HRH AOR – Pwllheli, Hafan-Y-Mor 12/03/2015

Once again, Team PlanetMosh joined the thousands of Hard Rock Hell faithful – and a fair few newcomers to boot – for the epic trek to the crook of the Llŷn Peninsula for another weekend of hard rockin’ action.  This year’s format, of course, was a little different to previous ones, with the mixing of Hammerfest and HRH AOR, resulting in an eclectic mix of rock and metal fans of all shades coming together in the spirit of the newly and appropriately renamed ‘HRH United’ experience.

Shaft Of Steel at HRH AOR March 2015Apart from one or two forays down the hill to sample the heavier end of proceedings, Team PM took up residence in the AOR side of the holiday camp, where, despite the torrential rain which dominated first day, Shaft Of Steel got things off to a suitably enthusiastic start late on Thursday afternoon.  Frontman Rob Fleming (pictured right) displays a confidence which belies the comparative youthfulness of the band, who in turn deliver a nice line in melodic rock, proving to be proficient musicians with a good collection of well-crafted songs.

By total contrast, Pig Irön have a big thumping blues groove built on huge crunching riffs and thick bass rhythms to deliver a solid, precise and rich sound which at first surprises the slowly growing band of revellers – the room is filled to the level where the average waiting time for a drink at the bar is 15-20 minutes – with its heaviness, but proves to be one of the many highlights of the opening night.

Tigertailz are virtually HRH’s house band, and while their sound may be less glam and more sleaze these days, their sound is still very much rooted in the late Eighties/ early Nineties – although “new” vocalist Jules Millis )who is, of course, pulling double duty this weekend, with his “other” band, White Widdow, having a slot on the Saturday afternoon bill) brings a rich, new dynamic to the band’s sound, giving it a darker edge which his predecessors lacked.  ‘Shoot To Kill’ and ‘Sick Sex’ gets hands and voices alike, while, of the newer songs aired, ‘Bite The Hand’ is both heavy and harmonic.

Jay Pepper of Tigertailz at HRH AOR, March 2015Jay Pepper (pictured left) still has plenty of verve and vim, and probably will still be living the dream with his guitar strapped to a Zimmer frame at HRH50!  And the songs also certainly still have enough gristle on their meaty riffs and melodies to continue to draw crowds to the arse of nowhere on an otherwise miserable Thursday evening in the middle of March.

Down the hill, one of PM’s Celtic brethren had ventured into the Hammerfest camp to brave the assault of the band who arguably planted the roots of the current upsurge in pagan/folk metal – Waylander.  Despite the fact that they have been on the go since the early Nineties when ArdChieftain O’Hagan leads the war-painted warriors on to the stage, many of the newcomers are taught a lesson.  Tor and Saul’s guitars lay down a mythic maze of riffs and solos, while Michael and Den keep a precise rhythm section rolling around with Celtic beats. Dave’s whistle playing adds further dynamics, and the hour-long set is over all too soon for those packed down the front:  indeed they are the first band to induce mass headbanging!

Serpentine at HRH AOR, March 2015In the relative safety at the top of the hill, Angels Or Kings – whose path your reviewer had first crossed at the ultimate Firefest last Autumn – deliver high end, quality melodic rock, with the emphasis on massive melodies, huge harmonies and soaring vocals.  Again, the band are as tight and solid as you would expect, and frontman Barrie Jackson carries off his roll with confident aplomb, garnering an enthusiastic response for the band’s equally fervid performance.  Serpentine bring the first evening’s proceedings with another passionate performance, characterised by their dark, rich, sweeping melodies, lush sound and anthemic choruses, delivered with professionalism of the highest quality.  Adam Payne is another frontman who oozes charisma, and is a fine addition to the line-up, while Chris Gould’s guitar is just dirty and gritty enough to eloquently counterpoint Gareth David Moon’s soaring keyboards.  The Cardiff quintet, understandably, heavily plug their new album, the Gary Hughes-produced ‘Circle Of Knives’, with the result that many present no doubt immediately put it on pre-order as soon as they were able to get internet access!

And so the first evening of HRH AOR came to close, with the faithful trudging their way back through the still pissing rain to their caravans and chalets to grab a few hours’ valuable kip, safe in the knowledge that there was plenty more quality music to come over the next two days…

Photographs by Sean Larkin.

Waylander review courtesy of Jonathan Traynor/Devils Gate Media.

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About Mark Ashby

no longer planetmosh staff