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Hard Rock Hell AOR – Friday 9th March: Hafan y Môr Holiday Park, Pwllheli

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Words: Johnny Main, Pictures: Carlan Braid
23rd March 2018

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It's always the same at festivals, eh? The first day goes really well as you settle into the way of things and then end up pouring alcohol down your throat like it's the last party on Earth and wake up the next day feeling like a huge pile of shit.

Well, safe to say that the MetalTalk crew didn't embarrass themselves (too much) the previous day but it was our duty to party hard until the wee small hours and the hangovers confirmed how much effort we'd put into that.

Surfacing nearer to midday than is probably deemed respectable, we once again convened at the Mash and Barrel, had some coffee along with a sturdy breakfast and set about sorting out a plan for the day.

Now being the professionals that we are, we wanted to ensure that we caught as much of the onstage action, but this was made slightly more difficult than the day before because of the addition of the second (smaller) stage which was closed the previous day.

With some stage clashes inevitable, it was always going to take a bit of juggling to see as many bands as possible and get the very best from the festival but we tried.

As we headed down to see what was happening and as we arrived at the large stage, we were just in time to see Scots Rockers The King Lot finishing their set who, as the first band of the day, managed to pull a substantial audience.

The first band we caught up with were Swedish Glam rockers Cruzh (pronounced Crush) who continued the party already going.

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A new band for me, I wasn't sure what to expect, but they settled quickly into their high octane show. Front man Philip Lindstrand has a great voice while guitarist Anton Joensson wasn't shy in showing his skills either.

'Survive' from their 2016 self-titled debut album went down well but 'In and Out of Love' was the best of their set with the punchy drums of Matt Silver leading the charge before Lindstrand really went for it.

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Next up were UK rockers, Daylight Robbery, another new band for me but one that came highly recommended and didn't disappoint.

Bass player Colin Murdoch and drummer Rob Chivers provided a solid base for the band whose outstanding tracks included 'Digital Dreamer' which had a few headbangers down the front doing their thing while guitarist Mark Carleton certainly impressed with his solo.

'Fallen Star' from album number two, 'Falling Back to Earth' slowed the pace before the audience got bouncing around once again with a song about Revolution, 'Scream Outloud'. All in all, a very entertaining set from the Birmingham based rockers.

American born and Australian based vocalist Jac Dalton released the single 'Roll With The Punches' back in 2014 and I became a firm fan from that point on.

Still very much active on the live circuit back in Australia, Dalton and his crew launched a crowd funding campaign to help with the costs of a trip from Oz to Wales and so consequently this has been my first opportunity to catch him on stage on a rare UK show, and it was something I was looking forward to immensely.

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As he finally made it on stage it was clear that all the effort had paid off as the he lapped up the warm reception before getting down to business with Powder Keg' followed straight up by 'Roll With The Punches'.

Guitarist Travis Grace impressed me throughout the set while Dalton's voice was absolutely spot on and with minimal chat between songs allowing as many songs as they could squeeze in.

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, The Radio Sun have been on my radar for sometime and having been unsuccessful in attempts to see them in the past for a variety of reasons, I was glad I finally managed to catch up with the antipodean trio.

In the UK and Europe for a handful of dates to promote the 'Unstoppable' which was released back in October 2017 and fronted by Jason Old, the band are an old school melodic hard rock and a definite hint of the future.

Jason is backed up by the talents of guitarist Stevie Janevski and drummer Gilbert Annese to create an extraordinary sound It's only a shame I missed their acoustic set because this group really do look to be absolutely unstoppable.

It was another packed house for Aaron Buchanan's set and it was clear to see why during the first couple of numbers, as they thoroughly impressed the audience judging by their riotous reactions.

It was a high energy performance from Buchanan, who has taken up a new sport of doing headstands actually in the crowd, it seems. They rolled though old Heaven's Basement numbers like 'Fire, Fire', 'Welcome Home' and 'Heartbreaking Son of a Bitch' alongside tracks like The Devil That Needs You',' All The Things You've Said And Done' and set closer 'Morals' from their debut album, 'The Man With Stars On His Knees'.

Buchanan is clearly and rightfully the centre of attention with his fantastic voice and ready wit and it takes him little time to connect emotionally and physically with the audience.

A star of the future without a doubt and if he maintains this level of performance it won't be long before the band are headlining Hard Rock Hell in their own right.

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BulletBoys were formed in 1987 in Los Angeles by former King Kobra member Marq Torien. Strongly influenced by AC/DC and Van Halen their self-titled debut album hit record store shelves in 1988.

From here, things only went downhill with subsequent releases not even charting but the band's story isn't one of failure but is all about believing in yourself and carrying on to live the dream.

The band boasts Marq as the sole original member and thirty years after they released their first album, the band's live show is simply an enjoyable experience.

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Anyone who lived through the late 80s/early 90s must remember the singles 'Smooth Up In Ya' and a cover of the O'Jays 'For the Love of Money' both of which featured here and were performed to a packed and noisy venue for one of their first shows on UK soli in well over a decade.

Torien showed off his guitar skills early on as they trundled through the title track of their forthcoming album, 'It Fell Out Of The Skies'.

He promised to blow the roof off the place and they might not have managed it but they had a bloody good attempt at it and they certainly gave the evenings headliners, NightRanger a tough act to follow.

Hailing from San Francisco during 1979, Night Ranger have sold more than 17 million albums and despite numerous reformations, there's still a healthy audience out there.

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They frequently tour the US, however UK and European shows are a bit rarer so I was thoroughly overjoyed to finally get the chance to see them without having to fly 5,000 miles to do so.

Stalwarts Jack Blades and Brad Gillis are happy to share centre stage in front of a packed arena while the rest of the band, Kelly Keagy on drums (somewhat awkwardly placed side on the audience), keyboard player Eric Levy and guitarist Keri Kelli are happy to defer.

Their first appearance at Hard Rock hell in three years was highly anticipated and as the lights went down, the audience roar was incredible and only got louder as the band finally took to the stage - some fifteen minutes later than scheduled, unintentionally building extra tension.

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With their most recent album, 'Don't Let Up' out barely a year, this was the ideal opportunity to showcase tracks like 'Truth' and 'Somehow Someway' alongside bonafide classics like 'When You Close Your Eyes', 'Sentimental Street' and 'Goodbye' in a set that ran well over time but no-one really cared as we were all having so much fun.

It's very clear that they can still rock in America and the UK so let's hope they don't leave it too long before they return to UK stages once again for a proper tour.

On the smaller stage throughout the day, there was a myriad of other bands eager to show the best of what they had to offer and although we didn't catch everyone, we did manage to squeeze in several performances.

When I joined MetalTalk back in the dim and distant past, one of the first assignments I was given was to review Sheffield based COP UK (or Crimes of Passion) release 'To Die For', which as the original article shows, I quite liked.

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Now, the boys and I didn't seem to keep in touch unfortunately, however, it was good to catch up with them here and finally see them live.

The line up may have changed a bit in the intervening time but Dale Radcliffe is still the front man and gives his performance everything he's got as the band burst on stage at the start of their performance, which was preceded by 'The Imperial March' from 'The Empire Strikes Back'.

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Drummer Kev Tonge on drums and bass player Joey Roxx on bass guitar provided solid rhythms, backed up by an extraordinary performance from Radcliffe who covered every inch of the stage, connecting with the front row all while giving an uncompromising performance.

The highlight was 'Love Is To Die For', a slower paced number that was one of the heaviest of the set – quite an astonishing performance.

From Wolverhampton came Iconic Eye, fronted by the incredible talents of Jane Gould. It's a name that I've seen popping up here and there over the past few months so it was good to finally see the band live and to find out what they were all about.

Drawing a large crowd, they delivered a solid set during their forty-five minute stage time. Sure, the bass guitar of Michael Dagnall was maybe to high in the mix but that's a small issue next the astounding performance from Robin Mitchard, song after song.

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Gould's enthusiasm was infectious and her vocals were second to none and the highlights of the set included 'Those Tears' (a sad song she tells us) which wasn't a slushy ballad but a full-on rocker while 'Black Country Lady' written about Gould's grandmother that obviously means so much to her, as she shed a tear or two during the intro, which showed a more sensitive side to the band's output and provided a showcase for Gould's incredible talent.

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Fronted by Richard Jones, Fireroad had a good solid sound during their set and delivered a high quality performance. Their second album, 'Flesh, Blood & Bone' has been out less than six months but it's a solid album and the songs from it come across really well.

As they closed their set they were greeted with wild applause – a very popular combo it seems and a band who quite rightly have earned their place on the Hard Rock Hell festival bill once again.

Preston based Gone Savage were on at the same time as Aaron Buchanan's set across the way, so they pulled a modest audience, but were no less enthusiastic than if they'd been playing to a full house I'm sure.

'Ram Me Down' was a solid rocker with a great guitar hook from guitarist James Marsh while WDG certainly didn't hold back on his performance all held up with a powerful and precise drum beat from James Ross.

With BulletBoys pulling a large crowd in the main hall, it was up to Naked from Stockholm Sweden to keep the party going on stage two and for the most part they did.

Suffering technical issues with one of their guitars might have set them off on the wrong foot leaving front man Peter Sundvall to awkwardly fill in time, but he just about got away with it.

'Blood on My Blood' got things back on track and it was plain sailing after that with 'Born To Love To Live' picking up the pace later on as the band finished on a high.

Battling against the pull of the mighty Night Ranger were UK melodic rock act The Room who are closing off our review of our first full day at Hard Rock Hell and offered "something a little different" according to front man Martin Wilson.

What they did produce was a good overall sound with the funky bass line courtesy of Andy Rowe kicking off their set and focusing the audience's attention.

Drummer Chris York did a good job of holding down the often complex without any difficulty while Wilson was certainly no slouch when it came to the vocals.

An interesting set but entertaining end to a long, tiring but ultimately a hugely fun day and as we retired to our accommodation the decision was whether to go out and party a bit more or to be sensible and have a (fairly) early night.


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Day Three to follow soon...


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