Festival: Hellfest

Bands: Impaled Nazarene, Rob Zombie, Sepultura, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Enslaved, Skyclad, Eluveitie, Nile, Gorgoroth, Carcass, Unleashed, Behemoth, Paradise Lost, Black Sabbath

Location: Clisson, France

Dates: 20th, 21st & 22nd June 2014

 

  

Friday

For most bands, playing the early afternoon slots is never desirable but that did not bother Impaled Nazarene the slightest. The Finnish black metallers burst onto the Temple stage, battering their way through a short and lively set that featured many songs from their latest record 'Vigorous' and 'Liberating Death'.  

Meanwhile, on the main stage Rob Zombie attracted large numbers but his show was somewhat of a let down.  Far too many times he seemed to be mumbling his lyrics and played an extended unnecessary montage of Alice Cooper and Metallica songs towards the close of his show.  Next door on main stage 2 Sepultura arrive to an enormous reception proving that they have indeed continued to be successful without Max Cavelera.  Livening things up, Brazilís favourite death metal heroes gave a solid performance closing with the classic Roots Bloody Roots. 

Following on from Sepultura, Iron Maiden did what they do best.  They played, they conquered and stole the show on Friday night.  Adding crowd pleasers such as 'Run to the Hills' and 'Number of the Beast' to this years set along with the colossal 'Phantom of the Opera' and 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son', Maiden ensured a good night was had by all. 

Now the night usually ends when the headline band has finished but not at Hellfest!  Next up, Slayer took to the stage but came out very flat after Iron Maidenís emphatic performance. Too often, they just looked like they were just going through the motions and seemed to lose that vicious ferocity that they once had. 

Back over at the Temple, Enslaved got a late start at 12am but that did not deter the Norwegian Viking warriors.  Pulling in quite a respectable crowd, Enslaved thrashed their way through the likes of 'Ethica Odini', 'Allfūr Oūinn' and 'Ruun'.  But it was all over far too soon and this vibrant performance was a fitting end to Friday.  

Saturday

The brilliant Skyclad kicked off my Saturday with a thoroughly energetic set that saw the Temple stage bouncing from the first song to the last.  Newcastleís Folk metal outfit blasted through memorable songs such as 'Parliament of Fools', 'The Declaration of Indifference' and 'Thinking Allowed'.  Folk metal was in abundance as Eluveitie gave an incredible performance that saw everybody in the Temple rapt by the infectious folk metal melodies of the Swiss death metallers. Clap-happy songs were plentiful and the array of instruments used by the 8-piece band was simply brilliant.  From bagpipes, banjos, flutes to fiddle solos I could not help but get carried away and jump along to this musically charged show.

It was a performance that Nile simply could not live up to.  Though they were undoubtedly one of the heaviest bands I saw over the weekend, I am afraid to say that following Eluveitie caused quite a flat sounding comparison.  One band I was particularly eager to catch over the weekend was Gorgoroth.  Unfortunately, other than energetic frontman Hoest, they lacked any enthusiasm.  I believe they cut their set short which was also quite disappointing.  

However, my disappointment quickly turned to joy as extreme metal quartet Carcass were the headline act on the Altar.  Opening with 'Buried Dreams', the Liverpool metallerís instantly had the crowd in the palm of their hands.  Still touring the stunning 'Surgical Steel' album, the audience was treated to 'Captive Bolt Pistol' and 'The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills'.  Never one to leave out the hits, 'Reek of Putrefaction', 'This Mortal Coil' and 'Corporal Jigsaw Quandary' were featured before the grand finale 'Heartwork. Carcass' put on a stellar show and deservedly, they were the best of the bands I saw on Saturday.  

Sunday

Unleashed made their debut Hellfest appearance on Sunday afternoon at the Altar.  Not wanting to disappoint, the Swedish death metal titans got straight down to business storming their way through a set that was full of enough brutal riffs to satisfy the most hardcore metal-head.  A special award should be given to The Black Dahlia Murder for achieving the largest circle pits known to man.  The Michigan metallers are always brilliant live and played a set list that was bursting with energy from the minute they took to the stage.  

Elsewhere, Behemoth stole the entire festival with an incredible show that had me f*****g floored! Polandís finest blackened death metal outfit gave a performance that was so hostile, brutal and dynamically charged, my jaw was literally on the ground.  Particular highlights were hearing several tracks from 'The Satanist' (which I am touting as a strong contender for album of the year) such as 'Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer', 'Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel' and the majestic 'O Father O Satan O Sun'. 

Paradise Lost got off to a slower start as it sounded as though they were plagued with technical issues during their first few numbers.  But by the time they got round to playing their classic 'Enchantment', it was all smooth running as the gothic metallers got fists pumping in the air along to 'Erased', 'One Second' and fittingly closed with 'Just Say Words'.  Back over on mainstage 2 I had the honour of witnessing black metal royalty Emperor live, which was a truly humbling experience. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their classic album 'In the Nightside Eclipse' and reunited with original drummer Bard Faust, Emperor flawlessly played the entire album from start to finish.  It was a truly spectacular show and this was one of the highlights of my entire weekend. 

Black Sabbath promptly followed headlining main stage 1 and every single person attending the festival crammed into the main arena to catch a glimpse of the action.  Opening with the classic 'War Pigs', the godfathers of metal continued with 'Into the Void' and 'Snowblind'.  It was not a typical greatest hits set as several songs from their latest record 13 fitted alongside old relics such as 'Behind the Wall of Sleep'.  Sabbath were simply sublime and this rounded off the perfect weekend.   

The Festival

Ok, aside from the unbelievable lineup at this years festival there are some other fantastic qualities that Hellfest has which are worth discussion.

The layout of the arena was faultless and planned to perfection.  Main stages 1 and 2 were placed directly next to each other so there was only a 5-minute wait to see the following act.  A mere 2-minute walk led to the Temple and the Altar, which were the platform for a profusion of black and death metal.  Placed at opposite ends in a giant (and bloody hot) tent, the bands were alternated exactly like the main stages, which eliminated waiting around and clock watching.  

The Supplementary Warzone and Valley stages were also placed within close proximity to the others.  Additionally, the lack of curfew meant bands were allowed to play on till the early hours of the morning and keep the metal party going that little bit longer.  The bars were plentiful and thankfully there was a small bit of forested land at the foot of the arena that provided shelter from the scorching sun that loomed over the entire weekend.

I had very few complaints to make other than that the campsites were unorganized and there was clearly not enough room for latecomers to pitch their tents.  Some of the campsites (including mine) did not have toilets, which meant I had a minimum of a 10-minute walk to find the nearest loos!  Just down from the campsite lay the vibrant ĎHell Cityí, this small town square had a clothing and footwear store, a tattoo shop and two giant markets selling everything from clothing, jewelry, cds and rare vinylís, so pretty much everything a metal-head could ask for!  The merchandise was fairly priced too as a t-shirt cost only 18 euro (about £15 in sterling), which UK festival goers will know is a far more reasonable price compared to the £25 we usually get charged. 

One of the best points about Hellfest was its location.  Placed next to an industrial estate, the campsite was only a 15-minute walk to a large supermarket.  It was incredibly cheap and cut my food expenditure by a large portion.  Excluding the few train fares I had to pay for, my overall spending for the weekend came in at around 110 euros and this included the merchandise I bought.  This was a very cheap weekend and I could not have asked for more in terms of value.

The weather was a struggle to deal with at times.  Although there was not a cloud in the sky the entire weekend, the sun sadly restricted the amount of time I could spend in the arena watching bands, as it was simply far too hot and draining.  I skipped seeing several bands in the afternoons simply because the heat rose to unbearable temperatures.  However, that did not stop the electric and vibrant atmosphere that was shared amongst the 120,000 plus attending. 

The evenings were another one of my highlights.  I spent some time just walking around the beautifully lit up arena and Hell City, soaking up the atmosphere.  Additionally, I enjoyed sitting and listening to the numerous parties coming from the neighboring campsites.  It was a superb weekend in which I met many new friends and saw hoards of friendly faces united by a common love of heavy metal music. 

Next year Hellfest will celebrate its 10th year anniversary and I will most certainly be attending. 

Review by: Rob Herald  

 

 

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