As the HRH masses once more descended upon a remote corner of north Wales for this year’s eighth instalment, the PlanetMosh team also assembled from several corners of the UK to brave the early winter weather, hard-as-concrete camp beds, dodgy heating and copious amounts of alcohol to report from the front line of a festival that defies the (perceived) logic that such events should be held in 400-feet of mud in what laughlingly passes for the British summer…
Hard Rock Hell has a deserved reputation for bringing together classic acts with the best of rising talent, and openers Midnight Messiah (https://www.facebook.com/MidnightMessiah) proved this point right from the off, as they took to the stage at the seemingly unmetallic hour of 6pm on the Thursday evening… Having arisen from the ashes of the legendary (in their own lunchtime?) Elixir, the London five-piece kicked off the weekend in fine style, with their updated, classic NWOBHM sound very much in the vein of Saxon – especially in Paul Taylor’s earnest vocals – delivering a generation-spanning set of pure, honest, straightforward metal enjoyment [MA].
Things took a decidedly weird turn – and not for the last time over the weekend – with The Earls Of Mars (https://www.facebook.com/TheEarlsOfMars), who led earlycomers down a dark back alley to a ‘Twilight Zone’-inspired world of psychedelic tales about extra-terrestrials walking among us and other assorted miscreantal nonsense, such as the story of ‘The Astronomer Pig’. Si McCarthy’s upright bass added a jazzy element which turns the venue into a decidedly non-smokey speakeasy as TEOM entertained and bemused in equal measures [MA].
Personally speaking, one band I had been looking forward to seeing, after reviewing their debut album (http://planetmosh.com/hellion-rising-eight-of-swords/) was Hellion Rising (https://www.facebook.com/hellionrisingofficial), and the Newcastle combo did not disappoint, with a set that was high on both its attitude – especially in terms of vocalist Matt Adamson’s confident rapport – and its groove metal dynamic, which led to an early highlight of the weekend [MA].
It’s hard not to feel sorry for Feral Sun (https://www.facebook.com/feralsunrock), who battle technical difficulties throughout their set caused by the flames and sparks from the official opening ceremony wreaking havoc on their equipment. It’s a shame, because the chugging riffs and elements of Load-era Metallica (in this instance not a bad thing) would have been showcased a lot better had they been able to remain consistent [EL].
It looks like the first night could fizzle as opposed to burn, but Massive Wagons (https://www.facebook.com/MassiveWagons) are the band to light the touch paper with an abundance of energy and quite brilliant covers of Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ and Status Quo’s ‘Down Down’ [EL].
Following them would be no easy feat for most bands but Lizzy Borden (https://www.facebook.com/lizzybordenband) aren’t most bands. Opening with ‘Hail Caesar’ and putting on as much of a stage show as is possible, it’s a performance of class and quality. Again the band throw in a couple of covers in ‘Long Live Rock and Roll’ and ‘Born to Be Wild’ which cause mass sing-a-longs throughout the venue [EL].
Taking us into Friday are Godsized (https://www.facebook.com/Godsizedband) who deliver a rousing set of Clutch-meets-Black Stone Cherry rock with songs like ‘Soul Taker’ and ‘It’s a Hangin” receiving a great reception for an audience hungry for that last bit of music before the day is out [EL].
Review jointly written by Mark Ashby and Elliot Leaver.
Photographs by Sean Larkin.