Words: Duncan Black / Pictures: Dan Alexander
Pontins in Prestatyn is an unlikely place for a heavy metal festival. Anthrax playing Pontins is rarer than Darth Vader driving a bus in Clacton. In fact, I’d quite like to see Darth Vader driving a bus, so my attendance is mandatory – Besides, the wife bought me a ticket and Lawnmower Deth are playing so how could I refuse? I head off to Prestatyn with an assortment of musicians and roadies from my hugely successful pop-music combo Mucus (we are still available for weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs if anyone is reading this). As we reach the gates there is a slight chuckle at the big colourful sign declaring Pontins! The Party For Kids! Undeterred, we grab our wrist bands & head off to the Queen Vic theme pub for a swift pint and some brutal metal. Grrr…
Considering it’s just past midday, Inferno draw a decent crowd. It’s too early for drunken moshing, but there’s a lot of enthusiastic nodding. I played a gig with Inferno back in the day and they were firmly rooted in angry metal, but it is clear they now have their sights set on bigger things. There are great vocal hooks and the song writing is finely honed. The last song is a stormer, bringing to mind Led Zeppelin and Queens of the Stone Age with some nice guitar noodling. Inferno’s ode to Evil Dead titled Hail to the King is also a highlight. They could have easily been higher on the bill.
We head down the front and shout hello at Inferno before making our way to the luxurious freezing chalets with lovely seventies decor. There is debate over Pontins charging £100 deposit to cover any furniture destroyed through rock n roll debauchery. I understand Pontins would be cross if I lobbed a TV through the window but at £100, someone will do it in sheer frustration this year. Mind you, Motley Crue would have trouble cracking the glass with that tiny portable telly. I digress…
The smell of beer lures us back to the Queen Vic to see Ireland’s Trucker Diablo (pic above ) bludgeon the crowd with heavy slabs of guitar. They certainly look like truckers. I wasn’t into their online material but as a live band they are a different proposition. It’s all about leaving your brain at home and shouting with your fists in the air. They end with a Thin Lizzy cover and it’s a lot of fun. The punters are getting a bit drunk…
It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and smiley Italian metallers Arthemis have just started on the second stage. It’s straightforward metal in an Iron Maiden/Queensryche stylee. The vocalist has a good set of pipes and he’s popular with the ladies. It’s not my cup of tea, but they seem to go down well.
Back to the pub again for Spirytus (pic below) and the moshing is underway. I remember being a fierce opponent of nu-metal, but Spirytus are so good it’s hard not to like them. People are bouncing like it’s 1999. The slapped bass is suitably infectious and the guitarist makes some great noises. The upbeat front man is getting the punters moving with gusto. A brief cover of Here Comes the Hotstepper is a bold move but it works. Nice.
Heaven’s Basement on the second stage aren’t doing it for me. They sound a bit like Wolfmother. A drumstick whizzes past the sound engineer’s head and is thrown back at the band. I neatly sidestep the event and make my way to the big fuck off stage for Diamond Plate. I may be a bit old for these young scamps, but there is something strangely nostalgic about their brand of thrash metal. I feel like I’m watching a Megadeth support band in 1990. Regrettably I concede I quite enjoyed them.
The beers are flowing and things are getting very wobbly. I decide to take a break and do some socializing. I catch a tiny blast of Waylander doing something akin to satanic morris dancing. It sounds like James Galway playing Cradle of Filth covers. I also recall The Painted Smiles were a no-show, but by nine o’clock my wobbly legs have recovered and I’m off to jump around like a twat to RSJ ( main pic)– Now this is more like it!
Maybe it’s just me, but the punters don’t seem to like RSJ’s brutal shouty metal. I am one of a pocket full of idiots going berserk. They are competing with Paradise Lost on the main stage and it’s a cruel slot – But it only serves to makes them angrier. They certainly pound the hell out of their instruments. For me at least, this is face-melting stuff. The vocalist leaves the stage and marches around the crowd – Sadly no-one’s taking the bait, even when he ends up sitting on a fan’s shoulders screaming blue murder at them. Bit of a shame -They deserved better and there are not enough people here – But it’s a smashing set regardless.
And so we head off to the main event – Anthrax at Pontins! Or is it Darth Vader driving a bus down Clacton Pier? It’s fair to say Anthrax don’t have off-nights. They do what they do with consistency and love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s no denying their influence on metal. They kick off with new song Earth on Hell and it holds up very well. Where Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth have trouble matching former glories, Anthrax are still churning out great metal albums. Luckily for us they are also generous with crowd pleasers. Most of the classics are here – Madhouse, Among the Living and I Am The Law are all present and correct. We are even treated to a short blast of I’m The Man. Curiously there’s nothing from Persistence of Time but it hardly matters. Anthrax are ace and the crowd have a great time.
Ordinarily this would be the end of the night, but Hammerfest have pulled out the stops this year. As Anthrax finish, we hurry over to the second stage for the climactic finale of Evil Scarecrow followed by Lawnmower Deth. By the gods this is a stroke of luck. From now until 2.30am we will savour the twin pinnacles of UK comedy metal. Like a massive steel replica of Madonna’s bra.
It’s getting busy at the bar as Evil Scarecrow take to the stage. One fan turns up dressed from head to toe in a tinfoil robot costume with flashing lights in anticipation of ‘hit single’ Robototron. People clearly love this band and the mighty Scarecrow don’t disappoint. Dressed in blood spattered monk’s cassocks they lead us through a myriad of musical absurdities including 66 Minutes Past 6, Thundercats, Blacken the Everything, Robototron and a magnificently stupid rendition of The Final Countdown. There are many memorable moments. Vocalist Dr. Rabid Hell gets everyone in the room to do naff robot dancing. By the end of the set, lead guitarist Brother Pain has launched himself into the audience for a spot of impromptu crowd surfing – The sight of a mad bastard in a cassock and sandals being thrown around by hairy metal people even cracks up Dr Hell himself.
It’s half past one in the morning. With The Final Countdown still ringing in our ears we limber up for the inevitable genius of Lawnmower Deth (pic below). Our limbs are redundant at this point. As the well chosen intro theme from Hi-de-Hi! destroys what’s left of our hearing we can only wonder how Lawnmower Deth can possibly top Evil Scarecrow. Front-man Qualcast Mutilator marches out with a beaming grin, rambles some amusing self deprecating bollocks and… we’re off! Spook Perv Happenings in the Snooker Hall, a song about rumoured vampire Ray Reardon, is a resounding hit.
What follows is an unrelenting barrage of arsing about. Half of the set is arguably stand-up comedy, but we are treated to fine performances of Did You Spill My Pint?, Fascist &Tubby, Cobwoman of Deth Meets Mr Smellymop, Watch Out Grandma Here Comes a Lawnmower, Drink to be Sick and many more. There are lots of stand-out moments. I am relieved to see the presence of guitarist Baron Kev Von Thrashmeister Silo Stench Chisel Marbles completing a three pronged guitar attack in an Iron Maiden stylee (again). Explodin’ Dr Jaggers Flymo does the world’s naffest drum solo on purpose to chants of FASTER! FASTER! Crowd pleaser Sumo Rabbit and his Inescapable Trap of Doom features Sumo Rabbit himself, although his mask is arguably based on a squirrel. And then we have the centrepiece of the set – Satan’s Trampoline. As an added bonus, Brother Pain from Evil Scarecrow is brought back on stage to jump up and down on a trampoline in a crap devil mask. For me, Lawnmower Deth are the best band of the day by a mile, even if the muscles in my neck have collapsed beyond repair.
And then it’s over – Back to the lovely chalets for pizza and beer. I will review Saturday’s malarkey at Hammerfest soon. Thank you for your time.
Ace video of Inferno’s last song at Hammerfest (courtesy of Jim Lee)