After a fourth year in a row visiting Hellfest in France I can still state that this extraordinary festival is still outstanding (at least for me) from the list of similarly-sized European festivals. There is no time to get bored here, there is no hour when you couldn’t find a band that fits to your musical taste and also there is no chance not to make new friends from the mass of over 15,000 metal fanatics. This festival is a perfect opportunity to escape and forget about the dull weekdays. Let’s see what happened during the first day following the list of bands that I could attend.
I think Solefald (Temple) tried to make their show even more unique as they invited Christopher Rådlund, a Norwagian painter who was on stage while the band was playing, but to be honest I didn’t really see the point of this little extra. The band played well, however, sometimes they turned the show into some kind of electric party which ruined the whole atmosphere to me. But no need to worry, it was still just the beginning.
The fans of All Pigs Must Die (Warzone) had to deal with a bit of rain but this is a slight issue during an open air festival especially if it’s a metalcore-hardcore-punk band which is giving a damn good gig in front of you. All Pigs Must Die was established in 2010 in Massachusetts and since then they have released two full albums with powerful and rock solid tracks. Constantly holding true to what the band is known for APMD performed several neck-breaking songs carefully selected from the band’s discography.
Behexen (Temple) from Finland was the first must-see band on my list. Although they had an early stage time, their performance worked out well and damaged plenty of innocent souls despite it was still daylight. Behexen’s most recent material titled The Poisonous Path came out a month before Hellfest so it was obvious they will open their set with a track from the new album. After the brand new ’Chalice of Abyssal Water’ they put more curses on us with older tracks such as ’By The Blessing of Satan’, ’Mouth of Leviathan’ and ’Cathedral of Ultimate Void’. The stage set was pretty simple, the band didn’t have any of their own decorations, only the outfit of the members could reinforce their satanic metal. They literaly looked like they’ve been puked upon the world by the horned one right before they stepped on stage. Such a shame they had only 40 minutes to play.
By now with some bypass the usual commuting between The Temple and The Altar stages become a tradition.
As it was expected the Polish death-thrash legend Vader (Altar) hoarded a massive crowd so I decided to stay on the side of The Temple stage and just listen to their set. The sound was good enough anyway so it didn’t matter if you stood in front of the mixing consoles or just stayed on the side. During the band’s over-three-decades long existence they proved that even from an Eastern European country with maximum effort you can gain huge success and good reputation worldwide. Nothing proves this better than the fact that this year Vader was invited to play at the 70000 Tons of Metal festival. Anyway, Vader’s set was selected from their not less than 12 full albums that were released since 1983 and tonight strangely they played exactly 12 songs. The crowd was incredibly grateful for their show and did just exactly what the band wanted them to do: pure chaos.
Just like many other bands Inquisition (Temple) is also a regular performer not just at Hellfest but at most major European festivals. It is always a pleasure to see and hear a band that has its own, very unique sound. Their take on black metal involves slow, deep and dark riffing combined with sudden tempo changes and also the combination of old-school thrash metal-influenced riffs with darker and chaotic black metal typed picking, which creates their trademark sound. This extremely diverse and dark music kicks even bigger live, which is rare within the underground scene.
It was time for something different so Volbeat (Mainstage) seemed like a good choice for some fun between two deadly metal machinery. The Danish formation is known for their unusual fusion of heavy metal, rock ’n roll and rockabilly. They are inspired by classic rock and roll artists such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash and you can tell it easily after the first spin of one of their records. They also released an album this year (the sixth in a row) titled Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie, which safely follows the same musical direction. Every gig they give are the highlights of any festival and even today they forced a massive audience to jump without a break. Their song ’Sad Man’s Tongue’ is a perfect example of Volbeat’s best moments but every single track they played was close to perfect and gave everyone some really good and remarkable moments. Keep it up guys!
It’s better to see rock and metal legends live now before they completely dissappear from the surface of the Earth. With 36 years of existence, Overkill (Altar) from New York can be easily categorized into the camp of thrash metal legends. The core members are still Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth on vocals and D.D. Verni on bass from the early days. The rest of the band joined them around the turn of the millennium but ever since then they’ve been a kick-ass group. Obviously their music still (and always will) reflect the feeling of 80s and 90s rather than to give it a modern twist but that’s how it has to be. Old-school will always rule.
After sunset the entire festival burst into flames. Within the burning fences of the Warzone stage Converge delivered some more metalcore madness. The restless vocalist Jacob Bannon couldn’t stay calm not even for a second and led the band and the flow of the concert with maximum power. They put so much effort into songs like ’All We Love We Live Behind’ and ’You Fail Me’ and the crowd gratefully welcomed them with a sea of banging heads as far as you could see.
Months ago when we had a look at the lineup the first name that caught our eyes was Rammstein (Mainstage). I really wanted to see them as they were confirmed as one of the first day’s (and biggest) headliner but unfortunately the massive crowd that was stretching as far as the entrance of the festival made it impossible to get even close to the field in front of the mainstages. People could only just squeez themselves through the crowd step by step. It was a proper nightmare and cost me at least the first two or three songs to get back into the much less crowded VIP sanctuary where I could enjoy the rest of the gig projected on the wall. These showmen turned the crowd insane with their set. Rammstein’s award-winning live shows are known for their pyrotechnic elements and both on and off-stage theatrics that are different on each tour and getting more and more elaborated. And yet tonight they also presented all the tricks they know during their most famous tracks like ’Du Hast’, ’Amerika’ and in my opinion their all time best ’Stripped’ cover of Depeche Mode. Next time I will settle down at the first row a day before.
Today’s last gig I was interested in was no one else than the ex-Immortal leader, Abbath (Temple). When the emperial intro kicked off, the stage was still dark. Only Abbath ghostly figure was visible as he walked up the stage with a burning torch in his hand. He blew fire a couple of times and after that they started the show. I don’t know if it was the band or just me but unfortunately the whole gig seemed and sounded average to me, not to mention the several technical issues during the set. Despite the monotonous nature of the performance the show was ok. Abbath is a good frontman and with King on his side they form a fine poser group. They played all their good tracks from the Abbath album and also a few Immortal classics such as ’Tyrants’, ’All Shall Fall’ and ’One by One’.
After the set our favorite black metal joker shook hands with people in the front row and dissapeared backstage. Soon everyone headed back to their tents to have some rest or just simply carry on partying till the crack of dawn.
All live photography by Vivien Varga.