Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Following the blinding sets the previous day, topped by the incendiary Wildhearts, the gathered masses shook their fuzzy heads and climbed out of warm beds not long occupied to embrace the second day of the festival.
It was to be a day that saw a dazzling array of talent grace the stage as old favourites took Hard Rock Hell by storm and new bands grabbed the imagination, once again proving that rock is certainly not dead.
Starting the day in suitably raucous manner, Essex duo The Meffs ripped into things with a punchy thirteen song set full of a DIY punk attitude and youthful energy that stirred even the most tired of bones. With a cracking ‘You’ll See’ opening the set, it was a heads down race to the finish as the pair mixed a snotty nosed truculence with a sharp social conscience that saw them taking swipes at the ills and injustices of society throughout their set.
Whilst tracks like ‘English’ addressed racism and ‘Broken Britain’ and ‘Austerity’ looked at the disparity of society, this was all injected with a sense of humour that whilst bringing a slight sugar coating to the bile, made it sharper and more powerful. It wasn’t all about the message, as ‘Football’ was introduced by singer / guitarist Lily saying that their local
Colchester United were the best team around. Whilst this may be debatable, one thing without question was just how good The Meffs were and how they brought the perfect alarm clock to those fortunate to witness their early afternoon set.
With a growing reputation based on their irresistibly catchy numbers and the 1000‐watt charisma of singer Caroline Kenyon, Bastette drew a sizeable and enthusiastic crowd to their Stage 1 opening slot. Kicking off the set with ‘Talk About It’, the band displayed the sort of grit that Halestorm have made their trademark but mixed it in with something more mainstream and melodic.
There’s no sense that the five piece are compromising though, their tough take on AOR providing plenty of sing and dance‐along moments that were peppered by a sass and sensuality as well as some truly muscularity. With songs of the quality of ‘Hunter’, ‘Sunglasses’ and ‘Leather and Lace’ in their armoury sounding as good as their cover of Pink’s ‘Just Like A Pill’ it bodes well for the North Western outfit.
There may be a little work to be done on their image, the black t shirts and jeans worn by the rest of the band giving them a somewhat anodyne uniformity that doesn’t quite mesh with Kenyon’s skin‐tight all in one brown pvc‐look outfit, there can be no doubt that they have the chops and the material to go far.
A potentially left field choice, Y!kes brought an indie rock n roll to proceedings, their spiky young groove shot through with astute song writing and a grasp of melody that was mixed with artful feedback.
Tracks like ‘Step Away’ and ‘Why Did You Change?’ impress despite being more attuned to the general sensibilities of a Reading Festival crowd rather than the toughened Hard Rock Hell audience but those who stuck with them couldn’t have been anything but won over, the band a sometimes sullen but always entertaining riposte to those who say that there are no good young guitar driven acts coming through.
Without doubt, one of the most hotly anticipated acts of the weekend, Ward XVI came, saw, and conquered, building on the stellar reviews of earlier shows and the critical acclaim of their most recent ‘Metamorphosis’ album, their theatrical set unlike anything else seen during the four days. With staging, props galore, costume changes, a welter of make‐up and two actors all adding to the show, it was always the music at the very core that mattered the most. With an attention to detail and invention only usually seen on major feature films, the band brought together multiple musical and visual strands together to tell the story of Psychoberrie, Ward XVI’s very own certifiable antiheroine.
‘The Cradle Song’ is a hugely ambitious opener, the scope and length of it epic but the band pull it off with aplomb, its warped story taking us from the very beginning of the character complemented by a stunning vocal performance and a scything and soaring guitar solo that leaves jaws dropped.
The sinister ‘Mr Babadook’ continues to build the atmosphere, it’s machine gun staccato drumming and riff giving an industrial edge to the unsettling tale whilst the threatening vocals spin a tale that will keep you awake for a week. ‘Imago’ sees Psychoberrie sprout wings and more elements of gothic prog and the bleak wasteland hard rock filter throughout their performance. Chainsaws are wielded, bodies are dismembered and disposed of and ghoulish figures dance as ‘Burn the Witch’ and ‘Shadows’ amongst others ramp things up in a way that Alice Cooper only scratched the surface of.
By the time that there is a wild dance as performers spill from the stage into the audience for closing number ‘Toybox’, Ward XVI had ensured that there was one band that everyone would have remembered seeing at the festival. With this amount of drive, imagination, and commitment to their craft, it seems inevitable that the lunatics are taking over not just the asylum but everywhere they appear, the band truly something special.
You can’t beat a bit of down and dirty, primal rock ‘n’ roll and few bands understand that as much as Screaming Eagles. Taking their cues from acts like AC/DC and Airbourne, the Northern Ireland outfit’s no crap approach has won them a growing legion of fans wanting no frills thrills that has grease and dirt under its fingernails.
Now in their eight year, the band have refined their style to something so primal that you can practically smell the blood and diesel from the stage. With a bluesy hard boogie feel, ‘Hungry for More’, ‘All the Way’ and ‘Breaking All the Rules’ don’t stint on force, the sandpapered vocals of Chris Fry roar as the fretwork of Adrian McAleenan hits like a clawhammer to the head whilst Ryan Lilly’s bass and the drums of Kyle Cruikshank are as unstoppable as a freight train.
Throwing in their version of The Doors ‘Roadhouse Blues’ is a perfect fit to the set and sees the crowd happily get into its groove before they go into the tumultuous ‘Thunder and Lightning’. The twin benefits of keeping things simple matched with constant hours on the road points to greater gains and should see the band break out from their rural idyll and onto world stages. With a support slot to Slash already under their belts and the use of songs in big television productions, Screaming Eagles have shown they’ve got the quality to go far and by this showing it’s only a matter of time before they’re flying higher than ever.
Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons have become somewhat of a fixture of festivals and venues up and down the country since the guitarist formed the familial outfit following the sad passing of Lemmy and dissolution of Motorhead. Whilst the end of Mister Kilminster’s legendary band was tragic, this outfit have more than proved themselves time and time again, latest album ‘We’re the Bastards’ a killer collection of hard rock diamonds.
With newly installed singer Joel Peters seamlessly fitting into the line-up, it was all cylinders firing as the band tore into a set that mixed their original material with some tasty additions, much to the delight of the rammed venue.
After four decades in the business, including three with the ‘Head, Campbell still shows the undiminished fire he has for making music, sons Tyla, Todd and Dane learning from the six-string road warrior from birth and giving the band a cohesion that few truly achieve.
Irrespective of this, the band have made their reputation on constant touring and it shows as they bring a performance that is confident but never less than viscerally exciting. The fact that the obviously thrilled Peters has slotted into such a tight unit so well speaks volumes for both band and singer and his performance is one of a coolly manic energy, his assured style complementing his bandmates as he respectfully but forcefully makes his presence felt.
The material brings together some of the highlights of The Bastard Sons catalogue thus far with stone cold rockers like ‘We’re the Bastards’, ‘Son of a Gun’, ‘Dark Days’ and ‘Get On Your Knees’ punching hard as they mix class, structure and eviscerating power.
These Old Boots’ from Campbell’s solo album ‘Old Lions Still Roar’ has been a welcome addition to the set but it’s inevitably Motorhead’s ‘Born to Raise Hell’, ‘Going To Brazil’ and the blistering anthem ‘Ace of Spades’ along with Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’ that sees the crowd at their most fervent, a sea of fist raised and hair flying as they sing at the top of their voices. As the set drew to a close with the juggernaut reading of ‘Killed By Death’ it was game, set and match to the veteran guitarist and his troupe, their control over the evening total and those present knowing they’d seen a true masterclass in incendiary rock ‘n’ roll.
Following the riotous celebration of Campbell and Co was always going to be a hard task but few could doubt the passion and sheer force of presence brought by Chris Holmes & Mean Man, the ex-W.A.S.P. guitarist finding himself being thrust into the headline slot after Wolfsbane had to drop out last minute.
You can have nothing but the utmost respect for this survivor of some of the worst excesses that the Sunset Strip offered in those halcyon hair metal days of the mid 80’s, Holmes infamous interview in ‘The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years’ showing a man truly on the edge.
Having somehow managed to recover from a life that was seemingly destined to end in a body bag in an L.A. side street, he went on to forge a post W.A.S.P. career that, whilst maybe not reached the heights or notoriety of the infamous band, has still proven that he has a lot to offer, his skills with the fretboard never in question.
With a set that covered his storied career, Holmes and Mean Man brought their dirt grimed bluesy heavy metal with a force that was to be absorbed, the obvious respect between band and audience mutual. Despite filling the set with some choice moments like ‘On Your Knees’, ‘Let It Roar’, ‘Blind in Texas’ and ‘Wild Child’, there was seemingly an essential spark missing somewhere though.
With The Wicked Jackals’ Ollie Tindall and Lex Gifford joining him on vocals / guitar and bass respectively, along with drummer Stephen Jackson, the set never really took hold in the way it truly should have, possibly due to the crowd having been on their feet and drinking for the best part of ten hours after a hard night’s partying the evening before. Whilst Tindall proves to be the better singer, Holmes guitarwork was never less than magnetic, being it peeling out chunky riffs or blazing solos.
The expected ‘Animal – F@ck Like A Beast’ still sounds as raw and brutal as ever and the rambunctious closing hat trick of covers in ‘Born to Be Wild’, ‘Fortunate Son’ and ‘Rocking in the Free World’ brought the party spirit back but by then the tired crowd were well and truly spent. It was a somewhat muted end to a fine day, Holmes clearly grateful that he’d not only managed to pull himself through his own Hell, but this wasn’t quite enough to make up for the missing spark. As we’ve seen in the past, the guitarist is used to the knocks and the most important thing is that he’d be back to fight another day, his spirit never diminished but always getting stronger.
Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
The second day, quite appropriately, dawns with a bang, well it’s Bonfire Night after all. The bar has been set high following an explosive day one that has most certainly re-inserted the ‘Great’ into Yarmouth. Fireworks were lit and rocketed towards the heavens; fuse wires ignited by a stellar half dozen. Camp HRH, a semi-nomadic rock and roll garrison, has landed and set up on the edge of town.
This is the wild frontier lands of the eastern fringes; clinging to the coast there is but Lowestoft further east. The caravans of rock n’ roll mercenaries and metallic brigands can be seen some miles off; travelling across the levels to their journey’s end.
The campfires await, torches light the way; stories of yore will be retold over and the spirits of yester will be saluted. There has been a number of changes; some expected won’t be making it this year along with a re-jig of the running order. However the spirit remains within and burns all the more brightly with a purposeful determination running throughout.
Right from the darkened depths of the now sadly silenced collieries that South Wales was once famed for come hurtling Pearler the first act to take to Stage Two. With the power of the freight trains that once hauled that coal from the pit these four Welsh metallers possess a fierce sense of identity.
Pummelling with bone crushing riffs from the very off Pearler strike with the machine-gun thrash of Wor.Z.E.L. Chuggage. Hair flies as grizzled frontman Wendell Kingpin dismisses establishment growling “Fuck all your politics” amongst the fury unleashed.
Alongside Wendell lead guitarist Evs despatches some delicious solos whilst bassist Freakster Sincity belies his glam metal appearance with thundering four-stringing. Behind the maelstrom skinsman Gwary Hunt is a constant force as he gives forth a high tensile rhythm.
The initial gathering are going nowhere and it’s clear that the ranks are steadily expanding; Pearler have clearly caught the ear. The Welsh steel of ‘Control’ harnesses the thermal energy of the furnaces which light the skies with a burning ochre. There’s a deep heavy groove to ‘Fortified’, Evs works his fret hard literally strangling the notes from the strings.
We’re having a pearler, we’re having a ball” observes a smiling Wendell before explaining “This came to me in a dream.” Quite what thoughts and images Wendell captures in his slumber is quite bewildering; ‘Desert Slut’ hits right between the eyes, Welsh biker rock crossed with ‘Dusk ’til Dawn’.
It’s a thing of beauty, borne of the arid sand blasted plains. Pearler have lain down a mighty gauntlet and the ensemble know they’ve had one without any shadow of a doubt.
An asperous band of troubadours from the ‘Garden of England’ are next to set up stall; their wares blending earthy rock with a sensitive emotion. Setting about their craft Gallows Circus give ‘Faith To Believe’ to the populous.
It’s thundering hooves carrying the oh-so-sweet solo to the furthest reaches; those who doubted doubt no more. Those who wondered what would come of crossing Black Crowes with Led Zeppelin wonder no more. Vocalist Ian Day’s voice is sublime; soothing the most troubled of souls.
A broken string doesn’t trouble guitarist Ben Atwood in the slightest with the, now relegated to reduced realms, five-stringer taking the musical potions to the masses.
Desert sands form runnels as the parched winds scorch the deserted village. From the saloon comes the soulful southern grooves of ‘Bones To Pick’. The portentous harbingers that peregrinate upfront of the marauding pack. Over the horizon appear four horsemen; silhouetted against the setting sun, shadows lengthen running long in the bar.
The ‘Medicine Man’ has reached journey’s conclusion. From darkened corners eyes watch with suspicion. A low-slung guitar howls to the waning moon’s crescent.
With a force that tears the stars asunder and cuts to the bone with a precise arcane beauty so Gallows Circus slot in a mid-set cover version. Turning Michael Jackson’s ‘Dirty Diana’, the ultimate persistent groupie, inside out and upside down and thumping the track on to a soaring, hitherto, undiscovered dimension is an accomplished feat.
The band ride ‘Shotgun With The Devil’ upon the fiery rivers of Hades; they have the Stones and Zeppelin for company.
A gentle intro strikes through the heart; ‘Holding My Breath’ is a beauteous bewitching demon that caresses and soothes with sharp precision and a delicate strength.
The claws of the hellish guardian hook the soul and entice the gathered ensemble to worship. The RnR preachers have taken HRH to the incendiary altar; the steely sacrificial knife glints in the moonlight as it’s raised. Back in the bar a lone, bony hand raises a shot glass, ordering the final drops of the set-closer ‘Hell’s Whiskey’. I have the feeling that this is gonna be one of the sets of the weekend.
Hellhounds roar and snarl as the rumbling intro, to which deservedly lauded gothic punk rockers Fyresky take to Stage Two, draws a crowd willing to be beatified.
This is spirit inducing no doubt of it. Pseudo shock-glam rock beats, beloved of Marilyn Manson, give warning of the impending ‘Spectre’. We’re taken “to the witchdoctor” as frontman Gabriel Valentine entwines soul-searing guitars with Nicole Lastauskas whilst bassist Kris White and drummer Jack Morris construct scarifying rhythms that threaten the integrity of concrete and tarmac within a mile radius of their epicentre.
In the light we fade away” sings Gabriel as the Essex-quartet concoct a portentous brew curiously blending The Cult and Generation-X with acclaimed results. ‘Pieces’ is labelled 100% proof with good reason. Pagan warriors pound their shields with broadswords and maces as they ready themselves for the impending conflict. Gabriel, at song-end, states “Oh fuck Gallows Circus weren’t wrong!” Two very different bands but the absolute identical result – top end contenders for the set of HRH XIV.
Troubled anguished souls break free from the restraining chains of conformity to trample over society’s expectancies; being an individual and confident as so is paramount. An accelerated and well-participated ‘Timewarp’ is followed up by Kris and then Gabriel enquiring “Who’d like a song about kinky sex?” Unsurprisingly there’s a loud cheer in response; did anyone really expect anything else from the HRH horde? ‘Pleasure For Pain’ is a punk horror thrasher from the top drawer as the Yeth Hounds scorch the high moors.
None is spared from their demonic fury. Their blackened souls twist and maul their prey to the sacrificial altar. Cauldrons seethe and boil, a century of pain and anguish is released.
It’s been a compelling set chock full of meaty riffs and shock rock that has seen Stage Two closed as capacity had been reached. Those that witnessed this know the quality as Kris, at set-end, touches her heart and mouths “Thankyou” to the horde.
A largely unknown quantity Portsmouth’s Jimmy B and the Death Rattles endear themselves to the HRH faithful with an engaging set. Fronted by charismatic vividly green haired vocalist Jimmy B, naturally, they go down an absolute storm. Their mission statement is to “bring the art back into rock music”.
Something they do with seemingly consummate ease within their set which draws from, in the main, their 2020 debut long player ‘Porno Taught Me How To Love’. Their self-proclaimed influences, such as David Bowie, The Buzzcocks and Alice Cooper, are worn proudly as they strike out in their own individualist direction.
It’s an avenue lined with much potential and one which invites future travels into their fictional city of Lux. T-shirts are launched into a hugely appreciative audience as they feed with the fervour of a pack of wolves upon a hard worn carcass. Gratitude to HRH for bringing this eclectic six-piece from the south coast for our absolute pleasure.
From trekking around four corners of southern England and Wales we are now taken across the North Sea to Sweden for an eight track set full of intensity and full on carnivorous thrashing riffs. The purveyors of this furious maelstrom are powerhouse quintet Eternal Fear, a tight cohesive quintet that clearly enjoy sharing their furiously paced metallic mayhem, and rightly so.
Possessing a NWOBHM edge over a power metal undercurrent they mix up the higher paced offerings with delicious slabs of melodious hard rock. The thundering hammers of the Norse gods are utilised to their fullest potential in ‘No Surrender’. Bells chime as horns are raised; the gods look down in appreciation. This is a freight train on the loose; heavy six-string harmonies aplenty setting the scene for a wide-ranging vocalist. It’s a well received set that ensures further investigation of their expansive back catalogue.
Headlining Stage Two are North Devon’s Fallen State; fresh off an extensive UK tour these five guys are clearly in the groove. Their fast, technical prog-edged rock catching the attention of fans and their musical peers alike wherever they play. Indeed they are set fair to head out on the road in January supporting Stone Broken.
Kicking off with recent single ‘Knives’, their first new material in two years, Fallen State set about tearing Stage a brand new one. The track’s deeply cutting beauty is the first number to feature new vocalist Adam Methven, formerly of The Addiction, who has slotted in seamlessly.
There’s rapid Malmsteen-esque solos and soaring, infectious chorus but early-doors this is a little blighted by some technical issues. To their absolute credit the band halt the set two songs in to enable rectification which immediately produces a vastly improved sound quality.
The Nickelback fringed ‘Sinner’ takes things up a notch with a delightful change of tone for lead six-stringer Jon Price’s solo.
Adam, in deference to Phil Campbell playing on the neighbouring Stage One, proudly sports a Motorhead t-shirt enquires “You feeling good?” The anthemic tech metal of ‘Burn It To The Ground’ hits the sweet spot with the chorus eliciting much fervour. ‘Standing Tall’ is a dragonesque beast whose metallic scaled wings beat a hard, hard rhythm; a track, if there’s any justice, destined to be a live favourite.
‘Send Up The World’ verges upon the realm of thrash at points as Adam screams out “Your silence screams out loud” whilst drummer Rich Walker hammers out a monstrous double bass beat.
The Stage Two room lights up with mobiles phones and a solitary lighter for the gritty soothing tones of ‘Nova’. Twisting and turning with the grace of the Red Kite this is an anthem, of that no doubt, that engages with a good sized crowd singing “I’ll be here right by your side.
Closing with their very first single, 2014s ‘Hope In Revival’, hit a sound resonant of fellow West Country metallers King Creature. Day two, Stage two has ended on a high peak – much is promised for day three.
Mainstage Photography by Pete Key
Stage 2 Photography by Darren Smith & Kelly Spiller