It's always the same at festivals, eh? The first day goes really well as you settle into the way of things and then before you know it, you're pouring alcohol down your throat like it's going out of fashion and everything from the previous night becomes a bit of a blur after a while.
Well, it's safe to say that the MetalTalk crew didn't embarrass themselves too much the previous day but partied hard until the wee small hours, surfacing slightly earlier than anticipated and suffering slightly from a hangover but a breakfast at the Mash and Barrel greatly helped our recovery.
Being the professionals that we are, however, we'd already laid out plans to ensure that we didn't miss much of the onstage action, but of course, the Friday sees the opening of the second, smaller, stage so we had to carefully split our time between the two to try catch as many of the bands as we could. Inevitably there were going to be some clashes, but we did our best to catch as many acts as possible, so here we go with day two.
First up on the smaller stage were local (well, Welsh) quintet Psycho Kiss. They're a new band to me but singer Helen Ceri Clarke certainly has a powerful voice.
The band's sound is straight-ahead rock and they impressed me with 'Red, Gold and White' (a song about drinking according to Clarke) which was among their best with drummer, Penfold, setting a ferocious page while it was backed up by a razor-sharp guitar riff from Paul O' Brien and Peter Rose.
They seem to have quite a big fan base too, and drew a respectable crowd so it's certainly a band I'll be looking out for in the future.
From Birmingham came the self-proclaimed new kings of heavy, melodic rock – Daylight Robbery, another new band to me, and their Dokken, Van Halen and Aerosmith influenced sound certainly ensure that they lived up to their billing, where they became one of the surprise finds.
Front man Tony Nicholl is an engaging chap with some solid guitar skills while drummer Ron Chivers kept the beat solid and heavy at the back while sauve Bass player Colin Murdoch made everything look effortless.
A very loud outfit, with the bass guitar sound dominating, pulled out a good set with 'Fallen Star' (about fame and fortune) and the fast-paced 'Cast Your Eye' (I think that's what it was called!), saw guitarist Mark Carleton shine. A new Facebook like from the band for me, and I think I'll not be the only one who did so after seeing their strong showing.
Epic comprises of singer/songwriter Tanya Rizkala, Mario Agostine on Guitars, new boy Carlos Bouchabki on bass guitar and last but not least Souheil Moukaddem on drums at the back. They released their debut album, 'Like A Phoenix' to great acclaim last year and this was my first chance to see the band in action.
I have to say that I wasn't exactly sure what to expect but the band equipped themselves very well. Not the best band all weekend but certainly an interesting combo.
Rizkala has an incredible voice with 'Like A Phoenix' being among the highlights in front of a small but dedicated audience. The pull of Bang Tango across the way may have unfairly robbed them of some of their audience but the band put on a first-class performance.
No bullshit hard rockers Silent Jack certainly gave the festival a kick up the arse with their set and pulled a respectable audience, like Epic before them, despite the draw of Autograph in the bigger hall. These guys may be an unsigned act, but surely someone is going to snap them up soon.
A new band to me, they impressed straight away with their sound and kept the momentum going through the set. Front man Rich 'Stitch' Mason is an incredible presence on stage while the band are a tight musical act that absolutely didn't disappoint. Another new band to me, it's another act that I walked away from thinking "Yeah, I'd like to see more of them!"
Back in 2011 in a pokey club in Glasgow I saw a headlining performance from LA Guns, caught those Scottish dynamos The Amorettes live for the very first time and I also witnessed my first ever Damn Dice performance. As I remember it, I wasn't spectacularly impressed with them but thought it was high time I gave them a second viewing and it seems that this was a long overdue.
The band certainly haven't been idle over the last six years, what with constant live dates and working on a second album, and their set here was nothing like I remember – the band are a high octane dose of rock n' roll and I'm glad I gave them a second chance – albeit it'd been a long time coming.
Guitarist Diego seemed to be a human dynamo throughout their set while vocalist Alex put in a solid performance. I'm regretting not seeing them in the past six years but I'm now fully engaged with Damn Dice and I'm counting down till I see them again.
North of Scotland based Estrella have been quiet since the release of their second album, 2015's 'We Will Gone On' ,so it's great to see the boys back out there and back on stage.
Cherry-picking the best numbers they had to offer from their 2012 debut release 'Come Out and Play' and a handful of tracks it's follow up. Front man Paul Gunn urged the audience to get involved and they didn't need asking twice while his brother, guitarist Luke Gunn could hardly wipe the smile form his face throughout the set.
Let's hope this is a resurgence for the band as they have so much to offer, and at events like this, they really do shine brightly. Can we expect more live dates from them and possibly a new third album later in 2017? I bloody well hope so!
Knock Out Kaine
I wasn't sure what happened, but I was expecting to see Voodoo Vegas on stage and instead I caught up with Lincoln based quartet Knock Out Kaine – a shame I missed VV, but Knock Out Kaine were on my list anyway, so I ended up staying around to catch their set.
Their latest album, 'Rise of the Electric Jester' is just immense and it's a shame they weren't on the bigger stage, but the band didn't seem to care as they ploughed through their set. Front man Dean Foxx certainly enthused the audience and there's no doubt that this band are on the rise as they're such a tight live outfit.
They pulled a substantial audience to their set here, showing that they have a sizeable fan base, so let's hope there's newer material in the pipeline to keep the momentum going.
Closing off Stage two were headliners Dellacoma really had their work cut out for them, but they rose to the challenge admirably. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, the band were on fire from the moment they stepped onto the stage to them leaving the crowd in raptures.
Another new band for me, they absolutely made the very best of their time showcasing tracks from their debut album, 2015's 'South of Everything' including 'Under My Skin' and closing off with 'Time Falls Away' but the high point for me was 'My Kinda Woman' – a fantastic song on record that only gets better live on stage.
With a tour throughout mainland Europe, throughout March before a final one-off show in Beeston, Nottingham scheduled for 1st April, the band have something special about them and come highly recommended. I just wonder if there's a chance to see them again at Hard Rock Hell next year, but this time of the main stage?
Of course, throughout the day, the main stage was also in action so we dipped in and out to see what was happening there, and there were some real delights for those who did the same.
First up were Walkway, a hard rocking quartet from Diss in Norfolk, who have already supported some of the biggest names in rock including Status Quo and Graham Bonnet so it was good to get another chance to see them here. Currently taking a break from work on their second album the band have a sizeable schedule of shows across the UK so the band were primed for action and ready to rock as the green light illuminated and the stage beckoned.
Delving into their back catalogue, they pulled a sizeable and appreciative audience with tracks like 'Overrated' from their debut album, 'Top Shelf Content' as well as 'Step One' and the title track from album #2, 'Streetwise', among their best.
This band are the real deal from the powerhouse drums of Andy Burlace and amiable front man Chris Ready backed up by the strong musical talent from his brother, James, while bass player Alex Rosedale head banged through the set. The band have a huge list of tour dates between now and the end of the year and they were a definite highlight of Hard Rock Hell, and I'm looking forward to my next encounter with them already.
It's been twice in a year, so far, that I've seen six piece Welsh Indie rockers Kane'd, most recently at Glasgow's Hard Rock Café last month, so I fully expected a high energy and entertaining show, and I wasn't disappointed.
Fronted by sisters Steph, Stacey and Chez Kane they took the packed audience on a whirlwind trip round their two album back-catalogue with 'Wasted' and 'Love Her Madly' from their latest album, not to mention the title track 'Rise' among the highlights.
The one thing that I've noticed, however, was the lack of interaction between the vocalists throughout their set – it's like they portion up the stage are aren't allowed to cross into each others zones. A minor quibble, yes, but it makes a weird dynamic sometimes. Also, it should also be noted that guitarist Harry Scott Elliott put on another incredible performance throughout the set – well played, Sir, very well played.
It's taken me a long time, but I can finally strike Romeo's Daughter off my "To See" list, but I have to ask myself, was it worth the twenty plus years of waiting? Of course it bloody well was!
Two albums in the late Eighties and early Nineties then an enforced absence of eighteen years before the band returned to the action in 2009 and they've worked hard to rebuild their fan base with high quality shows and new material. Their fifty-five minute set here was a masterclass from start to finish with vocalist Leigh Matty absolutely on fire with her performance while bass player Ed Poole and guitarist Craig Joiner were having fun by the looks of things.
Leigh was on top form all night and also seemed to be relishing being in front of the packed and attentive audience. Keeping her between song chat to a minimum, preferring the music to do the talking, they ensured the band got in as many tracks as possible in their allotted time and for me, they were a real joy from start to finish.
Jizzy Pearls' Love/Hate
Currently on a UK tour, Jizzy Pearl's version of Love/Hate were gig ready and launched into their energetic set with 'Wasted In America' in a set based around that album and the 1990 debut release, 'Blackout in the Red Room'.
Having not seen the band for many, many years, I was interested to see how they fared here since I last caught sight of them in the early 1990s, and they weren't bad at all but nothing to write home about.
Pearls' vocals were often drowned out by the guitars but he made a good effort throughout the set. I think it's safe to say that I'm in no rush to see them again but it was nice to check in with them once again.
You know reactivated US hard rockers Autograph don't you? Okay so maybe not the most well know band according to some of the younger generation here, but as the band struck up into 'Turn Up The Radio' everything seemed right with the world as everyone present joined in on the chorus.
For those, like me, who were seeing the band live for the first time it was a great experience – and the fact they'd packed the hall out told its own story. Disappointingly, they only played one track, 'I Lost My Mind in America' from their 2016 'Louder' EP with the remainder of the set broken down as one track from each of their albums from their 1984 debut, 'Sign In Please' up to 1987's 'Loud and Clear' opus but it was a solid performance throughout.
The icing on the cake had to be the 'Turn Up The Radio', though, a glorious version of a classic AOR track – and where would this festival be without those kind of songs and this kind of band?
Another tick off my "To See" list and another packed house was evident as British rockers FM took to the stage to glorious applause. I've heard about them for years but have never really taken much notice of their records, but man, when this band are on stage, they're fantastic and I instantly regretted not seeing them before now.
Front man Steve Overland is a truly great vocalist while bass player Merv Goldsworthy and drummer Pete Jupp anchor the band's sound solidly.
Their set was made up of a clutch of tracks from their 1986 debut album including 'Other Side of Midnight, 'Love Lies Dying' and 'I Belong To The Night' and not forgetting the ubiquitous 'That Girl' which was absolutely stunning, as well as newer tracks like 'Digging Up The Dirt' and 'Love Is A Highway'. I wasn't sure what to expect with FM, but after their show, I'm a confirmed fan because this was everything I wanted it to be – fun, funky and bloody entertaining.
Closing the day off was a highly anticipated set from the one and only Lita Ford – an act that I've never seen live and, until she was announced here, one I never thought I'd see. With her autobiography, 'Living Like A Runaway' released last year along with her 'Time Capsule' album, she's pulled herself up by the boot-straps and has relaunched herself and her career to an audience more than willing to come out and see her strut her stuff.
With a set spanning her whole career right back to her 'Out For Blood' debut album, though any tracks from 'Time Capsule' were strangely absent, she took the audience on a roller-coaster ride through her career. Classic tracks like 'Gotta Let Go', 'Living Like A Runaway' and 'Hungry were mixed in with covers of 'The Bitch Is Back' ("Unfortunately Elton's not here to play the piano" she joked), The Runaways 'Cherry Bomb' (with whom she started her career, of course) and 'Black Leather' by the Sex Pistols received huge ovations from the audience.
It was the final two tracks, 'Close My Eyes Forever' and 'Kiss Me Deadly' that sealed the deal and closed the show. In fact, it was the former that actually stole the show from the ball-busting latter track, when Ford brought up Howie Bowden from the audience, who bore a passing resemblance to Ozzy Osbourne, to roars from the audience.
Bowden didn't actually get to sing but lip-synced the Osbourne lines (which were actually sung by guitarist Patrick Kennsion) much to the amusement of everyone witnessing it. I've waited thirty years for a Lita Ford live set and she delivered a sensational show. So, Lita, is there any chance we can we have a full UK tour next year?