It’s a sunny Thursday afternoon and I find myself driving down to the Presthaven Beach Resort, a quiet little holiday park in North Wales. Well, quiet until this weekend that is, as a bunch of head banging metalheads make their way down to the scenic Welsh coast for Hammerfest XI. Three days of metal, doom, stoner and pirate metal, 45 bands across 2 stages. I arrived nice and early, once checked in, I head down to the arena to check out the venue. With plenty of merch stalls in the entrance, and 2 good sized stages pretty much next to each other then I’m looking forward to being able to catch all 45 bands.
The honour of kicking the whole show off and first band on the bill falls to The Heretic Order, a heavy / horror metal band based in London, and are veterans of Hammerfest having played here in 2015 and 17. They open to a good sized audience for 6.30pm on a Thursday which had swelled to almost a full room by halfway through the set. From the operatic openings to screaming guitars and vocals of Lord Ragnar Wagner, The Heretic Order put on an exceptional opening to Hammerfest XI and set the stage for the rest of the weekend.
Kill II This take the stage next, first formed back in the late 90’s then reformed in 2014 after a 10-year hiatus, this post-metal / industrial band originally from Manchester put on a blazing show. With the crowd becoming more enthusiastic and vocal as the set went on, Simon Gordon filling in admirably as the new singer with original members Mark Mynett (guitar), Pete Stone (bass) and Jeff Singer (drums). Hopefully a new album from these guys is not too far away.
Slight change in attire and genre for the 3rd band to play tonight, as Cruachan a trailblazing folk metal band from Ireland storm the stage. Adorned in full traditional Celtic attire, brandishing their bows and axes. Blending traditional Irish folk music and metal, they seamlessly mix violins and flute with screaming guitars, hammering drums and vocals that can bring you to tears then rip your heart in the same song.
Final band and headliners for the night are Paradise Lost, who are considered by some as the forerunners of the death-doom and gothic metal genre. Hailing from Halifax and with a 30-year career behind them, it’s not surprising the room is now packed. The audience are screaming and cheering as they take to the stage to the opening keyboard intro for “Enchantment”, and it’s not long before the entire room is head banging away to “Blood and Chaos” and “Medusa”. Paradise Lost finish with a 3-song encore with “Say Just Words” winding up the first incredible night here at Hammerfest XI.
Things kick off a little earlier for Day 2 with Battalions opening stage 2 at 12.55, and with 21 bands across two stages tomorrow, it’s going to be busy and a lot of fun…
Photos by Drew Scott