Hellfest celebrates its 10th anniversary this year so we’ll have to adjust our pants to a yet another epic line-up. Just like in the previous years, the festival takes place in the picturesque surroundings of Clisson, France. Between 19-21st June the organisers of Hellfest promise no less than a little piece of musical history with the help of some legendary bands on six stages.
The two mainstages bring you the big names. For the fans of punk and hardcore the Warzone stage provides the base camp. If you’re more into stoner rock and doom the Valley stage is your port of call. Everything black, death and corpsepaint will gather at the stages of the Altar and the Temple.
There are many reasons this festival gets sold out earlier every year. Apart from the actual line-up, what gives the essence of Hellfest is the experience you can’t get elsewhere and it ticks many boxes. Do you want to listen to your personal favourites? Just camp in front of the stage of your choice and you’ll get entertained for three whole days. Do you want to educate yourself with bands or genres you’re not familiar with? You can do that, too. Do you want to see the bands of your teenage years and bring back some memories? No problem. Do you want to see bands your parents raised some hell to? Sorted.
The Valley stage takes place under a huge tent and when you enter that tent you instantly feel as if you enter a whole new world. For fans of stoner and hard rock, sludge, doom, psychedelic and alternative metal this tent will be the place which provides shelter from the harsh sunlight and a kind of Woodstockian feel for relaxing between bands. Let’s take a look at the bands who will take you to another dimension. The organisers put together an impressive set of headliners for us, some of which will be a real treat.
Blues rock trio Triggerfinger is not your average rock band. They might look a bit mature and wear stylish suits but the rock ‘n’ roll energy they release could easily outshine twenty-something rock bands. What you can expect is sludgy riffs and bluesy vocals from Europe’s best kept secret.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a bad review of any albums of Mastodon. A band that is run by crazy guys who play seriously good music. Their latest release Once More ‘Round The Sun was critically acclaimed and it looks like they can’t go wrong. Well, we’ll see how roaring is that roaring sound and how catchy are those catchy riffs. The godfathers of American doom metal Saint Vitus will perform a special set with the band’s original singer Scott Reagers.
I have a strong feeling that Truckfighters somehow got lost in the world. What else could explain that a Swedish band could play that fine stoner rock which makes you feel driving in the desert somewhere in the United States. But if Truckfighters weren’t convincing enough to get in a car and make that long drive, Wovenhand will surely make you reconsider. The alternative country band from Colorado concocts folk, country, post-rock, old-time and other alternative genres which will certainly result in an unforgettable performance. British stoner rockers Orange Goblin with their latest studio album Back from the Abyss under their belt will definitely make their return set to Hellfest a memorable one. AHAB, German kings of funeral doom are also part of the Valley bill. Their Moby Dick-inspired take on this genre is very captivating and will leave the audience awed. Monarch!‘s music is extremely slow and heavy, and vocalist Emilie Bresson might look a fragile little girl but what she has in her throat is a voice that sweeps you off of your feet.
Phil Anselmo is a frequent returner to the grounds of Hellfest. This year he brings us a special gift. His band, Superjoint Ritual is on the road again after a long hiatus and chose Hellfest as one of the stops of their reunion tour. I’m also pretty sure that if I get to see Eyehategood’s set the same day I would see Mr Anselmo joining them for a song or two.
In the farthest corner of the festival site there is another stage called the Warzone. With not less popular names from the punk-rock-hardcore scene you can be the part of an old school punk rebellion or can also be taken by the whirpool of the hardcore anger. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the middle of a lethal mosh pit, even if you don’t want to dance. It will be difficult to stand still during the shows of these bands.
For instance, with an early start you can instantly turn mad for the heavy riffs of Despise You. The band successfully survived the ’90s, which wasn’t that easy when you were part of the neck-breaking hardcore scene in the States back in those days.
During the gig of Defeater you can try to lick your wounds which you already received. These guys from Boston never try to hide their melodic side. Their latest full album Letters Home contains four acoustic tracks, which clearly shows the melodic side of their hardcore.
Peter and the Test Tube Babies’ name might sound familiar to many. The band was formed at the end of the ’70s in England and is considered to be part of the punk outbreak. Their sound definitely supports this as one of the biggest earmark of the subgenre is the good old British accent and sound.
Not so many bands remain active and reach the legendary status but Dead Kennedys did. The band were part of the American hardcore punk movement and built up a huge underground fan base. Have you ever seen a spiked punk jacket without a Dead Kennedys patch or logo? I haven’t. Tracks like ‘California Über Alles’ or ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ can be a good start if you are not familiar with them.
The name of Broken Teeth describes well what you can get during their gig in the moshpit. The hardcore aerobic lead by the band will be held whatever the weather. During their long existence Terror fought hard for its reputation. The band has always been responsible for shaping the hardcore sound and movement of the Los Angeles scene. According to frontman Scott Vogel’s own words, this band belongs more to the fans than to the band itself. They are currently working on their sixth studio album, The 25th Hour. ‘Stick Tight’ and ‘Betrayer’ are good starting points for getting to know them.
Brooklyn’s Biohazard is a household name and their logo should also be familiar to anyone into the heavier side of music. The band was formed in 1987 and since then they have released nine studio and two live albums along with several music videos. Biohazard were simply born from the unusual fuse of hardcore punk and heavy metal. I’m pretty sure many performers of the Warzone stage were more than likely influenced by them. A must-see piece of music history.
The highlight of this weekend could be the appearance of Body Count, fronted by the well-known ex-gangster and film actor Ice-T. The band is famous for its tough and honest lyrical subjects accompanied with heavy-riffed speed metal. Body Count will be a treat to watch. The track ‘Institutionalized’ is a big favourite. I wonder, though, if there is going to be a body count after the gig.
Let’s welcome a very powerful and aggressive formation in the person of Code Orange (earlier Code Orange Kids) with a female guitarist in the front. Their music is one of the most violent within the genre and also experimental on its own terms. It will be very exciting to see them on a relatively bigger stage than they usually play.
The American Snot celebrate their 20 years of existence and hopefully they will gladden us with a fascinating birthday set. The band is moving more to the direction of nu-metal so fans of early Korn, Coal Chamber or Deftones will enjoy their gig for sure.
After the singer, front man and punk role model Walter ‘Wattie’ Buchan’s heart attack recovery, The Exploited is still capable to spread their anarchist views with their original punk music. Their sound is moving somewhere on the edge of punk and thrash metal, and every living rebel soul will be happy to see them again. Wattie and co. will prove to us once and for all that ‘Punk’s Not Dead’.
Another long-lived band called NOFX will represent the Californian punk rock scene. Like a breath of fresh air in a house on fire – that’s how NOFX will affect us after the previous torture of never ending moshpits and mass fights. A band with a bit more positive attitude.
If you are a devoted fan of pogo or you are hard enough to stand those ‘kung-fu kicks’ from hardcore kids for three days, then the Warzone is likely to be your favourite stage.
Words by Laszlo Gabor Hegyi (Warzone) & Vivien Varga (Valley).