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Friday 3rd - Saturday 4th December 2010
Pontin's Holiday Park in Prestatyn, Wales
Airbourne onstage at Hard Rock Hell IV, 3rd December 2010
Photograph copyright © 2010 Joe Winn - www.metal-discovery.com
Reviews by Mark Holmes & Elena Francis; Photography by Joe Winn
Reviews by Mark Holmes & Elena Francis; Photography by Joe Winn
It’s been a very long time since I last caught London trio Die So Fluid live. Nine years ago to be precise when I supported them in a now long defunct thrash band with whom I used to play guitar. Back then, the London based rockers were in their infancy with only an EP to their name. Wind forward nine years and Die So Fluid’s original lineup of frontwoman Grog on vocals/bass, Drew Richards on guitar and drummer Al Fletcher remains reassuringly intact and, by fuck, have they matured as a band and are now one hell of a live force. Opening act on the second stage, a couple or so hours before action commences on the festival’s main stage, the three musicians are greeted by a near capacity crowd and, throughout the weekend, it proves to be the case that the earlier a band’s stage time on the second stage, the bigger the audience. And as beer flows freely from the bar at this early hour, the masses gathered are treated to a fine display of the potent rock/metal/grunge/punk fusion inherent in their music. Material in Die So Fluid’s set is mainly drawn from latest album ‘The World Is Too Big For One Lifetime’ and previous full length ‘Not Everybody Gets a Happy Ending’ such as ‘Mercury’, ‘Raven’ and ‘Figurine’ from the former, and ‘Vorvolaka’, ‘Gang of One’ and ‘Existential Baby’ from the latter, but debut album, 2004’s ‘Spawn of Dysfunction’ also gets a nod with an airing of the title track. Attired in a full body cat suit, Grog strikes a visually appealing visage that commands the audience’s attention although, appearances aside, she also has an authoritative stage presence beyond mere aesthetic attraction as she exercises both her powerful voice and pounding bass work throughout each and every track performed. To be honest, I’m surprised that Die So Fluid haven’t achieved a greater level of success within the scene and can’t help but wonder if they’d been more prolific in their recorded output during the past decade then they might’ve garnered more attention. Based on their performance today, they can certainly cut it on the live stage, so perhaps 2011 will be their year to truly shine. (MH)
Familiar to most metalheads via Metallica’s cover of ‘Am I Evil?’, England’s own Diamond Head have attracted a strong contingent watching them. Having formed in the mid-seventies, they are one of the oldest and well-known New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands and, in spite of a few hiatuses, the five-piece are still going strong. Opening with ‘Play It Loud’, there is a sense that the audience as a whole are not engaging with the performance or the music, patiently waiting for nothing but ‘Am I Evil?’. Laid-back, traditional heavy metal riffs, that have undoubtedly influenced countless important bands, are the order of the day with singer Nick Tart crooning smoothly while maintaining attention through his active stage presence. Unfortunately, joining the band in 2004, Tart is not the original vocalist and lacks the confidence and experience of the first singer Sean Harris. The setlist is surprising with the lack of classics such as ‘Helpless’, ‘The Prince’ and ‘Lightning to the Nations’. Perhaps Diamond Head wish to illustrate that they are more than a band respected purely on the strength of their debut full-length effort but, in a festival atmosphere, they need to convince as many punters as possible and a recipe that includes lesser tracks such as ‘Heat’ and the newer and poorly received ‘Pray for Me’ makes allowances for navel-gazing. Despite the dedication sole-original member Brian Tatler has for his group, one has to wonder how musically relevant and inspired Diamond Head are in 2010. Contrary to the rest of the performance, ‘Am I Evil?’ ends the veterans’ set on a high note with the audience reanimating and singing along. The performance is a little disappointing considering the reverence Diamond Head are usually mentioned with in conversations regarding NWoBHM. (EF)
Second on the main stage after Diamond Head are another veteran act in the form of FM. With sixth studio album ‘Metropolis’ released just this year, their first since 1995’s ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’, there is once again a buzz about the band since they reformed three years ago. As they open with ‘Wildside’, the first track from their latest album, it’s clear they have lost none of their erstwhile passion for performing live. And blessed with what transpires to be the best sound through the PA for a main stage band the entire weekend (at least from the bands I witnessed), coupled with a large audience who have materialised in the main hall to watch them, the musicians seemingly relish in the moment and deliver a stunning set. The new release is expectedly represented well with airings of said opening number, ‘Flamingo Road’, ‘Over You’ and the title track, but FM also opt for crowd pleasers lifted off their earlier albums with the likes of ‘That Girl’, ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘All or Nothing’, ‘My Heart Down’ as well as set closer ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’, their innovative rocked-up version of the Marvin Gaye classic. The latter sees the addition of a saxophonist take to the stage whose playing works a treat in the context of the song. Of the band’s original members present in this latest incarnation of FM, frontman Steve Overland impresses the most with his note perfect vocals, demonstrating his voice has evidently matured with age (which is all too often not the case within the rock genre). Although the audience remain largely static throughout FM’s set, the large number of festival attendees present do show their appreciation with loud cheers and applause after each song, and it’s adulation well deserved for FM are simply stunning. (MH)
Right at the end of a lengthy UK headlining tour, their first on these shores in fact, Canadian metallers Kobra and the Lotus take to the festival’s second stage a little after 9:30pm to a fairly scarce crowd. However, with Uriah Heep scheduled to finish their set over on the main stage at 9:40pm, and a half hour change over time before Airbourne are due to appear, festival goers slowly seep into the hall where Kobra and the Lotus perform so the five Canadians do have a respectably sized audience midway through. Only formed two years ago, and with only one album released thus far, they are still a largely unknown entity over here in the UK although after tonight’s performance at Hard Rock Hell, they’ll indubitably leave Prestatyn with a larger fanbase than before they arrived. With a sound centred around trad-metal idioms with guitarists Chris Swenson and Pat Lawtey spewing heavy and thrash riffs flavoured with Maiden-esque harmonies, melodic leads and adept soloing, Kobra and the Lotus are discernibly retro within the confines of their chosen style. However, what sets them apart from the gamut of quasi-plagiarist acts who pastiche metal bands of yore is not only the passion with which they play but, perhaps more predominantly, Brittany Paige’s rather unique vocal style. Or should that be styles, as she has of hell of a wide ranging voice that she exhibits and exercises tonight with gusto and sheer power. Oh, and their stage entrance is perhaps the best I witness all weekend with an efficacious use of John Carpenter’s Halloween theme, initially played on a backing track in isolation but then embellished by further instrumentation as band members add drums, bass and guitars to the piece, finally seguing into their opening number. The Canadians’ thirty five minutes on stage seems to pass by in a flash which is always a telling sign of how engaging a band are in the delivery of their music…and Kobra and the Lotus are a very engaging live act. Go check ‘em out. (MH)
If there’s one thing people love at the moment, it’s nostalgia. Airbourne are one of many bands riding the hard rock revival, contributing nothing ground-breaking or innovative to the modern music scene. Yet, somehow, they have managed to garner a deal with Roadrunner Records and an unbelievable amount of exposure through Guitar Hero (as well as countless other video games), WWE and film soundtracks with only two full-lengths. Not bad for a band that has done nothing but regurgitate AC/DC. Originally from Australia (yes, that’s right), the four rock and rollers commence their show with ‘Raise the Flag’ with topless vocalist and guitarist Joel O’Keeffe not letting himself remain pinned down by his twin duties and travelling all over the stage. He grabs his beer can and violently smashes it over his head repeatedly until it bursts open, dousing the audience with beer. His entire approach to the show is tongue-in-cheek, playfully fulfilling rock star clichés in the name of fun: “Who came here to get some pussy?” he asks the audience before the band launch head-first into ‘Diamond in the Rough’. Naturally, the setlist is split fairly evenly between the ‘Runnin’ Wild’ and ‘No Guts. No Glory.’ releases, although there is a serious deficiency in variation, it’s difficult to differentiate which song comes from which album. The music is straight-forward, hard rock in the vein of AC/DC with a less impressive vocalist and how the band achieved such success is shocking. Nonetheless, their fanbase roars loudest for ‘Girls in Black’, ‘Cheap Wine, Cheaper Women’ and ‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’. The latter song signals the end of the show and the crowd reaction reels Airbourne back for more. The encore is ‘Runnin’ Wild’, another top selection for their fans who gobble the mediocrity mercilessly. When the show concludes, it is fortunate that Skid Row are next up, having actually done something worthwhile and fresh in their careers, even if it was twenty years ago. Airbourne left a lot more to be desired but at least they had some semblance of stage presence. (EF)
Skid Row are indeed most known for Sebastian Bach who vehemently tries to venerate the current manifestation of the eighties hard rock legends and despite how fans may react to current singer Johnny Solinger, they have the honour of being high up the billing on the main stage – commendable given the early slots the other late-eighties hard rock bands at this festival have attained. The muscular riffs of ‘Big Guns’ from the debut release send the fans into a frenzy and, Bach or not, it’s impossible not to enjoy the raw attitude the band are bringing to the venue. Solinger, complete with cowboy hat, is not a patch on Bach’s vocal talents but appears to be vicariously enjoying himself playing live, smiles all round. The other members look a little less enthusiastic. ‘New Generation’ from the ‘Thickskin’ album follows the formidable opener but receives half of the reaction. Unsurprisingly, most of the setlist is lifted from the first two full-lengths and the fans absolutely love it. ‘Mudkicker’, ’18 and Life’ and ‘Monkey Business’ are all savagely consumed with plenty of room for more. A rendition of The Ramones ‘Psychotherapy’ robs the space of another classic but the audience happily rocks out to it. Those who would rather have heard a Skid Row song would not have been disappointed by the following prize cut: ‘I Remember You’. The opening notes are enough to send shivers down the spine in all its beautiful, acoustic melody. The ballad encourages fans to sing along and it feels as if the entire venue knows every single word. It is counter-balanced by the rough and tough title track off ‘Slave to the Grind’ , which closes the show but the congregation is not shrinking and there are calls for the band to return. The Americans do and to satisfy the ovation, they play the rebellious ‘Youth Gone Wild’, for an excellent opportunity to fist pump. Fantastic stuff. On the down side of things, apparently after the show guitarist Scotti Hill had to be taken to hospital after falling off the stage. Rock ‘n’ roll! (EF)
Now in its fourth year, the Hard Rock Hell festival takes place once again within the Pontin's Holiday Park in the Welsh town of Prestatyn. With Pontin's going into administration just a few days before the fest, some were worried the weekend might be pulled at the eleventh hour. Fortunately, that was not to be. However, probably of greater concern to many was the unprecedented amount of snowfall in the UK during the week leading up to Hard Rock Hell which would potentially jeopardise the travel plans of both bands and attendees. With only a couple of cancellations and a heaving venue throughout the two days, it seems the bad weather wasn't going to prevent the rock and metal fraternity from seeing out 2010 with one final burst of festival fun. And fun it proved to be with a strong lineup and jovial atmosphere for the duration. Three stages, a plethora of bands both veteran and contemporary, and an enthusiastic beered-up audience, proceedings kicked off on Friday at 3pm on the second stage... (MH)
I've never really 'got' Nottingham's Evil Scarecrow on the couple of occasions I've caught them live in the past. A purely daft band name coupled with ridiculous costumes that look like accessorised potato sacks and their silly makeup. Oh, and songs that pertain to a quasi-black metal vibe with some thrash underpinnings. It's never really done it for me. However, diss them I do not tonight for, whatever reason, I find myself actually enjoying their music and performance. A self-proclaimed 'Parody Metal' act, I guess the key to any such enjoyment of the Nottingham metallers is not to take them too seriously or, in fact, expect Evil Scarecrow to take themselves seriously. I think perhaps part of my enjoyment stems from the fact that at a festival oozing with hard rock clichés, they offer something a little different and refreshing on the lineup but, beyond that, they also deliver an incredibly entertaining dose of mindless fun and extreme/trad-metal pastiche on Hard Rock Hell's second stage. The highlight has to be frontman Dr. Rabid Hell's "four note guitar solo" which is delivered precisely as promised, and with concomitant counter boards held aloft by drummer Papa Bongo as each of the four notes are picked. Just how long a shelf life such parody metal has is anyone's guess (although the band are a fair few years into their career already) but, for now, kudos to the East Midlands lads (and lass) for a fuck of an entertaining performance. (MH)
As Skid Row entertain the main hall audience, British band Jett Black deliver a forty minute set over on the second stage. Rife with retro exposition, their infectious and potent collage of eighties rock/metal idioms is well received by a moderately sized audience (the unfortunate clash of times with Skid Row is evidently at play here). Compositions rich with melody and a riff heavy groove burst from the PA speakers as a portion of the crowd, noticeably women, move around a little to some of Jett Black's music, though it's the addition of two scantily attired female fire breathers/eaters who seem to garner the attention of the male contingent present. All in all, a fine performance from an up-and-coming band who undoubtedly have a propitious career ahead of them based on the talent they display tonight at Hard Rock Hell. With the current resurgence of retro rock/metal, it's the perfect climate within which a band such as Jett Black could flourish. It's just a shame so many festival punters opted to watch Skid Row rather than check out these Brits. Those who did, however, would most certainly not feel disappointed. (MH)