Well, he survived – and here’s the final proof. In the last of his three reports from Hammerfest IV, David Keevill pretends he didn’t have a permanent hangover, and reviews Oaf, Cerebral Bore, Mortad, DripBack, Hell, Amon Amarth, and – of course – Saturday night’s headliners, the almighty Skindred.
6 things we learnt on Saturday at Hammerfest:
1) It’s early when we get up to see Oaf, but even saying that, for a midday show, the Queen Vic is rammed with punters bearing witness to the rupturing qualities of this metal/punk two-piece. The songs aren’t particularly sincere – ‘Fuck Off Seagull’ and ‘Tiny When Erect’ spring to mind – but they do showcase the enduring uniqueness of Oaf and their tongue in cheek attitude to everything musical. Despite the willy-poo-bum humour, the music is a skull rattling frenzy of barrelling bass riffs and Dom Lawson’s snarled yelps with a conquered crowd shouting them back.
2) Hammerfest hasn’t done two badly with the death metal on offer today. In one corner it’s the Glaswegian Cerebral Bore, resembling a more brutal take on the genre, and in the other it’s Somi Aryan’s Mortad for the melodic team; both of these bands are fairly recent creations, but they’ve undoubtedly built up followings with their own respective takes on death. Cerebral Bore are on early-ish, but despite this they quickly gather a crowd that fill up Stage Two. Vocalist, Som Pluijmer has a set of pipes that sound somewhat like a heavy metal incarnation of the Exorcist child, all the while the bass playing insanity of Kyle Rutherford spatulas momentum into this heavy, heavy set. Mortad on the other hand give the impression that they’d rather not be here; Somi Aryan struts around the front of the stage throwing off clothes to reveal her impressive self, but it all seems a little like overcompensation for a weak set. There is a distinct lack of cohesion between the band members and, unfortunately, this transfers to the audience.
3) There is only one hardcore band we see all weekend, but we’re fucking lucky that it’s DripBack. For raw energy and charisma, DripBack are the highlight of Hammerfest, cramming the Queen Vic with punters and pouring sulphur down our throats until we submit to their overwhelmingly death-drenched sound. Anybody who can get away with shouting “CANT” (or cunt for those of you who aren’t fluent in East-London) at a crowd of big beardy blokes and get raucous applause is a winner in our books.
4) From the sublime to the ridiculous, it’s over to Stage One for Hell, who have come to Hammerfest to not only showcase the fun to be had with Lucifer, but also demonstrate that being out of the game for a while has only improved their onstage power and musical clout. The whole band are entirely batshit, their ringleader clearly being new vocalist and habitual fruitloop David Bower, who leads his ghoulish ensemble through tracks like the incredible ‘On Earth As It Is In Hell’ and the epic close of ‘Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us’. Behind Bower’s enigmatic guidance are the freakish four piece of the backline, who gurn and shred, looking at times like a zombie Status Quo, but sounding hugely epic nonetheless. Theatrics aside, Hell are an undeniably tight and interesting band who have clearly overcome unbelievable hardships to restart an outstanding musical entity.
5) If you were someone that went to see Amon Amarth and didn’t think of that moment in Lord Of The Rings where Boromir says “They have a Cave Troll!” at the sight of Johan Hegg, then you were clearly more sober than us. Despite being a melodic death metal band, Amon Amarth are bollock-loads of fun to watch, and even opening with three songs straight off the mixed bag of Surtur Rising, they pack a welter of a musical blow. ‘In Pursuit of Vikings’ is, of course, absolutely riotous, as are the final one-two of ‘Twilight of The Thunder God’ and ‘Guardians of Asgaard’. No amount of brill cream could control the vortexes of twirling hair in the audience.
6) It’s been three days of drinking, listening to heavy as fuck bands back-to-back and more than a lifetime’s allowance of Pot Noodles putting us into a MSG-induced coma. We’re fucking broken and sporting the kind of hangover that only a lovechild of Charlie Sheen and Chuck Norris could deal with. Fortunately, seconds into Skindred’s set, every ache and pain is forgotten in the glorious raga-infused metal that gets hundreds of metalheads going ape-shit in unison. Without wishing to overegg the point, Skindred are majestic; Benji Webbe is a fucking hero whether he’s got the audience dancing to ‘Selector’ or kicking the shit out of us on ‘Destroy the Dancefloor’. The consensus is clear – no amount of brownnosed enthusiasm can describe the feeling of countless metal fans jumping around to this unlikely musical collaboration. Even if you’re tepid about Skindred on record, this is a band who will trump almost anything you’ve ever seen live. As they depart to ‘Warning’, it’s all we can to do to drag our bleeding carcass off into some gutter to die with the biggest of shit eating grins plastered on our faces.