For four days in March each year, metal fans descend on Prestatyn Sands Holiday Park, Wales for Hammerfest. This year was the fourth year the festival was held and for those that attended I’m sure you will agree with me when I say long may it continue.
So what is it like at Hammerfest? Well, the first thing to note about this festival for those that have never been, is that it’s indoors. Why, because it’s held at Pontin’s, which given the UK weather in March can only be considered a good thing. Though it does provide moments of oddity, not least from seeing hundreds of metal folk walking around to the sounds of heavy metal right next to colourful images of Snappy the Crocodile (or whatever its name was).
The other main difference between Hammerfest and other festivals is that you rent a chalet instead of setting up camp on a patch of grass. This alone holds many benefits; your own bathroom, enough room to swing a cat (if you choose to, though please don’t) and the facilities to cook a decent fry up without having to expose fellow festival goers to your hung-over state until you resemble something near normal. So how were the facilities? Supposedly the chalets had been renovated since the last Hammerfest and I heard mixed comments as to how much had been done. However, for mine, it was clean, secure, comfortable and the fridge held 3 days worth of fry-ups and enough beer to keep me happy. So overall, I was very satisfied. Thanks also go to the map that was provided on check-in showing where your chalet was in relation to the stages, etc. Of course it would have been more useful if I had taken it with me to use when you’re all ‘kicked out’ (very politely) at the end of the night and you’re not quite sure where you are.
For those that left their chalet (and I realise some didn’t make it out that often due to drink related tiredness) you had the choice of three stages throughout the day, with Stage 1 not opening till the evening. Stage 3 was held in the Queen Vic pub, which is a bit surreal when you are in there watching a band and then turn to look towards the door and you see an old fashioned pub. But it was a great venue for the bands that played there and was always busy – though this may have something to do with it being the first bar open for most of the day. J Being the dedicated music journo that I am I spent a great deal of the weekend in the press room (I know, get me!) but when I did manage to get out and about I for one enjoyed watching the bands play on this stage, as the atmosphere was always good, the beer cold, the sound quality was excellent and the music rockin’.
Stage 2 was located next door and was overall my favourite of the stages and where I spent most of my free time; though this may have something to do with the fact that the bands went on later and the bar stayed open longer, but also due to the bands that where listed to play. Head out from there, leaving behind a dark room filled with heavy metal tracks and you enter a brightly coloured amusement arcade, which is a bit of an odd sight to say the least.
Keep going and you soon walk back into darkness and the merchandise section set up in the main bar area next to Stage 1, where the headlining acts played to huge crowds. For those of you with VIP passes you may have taken advantage of access to the raised seating area which allowed a fantastic uninterrupted view over the sea of people straight to the stage. When you’re as miniature as myself being able to get that good a view of the stage is something you mainly just dream about so I fully appreciated getting a seat during Anthrax. However, I will be the first to admit, that being seated at the back does make you feel a bit detached from the action and certainly doesn’t give the same feeling you get being squished towards to front with an occasional view. Something I forwent when Skindred played on Saturday, though I managed to grab quite a nice spot just left of the stage.
For those of you that like to get in a bit of shopping there was a small but good collection of stalls selling merchandise and the usual metal festival wares. I didn’t buy anything this year merch wise, though I was continuously impressed with the price of beer – £3 a pint. Bonus!
There was certainly no shortage of good bands to watch this year, though there were a few painful timetabling clashes which left a few people unsure which bands to see. I tried to divide my time up when bands clashed; Evile vs Evil Scarecrow; Achren vs Anthrax; Paradise Lost vs RSJ. Basically, Friday evening was a plethora of clashes. Add to this my last interview being at 9.30pm, I didn’t get too much opportunity to run between stages and catch each of the bands. Though even when I did for Evile and Evil Scarecrow I found that having started at the latter’s stage, I never actually made my way over to see Evile as I was enjoying the other set too much. Too many clashes. But, that’s also a good thing in itself – you want a festival where you have so many good bands that you don’t quite know where to put yourself. I’m already looking forward to 2013 and seeing what treats the line-up has in store for everyone. Personally I would love to see some of the bands that played this year back again as there were some cracking sets over the weekend. (Perhaps the ones I didn’t manage to see; Achren, RSJ, Trucker Diablo, Collapse.)
There were many highlights over the weekend for me personally and many a hilarious moment. Band wise my favourite sets were from Anthrax, Savage Outlaw, Dripback and Amon Amarth, with the top three spots going to Fury, Evil Scarecrow and of course, Skindred.