. Having released their latest album earlier in the year, this was the perfect opportunity to showcase their talent to a heart crowd of willing listeners, and this is exactly what they did. Owning the stage with style and grove and setting the standard for bands to follow, these guys delivered an all-round great set that most definitely got HRH goers riled up and ready for the weekend's events.
It seems that Thursday was taken over by Irish lads with attitude and pure style, with Trucker Diablo also taking to the stage, working through a set with a contrasting variation. Adding a light hearted bit of 'Tallica in the mix didn't disappoint. As they perform, it's evident that they have already accumulated a strong fan base that have no fear of singing aloud to be heard. A refreshing vibe for a rising band, and an atmosphere that will continue to draw me to this particular music, for sure.
Ending in a fury of heavy riffs and chugs, Zakk Wylde and his group of equally 'heavy' musicians stormed the stage and left a mark in Pwlhelli that surely won't be forgotten any time soon. Honestly, I find Zakk to be an incredibly original guitar player, but very self indulgent. I can safely say that this set would be quick enough to shut-up any doubters initial outlook. Check them out before you you rule them out.
Friday was a day where I had opportunity to listen to bands that I'd been wanting to see live for quite some time, with Crobot, Helloween and UFO topping the list. All carrying a hefty bunch of fans along to their sets, not one of these bands failed to impress...
Sweeping away the dust of yesterday, first band of the day, Big Foot, hit the stage and gave it everything they had, bringing stellar riffs, vocal melodies and generally impressive stage presence to the table, with axeman, Sam Millar flaunting style and attitude for the full length of the set. Just being two years in to their career, I can see these guys getting to where they want to be pretty sharpish - their passion and purpose shined through, continuously throughout their slot.
It's hard work being at these festivals, so refuelling is vital, and it's usually in the form of; another pint, a quick meal and then a rush back to a stage for more entertainment. This becomes a recurring habit throughout the weekends activities. That stage schedule we all spend time vigorously crafting usually goes to pot as getting side tracked happens quite easily and at regular intervals. It's fair to say that surprises come in abundance at these events, with so many bands being fresh on the scene (or at least fresh to my ears), there's always a band that really connects with the crowd and leaves an impression. Walking by stage two to check out the merch stalls was the best decision we made on Friday, though, we didn't exactly make it that far, as the gritty, bluesy sounds of Riot Horse lassoed us in and had us captivated for the duration of the set. 2015 has seen a tasty surge of blues rock bands, though a lot seem to get lost in the water due to the sheer amount of mediocre attempts, but with chunky riffs, Adde Sydow's raspy vocals and stage presence, and memorable lyrics and melodies, Riot Horse are now emerging at the top of my playlists. Hailing from Sweden, with charisma and style 'for days', these guys were one of my favourite of the weekend, without a shadow of doubt.
Crobot - With anticipation coming out of my ears, heading to stage one to see Crobot was a no brainer. I'd heard so many positive stories about this band, I needed to see what all the hype and fuss was about. Turns out the fuss was validated pretty quickly.
Friday boiled down to the two 'main acts'; Helloween and UFO - two bands that I hadn't perviously seen live, but had high hopes for.
Having been brought up on 'Keepers', Helloween material has long been a staple in my music collection, though I'd never had the opportunity to see them perform live up until this point. Ever the opportunist, I made the most of this and was sure to sing along to every word of a set that seemed to send every fan into that room right back to the mid/late eighties with the likes of 'Eagle Fly Free', 'Dr. Stein' and crowd favourite 'I Want Out'. Throughout the performance, Lead vocalist Andi Deris demanded crowd participation, which was very well received and kept the fans fully engaged in the set. This all happened whilst founding member, and axeman, Michael Weikath did his usual waddling round the stage, cigarrete in mouth - An odd sight, but very entertaining... somehow.
UFO - Form, fall apart, re-form etc etc. We know the pattern here, but honestly, UFO made it clear why they're still a relevant band and need very little introduction. As it stands, you don't really need to hear anything more than Vinnie Moore's stylistic guitar playing to appreciate what this band has to offer. Undeniably, this guy can outplay the vast majority of guitarists out there, yet he somehow sits in the midst of UFO with control and passion and with no ego to be seen. His playing really is admirable and gives UFO a bit of a kick up the arse that it probably needed. Never the less, Frontman Phil Mogg still has it, and thought I hate to admit it, he certainly showed the younger bands how it's done, as he continuously reached each high note and maintained the strong vocal melodies. It was far beyond impressive and when the intro to 'Doctor, Doctor' and 'Lights Out' kicked in, the room was in uproar - no need to wonder why.
All in all, an incredible second day at Hard Rock Hell. Feet in bits, ears still ringing, it was most definitely time to crash and get some much needed sleep. This music appreciating and alcohol consumption is hard graft.