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  BLACK STAR RIDERS MAKE SURE HARD ROCK HELL BREAKS FREE IN STYLE
Hard Rock Hell XI: Hafan y Môr Holiday Park, Pwllheli


johnny main
Words: Johnny Main, Pictures: Carlan Braid
25th November 2017


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As the final day of the festival dawned (for day one coverage click here and you can find day two right here), we once again managed to drag ourselves out of bed and made the long taxi ride back to the Hafan Y Mor site rolling into the Mash and Barrel for some breakfast in the vain hope that it'd set us up for the day.

After the drunken shenanigans of the previous two days (and the very late nights), we were all a bit tender once again and pretty tired, but we soldiered on, like the professionals we are.

The first couple of beers seemed to go down okay and so we headed down to the two stages just before 2:30pm to catch our first bands of the day.

With two stages operating once again, we tried to avoid the stage clashes as much as possible while still trying to see as many acts as possible making this another full-on day.

For us, it kicked off on the small stage where Swedish quartet Syron Vanes with their straight-ahead Heavy Metal sound, which was the ideal way to blow away the cobwebs from the day before.

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Among the highlights of their set were 'Angel Child' and the title track from their most recent release, 'Chaos From A Distance'. Thanks to Hard Rock Hell, it was another new band for me and one that I'm ready to keep tabs on.

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From the wreckage of Heavy Pettin' Gary Moat has reinvented himself with Burnt Out Wreck a no-nonsense boogie band whose style is similar to AC/DC, Airbourne and (dare I say it), Seventies Quo.

Having recently supported Dutch rockers Focus and Y&T, the band were keen to enlarge their fan base with people who are surely their core audience. Talking time out from a set by Toseland across the way, Burnt Out Wreck were in full flow in front of an interested, if not excited audience.

The 'Swallow' album, their debut release, was out earlier this year and it was a solid enough record and some of the songs like 'She's A Dirty Girl', featuring the incredible talent of Adrian Dunn on guitar, and the title track got a good reception here.

Gary's not the most chatty front man but he did a good enough job, admitting at one point that "(this is) the biggest audience we've played to so far" coming across as humble as opposed to Mr Rock Star.


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Hailing from Swansea, Hark have been making a name for themselves supporting Clutch, Kylesa, Red Fang and Prong.

Best described as good old-fashioned Heavy Metal, these guys know the score and proceeded to put on an outstanding performance.

A new band for me, frontman Jimbob Isaac has great stage presence and the songs are just incredible. Struck from the same cloth as Black Sabbath the highlight of their set was 'Nine Fates' (which is about communication with the spirit world explained Jimbob) and 'Premonitions'.

Great job, boys, and I look forward to checking out your new album, 'Machinations'.

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From Sheffield/Cambridgeshire came The Brink – a lively five-piece band who didn't have the smoothest of beginnings but recovered well.

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Bass player Gaz Connor struggled to get his equipment going at the start and once fully functioning, it seemed to overpower the rest of the band, which was a shame.

Frontman Tom Quick did a good job at getting the audience involved and they're certainly not short of talent as they proved with 'Never Again' and "The Sexy Song" as Quick introduced it, which might be called 'Hey You' – I'm not too sure – with its infectious guitar hook and catchy chorus.

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The last band I caught on the small stage were Cornish quartet King Creature who I'd been advised to see by several different people prior to my arrival at the site, and they certainly lived up to the hype.

A solid slab of Metal, in sharp contrast to the grungy sound of Reef who were playing in the main hall, that's unforgiving in its intensity but at the same time is thoroughly enjoyable.

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'Lowlife' and 'King For A Day' from their debut album 'Volume One', released back in September) were real highlights for me – so much so that I'm off to track down a copy as soon as I've finished this review!

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Throughout the day, stage one also had its fair share of highs and the occasional low.

First up were Welsh rockers Buffalo Summer who didn't have far to travel for the festival and it was a joy to see a band I've championed in the past but haven't heard much from recently.

With a new album, 'Second Sun', independently released in May last year, it's a welcome return to the pages of MetalTalk for this talented and often under-rated quartet.

Highlights included 'Heartbreakin' Floorshakin'' and 'Priscilla' from the second album along with bonafide Buffalo Summer classics like 'A Horse Called Freedom' and 'Down To The River'.

It's a band that I've genuinely missed so it's good to see them back in action.

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There's no doubt that James Toseland has been an incredibly successful motorcycle racer, but up to now I was less convinced about his success as a rock and roll star.

His self-titled band isn't lacking in talent with Zurab Melua on guitar and bass player Roger Davis who are both masters of their art but Toseland the band wasn't something that I "got", the few times I'd seen them in the past.

This was something of a surprise though as James's vocals were stronger than I've ever seen - he was on fire, as were the rest of the band throughout their set.

Maybe the other great bands on the bill forced them to pull out all the stops or maybe it was the news that the band had signed a seven (count 'em) album deal with Frontiers Records a couple of days previously?

I don't know but what I do know is that this performance was truly astonishing. From their latest album, 'Puppet On A Chain' and 'Too Close To Call' mixed well with older material like 'Life Is Beautiful' and 'Crash Landing' making them an unexpected highlight of the day.

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Finnish group the Von Hertzen Brothers made another welcome to UK shores and took time out of their own headline tour to touch down in Wales for a sparkly and entertaining set.

The band are on tour to support their 'VII – War Is Over' album which was released only a few days earlier so this set gave me the chance to hear the new material live first instead of on record for a change.

Frontman Mikko von Hertzen certainly does a good job with the vocals and guitar while managing to keep the audience entertained in an energetic display that kicked off with 'War Is Over'.

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'Till The End of the World' for me was the pinnacle of their set and the audience were with them from beginning to end. If you haven't heard the Von Hertzen Brothers noise, then they come highly recommended here at MetalTalk Towers.

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Scots Rockers Gun are riding high on the success of their new album 'Favourite Pleasures, available from all good retailers right now.

With a quartet of UK dates set for December, the band's live show needed a good shakedown and the Hard Rock Hell faithful were ready to embrace the band on this first visit for them since their bombastic 2015 set.

Frontman Jools Gizzi easily found his way into the audience's affection while his brother Guiliano Gizzi kept those in front of him entertained.

Their confidence in the new album (which entered the UK charts at #8) is obvious as they plundered it for tracks like set opener 'She Knows', 'Tragic Heroes' and 'Black Heart' before delving deep into their back catalogue with 'Don't Say It's Over', 'Steal Your Fire' and 'Shame On You'.

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Gun have definitely got a second wind career-wise and the Glaswegian lads are grabbing the opportunity with both hands, and if they continue to deliver performances like this, then they can do absolutely no wrong in my book.

I've no doubt they should have been Special Guests to Black Star Riders here, but hopefully next year, they'll manage to secure that coveted spot with a headline show in the not too distant future surely?

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Lynch Mob, featuring the guitar talents of George Lynch first came to prominence in the early 1990s and a support tour with Queensrÿche cemented their reputation as live performers.

However, the band's career has been a rocky one with several breakups only for them to reconvene with different lineups each time.

The latest reunion which began in 2008 has them once again fired up and gave a lot of people here, like me, their first chance to see the band live. Was it worth the wait?

Well, yes and no. Frontman Oni Logan hardly took his shades off during the hot and sweaty performance, steering the ship through some rough waters with George putting in a sub-par performance in many peoples eyes, starting with sound issues at the beginning of the set and thanking the "HellFest" audience near the conclusion.

Positives were there, however, in the shape of 'When Heaven Comes Down' and 'Into the Fire' but it was all a little too late for me unfortunately.

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I think everyone knows Reef's 'Place Your Hands' from 1997's 'Glow' album but the Glastonbury-based quartet haven't released an album for the last seventeen years so their appearance here was something of a surprise.

It turns out they've got a good career carved out on the live scene and opened for Coldplay at Wembley Stadium in 2016.

Of course, 'Place Your Hands' was included, placed in the middle of the set, and was loudly applauded but they also seemed to catch the audience's mood well with 'Lucky Number' and 'Yer Old' from their most recent album, 2013's 'Together'.

Reef seemed to polarise the audience and I'm not one hundred percent sure they were the right fit as Special Guests but then it's all academic at the end of the day, isn't it?

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Black Star Riders have come a long way since I first saw their live show when they were still touring under the old Thin Lizzy moniker, and the band have got their heads down to produce not only some hugely memorable live shows across the world, but have along recorded a trio of hard-hitting and thoroughly enjoyable albums.

This show was squeezed into their current UK tour schedule at the last minute and for those unable to catch these sold out shows, this was a great way to spend not only a Saturday night but a great way to sign off a Hard Rock Hell 2017.

The booze was flowing, the venue was packed and the band? Well, they were on absolutely top form.

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Taking a break from the UK headline tour to support their 'Heavy Fire' album, they dominated the stage like only the BSR could. Frontman Ricky Warwick appeared here last year with his own band, but this year we got the full Black Star Riders show for the first time since 2013 when, strangely enough, Airbourne last played too.

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Highlights were many during their set including all three title tracks from their albums, 'Heavy Fire', 'The Killer Instinct' and 'All Hell Breaks Loose' along with classic original material like 'Kingdom of the Lost' and 'Bound For Glory' while also throwing in two seasoned Thin Lizzy classics, 'Jailbreak' and set closer 'Whiskey In The Jar' for good measure.

I honestly can't think of a better band to round off the weekend and the roar from the audience as they took their final bows told me I wasn't the only one who thought so!

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