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  HARD ROCK HELL – PART TWO
Hafan y Môr Holiday Park, Pwllheli
Thursday 12th – Saturday 15th November 2015


Johnny Main. Photos by Carlan Braid and Sean Cameron

johnny main



hard rock hell

Click here to read Part One of MetalTalk's Hard Rock Hell review featuring UFO, Helloween, Massive Wagons and many more...

Pig Iron
I only managed to catch a couple of songs from NWOBHM band Chariot who were very good before I took the advice of a friend and tripped across the road to catch Pig Iron's set.

The London based quartet drew a sizeable crowd and they sounded quite solid early on with front man Johnny Ogle sharing vocals with guitarist Dan Edwards on 'Wildcat' ahead of Ogle letting loose with the harmonica before being usurped by Edwards who took centre stage with a great guitar solo.

Bass player Hugh Gilmour got his moment in the spotlight with his own short solo teasing the audience with the 'Smoke On The Water' riff before drummer Joe Smith comes in with a slow and heavy beat showing how well the bass and drums work together here.

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Edwards made good use of the large stage while Gilmour was happy to hang back towards the drum riser during most of their set.

For me, the band final number, 'LKTP' was among the best they had to offer. It sees the return of the harmonica from Ogle while Gilmour managed to get the crowd clapping along during the long intro.

Overall, it was a very bluesy performance from Ogle who gave it everything he had one more time, really stretching his voice while Gilmour made his way out of the shadows and joined Edwards in the middle of the stage.

Not having heard them live before I'm looking certainly forward to catching the band live again soon but in the meantime I'll have to make do with my memories and their latest album, 'Sermons from the Church of Blues Restitution' which is out now, and is highly recommended.

Pig Iron Set List:
Wildcat
Ruler
Hitch
Hellacious Days
One Million Mega Hurts
Golden
G & A
LKTP

Pig Iron are:
Johnny Ogle – Vocals/Harmonica
Dan Edwards – Guitar
Hugh Gilmour – Bass Guitar
Joe Smith – Drums

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King Of The North
King of the North had an unusual set up with the band made up of just drummer Danny Leo and guitarist, Andrew Higgs, but this Australian duo made it sound like there were more people on stage.

This happened to be the last show of their 35 date European tour and obviously word had been spreading about the duo as a healthy crowd turned out to see them.

For their set, Higgs used an effects board to delay sounds and sample others to make it sound like a full band was on stage, and he uses the technology to the very best of its ability.

As the set kicked off, there was a quick go round the drum kit from Leo driving the intro, before the main guitar riff blasted out. The riff itself was punctuated with some great aggressive vocals from Higgs backed up with harmonies from Leo.

The long instrumental mid-section had Leo pounding out a fast but straight forward beat but he used every drum and cymbal available in a great display – not bad for a guy who had his appendix out only two weeks prior to HRH.

There was a slower paced number included mid-set, which still had a fair pace to it. Leo really filled the stage with noise as he once again used the drum kit to its full potential while Higgs gave a slightly screamy vocal performance.

'Surrender' was a solid rocker with a straight forward drum beat that quickly accelerated once the intro has been negotiated. It had a small group of head bangers in front of Higgs doing their thing, while further back in the audience heads were also nodding along to the beat.

As the duo wrapped up their set, it was clear that there was a much larger audience present than when they started and it was a fine performance overall from the duo.

This band are somewhat unique at HRH and they proved that you don't need to fill the stage with people to put on a great performance – two people can be just as musical as six and sometimes even more so if, like King of the North, they are supremely talented.

King Of The North are:
Andrew Higgs – Vocals/Guitar
Danny Leo – Drums/Backing Vocals

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Supercharger
There was a fairground intro as Copenhagen based Supercharger took to the stage and as front man Linc Van Johnson welcomed everyone, you just knew it was going to be a loud and a fun performance – and no-one was disappointed as the band proceed to leap about the stage like loonies during set opener, 'Suzi The Uzi'.

'Handgrenade Blues' has Johnson getting the crowd to clap along and they don't need asking twice. Guitarist Thomas Buchwald plays a great looking solo during the intro but it's dwarfed by sound of the bass and drums, unfortunately.

Johnson gives an aggressive performance but he really holds onto the longer notes well, enthusing the crowd at every opportunity.

Title track, 'Supercharger' is played early in their set as opposed to the finale but it's a great track wherever it is in the set. The razor sharp guitar riff from Buchwald cuts through the song while Johnson gives it everything he's got.

'Like A Pitbull' keeps the pace going with drummer, Benjamin Funk, really pounding out the beat while the keyboards from Ronni Clasen are only just audible over the sound of the guitars. It gets a good reception at the end though, showing it's a firm fan favourite.

As far as I was concerned, it was 'Hungover In Hamburg' that was the best song of their set. Dedicating the track to those caught up in the Paris terrorist attacks the night before, it had a slow intro before the song properly kicked off with a simple drum beat and harmonica from Clasen.

Clasen certainly spreads himself widely across the band's sound playing guitar, keyboards and harmonica as well as backing vocals but he seems to be a master of them all. A small band of fans in front of the stage join in with Johnson, singing along to the quiet mid-section.

Supercharger were a band I hadn't been exposed to before and it was a good solid set from the band so I look forward to seeing them live again either as a support act, or as part of a headlining gig of their own.

Supercharger Set List:
Suzi The Uzi
Handgrenade Blues
Supercharged
Heart ON Overdrive
Like A Pitbull
Hungover In Hamburg
Rise and Fall
Blood Red Lips
Hell Motell

Supercharger are:
Linc Van Johnson – Vocals
Thomas Buchwald – Lead Guitar
Ronni Clasen – Guitar/ Keyboards
Karsten Dines Johansen – Bass Guitar
Benjamin Funk – Drums

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Colour of Noise
There was a big enough crowd as the band sauntered onstage unannounced, and they wasted no time in getting on with things as they kicked off with the fast paced 'You Only Call Me' that really showcases vocalist Matt Mitchell's voice and is met with warm applause at its conclusion.

There's a chunky riff courtesy of lead guitarist Bruce John Dickinson (ex-Little Angels) driving 'Medicine Man' onwards and he can't hide the huge grin on his face, showing how much fun he's having.

Mitchell took an early opportunity to connect with the front row of the audience while those further back nodded along to the beat set out by drummer Randy Nixon.

"You might know this one!" said Mitchell during the introduction to 'Head On' and he's not wrong as a large portion of the crowd begin to sing-along. Bass player Ben Daniel fills out the vocal sound but this song is all about the Mitchell who put in one of his best performances.

After the intensity of the previous song this one gives the band some respite with 'Can't Take It With You', but having said that it's no slouch, with drummer, Randy Nixon, steadfastly laying down the heavy beat.

Rhythm guitarist Dan Electro played well but he opted to spend most of the set facing Daniel instead of the audience, which is a shame as you really couldn't really see what he's playing, but that a small criticism, I guess.

colour of noise
Colour Of Noise

The band's self-titled debut album is about to be released, after being funded by a pledge campaign and Mitchell took the opportunity to thank those who had participated – if I'd known the songs were going to be this good, I'd have put in a pledge too, but I'll just have to wait until the album's available to the public to get my hands on a copy.

As the band's set time draws to an end, they throw in 'Temptation' which was a faster paced number which saw Nixon being the star of the show with his unwavering beat which keeps the song motoring along at full pelt. The band add in 'Hit Rock Bottom', which is a real foot stomper and had the crowd at the front dancing along.

The band may be on the cusp of their career but they certainly have the drive, enthusiasm and the songs to make it a success – all I can say it, good luck, boys!

Colour of Noise Set List:
You Only Call Me
Medicine Man
Can You Hear Me
Head On
Can't Take It With You
Heavy
Drive It Like You Stole It
Temptation
Hit Rock Bottom
Great Day For Rock N Roll

Colour of Noise are:
Matt Mitchell – Vocals
Bruce John Dickinson – Lead Guitar
Dan Electro – Rhythm Guitar
Ben Daniel – Bass Guitar
Randy Nixon – Drums

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Gun
After catching the Colour Of Noise's set, I made a beeline for stage one where Scots rockers Gun were holding court to a packed auditorium. I managed to nab a space not too far from the bar that afforded a great view of the audience and the band.

'Inside Out' was a particular highlight in the latter part of their set with guitarist Jools Gizzi dominating the sound while his brother, singer Dante Gizzi, got the crowd energised with those jammed down in front of the stage dancing and clapping along - even some of those in the seated VIP areas were on their feet.

What came next was the ubiquitous 'Word Up' had the place going absolutely mental. I don't think there was a single person in the hall who wasn't singing along and the band looked like they were loving every single minute of it.

The band have seen a resurgence in the last twelve months, and their live performances are (and always have been) incendiary so let's hope they capitalise on their re-found popularity as they really do deserve a second bite at the cherry of success.

Set closers 'Steal Your Fire' and 'Shame On You' continued the party atmosphere with Dante Gizzi encouraging the audience to sing-along, before the band are enveloped in a wall of dry ice.

The latter gave bass player Andy Carr his moment in the spotlight during the intro and as the song builds the audience get more and more wild much to the delight of the band especially that of Dante Gizzi who looks like he could have done it all again - and I'm sure the audience wouldn't have complained one bit if they had been allowed to!

Gun Set List:
Let It Shine
Don't Say It's Over
Better Days
Something to Believe In
One Wrong Turn
Seems Like I'm Losing You
Welcome to the Real World
Hold Your Head Up
Money (Everybody Loves Her)
Labour Of Life
Inside Out/So Lonely
Word Up
Steal Your Fire
Shame On You

Gun are:
Dante Gizzi – Vocals
Jools Gizzi – Guitar
Johnny McGlynn – Guitar
Paul McManus – Bass Guitar
Andy Carr – Drums
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Shortly before Rock Goddess played, HRH founder Jonni Davis took to the stage to ask for a minutes silence to remember those killed or injured in Paris the previous evening.

It's admirable that most of the audience participated in this, however, there was a small minority who steadfastly refused to keep their silence but perhaps we can just put that down to drunkenness, eh?

Rock Goddess
Having heard about the reformation of Rock Goddess I was interested to see how the band were live and their high placing on the bill had me thinking that the organisers had huge faith in the band.

As the house lights went down, the audience was noticeably less busy than it has been for Gun but Rock Goddess still managed to draw a sizeable crowd.

From the getgo, the band had sound issues that didn't really seem to get resolved during the band set. Drummer Julie Turner had next to no sound outside the bass drum so every time she played a drum fill, it disappeared into the mix, which was unfortunate.

The band seemed to settle down by 'God Be With You' and vocalist Jody Turner had parts of the crowd clapping along, but she didn't make a lot of eye contact with the audience as she was distracted by the music stand with the lyrics on it which is a bit disappointing (and a pet hate of mine) that it was so prominent on stage. If you're going to have a prompter – at least keep it subtle!

"Here's an oldie" says Jody Turner during the intro to 'Heartache', which was a slower paced number which has Julie Turner punching out the solid bass drum beat. Bass player Tracey Lamb took full advantage of the large stage, though, and Jody Turner's guitar solo was well played.

Jody Turner stage manner seemed quite abrasive when she was talking to the crowd in between numbers, and she came across as more aggressive than friendly, subsequently struggling a bit to get the audience involved in the community sing-along.

New track, 'Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right' was a solid effort with its thundering bass line driving the song home and Lamb can't take the huge smile off her face.

This is followed by a trawl through the band's back catalogues as 'You've Got Fire' is dusted off with its fast and well played guitar solo from Jody Turner but it's the thundering bass drum that's the dominant sound once again.

'Doom And Gloom' was a slower paced number where the guitar tone from Jody Turner was a bit scratchy. I'm not sure if the issue was at the sound-desk or on stage but it made for an uncomfy listen, which is a shame as it sounded one of the best songs of their set, getting a good response from the crowd at its conclusion.

rock goddess
Rock Goddess

'Take Your Love Away' saw the band covered in dry ice with Julie Turner steadfastly laying down the beat. To be honest, it was Julie Turner who was truly the star here as she showed real skill and commitment to the songs.

Lamb took centre stage again during 'Drive Me Away' with her slow and subtle intro with the main the guitar riff from Jody Turner coming in quite late. When the guitar solo eventually comes it's short and well played though.

'This Is The Day' is a fast paced number which is quite good but it's Jody Turner's reliance on the music stand stops her from engaging with the crowd and provides a somewhat stilted vocal performance unfortunately. When she's away from the music stand, Jody Turner's performance does come to life, so hopefully she'll drop it sooner rather than later.

Another new song, 'Bite You To Death' is left quite late in the set, and the band end their main set with 'Heavy Metal Rock 'N' Roll' after Jody Turner teases the audience telling them "If you shout really loudly we'll come back on okay?".

The crowd do their bit by clapping and singing along at the appropriate moment and it's a good finish to a mixed set, but there seems to be some confusion as to whether the band will return or not.

As the PA bursts into life and the house lights come up it's obvious they won't which unfortunately means the band have a rather lacklustre end to their set.

Rock Goddess Set List:
Satisfied Then Crucified
God Be With You
Heartache
Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right
You've Got Fire
Make My Night
Doom And Gloom
Take Your Love Away
Drive Me Away
This Is The Day
Back To You
Bite You To Death
Heavy Metal Rock 'N' Roll

Rock Goddess are:
Jody Turner – Vocals/Guitar
Tracey Lamb – Bass Guitar
Julie Turner – Drums

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Faster Pussycat
The last time I saw Faster Pussycat was in the early nineties (I think) and to be honest, I don't remember them that well.

With audience in front of stage one packed in like sardines, it was obvious that this was another big draw, and as the house lights and the music on the PA shut off, a huge roar of expectation went up - these punters knew what was coming and I was about the relive a gig that was all but in the back of my mind for so long.

As the band wandered onstage unannounced they didn't hang about bursting straight into 'Where There's a Whip There's a Way', and my memories suddenly came flooding back!

As the intro came to an end, it was up to vocalist Taime Downe to kick start things, and he did so by walking on to huge applause. Guitarist Ace Von Johnson led the way with his fat sounding guitar riff while bass player, Danny Nordahl, enigmatically standing almost centre stage and almost stock still.

It was a great way to start their set and the roar at the end from the audience showed the band still has huge pulling power.

"Are you guys having a good weekend?” asks Downe before adding "It's fucking wet!" before wishing their friends in Eagles Of Death Metal all the best after the attacks in Paris the previous evening, a move which was applauded by the audience.

Moving on from that, 'Number 1 With a Bullet' energises the crowd once again while Johnson stepping up to centre stage for his solo.

By the time the band are hitting the middle of their set, the audience just can't get enough of them as they scream and shout for more. 'Don't Change That Song' has a lot of the audience punching the air down the front whereas from my viewpoint on stage left, a lot of those further back are happy just to sing along.

Downe sounds a bit croaky during the intro to the slow paced 'House Of Pain', as Johnson plays a great intro but the bass guitar overpowers everything once the song really gets going.

Downe actually ends up performing the singing from the photographers pit – thankfully bereft of photographers – and it seems to be a watershed moment in the band's set with the heartfelt vocal performance.

A couple of covers slip into the mix in the form of Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain' and 'Pretty Fucked Up' by The Supersuckers, both of which have the audience singing along once again.

Indeed, the latter is jammed into the middle of an extended version of 'Bathroom Wall' and gets a huge ovation from the audience. Suddenly from a fairly well behaved audience they just let go jumping around like loonies which delights the band.

faster pussycat
Faster Pussycat

It's here that guitarist Xristian Simon gets his moment in the spotlight before Downe jokingly offers up a drum solo which sees drummer Chad Stewart stop completely to everyone's amusement!

'Shut Up and Fuck' (a Betty Blowtorch cover) had Downe pacing the front of the stage as a member of the band's crew jumps on stage to help out with backing vocals before disappearing as quickly as he appeared! It's another good, fun track and signals the end of the bands set.

As the band take their leave, the noise of the audience is mixed with the sound of Johnson's guitar feeding back – could this be the best set of the night? It's pretty close but Saxon would have to work very, very hard to top this!

Faster Pussycat Set List:
Where There's a Whip There's a Way
Cathouse
Slip of the Tongue
Number 1 With a Bullet
Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll
Don't Change
Don't Change That Song
House of Pain
You're So Vain
Bathroom Wall/Pretty Fucked Up/Bathroom Wall
Shut Up and Fuck
Babylon

Faster Pussycat are:
Taime Downe – Vocals
Xristian Simon – Guitar
Ace Von Johnson – Guitar
Danny Nordahl – Bass Guitar
Chad Stewart – Drums

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Saxon
And so as Hard Rock Hell 2015 came to an end, it was left up to Saxon to take the stage. Saxon are HRH veterans and they know that they're going to get a massive turnout but I think everyone was surprised about just how full stage one was as the band's technicians put the final touches to the stage.

There wasn't a single vantage point free and the crowd in front of the stage were wedged in as tight as they could to get a good view. In fact, I heard after the event that some people were actually turned away from the hall as they tried to squeeze in after Saxon actually hit the stage.

As the lights went down AC/DC's 'It's A Long Way To The Top' blasted out of the PA, the crowd didn't know whether to sing along or shout for Saxon. As the minutes ticked by (feeling like hours) it was the sight of drummer Nigel Glockler clambering onto the drum riser that sent the (possibly record breaking) HRH audience into a frenzy as the made the most noise they'd made all weekend as they welcomed the band on stage one by one.

With their new album, 'Battering Ram', released less than a month before, the band seemed keen to showcase their new songs. Kicking off with the fast and furious title track was an inspired move as front man Biff Byford paced the stage trying to get every ounce of enthusiasm from the packed crowd.

saxon
Saxon

Byford's voice belies his sixty four years and he still has as much passion now as he did in the seventies and eighties. Along with the title track, 'Eye of the Storm', 'The Devil's Footprint' and 'Destroyer' are all taken from the new album with the latter especially sounding like it could be in the live set for some time to come judging by the audience's reaction.

It was good to see 'Motorcycle Man' still in the set, it's a really great song and has seen a resurgence in popularity since Byford shared the stage with Metallica on several occasions to belt it out.

The guitar solo from Paul Quinn is sublime and the second solo from Doug Scarratt is just as good while bass player Nibbs Carter finally makes his way out of the shadows to greet the fans in front of him as Byford paces up and down the stage.

This is a celebration of not only the new album but also of Saxon's rich history and the classic tracks are littered throughout the set from 1981's ode to the Donington Monsters of Rock Festival 'And the Bands Played On' (with Carter precariously balancing on a stage monitor), to 'Heavy Metal Thunder' another from early in their career and a personal favourite of mine, as is 'Never Surrender'.

This had the crowd either head banging away or rhythmically punching the air with their fists as Byford does everything he can to get the audience involved.

One of the biggest cheers of the evening is, as expected, for arguably the bands most well known song, '747 (Strangers in the Night)' which has one of the loudest cheers of the evening.

Hard as though it may be to top that, as the band end the main set, everyone know that they're coming back for more and the sheer volume of noise from the audience can't fail to give you shivers down the spine of anyone witnessing this supreme performance.

The band didn't take long to come back on and finish their set with a triple whammy of the anthemic 'Wheels of Steel', 'Strong Arm of the Law' and the classic 'Denim and Leather' with the last one in particular getting the crowd wound up.

Byford doesn't actually need to be there at this point as the audience are more than happy to shout, and in some cases scream out the lyrics, and he fights to be heard underneath the volume coming from the crowd.

This is a headlining performance where the band didn't put a single foot wrong. Sure, they're old hands at HRH, but they know how to pull in the punters, and I bet you they'll be back in a couple of years for another (potentially) record breaking performance.

Saxon Set List:
Battering Ram
Motorcycle Man
Sacrifice
Power and the Glory
Destroyer
Heavy Metal Thunder
Eye of the Storm
And the Bands Played On
Queen of Hearts
Battalions of Steel
Never Surrender
20,000 Ft
The Devil's Footprint
747 (Strangers in the Night)
Crusader
Princess of the Night
Wheels of Steel
Strong Arm of the Law
Denim and Leather

Saxon are:
Biff Byford – Vocals
Paul Quinn – Guitar
Doug Scarratt – Guitar
Nibbs Carter – Bass Guitar
Nigel Glockler – Drums

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All Pictures ©Carlan Braid at Main Stage Photography except Saxon which is ©Sean Cameron 2015



28.11.2015










 


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