Over the years we saw this festival grow in body and in spirit from a schoolboy dangling Alice in Chains and Helloween in the winds of the Pays de la Loire, we’ve witnessed the teenager boasting Slayer and Cannibal Corpse and now we’re faced with a prodigious young man that excels to the point of genius in bringing forth the best he rock genre has to offer. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten I’m still talking about Hellfest. I can still see in front of me the Big Wheel, the Muscadet Domain, I can still taste the cold beer and I can still feel – at least this year – the unforgiving ever-present sun.
Although every year I’m taken aback with all the Improvements, some logic (better toilets, better food, better organization) and other quite surprising (Hellstreet, the Guitar, the rollercoaster, cashless payment for drinks) and although one’s enthusiasm diminishes with each year that passes, this 10th edition made me feel like a kid going to its first concerts.
The relentless stubbornness to improve has become pathological. The efforts put in to make this experience as comfortable and as enjoyable as possible should be an example to any organizer out there.
To name just a few improvements this year: the world of Warcraft tavern the cashless system of payment – card charged and used to pay for drinks, like a Hellfest Credit card, the new and improved Cathedral at the entrance, revamped bars, redesigning the extreme stages (stripped of their demonic elements we came to find so familiar but optimized for access), the screens in front of the tents announcing the next band to play, paved pathways towards the main stages.
Once imbued with the wonders the organizers have installed one could get down to business, the main reason we were all gathered: the Music. Each day was filled with the usual big names representing each genre of rock, from the prettiest flower to the sharpest horn on the diadem.
Friday we started the day with The Quireboys on Mainstage 1, coming from Britain to present their classic Hard Blues. We went on to see Truckfighters on the Valley, what better way than some stoner under the scolding sun. Godsmack played on the 2nd Mainstage in the afternoon, and they kicked ass! Seeing Billy Idol is like watching an old horror movie, but there are still people that enjoy seeing the old gods on stage. And speaking of gods, Sodom were next, spewing their germanic thrash, and Motorhead followed; what can I say, Lemmy will probably sing at his own funeral. Bloodbath have changed the vocalist and what a change they made: Nick Holmes, the preacher of gothic metal turned professional necromancer. Children of Bodom have the same hate as on their first album and they keep the standard high for Finland. Mastodon have risen to their own top of the mountain and their not far from being considered classics. With a reborn Randy, Lamb of God came to reap hell, damp it in whiskey and enjoy it with a side of chicken wings. On the Altar stage, late in the evening cam a band that you either love or you hate, you can’t have it any other way: Meshuggah. To culminate an already amazing day, symbols of the young and the old generations came on stage: punkers Dead Kennedys, a must for every music enthusiast and Slipknot whose energy on stage is intoxicating.
Saturday welcomed us with Infestus, a fresh take on a dusty side of black metal. Ghost Brigade could have well played later in the evening as they gathered quite a crowd. Airbourne caused mass hysteria and one could have not ignored the high number of Airbourne t-shirt wearers throughout the festival. Muutilation have come to represent the french black metal scene but it is weird to see an old band with the vast majority of the members being extremely young; nonetheless, they showed why France is a name to be feared in the metal scene. Terror need no introduction for the core lovers and they gave their best in the Warzone. Seeing Bodycount is like seeing the pas come to life and it is a pleasure to witness crossover as it was meant to be. A nice addition on the main stages were ZZ Top that were enjoyed by an interestingly high number of attendees. With Mayhem you don’t know what you’re going to get at each show. This time, Attila gathered and awakened all his demons inside him and gave a performance to remember. The time came for Hellfest to get its present: a magnificent fireworks show that left even the most less sensible metalheads in awe. The day ended peacefully with a bunch of oldschoolers, but with totally different musical directions: Scorpions on the main stages and Obituary on the Altar stage.
Last, but not least, not by a long shot, Sunday. Eths gave start to the last day of this year edition of Hellfest; who knew the southern french sun could nourish such an energetic band? The Haunted have not been shaken by their lineup changes, they came as strong as ever and gave start the Swedish fiesta that would last all day. Red fang have grown in popularity, this year moving to the main stages to present their stoner metal. Dark tranquility took melodic death metal to a place where nobody recognizes it. Just like In Flames yet with less kick. Hollywood Undead came up next and were probably the black sheep of the festival. Exodus would rather face true death then giving less the 100% on stage. A day to remember were one the few metalcore bands to play at Hellfest this year and as usual, they did it on the main stages. Eyehategod were a nice surprise for the fans of the genre and they brought the heavy air of New Orleans with them. The reason why Max(Cavalera Conspiracy) still is on the stage baffles many people or maybe the just choose to ignore it. Epica were a breath of fresh air, and to see Simone Simons is worth sitting in the melting sun. Limp Bizkit were one of the best performances of Hellfest this year, Fred Durst fucked shit up and I won’t be surprised to seeing them again in a year or two. In Flames were in the mood for metal and their show surely did not lack the energy their music seems to start missing on. What a tradition has it become to see Phil Anselmo in all his splendor on the Valley stage? What better way to end Hellfest than with Superjoint Ritual?
All in all, if you enjoy metal, why not do it on the eastern French coast, gobble down french beer and be pampered by the excellent details prepared by the organisers. We’re prepared to be amazed next year. Are you?
by Razvan Aprodu