Hellfest 2022 - a live report
|Event:||Hellfest Open Air 2022|
|Written by:||Darkside Momo|
Hellfest 2022 - Sunday 26 by Darkside Momo (59)
Hellfest 2022 - Saturday 25 by Darkside Momo (73)
Hellfest 2022 - Friday 24 by Darkside Momo (75)
Hellfest 2022 - Sightseeing / Thursday 23 by Darkside Momo (54)
A rambling report of Hellfest 2022's second week-end, Clisson, France, 23 to 26 June
Well, this is some sort of travelogue exploring parts of this monstrous week-end…
Table Of Contents
Prologue: Back in Hell
First week-end: Tales Of Glory
Thursday 23rd: Tribal Convictions
Friday 24th: Wardance
Saturday 25th: The Eye Of Every Storm
Sunday 26th: Master Of Puppets
Conclusion: Sounds Of A Playground Fading
Going to Hellfest again? Yeah, sure, especially since last time was four years ago! But as I was unable to attend both week-ends, I chose the second one, with that fabulous electro-industrial scene on Friday.
Wait, what? TWO week-ends? Yes. As the 2020 edition couldn't take place (Covid, you know), it was pushed back in 2021… which didn't happen either - or, more precisely, did happen without audience, as a few bands played in front of cameras for a web-only small festival (Covid, again). So Ben Barbaud, Hellfest's main man, decided to plan this original edition in 2022… with a brand-new bill added in for a second week-end!
That said, I have to admit I wasn't in perfect shape to go to four days of intense metal shows. See, Suicidal Tendencies, after their Saturday show at Hellfest, did play on Monday 20th in my home city of Toulouse. The show itself was fantastic, I moshed a lot with fellow old forty and fifty-something guys, and guess what, I bruised myself a rib! So beware moshpits with older people like me, they might be as violent (or even moreso) as ones filled with youngsters!
Anyway, weather was good on wednesday 22nd when my friend Moose and I started our trip to Clisson. The first change we were warned about awaited us in Clisson, with the big mandatory parking lot far from the fest grounds (and not that easy to find TBH). It's linked to the campsite with shuttles, and these are mandatory, as walking from parking to campsite was strictly forbidden, even moreso considering that a guy was hit by one of these buses last week-end…
The campsite itself was as usual... no, wait, actually quieter. This, quite surprisingly, was a constant across the whole area, even if there was a small night club of sorts, and the usual caddie fights at night. One reason for that was probably the hellbanger's average age. Yes, it was already plainly visible that metalheads in attendance this year were, on the whole, older than previously.
Anyway, Moose felt already back home. Me? Not quite yet, but I sure was goddamn happy to be back! And then we went to the Metal Corner (where there were even more food and drinks stalls than in 2018) and spend the evening with friends of ours, drinking beers and talking about the previous, first week-end of this 2022 Hellfest edition…
This was the original 2020 edition, the one postponed twice. Sure the line-up changed, with quite a few cancellations due to Covid or Covid-related travel restrictions.
For, well, everyone, the most important thing that defined this first week-end was without doubt the heat. Hellfest was hell indeed, with temperatures reaching 40°C on Saturday. Something really exceptionnal in this temperate area, but as we now know this was only the first heat wave to hit Europe this summer. The local press tells of about 800 people who went ill (faintings and stuff) because of the heat - come to think of it, this ain’t that terrible in a crowd of 60000 a day. Hellfest sure did put a lot of efforts in the water department: firefighters watering the crowds, walls of water, lots of free water points (nothing new, but especially useful this time)… Heat had other consequences, too: less shows attended for most people involved (one can't run all day from one stage to the next with this heat), and for once beer consumption during the whole week-end went down - yeah, more water, less beer.
As for the bands themselves, this first 2022 edition covered a large panel as usual. From YouTube lady Laura Cox’s band, to the rare Mordred or Xentrix, to classic big names and headliners like Gojira and Ghost (filling in for System Of A Down and Faith No More), Opeth, The Toy Dolls, Korn, Judas Priest… Highlights I've been told about were Maximum The Hormone (who only came once before in 2011), Coroner (obviously), Primordial (who had numerous issues at the airport on arrival, and managed to get on the fest grounds only 15 minutes before their set), or Vreid playing Windir's 1184 in full.
The Lemmy statue and shrine
In my 2018 HF report, I wrote "But, if I ever get a migraine again, I should at least try to have it on thursday, right?" Well, I did wake up this night with a migraine - one which thankfully quickly passed with medication, more sleep, and a nice, slo-mo morning. And some shopping at the nearby Leclerc - the iconic supermarket close to the fest, which even featured an exhibition with display cases full of Hellfest memorabilia, including a complete collection of cups and loads of T-shirts.
Then it was time to meet up with friends and enter the festival grounds, to discover what has changed since 2019 (actually, 2018 for me). Well, all is more or less into place now; the one big change was under both Altar and Temple, where the ground is now full asphalt and not earth and grass (read that mud or dust, depending on the weather).
After that, well, there was queueing for official merch - long, long queues, that could easily take two hours for the average hellfester (one that either wasn't at the very first rows as the gates opened, or couldn't get through the VIP shortcut). Kind of a way to ruin the first part of your day… but hey, that's merch appeal for you
Anyway, this first part of the afternoon was for me time to reconnect, not rushing things yet, rejoice with my photo pass, and just enjoy being there, with a really nice weather - sunny and hot, but pleasantly so. So I totally missed Phil Cambell And The Bastard Sons, but went to check a bit of Lili Refrain's performance, discovering her like many others under the Temple. She was alone on stage, playing all instruments (sampler, guitar, drum, and singing too) on her dark and hypnotic music - she has mentionned Anna von Hausswolff as an influence. The ritualistic aspect did fit very well with the rest of the day, a nice appetizer - albeit in a less folky way - to Heilung and Wardruna later.
I then heard a bit of Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown; Decent modern classic bluesy hard rock (with the son of Aerosmith's Brad Whitford), but forgettable to these ears.
Crown were good, and would have totally belonged on Friday’s bill; the band certainly evolved a lot on their three albums, and their show came across as some industrial rock enhanced with a metal heaviness and a darkwave flair. Nice stuff, actually!
Then came The Ruins Of Beverast. While it wasn't really fitting for such a black / doom band to play during daylight hours, the show was nonetheless great, with good sound and a bleak, oppressive atmosphere. And while the long, pummeling, slower parts were maybe a bit too much for a festival mood, and as such they might have been difficult to get into, I sure want to check their albums now.
UFO then played one of their last shows ever (seems it was a very nice one), and while I originally planned to check Tribulation, I instead went to refuel (yeah, beers), then started to queue for Zeal And Ardor’s photopit.
I'm glad I did. While in 2018 they took most Hellfesters by surprise, this time everyone was waiting for them. And this was once again an excellent set, their unique mix of black metal and spirituals, while maybe a bit gimmicky at times, is absolutely excellent in a live setting. It sure showed, as many people crowdsurfed and the whole mood was very friendly in the pit, as my friend Moose told me after with a big grin. Plus, Manuel Gagneux still has this nicely unhinged look onstage.
Time to eat now. The VIP area still boasted the same caterer as four years ago, so I took again a steak tartare – not as good as in my memories, but still really tasty – and heard a few echoes from Lowrider who were stoner-true to their name (the bass saturated quite a bit it seems).
Now, on towards the mainstages. I saw some Whitesnake snippets onscreen: Coverdale looked like he was in great shape (even if rumors of tapes seems to have floated around), and Steve Vai popped in for "Still of the Night".
But Whitesnake weren’t the reason I went there. Helloween, and its dream-come-true line-up with all its three singers, was. The stageset was up to the event, with its pumpkin stand for the drums; the videos, however, were both hit and miss. Some were great (the stars intro), but the bad 00’s CGI ones were, well, terrible. Anyway, this was an awesome set for old-school fans: apart of "Best Time" and "Power", all songs were from the classic Walls/Keepers era… plus a medley featuring songs from their very first EP (I never thought I'd hear "Victim of Fate" live)! The synergy between the three singers, all the band really, was exceptionnal, full of energy and hapiness. The almost reformation show of 2008 with Kai Hansen, quite the awesome event back then, was nothing compared to this. Fantastic! Oh well, we did miss Sólstafir and almost all of Septicflesh, but it was worth it!
Now, getting out of the mainstages' mire is an horror I forgot - one that left me worried for the day to come. Meanwhile, I endured the first few sluggish Scorpions notes (but more about them a few lines further down), until I reached the Altar, where Septicflesh were close to the end of their set. Sothiris was there this time, and I'm told this was an excellent show; sure they sounded good and the audience reacted pretty dawn well! But not being as enthousiastic to their music as I once was, and seeing the humongous crowd already gathering under the neighbouring Temple, I went queueing for Heilung's photopit.
My oh my, I don't like all this smoke! Sure it's great for the mood, and isn't even a problem for pro photographers (and most of it can be ridden of with a few filters on Gimp anyway), but heck does it make shooting difficult for a noob like me! Oh, yeah, the show. This was as usual the weird kind of shamanic ritualism, with fighters providing choruses. Heilung's eerie, transe-like mood isn't for everyone, but the neofolk-loving audience were happy (even if, as Moose told me, it was maybe less enthralling than their Hellfest'18 show). Alas, I missed the finale, with the women onstage getting all skyclad for the end of the ritual…
...because I was lining up for Wardruna. Already saw them in March, but they were much more interesting to me than Jerry Cantrell or nowadays Therion could ever be (ssems I missed something on that one, as Deadsoulman told me the show was great). So, I saw the end of Scorpions's show on the screen. Well I must say it was much better than the beginning, with Klaus Meine being impressive for a 74-years-old man (sure, nothing to write home about compared to his heydays, but come on). The show ended with "Rock You Like A Hurricane" and Phil Campbell guesting on it…
Then he and Mikkey Dee stayed onstage, talked a bit before walking to the brand-new Lemmy statue, all the while speaking about Lemmy. Lemmy, who loved Hellfest so much that a part of his ashes were placed on the Hellfest grounds, in a shrine just below his statue, at this very moment. That was emotional, for sure (and I guess Hellfest will be a pilgrimage place for years to come now).
And then, so, Wardruna. Same setting as in March - textured hangings, minimalistic lights (often on a monochromatic mood, be it cold or warm) projecting shadows of the musicians - and same hypnotic music. I particularly loved the deep blue ones with the fog on the ground - they really were on a misty shore - or "Helvegen", last song they played, with its dark reds. A great finale for a very pleasant first half-day of shows!
Ah, that Friday line-up. The one that made me go to Hellfest. And even with Skinny Puppy and Atari Teenage Riot cancelling, this was indeed quite the indus fan dream…
A dream that was to be endured under the rain, according to weather forecasts. Indeed it was already quite cloudy when I arrived on site. I was told afterward that The Baboon Show was some kind of very good, quite WTF-y Swedish punk with a bit of hard rock thrown in.
Then, while Crisix had to deal with their drummer diagnosed with Covid (and so played a shortened set with Gama Bomb's drummer filling in for a few songs), I was there for Fractal Universe, who delivered some very good - even if not particularly original - tech death. A really enjoyable show I nonetheless split in two…
…to shoot Okkultokrati (let's say they played some kind of nice mix of doomy black with hard rockish psychedelia) under the Valley Stage - and that particular Altar photopit to Valley photopit stint was one I was gonna repeat a few times. Nice way to get several bands on the same time slot!
Then I went to check the first band I really wanted to see: Youth Code.
And… It was a bit disappointing. I mean, they were good, Sara Taylor was as agressive as on their studio works, but their set sadly got a bit repetitive. Plus, the two of them were lost on this so big stage, both in sheer size and less-than-stellar sound. I guess they could use a session drummer, or maybe a guitar to add some oomph to their sound… Or at the very least borrow Health's one!
Time to eat some pies and drink some famed Muscadet under the trees of the Kingdom of Muscadet woodscape. Blues Pills were playing their brand of bluesy hard rock; not really the kind of thing I'd go check, but perfect for a food stop if you ask me (I could as well have listened to Stöner instead - yeah, the band with ex-Kyuss Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri - but the Valley isn't that welcoming for a lunch break).
Health definitely had no health issue, they were perfectly fine . More than that, even, as their sound was massive, brutal, and yet really clear - that's what Youth Code needed - and their often unnerving, midtempo brand of noise / industrial sounded great (if you could stand the contrast between the agressive guitars, drums and electronics on one hand, and the high-pitched, plaintive, shoegaze-y vocals on the other). To conclude an excellent set, Sara Taylor (Youth Code, again) came onstage and sang on "Innocence" for a really explosive finish. Nice!
(Meanwhile, Dirty Shirt & the Transylvanian Folkcore Orchestra gave a very good show, all folk and catchy; the whole orchestra crew was nuts, it seems, especially the choir singers who crowdsurfed at one point!)
Then, as Skinny Puppy have been replaced by Nitzer Ebb (not too fond of them, too mellow to my tastes to be honest), I was lining up to check Witchery instead. Their black/thrash might not be the most original music ever, but sure it is catchy, and I wanted so see how it was onstage. And agressive and catchy it was, with Angus Norder in his undertaker dark goth suit and corpsepaint being a particularly expressive and engaging frontman!
Next obvious stop: Benighted. I’ve said time and again how they’re fantastic live, but it’s worth writing again: they are an AWESOME live band. This 2022 Hellfest show proved to be no exception: fast, brutal, catchy, and a mosher's paradise. (And kudos to the bass player for wearing a craft brewery T-shirt )
Sadly I had to miss the end, but Killing Joke would soon start their set on Mainstage 2. Well, I don’t know how was their set during the first week-end (the setlists were very similar), but this one was absolutely excellent - starting with "Love Like Blood" is a sure way to get the audience receptive. My question is, was "The Fall Of Because" a nod to Justin Broadrick (his pre-Godflesh band was named "Fall Of Because", well, because of Killing Joke)? Anyway, Jaz Coleman was as always the unhinged Joker leader of a deranged cult, while Gordie Walker nonchalantly delivered riff after riff. No surprises here, but still so good!
(Meanwhile, Ihsahn delivered a good set too)
But, once again, I'm leaving before the end, as I decided to take quite the photo trek while the rain slowly started to gain momentum.
My first stop wasn't Gama Bomb (fun and good revival thrash) but, true to industrial form, Godflesh. Exactly like the last time I saw them (that was at Hellfest 2014. My, how time flies…), their set was a hellish, nightmarish, industrial soundscape. And yes, that does mean excellent!
My shooting done, back to the mainstages I went, for an event of extreme agression was about to happen. Yes, Kreator were in the place, to put quite a literal fire (they did have some pyrotechnics around) to the Mainstage 2. And well, honestly, I don't know how they do it. I mean, their albums do get slightly mellower each time, but onstage? Mille Petrozza and company are still as violent as ever - and that's something! Plus, yesterday was Frédéric Leclercq's birthday and this was his first show in France with Kreator, so yes, we once again got a fantastic show (as usual with these guys, and I know at least a friend who can't tire of them). May I add a note about the stage, with its impaled bodies and stuff? And of course the setlist, while too short, had both classic live anthems ("Flag of Hate", "Phobia"…) and new songs ("Satan is real").
A show I nonetheless quickly left to be in time for Moonspell. They started with "The Greater Good" of Memorial (great song), then "Extinct" (this one seems to already have gained its 'live classic' status) and the fantastic "Night Eternal" - I took my photos during that one. Then I left, missing a good show…
Because it's Kreator time again, while the rain turns into a downpour and I'm in line for Ministry.
Er… The wait was supposed to be five minutes. A far too long soundcheck turned that in almost fifteen minutes. Way to spend more time under the rain, indeed. Sure, the sound was perfect afterwards, razor sharp as befits the industrial legend led by Al Jourgensen. Speaking of Al, while his age and previous excesses did show, he was in great shape and led the show relentlessly, lit almost only by the grey sky and the videos playing behind the band. The first hour of the show was any old fan's wet dream: starting with "Breathe" (its robotic groove immediately set the crowd on fire), we then got three songs out of "The Land Of Rape And Honey"! More cuts from "The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste" and "Psalm 69" followed ; heck, the most recent song was "Bad Blood" (released in 1999 on "Dark Side Of The Spoon")! And while I promised myself not to mosh with my bruised rib and the camera in my backpack, I couldn't resist when "Burning Inside" started, and went on for almost half an hour under the heavy rain.
Fully soaked even with my rain attire, I left when the band started to play new songs, who were, quite unsurprisingly, less welcomed by the audience. While I moved on to grab something to eat, I heard Al complaining about lack of time to play the last song. Well, if that soundcheck didn't last that much… So yeah, some sour notes, but definitely one of the best shows of the fest already.
The rain was still flowing down, so Moose and I took refuge under the overcrowded VIP cathedral of bones (cheers to the barmaid serving on the bar!), missing Alice Cooper's show (which, according to my friend Etienne, was really good).
As the rain finally stopped, Moose and I went back to the campsite. He decided to stay there and sleep, while I put on dry clothes - something much, much appreciated - then went back because there was a headliner I didn't want to miss: Nine Inch Nails. I never saw them before, and it seems that for a long time Trent Reznor wasn't too keen on coming to a metal festival. What to say? I looked from a bit far, but the view was great; plus, the rain before drove quite a few people away, so the mainstage area wasn't too crowded. The sound was very good, even if not perfect where I was standing; however I had a perfect viewpoint on the huge screens. And while all bands are filmed without any editing, this certainly wasn't the case for NIN: blurry, distorded and often sideways, they added a lot to the somber, almost creepy atmosphere ("Reptile" or "Closer" come to mind). And that setlist! Covering all the career of the band, The Downward Spiral took the lion's share with seven songs (something I'm totally fine with), but we also got three songs out of Broken ("Wish", "Gave Up", and "Last", sadly no "Hapiness In Slavery"), and Health joining NIN onstage for what seems to be the live premiere of the the excellent "Isn't Everyone". Plus the obvious yet perfect "Hurt" as a closer. Indeed an excellent show, and the end of the day…
I originally planned to see Atari Teenage Riot after that, but they cancelled and were replaced by a Bloody Beetroots DJ set. And Megadeth were closing the day on the mainstages. As a friend of mine told me their show last week-end was good, I went to check them. But wait, what? Guitars, bass and drums sure were in place, but Dave Mustaine's voice? My, either the sound was terrible, or he did lose all his power and sounds like an old geezer now (he was indeed buring in the mix, but I guess this was done on purpose)… Too bad for the setlist which featured a few nice oldies, I left pretty quickly and went sittting under the Altar to write some of my first notes on the fest, and enjoyed - as much someone really tired could - that really nice Decapitated show, as sharp and violent as you'd expect.
Saturday was to be, planning-wise at least, less intense than Friday… not to mean there weren't any big stuff coming . Weather-wise, we had rain during the night and in the early morning, but that was about it; and the fears of a 2007 mud-soaked nightmare quickly dissolved, as the fest staff is now more than prepared, so the grounds themselves weren't as muddy as dreaded.
I arrived early but at a decent hour (a bit after 11 AM), and heard bits of Les Chants De Nihil, whose black metal sounded quite classic-y but nice.
Hearing them, my eyes went a bit watery, actually. Strolling throught the site, like this Saturday morning, with no hurry except for a show in about fifteen minutes, while hearing good metal played live, here at Hellfest. Some waves of nostalgia hit me to the guts, and yes, Hellfest may have changed, I might have changed, but it is still home for me - or at least one of them, really. Home is where the heart is, right?
Anyway, time to take some photos. First Nero Di Marte, then Dätcha Mandala under the Valley (they play some 70's sounding psychedelic rock)…
…then back to the Altar to see the rest of Nero Di Marte's show. They were nice, started with "L'Eclisse" if I remember correctly, and I must say the songs out of Immoto sounded a tad more interesting live than on the album.
After that came Autarkh, under the Temple. Their industrial death would have been more fitting under the Altar, but hey, planning galore and they're ex-Dodecahedron members, so I guess this explains that. Anyway, I liked their quite original take on indus DM, but it sure went a bit monotone in the long run (just like their album, somehow).
And now, for something completely different: Gloryhammer! They're over-the-top power metal done right, with the nice parodic twist that changes everything. Bandmembers's costumes were visually striking (the evil wizards on keyboards, for exemple), even if maybe a bit weird (scale mail over green leggings?) - but that's part of the cheesiness, right? The show itself was great, catchy, and the audience reacted accordingly; they sure were awaited for by a large number of fans!
There was a goblin onstage. For real. He tried to murder Sozos Michael with his big (glory)hammer, but alas, he failed
Time for some serious business: eating. Moose and I went near the Warzone to check Lemmy's statue, with Stereotypical Working Class as background music (average alternative metal, the only noteworthy thing was the Knignt Rider sample at the beginning), but we found out that some food stalls were slightly less good than the previous years .Then, well, on for a short nap and a shopping spree! Gotta be careful, there are now so many booths to spend your money on clothing, music and whatnots… Thus I missed Xibalba (it seems they were massive)… and Eluveitie too, but I wasn't planning on seeing them anyway
I wouldn't miss Arcturus, however. They were scheduled to play in Toulouse last year, but Covid decided otherwise. So, how did they fare compared to that lackluster 2012 show? Well, the sound was quite good, the setlist varied and covering all albums, and Vortex was once again spaced-out at times. All in all it was good to see them again, for a better experience than ten years ago… but this time Vulture Industries weren't there to crush all competition.
Then I did my usual Altar photopit - Valley photopit - Altar trek, this time featuring Fleshgod Apocalypse and Villagers Of Ioannina City. The latter are a Greek band who play some sort of stoner / folk rock with traditional instruments…
…but Fleshgod Apocalypse is where my heart was. Even better than in 2016, as they had a good sound (if on the louder side), and were as violent as you'd expect them to be. Plus, starting with "The Violation" is a sure sign of good things to come!
After this storm of violence came Igorrr. I had to queue early, as they were awaited for. A lot. Much more than I expected, honestly. Then… Wait we did, for almost 20 minutes, without any reason nor explanation, before the band finally came onstage. The following set was good, with the two new impressive vocalists (one of them is no other than JB Le Bail of Svart Crown fame) we discovered during last autumn's tour shouldering most of the stage presence. All in all a great show that, without the delay and frustration, would have been excellent - provided you could get into Igorr's peculiar universe, of course (Moose did, for example). For sure, the crowd cheered a lot, but I guess it could have been better (I'm sure I heard some grumbling - apart from mine, that is).
Nothing piqued my interested until Myrkur's Folkesange set. And this… this was something else.
She was almost shy, but smiled a lot nonetheless, genuinely happy to be here. She had sound problems with her keyboards, but in the end it didn't prevent her from delivering a soulful performance. With violin, cello (by none other than Jo Quail, hand drums, and other beautiful vocals accompanying her own, she and her backing band delivered a beautifully soothing hour of a show. Yes, soothing, apaisant in French. The exact word I was saying to myself, that I heard guys saying after the show. Not something you'd expect at Hellfest. That was, to quote Neurosis, "the eye of every storm", one that fills you with inner peace, and leave you ready to then enjoy moar violent stuff again!
After that began the Guns N' Roses show on Mainstage 1. The appeal was so big it literally drained the fest grounds, leaving much, much more room to breathe for the rest of us who didn't want to see Axl & co (who, according to most reports I've heard, weren't that great). Heck, even our new minister of culture, Rima Abdul Malak, was here! (I learned about that on sunday, when I briefly reconnected with the real world)
This evening was for me a non-stop suite of excellent, masterful shows. First came Moonsorrow who, just like in 2016 - but maybe a bit later during the set, and with a quite different setlist - managed to create that pure concert magic of communion between band and audience. I don't know how they do it, I'm not even a fan of their studio recordings, but live? Each time there's that something that trancends all. Is that because of the epic nature of their songs? I can't say, but when they played "Ihmisen Aika", band and crowd were joined, and sang together in unison. Magic, I tell you.
Next came the special Bloodmoon set, by Converge with Chelsea Wolfe and her musicians. Radical change of mood here, much darker and intimate. Except for my photopit frustration (first wave of photographers got two songs to shoot, second wave too… and then that was done. Had to get my pics from the audience, thankfully it turned out to be not that bad), that was an emotionally intense set I immensely enjoyed, with the sound being quite excellent from front to back. And while "Blood Moon" is quite the opener on the album, I must say it worked infinitely better as a crushing closer! Definitely one of the landmark shows of this edition.
Then, In Extremo; a big band in their home country (Germany), they're not that well-known in France, and only came at Hellfest in 2012, where they delivered a brilliant set. Ten years and a string of lackluster albums later, I was surprised to see the fire was here… And then some!
But first, after taking some pics of our beloved German folksters, I had to check a bit of Blind Guardian, as my friend Romain told me this night was a special set where they would play Somewhere Far Beyond in its entirety (plus some classics, of course). Well, I'll admit that I usually say that Blind Guardian are a good live band, but one whose audience does all the work (like at Hellfest 2016). This time I was proven wrong: while the crowd did sing with abandon, the band were totally focused and directed everything. Hansi was impressive in his vocal delivery, showing he's still one of the best metal singers around, while the band more than delivered. Brilliant!
And yet, as Somewhere Far Beyond clearly isn't my fave Blind Guardian album, I went back to In Extremo. And I was well inspired. Moar pyrotechnics, moar crowdsufers and people going crazy, the band and their audience were - almost literally - on fire! A friend who's a fan of them told me, stars in her eyes, that she never saw them like that… They even played a bit longer than planned, closing the show with a rendition of "Ai Vis Lo Lop" (yes, that one is in Occitan!) that should remain in memories for a long time!
Here we are, the last day is upon us. Tiredness and dirt are accumulating. So, nothing best than a shower to start the day!
For the Hellfest camper, two options exist. First, you have a paying (6€, quite expensive, right?) big showers spot in the metal corner, or second, you use one of the 8 showers in the area usually reserved for travelling Gypsies. These ones, while really close to my campsite, were synonymous with a very, very long queue… Or you could use the water hose in that place to shower under the sun, with cold water. Now that was deliciously reinvigorating!
So, cleaned and fresh, I went on the fest grounds and caught a bit of Novelists's on Mainstage 2; the Frenchies did play some decent djent-y metal that reminded me a bit of TesseracT.
I then totally missed Nytt Land, but Moose told me it didn't add anything new to the neo-folk trend, especially after Heilung and Wardruna…
Next triplet of band was a bit of a dilemma for me. I'd be curious to see Alien Weaponry, but as the eventuality of me seeing them the 10th of July existed, I decided not to go and went under the Altar shooting Demilich instead. They were as good as in 2018 – OMG, that voice - but I didn't stay and went…
…under the Valley to enjoy Year Of No Light to the fullest. These seven guys are still absolutely crushing in the live department, especially went they shift in two-drummers mode. Three songs out of Consolamentum, in thirty minutes; that is wayyyy to short for them, next time they should be much, much higher on the bill. Anyway, I can't wait for next February and their show in Toulouse!
And that sure wasn't the end for important shows for the French scene. A few days before Hellfest, Svart Crown announced that this show would be the band's very last one, so quite a few metalheads went to join the band before they called it quits.
While I'm not familiar with their recent material, I still got drawn in their unique black/death. Quite the swansong it was, full of emotion, especially when JB, before the last song, thanked everyone who participated in the Svart Crown adventure, all bands they shared stages with… "Keep your hearts open!", he said, and sure he is right.
After that, another run from Altar to Valley. While Blood Incantation were certainly excellent with their old-school tech death metal (my, that shredding )…
…the real treat here was the collaborative show featuring Regarde Les Hommes Tomber and Hangman's Chair. And well, if you expected heaviness, you were right. Two drummers, two basses, three guitars, two singers, the perfect recipe for a monumental slab of darkness - especially when the sound is good! This was mesmerising from start to finish, and the forty minutes of the show did feel way too short.
Time to take a break, ultimately missing Vltimas or Ufomammut, sadly.
I came back for Cult Of Fire, visually impressive with the guitar players sitting under giant cobras and the vocalist sporting horns and little skulls on his head (sorry, this reminded of the Warhammer universes more than anything else!) conducting his rituals - to Shiva and/or Kali, I suppose - and of course all were masked. They did remind me of Bathuska, with a different setting. Music-wise, their black metal had some nice melodic moments, but went to sound a bit samey in the long run so both Moose and I left.
Being fully masked and anonymous certainly doesn't help to communicate with your audience (yes, I know, that's not something BM bands often do anyway), as shown by contrast with the next band, playing under the Altar: Memoriam.
Karl Willetts is definitely an excellent frontman, always smiling and interacting with the audience, while around him other veterans of the English scene kicked some serious ass with their classic death metal. Definitely a band to see live time and again!
Now was the time for a long pause, to drink beers, see friends, and eat a bit, because afterwards came the final, non-stop string of shows…
It started with Napalm Death. Barney the hyperactive was as hard to shoot as I expected him to be, for the really amateur photographer I am (but it sure makes for some funny pics). Anyway, the show was great as usual - Danny Herrera always seems to have a pleasant, tranquil day while blasting his drums nonchalantly, and both Shane Embury and John Cook were as frantic as needed. Napalm Death being the political band they are, Barney did talk quite a bit - he was indeed really pissed when talking about the still fresh dismantling of Roe vs Wade (I was too when I checked the sad info on the net), and urged everyone to "defend the right of women to do whatever they want of their bodies". Let's take that one to heart, folks!
Radical change of mood after that. While most people were already enduring, er, enjoying Sabaton while waiting for Metallica, there was a far better place to be: under the Temple, where Mercyful Fate were about to start. Then the curtain fell, revealing a huge stage set, with a platform featuring a big inverted pentagram, crowned by an even bigger inverted cross. Add to that loads of smoke and perfect creepy lightning. King Diamond himself was up there, and goddamn he was impressive - he's 64 years old and still can hit those high-pitch notes! And while I still can't stand his vocals (tastes, and stuff, you know), wow. It was so much better and enthralling than the show he did ten years ago for his solo stuff…
Oh well, back to Sabaton now, who told us how they replaced Manowar at the last minute in 2019 (btw, Manowar have so much become laughing stock with that affair that it was the running joke at the campsite ). Anyway, Sabaton weren't at their best; I must say I found them to be a bit sluggish and tired. Oh well.
Walls upon walls upon walls of
Then, it subtly changed. Can't say exactly when, but for sure "Fade To Black" played a part in this, with the emotional speech James did. So I went up again and found a perfect place between two HF merch stands, to see the encore ("Damage Inc", "One", "Master Of Puppets"), which was absolutely explosive and finally on par with what a band of Metallica's caliber should deliver.
All in all, a good set, not great, but I'm happy to have seen them live - even if from afar. In any case, the band was pleased, cause after their little fireworks, they just couldn't leave the stage…
So we all waited a bit for the big fireworks celebrating Hellfest's fifteenth edition. Yes, that one was supposed to happen in 2020… Well, let's just say it lasted almost 15 minutes, covered half the sky at times, and I haven't seen one this big since… I don't know, but we all were floored.
Quite a great ending for a great Hellfest!
As always, Monday's a bit sad, or at least more on the moody side of things, as we all pack gear and leave the camping grounds. The shuttle service to get us back to the parking lot went smoothly and relatively fast, much better it seems than during the first week-end (there weren't enough vehicles to carry all the metalheads around, so the fleet was expanded).
Then, the road back home. The highway. The final train to get back, and me being the only metalhead around. And maybe I got a bit of a something. Cold or Covid?
Finally back in Toulouse, I got a beer (make that two) in a English pub, where I met another Hellfester who just came back too. Swapping stories was nice indeed!
And on Tuesday… Yeah, got tested positive for Covid.
These two week-ends proved to be a big win, even if they were an exception rather that the new normal, as Hellfest 2023 will be back to the classic, one week-end only format.
Hellfest was smooth, efficient, and professional, as expected now. No real sounds problems to mention this time (not that I know of, anyway) - some bands were obviously better than others, but that's the way of things. And yes, mainstages are still a mess to navigate around past the middle of the afternoon, but I guess that chore can't be helped now.
Funnily enough too, this Hellfest proved somewhat easier to endure for me. I guess I'm much more used to reasonnable excesses and surviving these physically demanding, mentally rewarding moments. Ageing isn't that bad, you know?
Speaking of ageing, I did mention the rising average age. For sure, with all the recent inflation, and recurrent poverty problems amongst nowaday's youngsters, Hellfest and its pricey tickets (plus all the beer and food you have to pay during the week-end) ain't affordable to everyone. Far from it. A friend even used the term gentrification… which, while I don't really agree with it, I can't totally dismiss either. But, at least, this had the bonus side-effect of getting us rid of most tourists I complained about four years ago. Hellfest sure is still able to walk that fine line between mainstream allure and underground appeal.
Covid showed up quite a lot after both week-ends - Hellfest was a bit of a cluster, but thankfully not that much. After all, by then we were either all vaccinated and/or already got it, so it couldn't really spoil the party (with a few exceptions like Crisix or Whitesnake, who had a positive guitar player at Hellfest and had to cancel the following dates…).
Anyway… I went home happy - it was totally worth getting Covid again - with a new shitload of memories of excellent shows. And I loved so much being in the photopit again… I'm still unsure if I would do that everytime, but it's a really different and immersive way to live a fest (however, that means more queueing, sadly). This, and my subsequent personal holidays, left me wanting at last to try to learn phtography. Not just to shoot images, but make actual photos. So, as a librarian, I borrowed some photography books from my library and will experiment a bit with my camera, just for the fun of it.
After that… Well, lots of thing are in flux in my personal life right now, so this might actually my last Metalstorm article and Hellfest report ever - I'm barely active now, and this report took too long a time to write.
But heck, it was fun, Hellfun! \m/
Thanks a lot to Roger Wessier for the accreditation and photo pass, and of course to everyone I met, talked to, drank with, and generally enjoyed this unique Hellfest: Fred 'Moose', the whole Etienne / Miki / Fabrice / Jérome / Audrey crew; Romain; Sylvie; Amandine and Lucas; and everyone I forgot!
||Written on 24.08.2022 by Once your regular Hellfest reporter, now retired. I (strangely enough) listen to a lot of metal. And enjoy good beers, comics, novels and role-playing games.|
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