The Sun Shines on The Damned
Hammerfest VI – Book of The dead – Haven Holiday Park – Wales 13TH – 16TH MARCH 2014
As the sun rose into the bleached sky – to burn our tired eyes – it was time to take stock of what we have become.
It was time to celebrate with those who had traveled so far with us. We had come a long way to get here. It has been a long, hard road. But now we were together. And our hallowed memory could be assured – for all time.
Together and connected, hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart, we have traveled from those far off days… days of ‘Animosity’ ( Corrosion of Conformity 1985) and ‘Chainheart Machine’ (Soil Work 1999.) And days spent ‘Under The Influence’ (Over Kill ) or screaming in unison at the important legacy that thrash lords ‘Kreator’ laid down for all in the 1980’s with Extreme Aggression. These were good times. And they demanded celebration.
And so we began our Hammerfest party in earnest. We started our astonishing weekend by joining the Belfast thrashers Sinocence on Stage 2 – who did a splendid job dusting out the cobwebs from our minds and causing our backbones to tremble.
Then we became completely immersed in the Epic Metal world of Cypher16 whose technical brilliance and life-affirming vitality caused our hearts to jump for joy and sing with praise.
To The Bones was also a major highlight for us. Their mix of fierce rhythms – instantly gratifying hooks- and masterful stage presence – simply took our breaths away.
Paragon’s rapidly biting ‘Tornado’ was a furious flurry of splinters and sharp hot licks that whipped our faces and brightened our skulls. And masters of the pungent darkness Enthroned powered through with the brutality of their riffs and the over-awing rhythms that cut us like a surgeon’s scalpel slicing through brain stem.
Sweden’s Grand Magus are currently on tremendous form with their epic ‘Triumph And Power’ blasting out of speakers everywhere. They have always been one of our favourite bands. And they certainly did not let the crowds down at Hammerfest this year. And the spectacular mastery from Soilwork was unimaginably exciting and totally addictive.
The brightness burnished the mountain mist on Saturday, leaving the early morning risers blinded by the brilliant light. But still they made their way back – blinking – from caravans and chalets … to get to the front of the stages.
Derision on Stage 2 were, of course, sublimely wicked … with their gravel-throated and heavy hearted splendor. They put on a masterful show with their ‘Predation’.
And Maplerun were a genuine revelation. They have just been gigging around with Skindred – and their verve and audacity was breathtaking. They also entertained the troops with a quality acoustic set down at the Bonga Wonga !
We are so glad that ‘Imicus’ is back – and now with a new line-up and a brave album. Their sound is original, complex and entertaining.
And Gravil were technically proficient and thoroughly hypnotic. They certainly seemed destined to go onto everyone’s ‘best band of the weekend’ list with their powerful moments from “Thoughts Of A Rising Sun.”
And the ever-stalwart Afterlife from Glasgow bought us a bunch of their ‘OMEGA’ songs and worked the stage like hurried demons.
Italian band SoundStorm were a vital and welcome addition to the line-up at Hafn Y Mor. Folk were still commenting on their theatrical metal show … hours later. Earthtone9 unfortunately had to cancel their appearance.
But we still had Breed 77 Thanks be to God ! It was a breathtaking experience. Especially their ‘Zombie’ cover.That song put the fire back in our wild hearts and set our minds ablaze.
With ardor burning deep within our bosoms – and our ears nearly bleeding from the bombardment – we went on to enjoy the immense experience that is Kreator on stage One – just after the most theatrically complete (and most joyfully entertaining) act of the whole festival – GloryHammer.
And Sweden’s sick and twisted circus-show Avatar also pulled them in over on Stage Two.
Both groups made us feel really proud to be still supporting metal – in all its guises – and sincerely believing that the best is yet to come.
But this was always going to be a celebration of where we were – and what we have achieved. As a tribe. Together.
So perhaps it is fitting that we left Hammerfest 2014 with the sounds of Breed 77 still buzzing around in our minds. That joy-filled, expressive flamenco majesty…
Words & Images © Neil Mach March 2014