Friday morning, it’s 9am and the car is full of petrol, beer and food. The SatNav is fully charged and Chimp Spanner is blasting out of the stereo… the road trip to Hammerfest II had begun! The journey flew by and before I knew it I was checking in at Pontins, Prestatyn and heading to my home for the weekend. Now it wasn’t exactly Buckingham Palace but it was far better than a tent could ever be; and besides, it had a fridge to keep the beer cold!

With food and beer successfully loaded into the fridge, obviously whilst sampling one of the tasty beverages just to make sure it was worthy of such an occasion, it was time to go and find the pub! The Queen Victoria was found with ease and the Welsh beer was sampled, well, Murphy’s Irish Stout which is about as Welsh as Haggis but delicious all the same! The Queen Vic, conveniently enough, also turned out to be the venue of Stage 3!

Echovirus kicked off the day’s proceedings with a ferocious set of melodic death metal, a touch of the nerves to begin with but were soon shook off and forgotten. Man Must Die were either insanely terrible or I didn’t see them as I have absolutely no recollection of them whatsoever… and I wasn’t drunk, not at that point anyway! Onto Sondura, now if it was 1997 I probably would have loved this band but its 2010 and, despite being very good at what they do, they are 10 years too late. On further research they cite Nickelback as an influence… enough said! It was also at this time that I was fortunate enough to meet up with many of the good people from the twitterverse, wonderful people, one and all! Which brings me nicely, in no specific way whatsoever, to the next band up – No Made Sense.  Reading’s Dark Progressive Metallers blew the previous bands clear out the water, an awesome display had the entire crowd mesmerised throughout their tight, explosive set.  A definite highlight of the weekend, 2010 could well be their year!

A brief refrain for food and a couple of home beers before the evening’s entertainment began! Xerath were up first on Stage 2, I’d had the pleasure of meeting the Xerath guys earlier and they were a thoroughly good bunch of chaps! Their music was pretty good too, self styled “Orchestral Groove Metal” with more than a hint of Meshuggah and Strapping Young Lad thrown in the mix along with Dimmu Borgir atmospherics. Savage Messiah followed, now if I had to use one word to describe them it would be Megadeth, fast paced thrash metal. They were extremely good at it too; I draw the comparison with Megadeth as a compliment as these guys can seriously thrash out a song!  Another highlight was to come next from Reading’s Malefice, the brutal grooves and crushing riffs set Malefice apart from their peers in the British Metal scene. Their set was no less impressive, the crowd chanting their name throughout, forming circle pits and generally unleashing hell in the pit. This didn’t go unnoticed by the band with plenty of praise heading down from the stage as well as up to it.

A short saunter over to Stage 1, via the bar of course, to catch the remainder of Swedish gothic doom metallers Katatonia. It’s not music that you can dance to but they still manage to put on a great show and the nodding heads of the crowd seemed to agree! DevilDriver rock up next, I saw them twice last year at Download and Rock City and was blown away by both shows so I was expecting more fireworks at Hammerfest. I wasn’t disappointed, Dez is a master at working the crowd and it wasn’t long before the first circle pit was demanded! They ripped through the classics and even threw in a couple of unexpected tracks at the end of the set!  Five Finger Death Punch headlined Friday with a set as ferocious as Ivan Moody’s stares… Their rise has been nothing short of spectacular, in two short years they have gone from support act to headlining one of Europe’s major festivals! They rattled through tracks of both albums before Ivan won a bet against Dez from DevilDriver…  Dez bet $100 Ivan couldn’t get the crowd to go crazier than they did for DD, a 1000 strong ‘Wall of Death’ put paid to that bet!  Napalm Death rounded off the line-up on Stage 1 for Friday with their original brand of grindcore metal! Then it was back to the chalet for a few more cheeky beers…

Saturday arrived with the inevitable fuzzy head but Berocca and a bite to eat soon sorted that out!  First order of the day was Rise to Remain; I got their EP from Metal Hammer the previous month and liked what I heard so I wanted to hear their live performance! They were good, damn good. Not the finished article yet but they definitely have the ability to become a great band!  Fury UK followed with a set full of melodic metal with a touch of prog mixed in too, they were well received by the crowd and definitely looked as though they were having fun! A trip to the pub then ensued for a hair of the dog… returning to Stage 2 for the phenomenal set by LA’s White Wizzard putting the metal back into metal! With shredding guitars, thunderous beats and the screaming demon vocals, it’s old school metal at its best and surprisingly refreshing! I was then transported back to the late 90’s, Panic Cell a band that have been on the verge of being huge for more than a decade but just don’t seem to be able to break through that final barrier… A solid set and a couple of bottles of Jager for the crowd went down well!

On the way to the shop we bumped in Darth Vader and a bunch of Stormtroopers, who’d have thought Darth Vader was from Yorkshire… Back at the chalet for a delicious round of sausage sandwiches, a few more cold ones and a spot of rugby before heading back to Stage 1 for the mighty Skindred. The highlight of the weekend for sure, Skindred were immense. Benji working the crowd as only he can, what a front man! It must have been an incredible sight, the entire crowd bouncing through the whole performance. They were joined by members of Forever Never and Panic Cell for the finale ‘Nobody’.  Iced Earth followed, I tried, I really tried to like them but I just don’t them. I know this may leave me in the minority but I just had to get that out…

Now comes a real highlight, Suicidal Tendencies, a band I have listened to for years and I never thought I would get to see them live… A stunning performance, the energy was brutal, Mike Muir was on fine form. What a way to end an amazing weekend of music! I didn’t hang around for Sabaton, i left the arena in a daze with a huge smile on my face!

What I loved most about my weekend at Hammerfest was the atmosphere, there was no pretence, bands and fans alike walked the floors all having a great time. The only scene there was if you walked to the beach and looked out over the sea…

A great, great weekend I will never forget!