Reviews of festivals tend to be broken down into a cluster of mini-reviews, a band by band rundown of the event. This one isn’t going to do that, for two main reasons: I didn’t see all the bands and I was too drunk to remember half the ones I did see.
Those I do recall were largely excellent. Alestorm were, as expected, a daft but glorious joy; Napalm Death showed that they’d lost none of their power, and that Barney Greenway is such a lovable frontman that even those that would normally baulk at such an out and out heavy act get drawn in and have a great time; Hammerfall produced an impressively professional performance considering it was largely on borrowed gear; and Evil Scarecrow got the place jumping with crowd favourites like Crabulon and Hurricanado – and if you think they sound a bit mental, you’d be correct. And that was just a selection from the main stage, there were scores of bands across the two rooms keeping the metal flame very much alive, so whether you were at the bar, perusing the merch stands or just chatting to your mates the soundtrack was always good.
However, that’s just part of what makes a good festival. You want the bands to be good, of course, but if they’re not you know another one will be along in a minute. The atmosphere is the real key to a good festival and Hammerfest has it down to a T.
I’ll admit, I’d never heard of Hammerfest before (despite it being in its 9th year now) and the only reason I went was because I won tickets in a competition I don’t remember entering (that might be the drink again…). But I’m incredibly glad I made the 600 mile round trip to North Wales, because it was one hell of a party. Set on the coast, in the shadows of the Welsh mountains at a Haven holiday park the two stages are both indoors which means the festival is weather proof – although we had glorious sunshine anyway. The organisers were helpful and accommodating and everyone there was friendly and just there to have a good time. It was a great reminder of just how friendly a community the metal family is. And that’s what made it such a great weekend.
That said a festival isn’t really a success on a personal level unless you find a previously unheard of band that blows you away…and thanks to a guy in full corpse paint that we got chatting to at the bar we were advised to check out Lagerstein. So we did, and damn I’m glad we did too. If Australian Pirate Metal is your thing you should check ’em out too. Their rum-laced ridiculousness, beer swilling set closer and the party atmosphere they created was perfect festival fodder.
So raise your glasses to Hammerfest, a shining example of how smaller festivals should be done.
(Now wasn’t that better than a band-by-band breakdown?)