original@Hard Rock Hell United, Pwllheli, North Wales, March 14 2015

Are Orange Goblin the perfect Hammerfest band? With their rip roaring mix of classic metal, Sabbathian grooves, bluesy twang and enormous, beer soaked riffs, they should probably have a permanent residency at the festival.  Their music appeals to a vast swathe of the HRH demographic and on Saturday, you were just as likely to see a middle aged guy in a sleeveless biker jacket getting down to the Londoners as you were a plaid shirted hipster punching the air to the likes of Scorpionica. 

But what really makes the quartet such great party starters is their infectious enthusiasm, their sheer love for rock ‘n’ roll, whether that’s manifests itself in Motörhead-bangers like The Devil’s Whip or Iommi-worshipping beasts like The Fog (both were aired with aplomb this weekend). It also helps when you have a gigantic vocalist like Ben Ward to lead the charge; grinning from ear to ear, fists raised, towering above the audience, the man yet again showed why he’s one of UK metal’s most impressive frontmen. And his shout-out to recently reformed Brits Raging Speedhorn, who were singing along to Orange Goblin with glee, didn’t go down badly either.

Ward knows that metal is a brotherhood, knows that bands have to work their backsides off to get on the main stage of events like this, knows what it takes to build a fanbase through sheer hard graft. And the fact that his band are finally receiving the wider recognition they’ve thoroughly deserved – for two decades – makes performances like this all the more special.

Orange Goblin have a rich back catalogue to mine and they quite rightly picked tracks such as You Win, Some You Lose and Saruman’s Wish to please the old-timers on Saturday. However, they’ve also been writing some of the finest material of the career in recent years, so when Heavy Lies The Crown, from latest opus Back From The Abyss detonated, or Red Tide Rising from 2012’s A Eulogy For The Damned, was unleashed, they were greeted with windmilling hair and horns held aloft. The word ‘anthemic’ wouldn’t do their setlist justice and in an alternative universe, there would be million-selling live albums of shows like this… and unassuming guitarist Joe Hoare would be revered as the genius he surely is.

As it is, Orange Goblin will have to settle for a place in the heart of every self-respecting metalhead – and for their position as one of the best live rock acts in the country.

Richard Holmes