Thursday, February 22, 2024

HRH Hammerfest 2017: Saturday Highlights

All good things must come to an end, and this mindset hangs heavy in the air of the final day of Hammerfest 2017. As bleak as it feels, it’s not going to dampen any spirits, as roaring hordes of horn-throwing metal fans are racing to kick-start the glorious finale.

Opening the ‘Young Blood’ portion of the festival is the Birmingham born three-piece, Torous. The trio incorporate Baroness style grooves and hints of prog-rock, with a vocal line that straddles power metal and thrash. Their forte lies in their faster songs, and at high speeds Tom Fenn’s double bass drumming is enough to get a hell of a lot of vigorous nodding from everyone in attendance.

Guitarist and singer, Marc Malone, completes the musical canvas with excellent use of natural harmonics that border on Machine Head levels of proficiency, though special mention has to go to bass player, GMT, who has arguably the most aggravatingly beautiful bass tone of the festival. It makes his slight Celtic influence all the more powerful and striking in the sonic mix.

the bastard sons
The Bastard Son

The word of the set for the next band; The Bastard Sons, is fun. Not just a jovial and upbeat band having a good old time, but one who at 1pm are able to get people downing drinks like it’s the last time they’ll ever get to sup the sweet nectar of non-descript lager.

Their ultra-positive feeling hardcore meets stoner rock has moments of Cancer Bats and Stomp 442-era Anthrax, and lead singer and frontman JJ makes the whole thing look effortless. It’s hard to say exactly what it is that has graced the second stage, but rest assured, it’s utterly brilliant.

The ever chilling wail of an air raid siren announces the arrival of Cirith Gorgor.

This is what you want from black metal: truly spiteful, disgusting, nihilistic brutality. Satanael is one of the most talented extreme metal vocalists at this festival, and really second only to Barney from Napalm Death. His attire and movement have echoes of Manson from his Antichrist Superstar days, but his delivery seems to take influence from Ihsahn, Euronymous and Erik Danielsson of Watain.

There is method in the madness, and virtuosity in this stomach-turning cacophony. Blast beats at inhuman velocity, incredibly well balanced tone, and the odd squealing, twisted guitar solo. It’s torturous, but serene. What a band.

evil scarecrow
Evil Scarecrow

It is rare to be in a room this full, this amped for a set, and with so much sweat oozing form the walls. It can only be one band: Evil Scarecrow. Comedy and music are odd bedfellows; comedians who perform music can be hilarious, see Bill Bailey for proof, but often musicians who try to be comical can fall very flat, and rely on childish vulgarity. To break convention for a moment, and embrace the maligned first-person, I went in fully expecting to hate Evil Scarecrow’s set, and was dreading having to give them a kicking, so it is so glorious that their set lives up to the fervent expectation of everyone here.

As far as a stage set up goes, it’s basically a budget Maiden gig. That’s not intended to be a back-handed compliment, as the half-arsed DIY aesthetic is part of Scarecrow’s charm, and you can tell there’s a lot of effort put into every aspect of the performance. Even the most bitter and jaded of cynics can’t help but smile when robots burst through the Blackstar cabs on either side of the stage during ‘Robototron’, and you’d have to have a heart of stone to not join in with *that* dance move.

evil scarecrow
Evil Scarecrow

They certainly save the best til last, as ending on ‘Crabulon’, has the entire room scuttling left and right and every-which way that Dr. Hell demands. A definite must see.

On a final note, the most deserving of gratitude and a 5/5 is the HRH and Hafan Y Môr staff. Whether they’re stuffing us with fish and chips, caring for injured attendees, or even just putting up with the ramblings of drunken metal heads, they went above and beyond. Just try and stop us from coming back next time.

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