The second day of HRH United, combining Hammerfest VIII and HRH AOR 4, started under sunny skies. It was a good opportunity to check out the picturesque location, including a serene beach area a short walk from the Hammerfest stage.
Friday's musical festivities were scheduled to start at 1PM, although as that time approached both the venues and the general thoroughfares were largely abandoned. Many instead congregated in the on-site pub for meals and early drinks, or presumably stayed in bed to nurse hangovers. The site remained quiet throughout the afternoon, with smaller crowds watching the bands on show.
First up for the day on Hammerfest was Stone Broken, a young alternative rock band that proved to be one of the more accessible offerings on the stage. With a pummelling drummer, a good-looking frontman and strong sound with a knack for a good tune, they were one of the weekend's hidden gems, and could go on to bigger things and bigger stages.
They were followed by Xerath, and Def Con One, while - on the AOR stage - the crowd-pleasing glam sound of Estrella entertained a slightly older audience. The third stage also featured its first bands of the weekend, branded HRH Doom until 6PM, and HRH Sleaze thereafter. Of the early bands, Phantom Sea were static to watch, but nonetheless appreciated by fans of their genre.
The third stage took place in an area featuring a market selling alternative clothing, band merchandise, and jewellery. The stalls were always staffed, but never busy, perhaps unfortunate in being located at the base of the least popular stage. Some felt that the Hammerfest stage should have occupied the space, but - with a smaller capacity - such a decision would not have been viable.
By early evening word had begun to filter around the site amongst the informed that a traffic accident could result in the cancellation of a number of bands, and that one band - Acid Reign - may have been involved in a collision. Scheduled for half-past six as the first band likely to draw a big crowd on the Hammerfest stage, they indeed did pull out, although the rest of the schedule remained unaffected.
That left Fleshgod Apocalypse to take to the stage to an anxious crowd, many sporting the familiar Turisas war paint in anticipation for their set later in the evening, and quite a few unhappy at prolonged tests of the strobe lighting during their sound check. That said, the Italian death metal band are one of the leading lights of the genre, and - in costume and inciting moshing all around - their performance was good after a number of guitar and sound issues were resolved.
Turisas were next up, and attracted the largest crowds of the weekend to the stage. The Finns very rarely play live shows, and before Hammerfest hadn't appeared in the United Kingdom for several years. Some had, undoubtedly, attended the festival just to see them - and in some ways they were the weekend's true headline attraction.
Joking about getting some beer from Spar and how they've played every holiday park there is to play, Turisas vocalist Mathias Nygård was on witty form, and their music sounded as good as ever. OId favourites such as Battle Metal excited most, but perhaps the biggest response was saved to the promise of a "very, very thorough" tour upon the release of a forthcoming new album.
The Turisas set was, most likely, the highlight of the weekend - and definitely one of the few that made you feel like you were at an essential music festival. Hammerfest is bound to thrive if it can attract bands of such stature that aren't readily available to see elsewhere; Even a major event such as Download Festival would sell tickets based on a Turisas set, so it was a real coup to get them on the bill.
Turisas were followed by another headliner, Cradle of Filth. Also around for a very long time, the metal legends aren't for everyone, but those that stayed for their performance were treated to another gold standard set that topped off the weekend's best double bill.
The festival site started to quieten while Cradle of Filth were on-stage, with less interest in the likes of AOR offerings such as Russ Ballard, and Joe Lynn Turner from the younger crowd, although that stage was packed for their sets.
Pirate band Red Rum, on at 1AM on the late night third stage, were the final band of the day, and would have attracted a big crowd had they been booked for an earlier time slot. Still, thanks to the giants of Turisas and Cradle of Filth and the potential of Stone Broken, Friday at HRH United was worthy of the admission fee.
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