My second Hellfest was even better than the first despite my health problems due
to the persistent heat and dust. No photos I am very sorry to say, we lost our
photographer due to unfortunate circumstances which could not be helped. Before
I get in to how Hellfest was even better this year I must say a big thank you to
my mate Gee Anzalone for the 36 hour round trip - he drove us from Turin to
Clisson – helped no doubt by the fact that he was buzzing after being confirmed
as the new DragonForce drummer. I must also thank the following people:
Lidia Buscaino who was with us keeping us out of too much trouble. Well, she
tried. From the Metal Market thanks to Charlotta & the Psycho Stores crew, Rudy
at Metal Kids Clothing and Ben & Marie from Merica Sounds (no typo).
Vincent and Laurent from www.tsunami.fr who handled the VIP press area making
sure all things technical ran smoothly.
– a volunteer team leader who went out of her way to get us to where we needed
to be to park the camper on Thursday morning when we arrived.
All the people I met in the VIP area for basically recognising that I am still
quite new to this kind of thing and being very helpful and giving me valuable
Margaux from the Jack Daniels bar and all her colleagues for being really
accommodating and friendly – this is how all bar staff should be!!
A massive thanks to the organisers of Hellfest for making this the best festival
I have been to. Again. A particular thanks to whoever it was that decided to do
what they did with the Metal Market this year which is basically take a chunk of
Camden town and put it in slap bang at the entrance to the festival – that was a
monumentally good move.
Finally, my dear friend Tari Mirabella who got me in to this whole new side of
festivals and opened the door for me to be able to get more heavily involved in
this kind of thing as something more than I had been previously able to do and
putting me in contact with the Power Of Metal team. Unfortunately she could not
attend for personal reasons. She was sorely missed.
will read that there are many big names absent from this review, such as Deep
Purple, Sabaton, Carcass, Soundgarden and Avenged Sevenfold. The reasons are my
lack of preparation for the conditions of the festival, which was exceptionally
hot. Apologies for that.
Sun cream goes on. It’s more than 25 degrees I don’t care what my weather app
says. It’s definitely hotter. Unfortunately I had to start the day a lot later
than I would have liked due to some personal circumstances requiring a phone
call back to England. After confirming all is well I can start to see some
Trivium have swapped their planned slot with Death Angel and so they’re on
earlier than expected. It’s a change that holds little difference to me. They
are on top form and love them or hate them they give the performance everything
they have. Very tight set. A good blend of songs. It’s easy to forget that
they’ve barely hit thirty.
Now, to those of use that have seen Rob Zombie at night, there’s not a lot that
he can do to create the same effect in the day. He’d said as much in his press
conference earlier with guitarist John 5. Sure enough it simply isn’t the same
thing. I mean it’s good and all, and the Diamond Head/Metallica covers go down
very well too. To squash any rumours – Rob does sod all in terms of preparation
for his gig. There is no kind of mind set ritual that people apparently think is
the case, as he clarified in the press conference.
Sepultura are up next. It’s all crunchy and heavy which is to be expected. I
cannot help but pay particular attention to Roots Bloody Roots, since I know
Soulfly will be performing when they take the stage later on over the weekend. I
have actually never seen Sepultura in any incarnation and though like most
people I grew up with Max and Igor, their absence isn’t an issue. Derrick is
very energetic and they have a commanding stage presence which I observe from a
safe distance cos the crowd are going nuts.
Iron Maiden have got everyone psyched up and going mental. It’s true about
Maiden fans being the best metal fans there are. People went out of their way to
ensure my friend could get to a spot where she could see the band. The comradery
that this band create among their fans is something I have never witnessed from
any other band. This is still the Maiden England tour, albeit the final dates,
so pretty much everything is the same as last year. A blend of the first 12
years of Maiden material with nothing later than the Fear Of The Dark album. Not
that it matters – it’s weird to see them playing Fear Of The Dark before the sun
has even set. It really doesn’t seem like the set lasts two hours. Bruce is
speaking French which is good for the fans but aside from the football results I
have no idea what he is saying. All too quickly it was over, but unlike UK
festivals with our shitty curfew laws, main stage bands can play here until 2am.
It’s weird to see bands on the main stage after the headline act, but I make my
way across for Slayer.
Gary Holt is a fine replacement for the late Jeff Hanneman, not that it’s the
same seeing them without him, which I have before. This is my first Slayer
experience without Dave Lombardo on the drums but Paul Bostaph hits it on the
nail. The surprise, and a damn good surprise, is Tom Araya hitting the Angel Of
Death opening scream. Wasn’t expecting that. Slayer fans appear to have saved
their energy. It’s a good job Slayer were later than Maiden cos I don’t see how
any of these fans could have any energy left and would have missed a fantastic
set. Halfway through the set and I can’t see the stage for dust. It’s a
persistent problem and I can only say they sounded pretty good from where I was.
I had initially moved from the side of the stage to a little further back where
it was not so heavy on the bass. I try in vain to sing along to faves like
Seasons, War Ensemble and Raining Blood but all I get is a mouth full of dust
for the trouble.
It’s back to the VIP area for refreshments and the lavs, and a brief rest.
Heading back for another thrash metal band, this time it’s Death Angel. It
appears the trick to avoid the dust is to get right to the front because then it
went over our heads instead of in to our faces. The audience has thinned out by
now as people start returning to their tents. That’s a shame because Death Angel
deserve a bigger crowd in my opinion. having never seen them before I am lucky
to now as this is their only European date and they make sure it is an absolute
killer. Mark says ‘motherfuckers’ more times than anyone else over the entire
festival. Theirs is the distinction shared with bands like Testament and
Annihilator – a slightly later arrival to the scene but in many ways superior to
their predecessors. Again I say, they deserve a bigger crowd and I wish they had
been able to play their original slot which would have ensured they got it.
Lez Zeppelin. Females doing Led Zep covers. Great musicians, enjoyable to watch
but I must say I do not necessarily agree with a cover band getting a main stage
spot. It’s different, yes. It is a novelty to me. I really enjoyed the covers
and the way they handled the crowd but I just don’t think it’s main stage
material. The crowd obviously disagree.
Hellfest has always had a massive black metal scene and it has never been my
thing in the least but I make my way to the Altar to watch Incantation. Inside a
giant tent when it’s almost 30 degrees outside is taking its toll on many of the
fans but their resilience to remain focused on the performance despite suffering
is commendable. There’s something different among these fans and not being in to
the genre I cannot place it. Incantation themselves did not strike me as having
anything distinctive in their performance.
it becomes necessary to hydrate myself and apply more sun cream before being
back in time to watch Extreme. Gary in some places does suffer with the vocals
and unfortunately there are some songs that are markedly slower than you’d
expect, most notably Decadence Dance and It’s (a monster) which are
significantly slowed down and I don’t know why. Nuno and Gary have their moment
to shine when playing their most recognizable song, and perhaps the only song
known to most people that have heard of Extreme. I speak of course, of More Than
Words. Their heaviest song (emotionally speaking) as Gary puts it. It is
faultless. I get a kick at the end for thinking they are going to come in with
He Man Woman Hater but all we get is the insane guitar introduction to that song
before they finish with Get The Funk Out which again, is a little slower. I
don’t get that. It doesn’t hinder things too much but it does tend to stick in
Status Quo look and sound brilliant. I miss a couple of songs due to being in
severe danger of getting burned by the relentless sun. Sorry. We’re not used to
it in the UK so what can I tell you? An enjoyable medley of some of their most
famous songs sits nicely in the middle of the set springing up out of nowhere.
Who cares if they don’t use more than 3 chords? It’s worked for them for years
and nobody is complaining. Everyone is really enjoying this and I could easily
forget this is France as I watch people joining in with the singing. This was
great, one of the highlights of the day. Shame I couldn’t see the whole lot.
must apologize to Clutch. After they were forced to pull out of their show here
last year due to the death of a band members father, I was looking forward to
seeing them. It is a testament to how popular they are and how sorely they were
missed last year that I failed to see them because I couldn’t get anywhere near
to where they were playing. Now it’s one thing to nudge and brush your way past
people but I would literally have had to hurt people to get through to see the
show and I am not going to do that. So it’s good and bad news, I guess.
make the decision to take a break at this point. I don’t see a way of continuing
without being ill and not being able to do anything else for the festival so I
chill out in the press area, charge my phone, have something to eat and, most
regrettably, miss Deep Purple.
do not, however, miss Aerosmith. On our way to see them we met an angry bear who
had been hit one too many times by someone not understanding the sentiment
behind the bear costume. To find out what happened look on facebook #angryhellfestbear
because we want to find the injured bear man and talk about a couple of things.
Anyway, Aerosmith: I cant remember which of the Toxic Twins it was that once
said he would never get tired of seeing the lighters glowing across the crowd.
Well, no longer toxic and no longer lighters but rather mobile phones, I wonder
what his sentiment is now. This band are so good. A commanding presence that you
simply cannot appreciate without being there. Even in the times when things
falter a little in some of the higher notes it matters not. This band own the
night. A well thought out blend of songs to break up the ballads, of which there
are many, is a good move. Everyone is singing, everyone is holding up their
lighters…..sorry, I mean phones. It’s particularly nice to see Joe take lead
vocals on Freedom Fighter. I’m not keen on the Beatles so I couldn’t care less
for a cover of ‘Come Together’ even if it is by Aerosmith. Sorry everyone but I
literally switch off in that moment. Apologies, but I did indeed want to miss a
thing. Fortunately they hit back with Dude Looks Like A Lady and all I can think
of is Mrs Doubtfire as I am losing my voice wailing along trying to sing like an
idiot among the ecstatic fans.
I start the day thinking no more sun cream is necessary as there is a massive
black cloud forming directly over Hellfest. So, heading out to the metal market
for some much needed patches I come back to the main area afterwards to discover
that the clouds have vanished, as if Ozzy had shouted at the sky telling the
clouds to fuck off until the festival was over. The result of this is that I do
end up quite badly burned on my head. I cure myself in time to see Crowbar.
It’s good to see Kirk back doing his own thing and leading his own band, no
disrespect whatsoever to Down. The pioneering sludge metal act get things moving
and get people riled up – I had the privilege of reviewing their most recent
album just last month and it’s great to see two of those tracks played live for
the first time though everything is a treat seeing as they have been away for
quite a while, but even though the classic High Rate Extinction was played in a
Down medley last year when they were in place of Clutch, it’s different seeing
them do it today.
Angra sounded heavier than I expected. I had only heard fleeting bits and pieces
before. I admit I had no idea that there singer was former Rhapsody Of Fire and
Labyrinth frontman Fabio Lore. I perhaps had the wrong impression of them. I had
not thought them to be as technical and given their reputation – which
admittedly I have researched in hindsight to know more about them – I should
have known what to expect. I think the fact that I didn’t was advantageous. They
did themselves no injustice and people were really into it despite the dust and
particularly the sun having caught quite a lot of other people off guard. This
is after all the third day and a lot of people seem to be suffering which is
often the way it goes at festivals. It does make me think that Angra are unlucky
in that respect, so I make the decision that every other band I see will be from
the front unless in order to get to the front I would have the same problems I
faced with Clutch.
have only ever seen Myles Kennedy with Slash, and not Alter Bridge so I didn’t
want to miss this if I could help it. There are not many voices that could be
considered ‘iconic’ but I do think Myles falls in to that category. It’s such a
stunning performance and he does give rise to the cliché that it’s all about the
frontman. The music is hitting everyone in the right places but the man simply
steals the show. It’s the same thing people said about Freddie Mercury or Eddie
Vedder, or Chris Cornell. He stole it when I saw him with Slash too. The man
just owns the crowd. It’s a hard thing to say because it distracts from the
band, but sometimes that’s what happens. It doubtless was not everyone's
experience but I can only reflect mine.
am fortunate now in that I do manage to get to the front for Annihilator. I was
very lucky cos I’m starting to feel quite ill at this point due to the sun but I
missed this band on tour last year and I have just been rehydrated and given a
dose of aftersun and being down the front shields me somewhat. If you want a
role model of how to play thrash metal with technical mastery and show people
that you’re enjoying every second of it, look at Jeff Waters. This for me was
the highest point of the entire festival. It was such a treat. Probably one of
the most complicated and fun songs ever in thrash metal, Brain Dance, was given
to us with the precision that I suspect only military personal are accustomed.
It’s very silly, and it makes no sense at all because it’s weird. It was such a
treat. That and Human Insecticide. You’d never know they have barely ever played
these songs – both over 20 years old – live. Jeff has this way of pulling off
blinding guitar skills and giving a surprised look in to the crowd that says
‘Woah what the fuck just happened there?’ and he does so without looking
arrogant in the least, where so many others fail and end up having a ‘look at me
aren’t I great?’ vibe. This band enjoy it so much. I guess they all do but
Annihilator succeed in showing their enjoyment more than any other band I have
seen at this festival. It really connects with everyone, there is a comic
element that blends so beautifully with their music. Outstanding stage presence.
Jeffs decision to play Alison Hell in the middle of the set so the band could
finish with Human Insecticide is a good move. All too quickly they have to
leave. In the unlikely event that Annihilator get to read this, I’d love Knight
Jumps Queen on your next tour pleeeeeeeeease!!!
Dark Angel are good, solid thrash metal that I witness live for the first time,
and even those that had seen them are doing so now for the first time in several
years since they reformed last year. I am on a buzz from Annihilator and
promptly get wacked in the head by someones foot while they are crowd surfing.
Right on the burn but that’s what happens when you get down the front for a
thrash metal band. The dust doesn’t pose the same problem from down here though,
and I enjoy a tight but not entirely traditional thrash metal set from a band
that I didn’t really know a lot about. I certainly didn’t know Gene Hoglan would
be there because I know he is with Testament but there he was, thundering away
further solidifying his position as one of the most revered drummers of the
Emperor have come a long way, gathering a monumental following across the world
that they can now be one of the final main stage acts. It’s darker than I
expected – the music, not the light. It matters not where I am because the
accursed sun has finally become non lethal. It’s no surprise that the crowd has
got bigger at this stage due to Sabbath being up next, but looking at the crowd
there was no doubt in my mind that the admiration for Emperor was flowing. You
expect to see people gathering around having the occasional glance at the other
stage to check out the other band while they wait for whoever is going to take
to the stage they are closer to. I didn’t get that with Emperor. I wonder if ,
given the fact that they are recently getting bigger, whether this is curiosity
on that part of others who may not have heard of them, or whether or not they
have actually been able to reach out to that many people. Their performance is
certainly reaching out, and positively from what I can see. It goes down very
well. I start to think that headlining the UK Bloodstock Festival might be too
small given the attention they received tonight.
Complications with parking arrangements mean we can only see an hour of Black
Sabbath before having to leave Hellfest. Ozzy starts a little off. Ok, a LOT
off. War Pigs is ok, Into The Void is worse, and it stays that way until Black
Sabbath. Ozzys voice has returned to him and it is no coincidence that the crowd
are significantly more enthused at this point. Tony is fighting his own personal
battles and the man has to be commended because you’d never know he was facing
the fight he’s fighting. Maximum respect. Geezer looks happy enough to be there
and he’s doing his part. Unfortunately by the time they play N.I.B it’s only
half way through their set and we have to leave. If this really is to be one of
the last times they play together as Tony has stated, it’s by no means an
embarrassing end to their legacy. They’ve done so much, pioneered a movement
that became a way of life for so many and I’m glad to have seen them honoured at
Leaving the bands aside, this is a place where as I said last year, is
absolutely dedicated to making sure everyone has a good time. People go above
and beyond for the love of something that so many people still think is devil
worshipping heathen noise. They’ve utterly surpassed my expectations which were
riding high from last year. Even the town of Clisson itself, where Gee and I
went for a few drinks on Thursday night, is full of friendly people who
appreciate what this festival brings to their town and are very welcoming and
accommodating of our presence. I remain convinced that Hellfest can continue to
get better each time and I look forward to being there throughout. I’ll just
remember a bandana and aftersun over the next years so I can cover more bands
than was possible this year. Final apologies for that to those who are reading
this. Thank you Hellfest.