REVIEW: Hammerfest VII , Pwllheli, Wales 12-14th March, 2015

As this would be Denim and Leather’s first official outing as a team since launching the new website, we were counting down the days until we could hit the road and head for the beautiful landscapes of North Wales before ultimately arriving at Hard Rock Hell HQ in Pwllheli. With our hip flasks full, patch jackets on and black metal flyers in hand we arrived at our digs and the wine began to flow. What followed were a series of blurred photographs, infinite rounds of toast, true company and some great heavy metal. As you’ll read throughout we were more than a little disappointed to find Hammerfest relegated to the vastly inferior stage attached to the Mash & Barrel pub, complete with it’s lackluster sound, dull lighting and colonial racism inspired bars. However we made the best of it, as did all of the savage acts we saw over the three days, the finest of which we’ve recollected for you below. Enjoy.


First up on the bill for us and earlier than I would have expected for a band synonymous with black witchcraft and despairing demons were Wrexham’s finest Hecate Enthroned. Having been doing the rounds of the underground scene since their inception in 1995, it was a shame not to see the Black Metaller’s given a longer set, especially in their native land, but at the same time the Jäger was flowing and we were ready for something brutal early on. Kicking things off with ‘Upon the Kingdom Throne’, the sparsely populated yet enthused crowd of the Hammerfest stage were lambs to ‘The Slaughter of Innocence’ as Hecate grew in strength and the atmospheric blue lighting soaked up the room before them. A particular highlight for me came as ‘The Pagan Swords of Legend’ crushed the front row as I watched from the side, taking photos of the carnage as and when I could from behind the drum kit. Lastly, ‘As Fire’ rained down to bring the short but sweet set to a climactic finish, and just like that Hecate Enthroned were gone from the stage, leaving behind their smoldering, smoke filled remains to the night. Hammerfest had begun. - Nick


Normally the Thursday evening opening of Hammerfest isn’t anything to write home about and we often spend it destroying our livers. This year however things were different, thanks in no small part to the addition of Northern Ireland’s Waylander. All of us had been really looking forward to kicking things off with some Celtic Folk, and we weren’t left discouraged. Speaking to vocalist ArdChieftain O’Hagan before the set commenced two things were clear- Firstly, they were all as drunk and tired as I was at this point, and secondly that regardless of this they were ready to play for the pagan hordes that had gathered for their set. Clad in their blue warpaint and ready for battle, Waylander flew through their unfortunately short set with impressively thick and poignant guitars, haunting screams and more than a fair share of tin whistle before bringing things to a close. A perfect way to kick things off at Hammerfest, and I’m sure only just the beginning of the nights antics for the boys in Waylander. - Nick


Thursday night headliner Blitzkrieg brought the first wave of the weekends NWOBHM attack to Pwllheli with a live show that contained all the hallmarks of a band that have been in the industry longer than I have had facial hair. It felt as though the stage Hammerfest had been relegated to in light of the new HRH United approach to the festival was just too small to contain them. Record collectors rejoiced as the band played the now classic debut album A Time Of Changes in full, and what a show it was; fast, heavy and full of NWOBHM charm. Heads were banged, fists were pumped, beers were spilled, and founding member Brian Ross (also of Satan fame) gave a vocal performance that was as good today as it was on the ‘85 record. Overall a great performance of a classic album from a band who have assuredly mastered the art of the no nonsense heavy metal live show that leaves the crowd begging for more. The spirit of the 80s was very much alive on the dark, rain soaked coast of Pwllheli that night. - Siggi


The weekend hadn't started for me until Chris Norton had screamed "Bow down!" and the first sweeping riff of ‘Mam Tor the Shivering Mountain’ kicked in. Winterfylleth’s brand of Heathen Black metal truly is a thing of beauty and no matter how many times I see the band live I always come away with something new and richer for the experience. Once again the recurring sound troubles plagued the start of the performance as the microphones weren’t working during the opening, but once that was sorted the band stormed into a short but surefire set of old and new material including ‘Whisper of the Elements’ and album titler ‘The Ghost of Heritage’ before ending as always on the now customary fan favourite ‘Defending the Realm’. Winterfylleth are a band who have gone from strength to strength since their European tour with Enslaved and it's been a joy to watch them grow over the last few years. I look forward to the next few as they fast become a British Black Metal institution. - Siggi


Now everybody knows I’m the main/only power metal guy around here. Although I’m into a huge range of other stuff I’ve always had a soft spot for the Middle Earth of metal, and it’s often what I look forward to the most after a few rum and cokes at festivals. Unfortunately there’s generally very little if any at all on offer, which I do completely understand but it gets me down nonetheless. I was seeking something different at this year’s Hammerfest away from all the crushing riffs and evocative satanism. Something more upbeat that might make me attempt a jig. A violin perhaps...Enter Elvenking! An absolutely brilliant booking saw the young, enthusiastic Italians erupt onto the stage and into two tracks from their latest album The Pagan Manifesto and earlier release The Scythe before delivering a huge crowd pleaser in what was unfortunately the only song from The Winter Wake in the set ‘The Wanderer’. And they were quite a sight on stage too, slashed across the eyes with their trademark black warpaint, something which a few of their most passionate fanbase had managed to turn up in also. Continuing to cram as much as they could into their criminally short set time, the spirit of folk filled the hall as the dynamic violins of ‘Through Wolf’s Eyes’ went down a treat and saw beers lifted high throughout. Sadly though, things did have to come to an end and the opener from Era in ‘The Loser’ seemed fitting enough. I had waited to see Elvenking for years, and the only disappointment I felt was that they weren’t higher up the bill. A refreshing, polished and bloody entertaining band to watch. Here’s hoping a small UK tour is headed our way sometime in the near future. - Nick


Returning to Hammerfest alongside headliners Candlemass and never a sight for sore eyes were London NWOBHM legends Angel Witch. With absolutely no better place to start, they lunged straight into ‘Gorgon’ from their stalwart 1980 self-titled release and things never really slowed down from there. Sticking with the album, Angel Witch blasted through classics ‘Sorcerers’, ‘Angel of Death’ and the hypnotic, smoke filled riffs of ‘White Witch’ beside a lonely one track from their latest release. A dream setlist. Although the entire band work effortlessly and give everything during the show, it’s the intense sincerity of Kevin Heybourne that always astounds me, and it’s why I enjoyed watching Angel Witch for what was probably the tenth time just as much as I did the first. As with almost everything we saw over the weekend, the stage left much to be desired in terms of sound and lighting. This was likely down to the fact it was attached to The Mash & Barrel and not in the main arena, something that urked us over the three days. On reflection though, if there was any band on the bill that could play the hell out of what is essentially a pub gig then it’s Heybourne & co, and this rang true as the beer soaked applause echoed out all over the function room carpets of the Hammerfest stage as the band bowed out with their self-titled crowd pleaser ‘Angel Witch’. - Nick


For whose Advantage? Our’s clearly, as Preston’s 80’s Thrash heroes Xentrix hit the packed Hammerfest stage to unleash their highly political brand of Thrash Metal on Friday night. After reforming in 2013 a string of shows across Europe followed with some of the finest in the Genre. Now, Xentrix are undoubtedly back on top form, and with the energy given off from the band on stage it’s easy to see why. They were playing with all of the intensity from their origins once in full swing, and the performance of a track from their as yet untitled new album was testament to that. With a setlist drawing from the band’s original material for the most part and in particular their most acclaimed album in 1989’s Shattered Existence, beer was drank and heads were banged until Xentrix bowed gracefully off stage bringing an end to a short sharp shock of a performance. Still no sign of the Ghostbusters theme song, though… - Drew


Metallica famously wrote about hitting the lights, but Hirax literally blew them with their Friday night headlining performance at this year’s Hammerfest. Injecting a dose of energy that is typically lacking when a band takes to the stage so late on in the day, Katon W De Pena has to be one of the most enthused frontmen in all of Metal nevermind just thrash, parading around the stage like a wildman throwing the horns, pointing to the crowd and even crowd surfing without missing a beat. The only downside to this frontmanship was Katon’s increasingly lacking grasp of geography, but who am I to judge (Hopefully fans from “Wales and the rest of England” are reading this and agree). The band went from strength to strength at neck breaking speed, with an intensity that was unmatched over the course of the weekend’s events with a particular highlight being the closing trio of songs in ‘Destroy’, ‘El Diablo Negro’ & ‘Bombs Of Death’ .Top quality, pure thrash is hard to come by these days but Hirax have it in bucket loads, and I’d suggest if anyone gets the chance again to catch LA’s finest demons they should grab that opportunity with both hands and bang its head! Hirax came, saw and conquered for their first appearance in the UK ever, and in amongst our circle Katon will forever be known as the OJ Simpson of Thrash Metal; Killed ‘em and got away with it! - Drew


Not even Loki's trickery could stop Skalmold as the weekends sound and lighting problems continued on into the final day. Once the power was finally back on the Icelandic six-piece stormed into action with their own blend of folk influenced Viking metal with a sincere and energetic performance that was much to the appreciation of the crowd. It's the first time I had seen the band live, and the chemistry between them was really something else. The group chants helped give the melodies some real heathen spirit whilst the shared vocal duties between most members kept the songs fresh and interesting. More than that though, the band themselves looked like they were enjoying every minute of it. Unfortunately the set was cut short due to the power issues (which as you probably have already noticed was a running theme throughout the weekend) and another song or two wouldn't of gone a miss with them being on a roll, but all in all a great performance from a band who are certainly going to continue going places for years to come. Furthermore, this was a live performance that even managed to put a smile on my perpetually miserable face. Our editor caught up with Snæbjörn Ragnarsson earlier on in the day and you can find that interview online in the next few days. - Siggi


For me, Einherjer were always going to be one of the highlights of the weekend. A band I had been really looking forward to seeing for a long time, and a band that absolutely did not disappoint. It was their first UK show in twelve years, so it was great to see the Norwegian horde not only back in Blighty but more importantly on Welsh soil for the first time. And what a treat they were to watch live. Whilst a fan of the music, personally I always found the studio albums a little bit tinny sounding. It may just be the way they are recorded (not that recording quality is ever a big issue for me) but they just seem to lack something. On stage though it's a different story. The sound is fuller and more robust with a fantastic vocal performance from both Frode and Aksel bringing their special mix of folky Black Metal that went over a treat with the increasingly intoxicated crowd (myself included). One thing I didn't realise that also impressed me was that they were achieving they’re imposing sound without a bass player. Drew and I were trying to figure out where we had seen Frode before, and after much head scratching and speculation we consulted the oracle that is Wikipedia and it turns out he plays guitar in Twilight of the Gods, so there you go! All in all a great performance full of Pagan spirit and a cracking set list that left me humming ‘Dragons of the North’ for the rest of the day. - Siggi


Few things in life are guaranteed, such as death and taxes, but I believe we are approaching the point where we can safely add Orange Goblin rocking a crowd to that short list as in typical fashion Hammerfest was once again shook by the band's blend of Stoner Metal & British Steel. Entering just at the right time on a Saturday night to reach the xeneth of peoples eagerness (read drunkenness), Goblin were armed with a set that leaned heavily towards their last 3 albums, something that they've been touring on the back of vigorously in years past and especially in the US. This helped towards showing a particular tightness in the band on stage compared to previous times I've seen them, and it's always a joy watching enthused frontman Ben Ward stomping round the stage like a Wrestler. Highlights of the set were certainly outings of two rare tracks from the bands extensive back catalogue in the form of 'Saruman's Wish' & ' Quincy The Pig Boy', but Orange Goblin really could have done with an extra half an hour at least as the crowd were lapping it up and seemed generally disappointed to see the band go without their usual finisher 'Scorpionica'. But hey some you win, some you lose. - Drew


“Hear these words, Vilifiers and pretenders. Please let me die in solitude”. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case as Sweden’s undisputed kings of gloom and misery had completely packed out the inappropriately small Hammerfest Stage. Sadly their Saturday night headlining slot featured no original members due to Leif Edling currently sitting out of the band thanks to illness, but he is currently being replaced by the more than capable Jörgen Sandström (Of Grave & Entombed fame). With the set focussing heavily on the band’s first three and certainly most acclaimed albums, Candlemass wasted no time opening with the ever popular ‘Mirror Mirror’ for the drunken masses to try out their singing voices. Highlights included the always joyless renditions of ‘Bewitched’, ‘A Cry from the Crypt’, ‘At the Gallows End’ and of course what is one of the most miserable closing songs in all of Heavy Metal, ‘Solitude’. Candlemass always offer a great show and tonight was no exception as musically the band sounded as tight as ever, with the sort of set list that suits a headline slot so well. Though it must be said that frontman Mats Levén often times seemed far too happy to be fronting such a doomy outfit. - Drew

So that was it for another year of North Wales finest metal gathering as Hammerfest VII came to a close. We had an absolute blast as always and we’re hugely grateful to Claire and the team for arranging everything as usual. Set times running late and even sometimes early, bad lighting, worse sound, and unforgivable carpets couldn’t stop the weekend being a success, we just hope that next year Hammerfest can take it’s rightful place back at the main arena for the festival to continue to reach it’s full potential. That being said we did appreciate our digs being within crawling distance of said venue at the end of a long day of black, thrash, power and jäger. And we’d also like to politely request that Solstice(UK) are on the bill next time, too. Special thanks to Chris Nelson of and ARFM fame for being a blast to stay with, and good luck also to RAMzine on their quest to find Night Ranger.



Artist - Jesters of Destiny
Title - The Sorrows That Refuse to Drown
Label - Ektro

Thirty years after Jesters of Destiny arrived, dropped Fun at the Funeral and disappeared back into the night, they’re finally back with a second full length release courtesy of Ektro Records, and whilst it could never live up to first album, the eccentricity of the band shines through once more and it’s a crazy ride from start to finish. Pick it up on April 4th!



Artist - Hammerfest IX
Date - 23rd- 26th March
Venue - Pwllheli, Wales  

One of our main highlights of the year, this month we’re off to Wales for Hammerfest, HRH’s Heavy Metal flagship. With the return of two Power Metal titans alongside a host of others, this year looks to be one of their best ever. We’ll be covering the whole festival and conducting interviews as well so lookout for the cameras!