As has become tradition at Rock-Zone UK, March sees the arrival of Hard Rock Hell AOR. This one, the third, saw a slight change in format with AOR being joined by Hammerfest on the second large stage and the smaller stage being shared between Doom, Stoner, Thrash and Sleaze (for the first two days proper). However, the Thursday saw the annual pre-party for VIPs, Royalty, Dark Circle and a tidy number of others. This was in the smaller “Boardwalk” arena but what great way to start us off – not just a bit of light warm-up, straight in with some great bands. Rock-Zone didn’t venture down to Hammerfest (we have very delicate ears, don’t you know?), but the pleasant surprise was seeing the Hammerfest crowd enjoying the more (on paper anyway) “light and fluffy” stuff. First up were Shaft of Steel. Now, despite some solid support from the likes of Classic Rock’s Rob Evans, these boys were a new one to us. A very revealing interview just before show time revealed some of the things that made these boys “tick” – AOR, prog, metal. All this and more were there for ll to see. A nice, steady opening slot and not the “graveyard shift” that it could have been – the HRH United faithful want to party and make sure that they are here to see that happens with all of their collective might. More shows willsee Shaft of Steel develop even more in the live arena and they are definitely a band you all need to check out.
After a bit of sustenance after the journey, which meant that we sadly missed Fahran (although word from the crowd was they played a blinder and I know that 2015 promises tobe a busy year for them (a forthcoming support tour with Furyon should see to that!), the next up for us was Pig Iron. Now these boys are not what I would class as AOR but Hard Rock Hell has always been good at mixing it up so that pigeon holes get blurred and the crowd experience something new and exciting. Like a cross between Skynyrd and Motorhead, this is a band that a justifiably popular on the live circuit. Rip roaring vocals, awesome harmonica (and I normally HATE harmonica!) and bass at levels capable of out louding Lemmy in places, Pig Iron were a really good choice to get the groove on for the crowd in preparation for the night’s nominal headliner.
Simply put, Tigertailz absolutely tore the roof off. Having always been a fan of the band, the last couple of years has seen them experience something of a UK renaissance and tonight Rob Wylde, Matthew Blakout, Jay Pepper and Jules Millis proved that their shows over the last couple of years (including at The Railway in Bolton and last year’s HRH AOR Festival) were no fluke. jules Millis has a voice that really comes alive with the ‘Tailz songs. Along with the rest of the band he worked the ever expanding crowd into a veritable frenzy. Such a shame that for personal reasons Jules has announced that he is leaving the band. Rock-Zone know that both Jules and the Tigertailz will live to fight another day .. but what a great way to bow out.
So, how do you follow that? Well, Davey W’s favourites Angels or Kings (did he mention that he gets a thank you on the album credits?) had to and .. just brilliant. The best we’ve seen them and proof that the AOK boys need to play more shows soon! Full of energy, power and clearly having an absolute ball – Barrie, Steve, Rob and Tony don’t just need to get back in the studio for album number 2 soon but NOW!
Last band of the first night was the new look Serpentine. New people (Adam on vocals and Owen on bass), new songs and a great slightly tougher sound. The fingerprints of their work with Gary Hughes from Ten were visible (audible?) but fabulous. The more metal influence works perfectly with the well known Serpentine take on AOR. A great way to finish the first day … now then, where’s the caravan?
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