What had they said about bad French organisation? I can tell you at once: either it was a cliché that came to me from people who spread wrong info without checking or having any experience with Hellfest, or the Hellfest committee has done a phenomenal work to grant every visitor with quality all the way.
Since the festival's first version in 2006, the Hellfest emplacement has changed twice. This year is the premiere on the new field, still in Clisson, and is quite a success in terms of distance between the camping and the gig area. You don't need to walk for 20 minutes from your tent to the gig area. A bit dumb that one has to queue to enter, there isn't always enough staff by the gates at rush hours.
When we arrive on Friday at the middle of the day, quite a lot of people have already taken place on the field, but still most of the visitors are to arrive. We share a local train from the speed train station in Nantes to Clisson with a load of metalheads, very still ones, rather philosophing on music or sleeping than (s)training their vocal cords as is custom on means of transportation to festivals. Quite impressive and relaxing for old ears as mine.
At the foot of the station we are met by local taxis hired to drive people to the festival area for the mean sum of 2 euros per head. Cheap and convenient although at some festivals the transportation is free of charge. The advantage here is that the waiting time is short, at least if you manage to claim your turn in the row.
The festival place is situated at approximately 30 min walk from the station. With luggage and not knowing the way, I highly recommend the taxi solution, as the signalisation isn't profusing.
Waiting time by the pass box is short; you might have to wait longer to be accredited.
Camping: orientation is made easy by towers of different colours marked «green camp», «red camp», «white camp» and other signs, like the Hellfest crosses, thus making tent finding easy in the night, hadn't it been for the fact that I manage to walk past my place several times, blended by the uber strong projection lights.
The camp is held in proper state by volunteers strolling the place with big plastic bags, gathering trash. The fact that several festivalers also fill bag after bag is that trash collection can be rewarded with right of visit of the VIP area.
Facilities: come on, this is something a festival as big as Hellfest can manage to do something with next time. Far too few, both on the camp and on the festival side! And I suppose showers are uncool at Hellfest. The queue is stretching beyond eyesight at all times of day, don't tell me anything else, and the water is said to be cold after the sun has come up; mind you, I didn't even bother trying and missing half a day with bands for catching a flu.
As practical matters are solved very fast, including transportation, accreditation, finding of a tent spot and putting up the tent, we're ready in a glimpse of an eye to check out life on the fest. French people are obviously not on the festival to rest in their tent, but as faithful metal enthusiasts on a yearly quest, they are already filling their ears with metal, at a rather early hour of the day. When there are so many bands on the line-up, playing time starts early. Might not be that practical for everyone, but I suppose the rule down there is to come the day before. Some of the first small bands I wanted to check out have already played, but well, there will be plenty enough to do today.
Friday June 15th
One of the first bands to take the Altar stage this year is
Benediction. Their bombastic energy reaches us right away, though we only get to see the end of the show, coming straight from the train. No need to say they'll be played at home when I return.
Solstafir - I got to know as a demo band back in the 90's. The band has been touring extensively this last spring, among others visiting the well-known Inferno Festival of Oslo, Norway. Solstafir's apparently enjoying a regain of life theses days. The great attendance on this first morning of festival is quite encouraging. Solstafir's mellow tunes first reach to the audience with a rather shy demeanor that graduately takes more place in a varied yet unsettled style.
Endstille shows a comfortable face, aided with great performance skills. This way, their cut-through metal gains the confidence of the audience. I still cannot say variation is the master word when it comes to Endstille. When I reviewed their album in 2010, I felt something was missing and now I get it: I needed to see them live to get the most out of their music. Have to say the band comes at their right this afternoon on the Temple stage.
Darkspace's machinal industrial-ish black-metal leads to a cold climax, not without reminding of Limbonic Art's exploits in these means. The band's ghoullike presence and performance give a feeling of unity, a sort of mesmerisement. Well done.
Brujeria's guerilla metal is the afternoon's attraction. The musicians' performance is combattive, greatly communicative, as much live as on their Cds. Brujeria's engagement to their audience gives place to monologues in Mexican between the songs, which contributes to liven up the show even more and full support from the pit.
The rather introvert energy that characterises
Taake is at its place.The band skilledly weave a thread with the most angry material they have, sustained by a mood of the fiercest that builds up the atmosphere of this great performance. The set is short but varied, the band makes the most of the time they have.
The little I get to hear of
Satyricon tonight makes the day complete. The band's sound comes at its rightest on the Temple stage. The band uses their best effort to please the European followers. «Hvite Krists Død» will be ringing through my ears for a long long time.
Megadeth delivers a good show, as usual, a good show without any surprises. The string trio deploy activity across the stage all the way. The usual hits are present, which pleases the French audience very much. No incident, no peak either. I have remembered some Megadeth shows better than this one.
The expectations when it came to
King Diamond's show were rather high, I'd say, given the reputation of the lad. Atmospheric intro, conceptual scenery with smoke, passerel, manor og graveyard grid, even a dancer, and of course the man in his make up, all is there. The show is complete, staged, yet it doesn't reach out. There is a big gap between the pounding sound of the band and the performance of the King. Pity. Those who have been die hard fans for many years, now standing at the front row, tell me that this show alone was worth the trip.
A great day is already over. There has hardly been any break throughout the day, and given Hellfest's usual programmation, the two following days are likely to be as busy as this Friday.
Saturday, June 16th
Sacred Reich love what they do and they share it with the audience. The legendary act gives us a great moment of metal in an alliage of techinicity, good communication, great groove to warm up the Main Stage 2. Few bands have the integrity these guys show today. Long live!
Uriah Heep, one of the biggest names this year, was naturally a must. The genre suits them, they keep true to themselves, using good old scene moves in a natural way, without pretending to be something they are not, with an energy many youngsters could envy them. They could use more time to settle the songs, take it more easy sometimes, as they seem to play a bit mechanically through the set. This is still a refreshing show driven by a band strong of 40 years of experience.
Once youth gone wild,
Sebastian Bach is forever and ever breathing for rocking stages. I'm a bit astonished that the audience counts as many youngsters, as I thought Bach's golden days were a bit passé. Seems anyway like the frontman isn't tiring of delivering jokes, long tirades all in French and of course music. The sound is big, the set is long, intense, mostly Skid Row material, which couldn't please the audience more. A great show from the Sebastian Bach band.
Unearth's something of a riff machine, balanced by sought melodies. Their energy and mastering of the stage situation is on top of that beyond compare. In fact, the performance is so good that I could fancy being at home and listening to them at my level, taking my time, playing them in a loop. No frills in this show, only technicity, great sound, a band that's grateful and giving back to their followers. Good feeling.
I have three words for
Machine Head: intense, trance-like, sincere. The band touches with their strong musical identity. The band delivers a cover of War Pigs that for me is titillating the fantastic Faith No More's live version, which for me is no easy achievement. Simply a grand show from Machine Head, a band that deserves deep respect.
GN'R make an ice cold appearance, rendered with the mimics Axl Rose would have had back in the days. Plagiating itself is about the contrary of what I've seen today. Why rely on old videos and not present oneself as an evolving artist? With Axl's knowledge of music and experience of the stage, much could have been done to deliver something fresh and independant, not an uncomfortable echo from the past.
Behemoth headlining the Temple stage do all but let the audience indifferent. Their pounding extreme metal comes at its rightest tonight. The incredibly great sound bands are granted at the Hellfest is fully honoured. The French audience won't lose a bit of the show, struggling to keep their rank in front of the stage, avid of Behemoth's message. I had seen the band more involved and communicating at other festivals though.
Sunday, June 17th
On Sunday, we still feel alive! Good atmosphere on the camp, friendly people, some sun, and I've got a full timetable.
First band out today for me would be
Girlschool. Obviously, the choice was easy for the festivalers. The legendary hard rocking girl band gather a huge audience with their great drive and band chemistry.
Insomnium show skills, consistency, commitment. The well-worked flow I feel today is what I needed as a complement to their albums. They make more impact live and the release of energy comes out better in this setting. The band's simply captivating. One sees what Scandinavian metal has to bring to the scene. The response to Insomnium's performance is unanimous, which is well deserved.
Blood Red Throne has concocted an explosion of a show, a hellblazing, pounding extreme metal, performed with a hard as a rock demeanor. The audience absorbs the impact with interest and calm. BRT's technical metal is however sure to gather the hard core of the festivalers this afternoon.
Ihsahn's clean, precise, captivating show is like a musical orgasm.
Pentagram, the legendary doom band over forty years is a real moment of enjoyment. The Valley tent is already packed with people when I arrive, so I'll be standing several feet at the rear of the tent. The groovy energy delivered by the possessed band reaches out all the same.
It is strange to see
Mötley Crüe on a stage for someone who's known them for a couple of decades, a bit surnatural, even, event though one knows what one's gonna get. Mötley are true to themselves, and I just can't take it. The show is honourably atttended, but not given the time of playing (people have emerged form their naps, eating time is over aso). The fact that the band is to play in Paris the day after may have something to do with it...
Arcturus has, as far as I can recall, never been in such a fury. The band is completely committed and raging, especially the usually timid lead guitarist. Simen's vocals are in a great shape, the communication, both verbal and gestual is a big success. The band are currently touring and will be headlining the Mølla Festival in Southern Norway, so if some of you are on holidays, I'd recommend the detour to Gjerstad in August!
For those who may doubt it,
Ozzy Osbourne is worth 2 hours under the pouring rain and cold followed by a night hacking teeth.
Dimmu Borgir was to be the final choice for tonight. Luckily the band doesn't give reason to be disappointed, with a well balanced show with hits of old and less played songs in the little time they have.
Positive echos from the mates I've been sharing the gig experience with lead me, once home again, to dig into Oranssi Pazuzu, SunnO))), Ufomammut, Alcest, Vulture Industries, Avulsed, Dying Fetus, the latter being our album of the month (July 2012).
It has been known for a while that the Hellfest crew know no obstacles when it comes to the programmation; this year again, they have done a great job with the booking, still making it difficult to chose between simutaneous gigs once in a while; it is easier when you have the choice between bands you have little experience of or affectionate a special genre and can hold you to one gig area. The solution with the alternating Altar and Temple stages, which are part of the same tent and host mostly extreme metal bands, is a great solution not to miss gigs.
To take a break from extensive gig attendance, we took detours to the VIP area, which I have to praise too. This was a great place to rest and work at least if the weather is great. The bar tent is packed the whole time but there are plenty sitting instruments and hammocks or grass to lie on outside. Beer they have to, and art! Pics are unluckily delayed, my cam being on holidays atm.
Decoration all around the festival is really unique, sought; the designers really have made a great job.
An experience to repeat or so I hear from many I talk to! Hellfest will live, long live Hellfest!