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Hafan y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli
Saturday 15th November 2014

Johnny Main

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hard rock hell


As the final day of Hard Rock Hell dawned, the caravan site had an eerie silence as you walked through it towards the main venues.

The restaurant that had been packed twenty four hours earlier had a few customers, but there was no queue at the bar which left me wondering if there were a lot of people ready to go and see the first band scheduled to play – More at just after midday on the second stage.

As I entered the venue, the band had just struck up into their first number and there was a crowd of maybe, a hundred or so people in various states of disrepair standing or slouched on the comfy chairs demonstrating that hangovers hadn't yet cleared but at least the band had some sort of crowd to play for. Not having heard of the band before, this was another on my "To See" list and I'm pretty glad I did.

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The track 'Scream' certainly lived up to its name as vocalist Mike Freeland was really stretches his voice during the chorus whilst guitarist Dave John Ross threw out the power chords. Ross takes a walk across to see guitarist Chris Tsangarides mid song and their smiles showed how much fun they're having, even though it was too early in the day for some people.

A surprise addition to the set was cover of the Judas Priest song 'A Touch of Evil' (from their 1990 'Painkiller' album) which was co-written by Tsangarides, who also produced the album, and got a good response from the audience. The concentration on Tsangarides' face showed how tough the track is to play but nonetheless he does an excellent job. Freeland didn't quite give the vocal range of Priest front man Rob Halford, but executes the song very well, and the applause at the end is richly deserved.

hard rock hell

'Way Of The World' is a good rocky number and has the feet tapping in the audience as drummer Steve Rix pounds out the steady beat whilst Ross plays a short solo. The band's set ends with 'Atomic Rock' (probably the bands most well known number) has a small group of air guitarists in seventh heaven as they laugh their way through the track.

Ross' sound dominates the mid section whilst Rix and bass player Baz Nicholls put in a solid performance creating the solid back bone of the track bringing to the end a very solid set.

More (2012) Set List:
Killer On The Prowl
Rock and Roll
Road Rocket
We Are The Band
A Touch of Evil
Way Of The World
Atomic Rock

More (2012) are:
Mike Freeland - Vocals
Dave John Ross - Guitar
Chris Tsangarides - Guitar
Baz Nicholls - Bass Guitar
Steve Rix - Drums

More (2012) Online:
Official Website:

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Black State Highway

hard rock hell

Black State Highway are a relatively new band (based in Brighton) who seem to have quite a following judging by the audience numbers waiting for them to come on. Once onstage, the band don't hang about, kicking off their set with 'Conclusion'.

Guitarist Olie Trethewey fires off a furious riff and as the track builds some of those enjoying the sunshine outside make their way indoors giving the band a very respectable crowd. Vocalist Liva Steinberga smiling at the front row delighted to be here as the first track comes to an end.

The band's new single, 'Ain't Got No' is a slightly slower paced number with drummer Harry Bland leading the way as Trethewey stalks the stage leading up to a great guitar solo. 'Broken' from their self-titled debut album continues the slower pace and has bass player Gordon Duncan leading the way during the intro until the guitars kick in almost drowning out Steinberga's vocal lines. By the time the song gets to the mid-way point, though, the vocals are coming through loud and clear as Steinberga gives a passionate performance.

'Free' has a guitar almost feeding back during the intro before Bland counts in the rest of the band. The whispered vocals in the mid-section are all but lost underneath the guitar mix which is a shame but as the track builds up Steinberga still manages to put in a good performance.

'Won't Get Out Alive' had the Trethewey and other guitarist Yonnis Crampton swapping solos before 'Sacrifice' which is one of my favourites from the band's set. The chunky guitar riff gives the head bangers down the front a chance to shake off their hangovers and the band join them for a high energy performance.

'Common Man' has Steinberga trying to get the best out of the crowd as the guitar riff from Trethewey takes centre stage before Crampton takes the solo as Steinberga has a laugh with the Bland as she tries to batter the cymbals before he can get to them.

The band wrap up their set with 'Trouble' which has the the audience clapping along but unfortunately Steinbergas vocal is drowned by the guitar sound for the first verse. The band gave it everything one last time though and they are loudly applauded as they leave the stage.

For my first time seeing them, there's a lot to like about this band, and I'll certainly be making the effort to get their debut album and hope to catch them live again sooner rather than later.

Black State Highway Set List:
Ain't Got No
Won't Get Out Alive
Common Man

Black State Highway are:
Liva Steinberga - Vocals
Olie Trethewey - Guitar
Yonnis Crampton - Guitar
Gordon Duncan - Bass Guitar
Harry Bland - Drums

Black State Highway Online:
Official Website:

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Blues Pills

hard rock hell

I'd heard quite a bit about these multinational rockers Blue Pills and having missed their recent gig in Glasgow, I thought their set at Hard Rock Hell was an opportunity not to be missed, so I headed over to stage one just as the band were coming to the end of their first number, a jaunty little song called 'High Class Woman'.

'Ain't No Change' had a build up from drummer André Kvarnström before bass player Zack Anderson joins in but it wasn't really until the guitar from Dorian Sorriaux joined in that the track really came alive. Singer Elin Larsson danced around lightly tapping her tambourine before Sorriaux took centre stage during the long instrumental section.

The atmosphere on stage was really relaxed – so relaxed in fact, that Larsson and Anderson had time to share a joke before Kvarnström ramped up the tempo giving the extremely talented Sorriaux another showcase.

'Dig In' had a great intro from Kvarnström and Anderson with a slight echo added to Larssons voice giving a different dimension to the bands sound. One of my favourites from the bands current self-titled album, the audience seemed to like it too as they swayed from side to side.

It's the band's first time in Wales explains Larsson, before 'Bliss' which has Sorriaux employing a wah-wah pedal to give the soung a different sound. The track has another long instrumental section mid-way through, and Sorriaux is undoubtedly the star of the show with his immaculately played solos.

The band's set takes a quirky turn when they include 'Elements and Things' (a cover of the 1969 track from American singer-songwriter and guitarist Tony Joe White) who, Larsson explained, that the whole band are fans of his work and just wanted to include the cover in their set to show their appreciation for him and his song-writing talents. Kvarnström laid down a military style beat as Sorriaux plays an intricate solo on what is a great rendition of a song that not many in the venue would have heard before.

They continue on with 'Devil Man' which has Larsson on her own singing the intro with loud cheers from the audience before the band kick in. This song is undoubtedly a showcase for Larsson and her vocal talents and the audience's reaction at the end seems to take her slightly by surprise, but she does have quite a remarkable voice.

Set closer 'Black Smoke' was a slow number to end on, or so it seems until the tempo began to ramp up as the guitar from Sorriaux took over. It's a deceptively simple song on the surface, but with the changing of tempos mid way through it isn't as easy as it seems but the band pull of a great performance.

There are loud cheers at its finale and as the band take their final bows, it seems like they've made a lot of new fans – and quite rightly so, because this band really are very entertaining.
Blues Pills Set List:
High Class Woman
Ain't No Change
Dig In
Elements and Things
Devil Man
Little Sun
Black Smoke

Blues Pills are:
Elin Larsson - Vocals
Dorian Sorriaux - Guitar
Zack Anderson - Bass
André Kvarnström - Drums

Blues Pills Online:
Official Website:

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hard rock hell

Since 2010, Thundermother have gradually been building their fan base and a recent signing to Warners and an appearance at the Sweden Rock Festival as well as close to sold out UK tour, this band are on the brink of being huge and having never seen them before, this was an ideal opportunity to get to see the band on a relatively small stage.

Kicking off with 'Man With Blues' guitarist Filippa Nassil wastes no time as she head bangs her way through the song. In fact she's head banging so hard that she nearly loses some of her guitar solo!

There's no hanging about as the band blast into 'Dangerous Kind' which had the hair of bass player Linda Strom and guitarist Giorgia Carteri flying too. Vocalist Clare Cunningham tries to get the crowd involved before Nassil (literally) takes centre stage with a great solo.
"Hello HRH," says Cunningham before asking for the audience to "get those beers in the air" as she introduces the appropriately named song 'Cheers'. It's another frantic rocker with Cunningham dancing about the stage, beer bottle in hand before she passes it to Nassil who theatrically empties the bottle down her throat before uses it as a guitar slide – great entertainment value, and a great song too!

The band have bags of enthusiasm and this rubs off on the crowd as pockets of the audience begin to headbang too. During 'Deranged' Nassil and Strom swing the guitars in a Status Quo fashion which has the pair of them in fits of giggles showing how much fun they're having.

This show was the last one of their European tour, in support of their debut album 'Rock N' Roll Disaster', but as Cunningham says, their second album is already written and 'I'm The Fire' comes from the as yet unreleased second album. It's another frantic rocker this gives drummer Tilda Stenqvist a chance in the spotlight during the quieter mid section but it's not long till the pace ramps back up.

As the band's set time draws to a close, 'Thunderous' slows the pace slightly giving the band a bit of a breather except Carteri who continues to head bang her way through most of the set. 'Deal With The Devil' is dedicated to all the men and had Cunningham sharing the microphone with Carteri and the pair hardly get the words out without laughing they're having so much fun which is refreshing – oh, and the song is a corker too.

They close their set with their debut single, 'Shoot To Kill' and by the time they finish you juts know that the party is about to start. Having spent the last eight months on tour, they deserve the break to recharge their batteries before the release of their second album sees them doing it all over again, and I for one, can't wait to see them back in the UK for some more live shows.

Thundermother Set List:
Man With Blues
Dangerous Kind
I'm The Fire
Deal With The Devil
Rock N' Roll
Shoot To Kill

Thundermother are:
Clare Cunningham - Vocals
Filippa Nässil - Lead Guitar
Giorgia Carteri - Rhythm Guitar
Linda Ström - Bass Guitar
Tilda Stenqvist - Drums

Thundermother Online:
Official Website:

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Diamond Head

hard rock hell

'Mars (Bringer of War)' from Holsts 'Planets' suite announced the arrival of NWOBHM legends Diamond Head to the stage, as the audience let out an almighty cheer.

The last time I saw Diamond Head live was at Knebworth Park as part of the Sonisphere Festival in 2011 when they were first on the main stage on the first day, and I have to say that it's nice to see them up close on a smaller stage.

'Play It Loud' is an energetic start to the bands set with new vocalist Rasmus Bom Anderson but unfortunately his vocals are hidden away in the mix until the soundman sorts the issue just in time for the guitar solo to take centre stage. Anderson encourages the audience from the start to the end of the bands set and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Anderson promised the audience a "night of classic Diamond Head songs", and I'm sure that no-one in the audience was disappointed with the band's set list. 'To Heaven And Hell' follows before 'To The Devil His Due' is a sing along opportunity for the audience as guitarist Brian Tatler takes centre stage for a great solo and the reception as he steps up is huge. Guitarist Andy Abberley joins him for some twin guitar harmonics as those down the front hoist their camera phones stagewards.

'Come Alive' has drummer Karl Wilcox driving the song a Tatler plays the intro without using the fret board whilst encouraging the audience on what Anderson jokes is the "only modern track" as it's taken from 2005s 'All Will Be Revealed' album. 'Sucking My Love' "is one everyone should know" shouts Anderson and judging by the reaction from the crowd he's not far wrong with Tatler pulling out another great solo to the delight of the crowd.

Of course, it's the songs that Metallica have covered that are kept till the end and get the biggest reaction of the night. 'It's Electric' is first followed by 'The Prince' which has Tatler propping himself up on the monitors so he can see right to the back of the hall before Anderson gets up close and personal with the front row encouraging them to shout the chorus.

The last song is, of course, 'Am I Evil?' and it gets the loudest reception of the night with Tatler making the most of the lead guitar section before the main riff kicks in and the whole venue seems to go (literally) crazy as headbangers jostle with those singing along. It's a predictable end to the band's set, yes, but it's a great set nonetheless and if all the Diamond Head tracks you know were covered by Metallica, then do yourself a favour and invest in a Greatest Hits album because there are more treasures in there to be discovered that I'm sure you'd enjoy.

Diamond Head Set List:
Play It Loud
To Heaven From Hell
To the Devil His Due
Come Alive
Sucking My Love
It's Electric
The Prince
Am I Evil?

Diamond Head are:
Rasmus Bom Anderson - Vocals
Brian Tatler - Guitar
Andy Abberley - Guitar
Eddie Moohan - Bass Guitar
Karl Wilcox - Drums

Diamond Head Online:
Official Website:

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Michael Schenkers Temple of Rock

hard rock hell

Judging by the number of UFO shirts being sported throughout the day, it was obvious that Michael Schenker and his Temple of Rock band were going to be a big draw, and as the stage is being made ready everyone seems to be piling into the venue to grab a decent view as early as they could.

Just before the lights go down, there's not an inch of free floor space and when the arena is enveloped in darkness, a huge roar goes up and the expectations of the audience are at an all time high.

As the lights begin to brighten, a wall of dry ice drift from back to front as the band take their positions with the biggest cheer for Michael Schenker himself, as he plays the intro to 'Doctor Doctor' and by the time front man Doogie White makes his way to the front of the stage, the party is well and truly started.

'Where The Wind Blows' from the most recent album, 2013s 'Bridge The Gap' is a slower paced number with a guitar riff that cuts through the song like a knife and it gets a great response from the audience demonstrating that it could be in the set list for some time to come.

White says that the band have been to Germany, Switzerland and France over the past week and will be back in France tomorrow showing there's no rest for this band before they launch into 'Armed And Ready'. It has the audience singing along once again with Schenker quite happy to stick to his side of the stage during the solos as he interacts with the front row swinging his famous Flying V guitar towards them.

Schenker teases the audience during song four, 'Natural Thing', which has those down the front thrusting their fists in the air before White encourages them to clap along and it seems not a pair of hands in the audience remain at rest.

White explains that the band are pushed for time so there's not a second wasted as they carry on with an old Scorpions number, 'Coast To Coast', which has great twin guitar work from Schenker and guitarist Wayne Findlay while bass player Francis Buchholz and drummer Herman Rarebell anchor the solid number down. It's Schenker who makes the most of the song, though, as he races across to the other side of the stage trying to get the whole crowd involved hoisting his guitar in triumphant fashion at the song's conclusion.

Of course, this isn't just an evening of nostalgia with old songs, there are some new numbers added for good measure too. 'Before The Devil Knows You're Dead' was the first song written as Temple Of Rock, and it was written to honour Ronnie James Dio and Jon Lord. The track has all the hallmarks of a future classic with its chunky guitar riff and memorable chorus. White encourages everyone to raise their devil horns and the challenge is accepted by a large chunk of the audience.

Another new number in the shape of 'Lord Of The Lost And Lonely' is introduced by White as a mix between a drinking song and a sea shanty and has those down the front clapping along whilst Findlay beefs up the sound with some keyboards before Schenkers solo rightly brings the spotlight back on him.

A quick round of band intros precedes 'Shoot Shoot' which energises the crowd once more before a double bill of 'Rock Me Like A Hurricane' brings the house down and a curtailed version of 'Rock Bottom' brought their set to a close as they ran out of time.

Judging by the reactions of the band and audience, though, it's safe to assume they'll be back sooner rather than later with the new album, 'Spirit On A Mission', and the audience will be ready for them, so let's hope they book a big arena tour, eh?

Michael Schenkers Temple of Rock Set List:
Doctor Doctor
Where The Wild Wind Blows
Armed and Ready
Natural Thing
Victim of Illusion
Coast To Coast
Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
Lord of the Lost and Lonely
Shoot Shoot
Vigilante Man
Rock Me Like A Hurricane
Rock Bottom

Michael Schenkers Temple of Rock are:
Doogie White - Vocals
Michael Schenker - Guitar
Wayne Findlay - Guitar
Francis Buchholz - Bass
Herman Rarebell - Drums

Michael Schenkers Temple of Rock Online:
Official Website:

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Blue Oyster Cult

hard rock hell

Slightly later than their allotted stage time Blue Oyster Cult arrive on stage ready to rock to a rousing reception from the audience.

'The Red And The Black' is their set starter and has guitarist Richie Castellano laying down a great solo whilst drummer drummer Jules Radino keeps the beat at the back. The track all looks effortlessly easy and the band seen to be enjoying themselves as some latecomers surge into the venue.

Main man Eric Bloom steps up to the microphone and tells the audience "(It's great to be in the UK" before asking everyone to raise their beer in the air, which is handy because that's the first line of 'Golden Age Of Leather' which follows. The track is sung by guitarist Donald 'Buck Dharma' Roeser who also played a great solo whilst the riff had those down the front of the stage clapping along.

The band introductions are out of the way early on before the band continue with 'Burnin' For You' which has Roeser singing again with some keyboard harmonics from Castellano adding some depth to the bands sound. Roeser takes centre stage for the guitar solo with Bloom taking a back seat in front of the drums.

Bloom explains that the next song, 'Career Of Evil' was written with New York rocker Patty Smith, and once the band launch into the number, it has a prominent keyboard part from Castellano while Bloom takes delight in singing the vocal lines. It doesn't take the audience long to start dancing along and you can see the delight on Bloom's face as he sees them doing so.

Time for a bit of 'Buck's Boogie' says Bloom before which the track brings the tempo right back up with Roeser once again taking centre stage as he duels with Castellano's keyboards during the long instrumental whilst Bloom and bass player Kasim Sulton move to the side of the stage and out of the view of some of the audience.

Next up is 'ME 262', from 1974s 'Secret Treaties' album, which is a fast rocky number with Radino making the most of his drum kit whilst Castellano adds in the jangly piano with some pre-recorded sound effects that almost drown out the rest of the band.

Castellano returns to the guitar once again and takes over the vocals for 'Hot Rails To Hell' swapping places with Bloom who takes over the keyboards for 'Harvest Moon' which is a much slower number it showcases the bands harmony vocals.

"Millions of years ago there were huge creatures wandering around Wales", announced Bloom before the sound effects (albeit slightly off cue) introduced 'Godzilla' which is greeted with a huge round of applause. It's then time for Sulton to take centre stage and he doesn't waste the opportunity as he theatrically plays a bass solo before a quick burst of 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light' as he toured with Meatloaf in 2006/07 before he steps up with the bass rhythm from Queens 'Another One Bites The Dust' has the audience singing along as Radino helps until Sulton leaves the stage giving the stage to Radino for his solo spot.

Running overtime, the band re-appear back on stage after a short break and head straight into the set closer, 'Don't Fear The Reaper', which remains a timeless classic and has the audience singing and dancing along. For many, it's the high point of the night, and it's a great performance from the band.

Once over, there are some quick thanks yous from the band before they're ushered off stage but not before Bloom expresses his wish to tour the UK again soon. Let's hope we don't have to wait too long, eh?

Blue Oyster Cult Set List:
The Red & The Black
Golden Age of Leather
Burnin' for You
Career of Evil
Buck's Boogie
ME 262
Hot Rails to Hell
Harvest Moon
OD'd on Life Itself
Then Came the Last Days of May
(Don't Fear) The Reaper

Blue Oyster Cult are:
Eric Bloom - Lead Vocals/Guitar
Donald 'Buck Dharma' Roeser - Vocals/Lead Guitar
Richie Castellano - Guitar/Keyboards
Kasim Sulton - Bass Guitar
Jules Radino - Drums

Blue Oyster Cult Online:
Official Website:

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hard rock hell

Girlschool, eh? What can possibly be said about them that hasn't already been said? Well, not a lot, probably, but this was my first time ever seeing them and I have to say what a great live set they played.

Being the last band on is pretty daunting plus all the hanging about waiting to go on must affect you and the fact that some of the audience may be tired, drunk or both means you don't always have the best but the band put on a superb display and kept the audience enthralled throughout.

'Demolition' is the first number out of the Girlschool cannon and it's a sure fire hit with the sizeable audience (bearing in mind how late it is due to the band running late). 'C'Mon Let's Go' has vocalist Kim McAuliffe doing her best to get the party started in the audience and she does a good enough job as it seems the audience are still in a mood to party. Guitarist Jackie Chambers plays a great guitar solo as she wanders around her half of the stage getting used to what's where.

'Hit And Run' from the 1981 album of the same name still sounds great and has the air guitars out in the audience as once again Chambers plays a great solo and adds an extra flourish at the end of the track to wild applause. It's clear the band have lost none of their appetite for live performances and each one looks like they're having the best time.

Before introducing the track 'I Spy', McAuliffe mentions that Ronnie James Dio sang on the original studio version, as she takes a minute to dedicate the track to him and ex-lead singer Kelly Johnson who died in 2007. The track is a slower number than what had gone before, but it's a very powerful track too.

It's bass player Enid Williams who stepped forward to introduce 'Never Say Never' which is taken from the bands 2004 album, 'Believe' and features herself and Chambers sharing the lead vocals. It's a track that I wasn't familiar with to be honest, but after hearing it, I'll definitely be checking the album out.

There's a bit of confusion as Chambers goes to play the next song until it's pointed out that's not the number she thought it was and as she checks the set list, McAuliffe falls about laughing showing that even professionals are prone to slip ups.

The band keep the songs going through 'Screaming Blue Murder' which has drummer Denise Dufort coming across really well as she keeps the solid beat at the back whilst Chambers plays a noisy, almost squealy, but thoroughly entertaining guitar solo before a well rehearsed finish.

Before 'Future Flash' McAuliffe relates a story about touring in the past with Blue Oyster Cult when in the last night of the tour the Blue Oyster Cult roadies came on and flashed the band which tied in nicely with them playing on the bill with them for the first time since then. For the song itself, Chambers takes centre stage for her extended guitar riffing before the song builds back up to full volume.

It's set closers 'Race With The Devil' and especially 'Emergency' that predictably get the loudest cheers of the band set though, and as the band leave the stage it signals the end of Hard Rock Hell VIII. More than that, though, is shows those who haven't seen the band for a while that Girlschool remain one of the great UK Metal bands that are still active and for me, it was a joy to catch them live and I'm hoping to see them again in 2015 with, fingers crossed, a new album too?

Girlschool Set List:
C'Mon Let's Go
Hit and Run
I Spy
Never Say Never
Screaming Blue Murder
Future Flash
Kick It Down
Yeah Right
Race With The Devil

Girlschool are:
Kim McAuliffe - Vocals/Rhythm Guitar
Enid Williams - Vocals/Bass Guitar
Jackie Chambers - Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals
Denise Dufort - Drums

Girlschool Online:
Official Website:
Facebook: TV's Aggy G Interviews The Broken Chords at Hard Rock Hell 8 Helloween...

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