Pentre Fest 2023
McLean’s Pub, Pentre, Deeside
Saturday 25th February 2023
A weekend of full on metal and hard rock, Pentre Fest is a highlight of my musical calendar. Held at McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales over two days, the event always showcases some of the best bands from around a vast area of the UK.
This year I missed Friday’s gig as I was otherwise engaged. However, I was raring to go for Day 2, and a whole load of awesome music. Here’s my review for Ever Metal, covering everything I could of that day’s entertainment.
Day 2 at Pentre fest – you could say I was a bit excited to get going. The ever-reliable Edd Case was performing in the marquee outside as I arrived, so I missed a chunk of his set sadly, as I paid my hard earned coin to get in and neck my first ale. Luckily, Edd did another slot of his excellent acoustic performance later on, so I got to catch him then. I think he was filling in for some band called Trashatouille, who couldn’t be arsed to turn up and attempt to play their own acoustic effort.
First band on the indoor main stage was Scarfoot, and they made a hell of an impression. A three-piece band, they add an extra edge to their already formidable musicianship with the use of a 12 string guitar or a Dobro. This gives the band a huge, Zep-epic and individual sound. They all play with a convincing passion and were absolutely enthralling. I’d never seen them before, but had caught singer/guitarist Oliver Carins last year doing a solo acoustic set. Next time, these guys need to be higher up the bill! Scarfoot also blazed all over the acoustic stage later on, with a similarly massive sounding set, even without the drums.
Next on the second stage: a World Exclusive Live Debut! Frank Williams in his first official live gig, though sadly not billed as Victim of Damp. Frank is a Pentre Fest die hard, an unsung hero who has supported the event and pitched in with Fozzie and Beany from the beginning. This afternoon, Frank graced us with some acoustic covers (nice bit of Floyd) and banter, then introduced some comrades to help with humorous originals such as ‘Beany’s Car is Full of Shit’. Excellent crowd participation helped Frank’s set gallop home as a pedigree winner.
It really wouldn’t be Pentre Fest without these guys. With a line-up change – or should I say, addition – in the shape of new vocalist, Gaz (who used to be the drummer. Come on, keep up!). This latest incarnation of Lullaby for a Unicorn was a refreshed and fun stallion, rather than a lame pony. There’s a little work to do to settle the new line-up in, but it was the same boisterous energy as ever as the Unicorn boys turned Pentre into a beautiful, rainbow adorned meadow. Or blood-soaked battle field of metal mayhem, you choose.
Scarfoot was next on the second stage. I’ve already covered that, go back and read it again.
Despite a tech issue with the bass throwing a wangler with the first song, The Human Condition kept their shit together and provided another surprise. I had done no research whatsoever and didn’t know what to expect. By Odin’s beard, The Human Condition are a megalithic, doom metal colossus! Doom in the vein of Candlemass, or think Geoff Tate screaming for Trouble. Riffs are drip fed, leaving the audience begging for each new note. Add the most powerful live vocals I’ve heard in eons, and you have a force of biblical proportions. I bought a CD. You should check them out NOW.
Back to the Second stage for an acoustic Pelugion set – but we’ll get to them later.
A melodic deathcore band from Manchester way, Portrayal of Ruinn isn’t quite my thing on paper, but fucking awesome live. Possibly the most energetic band on stage at Pentre Fest all day, their combination of gutsy, nasty metal and bouncy, yet ferocious vocals proved a winner. They also know how to pace their set brilliantly – a few mellow sections lull the crowd into a comfy security blanket, only to have it ripped maliciously away. It’s the audio equivalent of a Video Nasty psycho killer – you’re never safe, Portrayal of Ruinn will never stop – and they will get you in the end!
Reading back my notes here, and I can’t make a thing out of them. All I can fathom is that I REALLY liked this band: “Syncolima = great!” is about all I’ve got. They were excellent. Some kind of biker/stoner super heavy rock, they have groove aplenty and massive fuzzed out riffs. This three-piece from Mansfield, Notts were unmissable. New album “Wavelengths” is out soon, you’d be wise to watch out for it.
Wait a minute – it’s that bloke from Bad Earth doing an acoustic set! Yes, it’s Steve from one of Pentre Fest’s favourite bands, backed with the other two ‘orrible ‘erberts, Karl and Ben (so semi acoustic, then?). The Bad Earth songs translate surprisingly well to the stripped-down sound, though they can’t compare to the full force fury of the full trio amped up and going for it. But then, what could? A great set that also included some cruel (ie hilarious) comedy signage behind Steve’s head, it also delivered a much needed bongo workout that was otherwise sadly lacking this year.
Mind. Blown. Thank the trident of Posiedon, King Kraken travelled up from South Wales (a right old trek) to play Pentre Fest, and I’m so glad they did. The Kraken are a huge, boisterous metal machine with crushing riffs and awash with an almost psychedelic lead guitar. My favourite band of the day, despite fierce competition – I made off with some booty from the merch desk and toasted their performance with a tankard of ale. Please check this band out, you will not regret it. Magnificent!
Last year, one man electronica fiend Leatherback was first on the Pentre Fest main stage. This year, it’s a second stage headlining slot, which worked well. Nine Inch Nails comparisons are obvious, but relevant when there’s a cover of a Reznor classic included. Leatherback ripped through a roaring set that went down extremely well with the lively crowd, even though it was freezing outside – receiving a well-deserved, enthusiastic reception.
Pelugion had performed an excellent acoustic set on the second stage earlier, which seems to have been a great way for them to warm up for their main stage appearance. I’ve seen these guys before at Pentre Fest and they never disappoint. Skull smashing mega riffs, born from Sabbath and with a dose of Alice in Chains and early Soundgarden – a stoner/alt metal monster – is what you can expect. These guys are super professional, but with grit and determination that keeps the performance compelling.
Headliners on the final day of Pentre Fest, The K*nts drove over five hours from down Essex way to entertain us. With hits such as that Christmas favourite ‘Boris Johnson is a F*cking C*nt’ and ‘F*ck the Tories’, we knew we were in for a treat. Hilariously, the Green Room reserved for the bands had been double booked with a meeting for a local Masonic Lodge. I wonder how The K*nts and this bunch of blazer-and-badge wearing eighty-year-olds got along back stage. Honestly, you can’t make this shit up. It’s like Phoenix Nights on crack.
A strange choice to headline a metal festival for some, never the less The K*nts put on a top show and had the audience on their side before the first song was even finished. Delightfully obscene, but with a political edge that helps retain a tiny bit of highbrow cred too, it’s like Sham 69 with Tourette’s. Most of the song titles are unrepeatable for a family website like Ever Metal, but let’s just say that The K*nts and their filthy brand of punk rock and humour were a mad but genius way to finish Pentre Fest off. And it probably will be finished off, if those old Masonic dudes have anything to say about it.
Oh, and yeah – Fuck the Tories.
It was my absolute pleasure to cover Pentre Fest for Ever Metal again this year. Huge thanks to the bands, the audience, and the staff at McLean’s for putting this on. And finally, thanks to Fozzy and Beany for daring to dream it up and make it happen.
I just wish Pentre Fest could be every weekend. Or once a month, at least.
Catch up with news at the following pages: N.E.W. Metal Productions, Goodfor Audio, McLeans Pentre.