HRH Highway to Hell 2016 — Full Report

Upstairs at the O2 Academy 3 Sheffield where beer flows at a mere £4 a pint and access is via a ramrod-steep staircase that is more treacherous than a razor-lined phosphate conveyor-belt that drops into a tank of irate killer-whales [more of that later] — we had the pleasure, this weekend, of watching fifteen aspiring and hungry rock ‘n’ metal bands from around the United Kingdom slug-it-out over two exciting days for a chance to become National Winners of the legendary HRH Highway to Hell Finals.

It is worth mentioning that these finalists had already gone through a grueling process of competition and must be commended for their efforts getting this far into the final stages.

But now they had to be judged by the most capable and [frankly] vituperative public of all — the fearsome members of the ‘Dark Circle.’ These discriminating critics don’t just listen to rock and metal — they live it too. They cry nickel-plated tears and they shit-out titanium-plated ferrules from their hard-tails… in other words, the Dark Circle judges are not an easy audience.

Mason Hill Photo Credit @neilmach 2016 ©

Mason Hill Photo Credit @neilmach 2016 ©

The first challengers on stage, opening the race on Saturday night were Basingstoke’s BLACK BULLETS [@TheBlackBulletsUK] whose recent ‘Ridin Shotgun‘ video has to possess the best first-person-perspective fight scenes seen on film. Each band must spend just twenty minutes on stage trying to impress the formidable judges. They must also perform one cover song in their own style. The Black Bullets set the bar high with a thrilling set.

Up next was the melodic heavy rock outfit from Glasgow MASON HILL @masonhillofficial. The lads will be playing the Winter Storm festival in Troon, Scotland this November. @winterstormcoming. This outfit played a very capable show…

Bringing some aggression, spit and passion to proceedings were the delectable riff-monsters BETH BLADE AND THE BEAUTIFUL DISASTERS @BBATBDofficial from Wales whose licks and vocal biff reminded us of Halestorm.

Other top contenders from the first day included the Welsh classic rockers PILGRIM @pilgrimband1 and Dublin’s bright ‘n’ shiny rock ‘n’ roll Cinderellas STONE TRIGGER @StoneTrigger.

Saturday night brought thrills and spills a-plenty including several wounded soldiers some of which had to be stretchered from the battlefield. At least one serious incident involved a plummet down the previously mentioned staircase and a ‘bench-test’ of the natural phenomenon known as gravity … This gymnastic display was performed by the ‘stunt’ guitarist for Bristol rockers KIKAMORA @Kikamoraband. The accident resulted in a cracked skull.

Of course most of the pain and suffering was caused by the deliberate ingestion of too much alcohol. “For those of you who told me that you started your drinking four hours before the stage opened …” Said Jonni Davis, the CEO of Hard Rock HellI have one word for you … LIGHTWEIGHTS. We started drinking fourteen hours before the f**ing stage opened!

Forever Vendetta Photo Credit: @neilmach 2016 ©

Forever Vendetta Photo Credit: @neilmach 2016 ©

The second day of the tournament started Sunday afternoon and was kicked off by Swansea’s FOREVER VENDETTA @forevervendettabanduk.

We loved Oxford’s HELLS GAZELLES @HELLSGAZELLE [main image] who release their exciting EP later this month. They played 1980s rock that reminded us of something glam (perhaps The Darkness) in combination with something hard (perhaps Judas Priest.)

We also enjoyed THE BOURBON HOUNDS @thebourbonhoundsuk from Manchester who, in the spirit of unity, said they ‘represented’ Yorkshire. This band were stunningly visual!

The bands at 2016 Highway to Hell were good, as one member of the public told us, “All the performances were solid, I’d be happy to pay full ticket prices to see any of them …

Others pointed out that the contenders were less “exceptional” this year: As one DC member told us, “Although the standard was generally good — but there were actually very few acts who literally blew our balls off. In fact, only two bands yesterday [Saturday] and one today [Sunday] gave us what we needed… Orgasms and shiver-bumps

Results: The National Winners of 2016 were Mason Hill with Hell’s Gazelles coming in second and Stone Trigger getting a bronze.

Congratulations to all the bands who battled it out for this year’s Highway to Hell title. And thanks to the organizers too… For putting on this super-contest and staging such an exciting and enjoyable weekend.

Words & Pictures: Neil Mach 2016 ©

Bourbon Hounds Photo Credit: @neilmach 2016 ©

Bourbon Hounds Photo Credit: @neilmach 2016 ©




Blayz bannerad






The Great British ROCK + BLUES FEST 2016 Butlins

Despite more than a hint of disapproval on social media surrounding the choice of the main headline act (Hawkwind)… An odd choice for a blues-based weekend (don’t you think?) the 20th Great British Rock & Blues Festival held 22-24 Jan 2016 at the Butlin’s resort in Skegness, Lincolnshire (part of their fab Live Music Weekend programme) went off extremely well. In fact, so well that many happy campers were seen lining up in orderly queues to secure their 2017 weekend!


Babajack – carefree indifference?

For many of us, this was a chance to catch up with some of the icons of British rock ‘n’ blues — for example, the great talent of Colin Blunstone whose Zombie’s song (Rod Argent’s She’s Not There ) completely changed his life in 1964. His show was a joy. Smooth, rather than hurried. Elegant rather than energetic.

My favorite old rocker Arthur Brown was also on hand with his bouncy antics (he’s 73 and Colin is 70…)

How do these guys keep doing this night-after-night? Most polished of all the “old boys” was Manfred Mann (aged 75, can you believe it?) — with his Earth Band.

Their sensational Bad Company singer (main picture) made some of the youngsters seem like lame-pussies in comparison!

The Earth Band played their most captivating covers – like Springsteen’s Blinded by the Light. Mighty Quinn might linger long-time in our minds, but our hearts missed Pretty Flamingo which was, sadly, not on the set-list.

Sunday afternoon we saw the famous contemporary jazz clarinettist Courtney Pine walking past us in Burger King. He was completely unharassed and not recognized. His show ( on the Centre Stage ) was refined and and extraordinary. The Whitley Bay heavy-metal outfit Tygers Of Pan Tang entertained us with a super-sophisticated and ultra-slick stageshow too. They were on at the ‘rock stage’ at the REDS. Robb Weir was still slicing the air with those acidic whiplash-licks and ‘Jackie’ Meille roared-out some terrific vocals.

Later, the Martin Turner version of Wishbone Ash played a set that was fresh and melodic, but it was too jazzy for our taste. We could have done with less Vas Dis tosh and more Jail Bait riff-rock.

Likewise, Hawkwind played a set that was filled with over-long jazzaludes and bulked-out with trademark cosmic airiness. We wanted their numbers to feel tighter and be filled with more substance…

Everyone was saying how good the New Acts at the Skyline introducing stage were. And we would have to heartily agree…

Those fully-energised young-bunnies (maybe some were less young… ho hum) were crazy-exciting and all-of-them incredibly talented…

Stand out acts on the Skyline Stage were: The Texas Flood soon to hit the road with The Quireboys , the South Wales cowboys the Luke Doherty Band , the Sussex based blues-machine Catfish , those cracking Shrewsbury talents The Rainbreakers and the Derby super-heavy blues-rockers These Wicked Rivers

The Della Grants

The Della Grants – triumphant…

Talking about super new talent, Leicester’s excellent band, The Della Grants played a triumphant show on the Centre Stage, after being one of the winners on the Intro Stage last year. It just goes to show that there is still a lot of precocious talent around. It makes us proud to be British.

For all-round fun and cracking showmanship, we loved The Stumble and also Colchester’s LaVendore Rogue .

But our favourite show of the whole weekend, (maybe it was just the way we felt… it’s true that we were slightly dizzy/drowsy and it was whiskey-a-clock at the REDS…) was Babajack.

They played their notoriously earthy and biologically essential rhythms desperately and earnestly on cigar box guitar and well-slapped cajon. And with Becky’s flame hair swishing through the thin air and the carefree indifference of Trevor it kinda made us feel as if the whole world was actually OK… [If only for a moment] And that we could still have a good time…

Yep, there was some hollerin ‘good music to be enjoyed at Butlin’s. Good times spent with very good friends. And in a totally cool, suitably relaxed and hassle-free environment.

Thanks again to the Butlin’s team for another great festival. We cannot wait for 2017!

Words & All Pictures by: @neilmach 2016 ©

Babajack - notoriously earthy and biologically essential ...

Babajack – notoriously earthy and biologically essential …


Symphonic power metal band KAMELOT – with Thomas Youngblood – are set to bring their unique blend of monstrously epic metal to HAMMERFEST 12-15 MARCH 2015.

Hammerfest promises to be yet another cracking edition as it celebrates its seventh year – this time with a pirate metal themed event

Hammerfest – now in its regular home at Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli , Gwynedd, North Wales – is also pleased to announce the return of some of our METAL favourites … led by stoner legends Orange Goblin – who seem to be going from strength to strength at the moment.

Along with them are two of the best viking metal acts around, Norway’s Einherjer and Iceland’s Skálmöld both of whom we are sure will be going Viking from the moment their long-ships arrive on our fine shores.

RSJ will explain the 'Higgs Boson' Effect at Hammerfest VII

RSJ will explain the ‘Higgs Boson’ Effect at Hammerfest VII

Hammerfest is also pleased to welcome back three other regulars: Evil Scarecrow , RSJ and L.A. gypsy metal act Viza – all of which we know hold a special place in the hearts of Hammerfest  regulars.

Plus British Heavy metal favourites Angel Witch  – who never fail to excite.

If this is not enough, Hammerfest will also host the Italian Folk / Power Metal act Elvenking , France’s biggest Industrial Metal act Mass Hysteria , Norway’s Doom Metal act Sahg , Swedish Melodic death metal act Darkane , English Black metal act Winterfylleth – plus London’s Hang The Bastard  and East Anglia’s The King Is Blind.


For more details and tickets go to
or for tickets call 08700 110034


Bands Announced for HRH AOR

HRH AOR, Europe’s biggest AOR residential festival, has announced the first 10 bands for 2015.

Included in this early announcement is Starz– the power pop band from New Jersey, United States. Starz has a cult following. Several 1980’s glam metal artists have cited this band as a major influence.

This band rose from the ashes of “Looking Glass” – can anyone else out there fondly remember “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”?

The Starz major hit single was “Cherry Baby”. This came out in the spring of 1977 and was produced by Jack Douglas of Aerosmith fame.

HRHAOR3We are also looking forward to seeing poodle-haired rockers like FM (UK).

This vintage band are celebrating their 30th Anniversary this year – so they will be out-and-about playing near you. Check their website to see where you can catch them.

The band was formed in the mid 1980’s. They supported Tina Turner, Foreigner, Gary Moore, Status Quo and Magnum, and they opened for REO Speedwagon at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. The band also toured with Bon Jovi on their UK leg of their “Slippery When Wet” tour.

Glam metallers The Poodles – from Sweden – have also been announced for HRH AOR. This band are a firm favourite back home, where they have played the Sweden Rock Festival in 2006 and 2008. []

Other exciting bands announced for the AOR Fest in North Wales include Swedish melodic rockers Eclipse whose perfect vocalisation and dizzying arrangements on ‘Bleed and Scream’ gave us all such hope. []

And ‘Dare’ – who seemed to be the favoured sons of the MTV days – they brought us those driving anthems that burned up our car speakers… and mashed up the ears of our back-seat passengers.

The original line-up of this superb band featured (professor) Brian Cox who played keyboards on the albums ‘Out of the Silence’ and ‘Blood From Stone’ before going onto play with D:Ream.

This is gonna be one helluva celebration…

HRH AOR 3, will take place on 12-15 March 2015 at its high quality residential site in Pwllheli, North Wales.

VIP & Royalty are already sold out – now under a 100 rooms are left in the Hard Rock class packages.

To book either ring 0203 287 6684 or book online at


Announced This Week:

The Poodles
Crazy Lixx






Great Escape 2014

Perhaps the only problem with the Great Escape in Brighton is that all stages seem to be scattered casually around the hilly town.

You tend to walk miles around the twisting maze of lanes – squeezing through narrow alleys – just to hunt down your favourite artists that are hiding in tiny venues. So, armed with our schedules and a very strict sense of duty, we slogged on foot through the horizontal sheets of rain that seemed to be hampering our quest to get to all of the best places.


We started our weekend by hiding from a shroud of icy rain at the Blind Tiger public house. Here we spent some quality time with the mild dream pop outfit ‘Alvvays’ – who had flown all the way from Toronto, Canada. We plugged into their rich layers of warm resonance and we sunk into their overflowing acidity. Molly Rankin (singer) wooed the crowd – who swayed soggily.

We also saw the beautiful singer-songwriter Hannah Georgas at the Blind Tiger. She played her fizzy pop-work with grace, aplomb and style. And she regaled us with that gentle voice of hers that hinted of dewy mornings and long regrets.

Over at the Queens Hotel, we witnessed the Dutch indie band ‘Taymir’ as they played a decidedly 1960’s sounding rock show to a thrilled young audience. It was the first of two fantastic shows for this band. These four promising guys from The Hague (Netherlands) are still celebrating the successful release of their début album ‘Phosphene‘ – and it was evident that they are about to hit the big time very soon.

Misterwives-DSC_0138Misterwives’ over at Digital played their elegantly smooth dance/soul numbers to a smallish crowd. The performance by Mandy Lee (vocals) was high-toned yet ritzy. It was all thoroughly luxurious.

Later, we moved on to the Pav Tav where we caught the lovely fluctuating harmonies delivered by the ‘Daughters of Davis.’ Followed by the more robust – but no less fascinating – perky pop/gospel singing – from Philippa Hanna.


We got up early to see Luxembourg’s ‘Angel At My Table’ at The Bermuda Triangle. We got our timings wrong though – somehow – so we headed off to the Blind Tiger for our Nova Scotia Brunch. Here we enjoyed the velvety richness of Alberta / Ontario singer Gianna Lauren. She performed an admirable set for all of us – slightly rocky – full of charm and wonder.

Australian band ‘Stonefield’ were playing over at the Madeira Shelter. The performance from these four sisters was smouldering hot. Stonefield’s songs are summer-radio ready … boasting a floaty zestiness that is electrifying.

Hana-Piranha_DSC_0547Power punk multi-instrumentalist and Patti Smith impersonator ‘Hana Piranha’ over at the “Animal Farm” showcase at The Tube later the same evening- played a set that combined both rare talent and sheer nerves.

The band’s performance tingled with tight-packed emotional under-currents. It was as if the band members were all about to explode … struggling to keep a complex series of torrid feelings under control.

Sneering Leeds-based trio ‘Beretta Suicide’ also played on the “Animal Farm” stage. Their gobbets of sleazy punkish theme-tunes were hard to ignore… infused with grit and sweaty impulses.


The gentle rivulets of folk-rock sound produced by the Finnish act ‘Swaying Wires’ at the “Battle Recordings” show-case gently woke up our senses at the Fishbowl pub around noon.

Then we headed over to the “Break Out West” BBQ at the Blind Tiger. To see a consignment of scrapyard funk delivered by Winnipeg’sCrooked Brothers.’ This had to be one of the stand-out performances of the weekend. Musically perfect, with catchy compositions and impeccable stage-craft. It was immense fun. The ‘Crooked Brothers‘ were memorable.

DSC_0701In the afternoon we headed to “Beyond Retro” – the vintage clothing store on Vine Street, Brighton – where those lovely lads from the ‘Common Tongues‘ were curating a splendid afternoon of musical entertainment. The Bristol-based ‘Cadbury Sisters’ reminded us of the ‘Staves’ with their ornate harmonies and pitch-perfect precision. Their finely crafted songs were joyous.

Also at “Beyond Retro” we saw the talented and juicy Annaca [Espach ] who reminded us of Regina Spektor spliced with Carmen Miranda. Her tropical songs were hot and saucy and delivered with a spattering of jazzy electro rhythms.

The punk duo ‘Slaves‘ were on our ‘must see’ list. The Slaves are Isaac Holman (drums and vocals) – and Laurie Vincent (guitar and vocals) – Laurie was showing off his new guitar. They played an unpolished & unholy set at the Coalition – full of combined raw energy and feckless noise.

– over at the ‘pop up’ VEVO stage at “The Warren” played a generous show. ‘Don’t Wanna Dance’ was icy cold with dark pain concealed around the edges. But it also purred along – holding our attention like a tiny clockwork toy heading for a dangerous edge. Her voice [Karen Marie Ørsted] was clear and draughty – it chilled us to the bone at times. Yet her gangly manner and smiley calmness pleased the crowd and charmed us all. It was a singularly spectacular show.

Our favourite rock act of the festival was ‘Mammút‘ from Reykjavik. We found the band over at the “Iceland Airwaves” showcase at “Above Audio”.

Kata, the lead singer, floated – crafted – and gurgled her way above and beyond most of the lyrics… taking the most subtle, twisting, turning, floating songs you can possibly imagine; Then spiralling them into something even bigger and much more fluorescent.

Sometimes, the tiny flakes of whirling sound created by ‘Mammút‘ flew around the room like enchanted gold dust. At other times, we heard huge stomping bear-shaped mounds that seemed to trudge towards us in great furry swathes. Mammút was a sensational act to experience.

Words & Images: @neilmach © 2014


Next Escape: 14 May to Saturday 16 May 2015



HRH Blues Review

Down in the Bonga Wonga Show Room things were warm and sultry.

Perhaps the hottest place around the Hafan y Môr Holiday Holiday Park in Pwllheli – the Bonga Wonga area – next to the boating lake – was the setting for the latest venture from those wonderful guys at Chic Festivals ( they have been busily organizing sell-out events for years with their regular HRH festivities) – this time they were introducing revellers to twenty-five of the best blues acts around – including Dr. Feelgood, Simon McBride and the Vargas Blues Band.

The Blues stage was about 15 minutes walk ( over a humpback bridge ) from two other stages at Haven – these were hosting AOR and PROG events. But the ‘Blues Folk‘ seemed happy to ‘stay at home‘ keeping themselves to themselves down at Bonga Wonga.


Pontus Snibb

The first act of the weekend was the swaggering groove trio ‘Crowsaw’ from South Wales (also catalogued as Crossaw and Crobar in some listings) – this sizzling band were runners up at last year’s Highway to Hell competition run by Chic Festivals to discover the hottest new talent around.

The band blasted some catchy numbers from their gritty ‘Smoke and Feathers’ album. And their ear-bleeding hard-nosed blues numbers got the party well-and-truly started. These guys are as real and as earthy as you might imagine (and hotly political too … which went down a treat with the Blues fans.)

Their songs were as sparkling and shiny as any Buick Wildcat spark plug. They delivered a superb start to the weekend.

Swedish hard rock band ‘Bonafide‘ ( playing on the AOR stage on Saturday ) tend to fill the ears of the public with purple flavoured riffs with – and solid Quo-ish boogies. But their Malmö born founder and singer / guitarist Pontus Snibb is also justly celebrated for his hard-edged Blues shows. He has been playing his devilish music all around the globe for many years. His ‘Loud Feathers’ album caused some excitement a year or so back, and now Pontus Snibb is set to release his ‘Wreck Of Blues’ project in April 2014. His almost-choking voice at HRH Blues was stretched beyond comprehension ( it was roughly “Chappo“ Chapmanesque in exercised bluesiness ) and his guitar-work was a torrid stretch of hooks and charismatically stretched woundings. It was simply sensational.


Gráinne Duffy


Gráinne Duffy is an Irish singer-songwriter from Castleblayney. Her songs are delivered with a deeply passionate hoarse voice (think Bonnie Rait) which fastens around the guitars like braided veils – giving each a shiny gemstone quality. Songs like ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ are densely packed with yielding infatuations and magnificent moments. Gráinne’s performance at HRH Blues really left the crowd with goose bumps.




Lucy Zirins Performs in the Dark

For some unknown reason, the people at HRH Blues decided to leave the beautiful Lucy Zirins to perform in the dark. Her show was unplugged and seated – so maybe the stage managers thought that her introspective and gossip-laden numbers should be delivered with the minimum of fuss and bravado. Whatever the reason, Lucy performed for us without fuss or complaint and she weaved her hauntingly beautiful songs interspersed with tiny stories and happy chattings. The numbers took us along folksy highways – and into territories that were quaint and faintly familiar – almost reminiscent of Christine McVie in both sound and quality.

The second day introduced us to the Glasgow blues act ‘The Brian Rawson Band’ followed by the Irish trio led by the former Mama’s Boys and Celtus guitarist/violinist singer/songwriter Pat McManus. Pat’s guitar-work is joy-filled, loquacious and eloquently Gaelic in flavour – and it evoked memories of Gary Moore.

Whatever happened to Graveltones ? Who knows. But at least we were treated to the impressive voice and remarkable soul of Jo Harman – who had a surprise for us – a guest appearance by the talented guitarist Stevie Nimmo on her ‘Ain’t No Love’ number. It was blissful and sublime. Simon McBride’s set was also amazing – just the right side of the crackling and sinful.


Jo Harman

And the rootsy grit from Buck & Evans was a revelation to the ears and sensitivity.

It is generally agreed that the highlights of the weekend were ‘Crowsaw‘ and ‘Pontus Snibb‘ but it is true to say that Dr. Feelgood rocked the house too. Those boys were on fire.

Here’s looking forward to HRH Blues number 2. We can not wait ….


Words & Images © Neil Mach 2014 @neilmach


Hard Rock Hell, Europe’s leading residential rock festival, is pleased to announce Blue Öyster Cult, Krokus and Vardis for its 8th cycle.

HRH Helloween PosterJoining BOC after a 7 year absence from the UK are Swiss multi-platinum selling rockers, Krokus.

With 14 million album sales and over 17 studio albums, it’s about time they get back onto the UK shores and join the rest of the bands at HRH 8.

Finally after much persuasion, NWOBHM legends Vardis have now agreed a reunion and a much anticipated return to the HRH rock royalty circle this November.

Hard Rock Hell 8 takes place at Hafan Y Mor, Pwhelli, North Wales from the 13-16th November 2014.





KrokusCurrent line-up stands as:


Blue Oyster Cult

Michael Schenkers ‘Temple of Rock’



Diamond Head

Electric Mary




Heavy Metal Kids

Carousel Vertigo



The Sun Shines on The Damned

Hammerfest VI – Book of The dead – Haven Holiday Park – Wales 13TH – 16TH MARCH 2014

As the sun rose into the bleached sky – to burn our tired eyes – it was time to take stock of what we have become.

It was time to celebrate with those who had traveled so far with us. We had come a long way to get here. It has been a long, hard road. But now we were together. And our hallowed memory could be assured – for all time.

Together and connected, hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart, we have traveled from those far off days… days of ‘Animosity’ ( Corrosion of Conformity 1985) and ‘Chainheart Machine’ (Soil Work 1999.) And days spent ‘Under The Influence’ (Over Kill ) or screaming in unison at the important legacy that thrash lords ‘Kreator’ laid down for all in the 1980’s with Extreme Aggression. These were good times. And they demanded celebration.

Sinocence © Neil Mach

Sinocence © Neil Mach

And so we began our Hammerfest party in earnest. We started our astonishing weekend by joining the Belfast thrashers Sinocence on Stage 2 – who did a splendid job dusting out the cobwebs from our minds and causing our backbones to tremble.

Then we became completely immersed in the Epic Metal world of Cypher16 whose technical brilliance and life-affirming vitality caused our hearts to jump for joy and sing with praise.

To The Bones was also a major highlight for us. Their mix of fierce rhythms – instantly gratifying hooks- and masterful stage presence – simply took our breaths away.

Paragon’s rapidly biting ‘Tornado’ was a furious flurry of splinters and sharp hot licks that whipped our faces and brightened our skulls. And masters of the pungent darkness Enthroned powered through with the brutality of their riffs and the over-awing rhythms that cut us like a surgeon’s scalpel slicing through brain stem.

Sweden’s Grand Magus are currently on tremendous form with their epic ‘Triumph And Power’ blasting out of speakers everywhere. They have always been one of our favourite bands. And they certainly did not let the crowds down at Hammerfest this year. And the spectacular mastery from Soilwork was unimaginably exciting and totally addictive.

The brightness burnished the mountain mist on Saturday, leaving the early morning risers blinded by the brilliant light. But still they made their way back – blinking – from caravans and chalets … to get to the front of the stages.

DSC_0917Derision on Stage 2  were, of course, sublimely wicked … with their gravel-throated and heavy hearted splendor. They put on a masterful show with their ‘Predation’.

And Maplerun  were a genuine revelation. They have just been gigging around with Skindred – and their verve and audacity was breathtaking. They also entertained the troops with a quality acoustic set down at the Bonga Wonga !

We are so glad that ‘Imicus’ is back  – and now with a new line-up and a brave album. Their sound is original, complex and entertaining.

And Gravil  were technically proficient and thoroughly hypnotic. They certainly seemed destined to go onto everyone’s ‘best band of the weekend’ list with their powerful moments from “Thoughts Of A Rising Sun.”

And the ever-stalwart Afterlife from Glasgow bought us a bunch of their ‘OMEGA’ songs and worked the stage like hurried demons.

SoundStorm © Neil Mach 2014

SoundStorm © Neil Mach 2014

Italian band SoundStorm  were a vital and welcome addition to the line-up at Hafn Y Mor. Folk were still commenting on their theatrical metal show … hours later. Earthtone9 unfortunately had to cancel their appearance.

But we still had Breed 77 Thanks be to God ! It was a breathtaking experience. Especially their ‘Zombie’ cover.That song put the fire back in our wild hearts and set our minds ablaze.


GloryHammer © Neil Mach 2014

GloryHammer © Neil Mach 2014

With ardor burning deep within our bosoms – and our ears nearly bleeding from the bombardment – we went on to enjoy the immense experience that is  Kreator  on stage One – just after the most theatrically complete (and most joyfully entertaining) act of the whole festival – GloryHammer.

And Sweden’s sick and twisted circus-show Avatar   also pulled them in over on Stage Two.

Stand out acts (for us) over the weekend were the Brighton dub ‘n’ metal band ‘Collisions’ and the refreshingly complex band ‘Idiom’.

Both groups made us feel really proud to be still supporting metal – in all its guises – and sincerely believing that the best is yet to come.

But this was always going to be a celebration of where we were – and what we have achieved. As a tribe. Together.

So perhaps it is fitting that we left Hammerfest 2014 with the sounds of Breed 77 still buzzing around in our minds. That joy-filled, expressive flamenco majesty…


Words & Images © Neil Mach March 2014


Hammerfest 6 (Book of the Dead) on 13th/16th March 2014 at Hafan Y Môr Holiday Park, Pwllheli, Gwynedd,North Wales boasts an immense line-up including KreatorOver KillSoilwork and Grand Magus.

I have now added MORE PICKS to my earlier piece.

idiom short


HF Riffage Stage Friday 7:55

New album ‘Movement’ to be released on ‘Dirt Track Records’ on 10 March 2014 by the righteous Exeter four-piece rock-rap revivalists ‘Idiom’ present new songs like the title track, with its spinning, stinging tentacles of pure, beautiful, pungent power – and silvery vocals that spin around your head like a bursting motherload of stars.

The past 3 years have seen the band play Hard Rock Hell Ibiza and Hammerfest, and tour UK with Skindred, DevilDriver & 36 fists as well as performing stand out headline shows across the realm. This is their year. This is their future.




defy all reason short


Ball Of the Dead Thursday 6:40

These Wrexham Southern Rock buckaroos have been stampeding around our parched earth during this last year, wrangling a hard-earned living from their heartfelt and powerful songs.

Songs  like ‘Behind those Eyes’ from their monumental ‘Every Second Counts’ EP.

Bristled and ash-laden, the vocals from Gavin Jones rub  along smoothly and magnificently with a bursting of sparkling guitars from Darren Jones. It’s all a treat.



cypher16 short


HF Riffage Stage Friday 1:50

Organic epic-metal fusiliers Cypher16 create their own mysterious spicy, mystical concoction of sounds.

Since their ‘The Man Of The Black Abyss’ beginnings in 2008, the London based group have been taking their slightly industrial/slightly gothic imaginings yonder to many new pastures green … they were the first British metal band to tour in INDIA and have now completed five successful tours in the most populous democracy in the world.

Songs like their rapid ‘Lonely Road’ (filmed at London’s Battersea Power Station) is a fast and hectic sermon to the daunting misery of loneliness.

The song incorporates groaning sadness (in the masterful guitars) and vast swathes of percussion … and the listener has the nagging feeling that the protagonist in this sorry affair is seeing the world through the eyes of his ex.


bastard sons short


HF Riffage Stage Friday 12:55

The BS sit somewhere between stoner rock and classic rock. But with an addictive punk ethic that runs deep within their veins. Their groove-based sounds have been causing a definite prickle in our spinal columns since we first heard them last year.

Songs like the monster ‘Hot Town’ make you sweat with astonished glee… with its spiking white-hot guitars and shouty vocals – the sounds seem to steam at you like froth from a lava-pit.

Or take the more lyrically effervescent ‘Soul Fur Coat’ with streams of liquid guitars and a rapid percussion that hurtles at you like an out-of-control express train. It is all provocative and shamelessly exciting stuff!



to the bones short


HF Riffage Stage Friday 3:00 pm

These knights from Bolton have been distinguishing themselves all over the fusty realm with their ferocious concoction of meaty hooks, fresh melody and dusty feedback.

According to METAL HAMMER their sound is: “Part Motorhead, Part Queens Of The Stone Age.”

Their recent ‘Emperor’s Ride’ is a heady, buzzy mix of sordid guitars, grizzled vocals and a ceaseless  fusillade of fierce percussion.




 Photo By Josh Horwood

Photo By Josh Horwood



NWOBHM Stage Saturday 5:40

Desert Storm are the heaviest blues metal band that you are likely to hear this year.

Their extravagantly powerful grooves have been knocking the dust from the tank-tracks of mediocrity since early 2010.

They have been taking their sludge ‘n’ blues out from their Oxford spires – and spreading their grit into the huge outside world.  Their sounds can be summarized by the howitzer that is ‘Shadow Of An Eagle’ – a sparkling, lumbering, lank song with smoke in its eyes and poison in its shadows.

The luminous guitars shimmer and Matt’s guttural voice invokes rage and passion … all at once!



imicus short


NWOBHM Stage Saturday 2:45 pm

We have been following IMICUS since way back.  We saw them at  Hammerfest I.  That’s how far back we go.

We loved the band’s debut album ‘Animal Factory’ released in 2010 and we had high hopes. But we were gutted when the band seemed to flounder in 2013 – almost running into the rocks.

But since then a new line-up has been busily writing, preparing and practicing for a new metal-onslaught. And a highly anticipated second album release – set for 2014 – will hopefully take the band back to where they ought to be.

Their songs – like ‘The Marionette’ can be characterized by clever arrangements, vast guitars and impassioned vocals (from Miller) that twist around the dark parchment soul of their impressive song-structures.



Words: © Neil Mach 2014

Desert Storm – Shadow Of An Eagle (Official Music Video) 



Hard Rock Hell 2013 Review

This year’s HARD ROCK HELL 7 – billed as the “Cirque du Rock” became a series of exciting discoveries and largely unexpected unearthings – especially for those thrill-seekers (like me) who enjoy the adventure of experimenting with new sounds and discovering new sensations.

Stormzone © Neil Mach May 2013

© Neil Mach 2013

So, for example, newcomers the ‘Screaming Eagles’ gained tremendous recognition for their hootering great “Rock N Roll Soul” number.

And everyone was talking about the fat-haired songsmith Barry from ‘Massive Wagons’ yodelling his heart out in a show that bit deep into our calloused veins and lingered long afterwards in our tortured hearts.

Sinister ‘Fatal Smile’ entertained us with their Cooper-rock schlock horror-show … and they had been on everyone’s ‘to do’ list since day one.

As were those darkly infamous ‘Cross Eyed Mary’ folks and their powerful eruptions.

Festival revellers also gloried in the heavyweight drooging rhythms of ‘Wildside Riot’ and the reefer-based rock ‘n’ roll stone-out anthems from ‘Groan’ … these caused dangerous palpitations and tremors of emotion right across the North Wales site.

As usual, ‘Arthemis’ overwhelmed the audience in an explosion of starlight fire and shining audio alchemy. And that groaning cupid’s grief doom from ‘Alunah’ brought us all into another level of dark existence.

Arthemis © Neil Mach May 2013

© Neil Mach 2013

The furious classic party rock from ‘Stormzone’ kept us spinning and banging like crazy banshees in a whirlwind of hell fire … and the barrelling somersaulting antics of of ‘Kyrbgrinder’ kept us all bemused and genuinely hypnotised with their excessive prog-metal grandiosity. (Their “Defiance” was a howl in the night!)

All this was great – but it was the old guys who really stood out at Hafn y Mor … those bold pioneers from rock ‘n’ roll history who have already spent a crazy lifetime on the road … lumbering, heaving and toiling just for us. Those guys laid down the true direction of heavy metal … so at least now the eager new guys know which way to take go. The old guys dreamt up the horizon. And the new guys are gonna take us there.

So we had Arthur Brown himself (with his Crazy World) … Zim – Zam – Zimming all around the stage and creating a toxic vortex that still shocks. He is, even now, inventing imaginative new ways to ‘ transmit’ music – and that’s after at least 45 years at ‘the sharp end’.

Or take the high-velocity 50+ year old bullet that is ‘Michael Monroe’ – he exuded blood, spit and poison on Stage One … it was like witnessing a tortured peroxide-headed coral snake with a hyperactivity disorder. Then we had the truly gentle – yet officially lupine – Blaze Bayley who is still doing it all with grace, dignity and impunity. He brought us a barrel of white-hot of sounds. The man is a living furnace. And an inspiration to us all.

Snakecharmer © Neil Mach May 2013

© Neil Mach 2013

But best of all was the “Unknown band” (at least, that’s what everyone was saying) called ‘Snakecharmer’. These guys have really paid their collective dues over the years. But they did a show at HRH that was so good it got the audience throwing themselves forward in a raging mass of tippy-toed excitement. The music was so consummate and magnificent that it made the muscles in our limbs contract, it made our tear ducts loosen, and it made the remaining strands of our hair stand on end.

Snakecharmer’ consists of Laurie Wisefield (guitars) with Micky Moody (also guitars), Chris Ousey (vocals) Neil Murray (bass) and Harry James (drums.) I may be the only living person to even have a copy of ‘The Alchemist’ from “Home” (1973) – recorded with AC / DC bassist Cliff Williams – but more importantly (for me) – the album had Laurie Wisefield on guitar. That’s because Laurie is best known for his contributions to Wishbone Ash during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Following Wishbone Ash, he continued to perform with Tina Turner, Joe Cocker and Roger Chapman.

Guitarist Micky Moody formed a band in 1960 called the ‘Roadrunners’ with some local lad whose name was Paul Rodgers. But he is most famous for being a member of David Coverdale’s ‘White Snake Band ‘ with Neil Murray on bass. He played with Whitesnake from 1979-84.

And those in the ‘Snakecharmer’ crowd who thought that they might have spied a mysterious Wakeman shape lurking in the background near the eloquent keys were not quite right … in fact it was Mark Stanway from Magnum! Now that’s my idea of a supergroup !

As usual, our thanks go to all the staff and helpers who put on this amazing big top show at Pwllheli. It takes a huge commitment and immense hard work to make this all happen. And, boy, did they do good this time.

But I must also gratefully thank all my colleagues, neighbours, friends, boozers, schmoozers and “Hard Rock Hellers”… you all made the weekend so wonderfully inspiring and so thoroughly innovating.

It was truly a weekend of revelations in rock.

– © Neil_Mach December 2013 –


Main image: The Jokers at Hard Rock Hell © Neil Mach