@Hammerfest, Hafan Y Môr Holiday Park, Pwllheli, North Wales, 10 March 2016

Less than two weeks before this show, long-serving guitarist Adam Sherriff parted ways with Druganaut. Not the best preparation, you would guess, for the Tynesiders’ return to Hammerfest. And by opting to remain as a quartet, rather than recruit a replacement, the boys have made a brave move…  one that was put to the test in North Wales, a long way from the comfort of their home turf.

However, if their Thursday set was anything to go by, Druganaut have nothing to fear – this was a lean, stripped down (in the case of vocalist Craig Relf, literally) and hungry version of the band, determined not to let anything stop them. Led by a frontman whose cheeky quips were as numerous as his impressive tattoos, the four-piece were ideal party starters, their ‘high energy stoner rock’ providing a feast of mighty metallic riffs and booty-shaking groove.

Many people in the crowd seemed to have remembered the Newcastle act’s 2014 performance and two years later, they were ready for more… the uninitiated, meanwhile, may have wondered what they had wandered in to, but there were plenty of grins around as Relf and his cohorts unleashed the infectious, high velocity doom-boogie of Carradine’s Closet and Top Bunk Hunk.

There were one or two moments – oldie Equestrian Dreams perhaps – when the extra muscle and texture granted by a second guitar may have been welcome, yet they were eclipsed by track after track of adrenaline-soaked, fist pumping metal. Even Mad Cash 4 Drugs Yo! – one of Druganaut’s heaviest, most abrasive songs – didn’t sound neutered by the lack of an extra six strings, with guitarist Kyle Partridge and bassist William Baxter threatening to disintegrate the PA with a thunderous racket.

It’s early days and there will be more challenges to overcome, but the streamlined Druganaut certainly brought their A-game to Hammerfest… and were loved for it.