What we learnt at Hard Rock Hell

The eighth edition of the Hard Rock Hell extravaganza returned to its traditional home at Camp HRH in north Wales at the weekend. 50 bands gathered from around the globe, and we sent one man along to face them down. Here's what he remembers.

Finns Love Glam When you think of Scandinavia and music, you see images of church burning and Abba (equally as terrifying). But there’s something else happening up there in the land of fjords – the resurgence of glam. And perhaps one of the hottest exports on the menu is the Crüe-tinged Santa Cruz. With hooks not a million miles away from Guns N’ Roses and a look comparable to a much fresher Skid Row, the whirlwind of ripped Yngwie Malmsteen vests and long blond hair kickstarts the hearts of those mid-afternoon drinkers who are looking to party for hours.

**Y&T Should Have Headlined **Looking at the lineup the casual music fan might not recognise the majority of names on the bill, but Y&T are surely one of the most famous. It’s unsurprising then that they draw a substantial crowd to the now sticky-floored main stage. Despite a career lasting 40+ years, the surge of energy emanating from the stage is palpable as the crowd becomes a sea of arms stretched open and drunken air guitars. Strictly greatest hits tonight, this is a band on form and still loving every second of it.

**We Miss WASP **It’s not unreasonable to think that a certain portion of Hard Rock Hellers initially bought their ticket to see WASP in all their heavy metal glory. However, shortly before HRH they pulled out and were replaced by Queensryche. A ‘heritage’ band no doubt, but they lack the clout and mysticism of WASP – and the tunes. They’re proficient, but interest dwindles as the big guns like I Don’t Believe In Love fail to surface leading to a somewhat restrained reaction from an audience who just want to get heavily refreshed at 11pm on a Friday night. Fingers crossed for WASP next year.

**Listen To Blues Pills **You don’t need to have an extensive back catalogue and thousands of gigs under your belt to make yourself known at Hard Rock Hell. The aptly-named blues rock merchants Blues Pills garnered a healthy crowd of fans on Saturday afternoon with their Fleetwood Mac meets Black Moth ‘70s hard rock. Vocalist Elin Larsson floats around the stage belting out angelic choruses with tambourine in tow while guitarist Dorrian Sorriaux makes it look all too easy as his technical ability shines true throughout. A real shame at the distinct lack of merch available for this band as they won a lot of people over today.

**Are You Evil? **It’s a sad but true statement that Diamond Head’s biggest hit is so well-known thanks to Metallica’s cover version. Of course having the biggest metal band of all time playing your music is no bad thing – especially if it gets the same reaction. Easily the biggest singalong moment of the weekend goes to Diamond Head’s set-closing heavy metal masterpiece Am I Evil?. Suddenly an audience of quiet boozehounds are transformed into a choir built of denim and leather. As the chorus echoes around the Haven holiday park the obvious elation on the band’s faces says it all.

**Welcome The Reaper **Arguably another ‘that song’ band are Saturday night’s legends-in-waiting Blue Oyster Cult. Having 80 minutes to fill, a significant portion of the crowd decide to get some fresh air mid-way through one of the many jams and solo-offs on display, but Blue Oyster Cult do have the hits – mainly one. The riffier Godzilla receives a warm welcome from BOC and Fu Manchu fans everywhere but of course it’s the grand finale of (Don’t Fear) The Reaper that everyone came to see. Even though a number of tonight’s audience weren’t actually born when the song was released back in 1976, it’s transcended generations (partially helped by a SNL skit) and the great way to end a two-day bender of hard rock and hard liquor. Although perhaps it could have used more cowbell…

**Diamond Head play with Girlschool tonight at the Academy, Islington. Tickets are on sale now. **

Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.