It appeared that someone from on high looked down with a smile on the second day of Hellfest – because the beginning of the third and final day was cloud cover and a drop in the temperature, with even a small amount of rainfall during the morning as well.
It quickly transpired that someone from on high was also having a bit of laugh, because come the afternoon it was back to the usual heat and dust. The punters didn’t mind though, and with Planetmosh’s reporter in the field as one of them (i.e. me), it was time to see a load more bands.
Crushing Caspers (8) were one of the bands who played during the all-too-brief shower, but it didn’t stop the fans coming to watch and throw shapes in the pit at the Warzone. In the tents, Obliteration (8) and The Ruins of Beverast (7) delivered a well-received Midday Sunday Sermon of extreme metal to the Altar and the Temple and Equilibrium (7) continued that trend when they opened the evening worship. It’s The Black Dahlia Murder (9) who convert the most today – they preached their metal well and had every single hand raised to the heavens in delight at the quality of their set, particularly during Statutory Ape and Moonlight Equilibrium. With only one clash after Iced Earth’s last minute cancellation, Opeth (8) walked out to an overflowing tent of people who wanted to hear that last little bit of music before the festival closed for another twelve months and they were rewarded with a top draw set that saw six different songs from six different albums performed and ending with a rousing version of Blackwater Park. It’s definitive proof that Opeth are more suited to an enclosed, intimate environment.
16 bands to go on the Main Stages and Year of the Goat (6) opened proceedings very solidly indeed, but it was Blues Pills (8) who got things up and running properly. For a band whose debut album isn’t released for another few weeks, they looked incredibly professional and Elin Larsson has a might set of pipes on her – there’s a lot of potential on show here. Scorpion Child (8) are another band in that situation: they used their half hour stage time well and effectively and a lot of faces in the crowd were nodding appreciatively as they cranked through The Secret Spot and Polygon Eyes. Crowbar (8) didn’t need to rely on potential though, everybody knows what Kirk Windstein and the boys are capable of. Heavier than a heavy thing, they walked on, powered through eight songs including The Lasting Dose and Planets Collide and walked off. Job done, nothing else to say. Brazil’s Angra (8) are quite big in France it would appear, given the size of the crowd that sees them, but they fed off that energy well to give the punters fifty minutes of power metal beauty. Alter Bridge (9)are a true ‘phoenix band’ – having rose form the ashes of the utter tripe that was Creed, they’ve gone on to become world-beaters. Yet again, they gave the Hellfest crowd a masterclass in rock, with Blackbird and Ties That Bind being particular highlights. It wouldn’t surprise me if their next appearance here was as a bill-topper. It was a big turnout for the return of Dark Angel (8) who were there as a last minute replacement for Megadeth and the thrashers duly responded with a blistering display. Two things were clearly apparent: one, Ron Rinehart’s apparent health issues were no longer in effect – he sounded brilliant and could jump up his range as well as ever – and two, Gene Hoglan is a very underrated drummer. When people talk about great drummers they say Lars Ulrich, Nicko McBrain, Mike Portnoy, Joey Jordison – Hoglan’s name is rarely mentioned and yet he showed why he’s worked with so many different bands. The Burning of Sodom and closing number Perish in Flames sounded so big they might as well have had their own postcode. To follow that would be a huge task for most, but Behemoth (8) brought fire, huge riffs and the tear-jerking moment when frontman Nergal announced ‘It’s great to be alive’. Soundgarden (8) were clashing with both Paradise Lost and Misfits, so there was a little despondency amongst fans trying to catch both who missed Black Hole Sun after it was played midway through the set. Nonetheless, the Seattle grungers provided a fitting soundtrack to the late evening sun, with Fell On Black Days and Beyond the Wheel a great one-two closing combination.
It must be said, when you walk out on stage with neat, tied back hair, wearing glasses and then power through one of the greatest black metal albums of all time with a bunch of pyros it looks pretty strange indeed. But then, Isahn’s never been one to follow tradition and neither have Emperor (10). Twenty years after the release of In the Nightside Eclipse, the band are playing the album in full on their current dates and it’s an absolute joy to see live. Getting original drummer Faust back into the mix was also a welcome site, and they couldn’t have been on better form. An encore of two songs from their very first demo in Ancient Queen and Wrath of the Tyrant was a great trip down memory lane as well and it looked like Emperor came out and stole the show. Until, ten minutes before their scheduled time on stage…
‘I CAN’T HEAR YOU!’
The air raid sirens sounded, Ozzy Osbourne ran on with a huge smile and Black Sabbath (10) tore into War Pigs with a huge amount of noise and a presence that was totally unrivalled by any other band that weekend. These days, if you approach Black Sabbath live with the knowledge that they’ll put on a show with everything that their human bodies will allow then they are utterly phenomenal, and this was the case here. To hear such classic songs as Snowblind, Rat Salad and Into the Void from a band that have on so many occasions looked like they were on the verge of total collapse is not just special, it’s almost a religious experience – especially when the band sound as fantastic as they did tonight. Even the new songs from ‘13’, God Is Dead? And Age of Reason were brilliantly executed. Geezer Butler provided a very strong backing and his ‘Bassically’ solo before N.I.B was exceptional, as was Tommy Clufetos behind the drums – it’s the only time I’ve ever been transfixed by a drum solo. People are running out of superlatives for Tony Iommi, who looks like he always did despite his ongoing battle with lymphoma. When he turned out the opening to the eponymous Black Sabbath, the riff that is pretty much the reason why any of this festival is about today, it was complete bedlam in the pit.
The star though is Ozzy who, despite his usual traits of barely straying more than six feet from his autocue and leaning heavily on his mic stand, had the audience in the palm of his hand from the first moment until the last strains of Paranoid had died away. It’s still amazing how he’s made it to pensioner age but we’re all the more grateful for it. When he cuckoos into the microphone and the crowd respond in earnest, he can’t help but laugh. ‘You’re all as fucking crazy as I am’, he giggles.
Yes we are Ozzy. Yes we are.
Black Sabbath setlist
Into the Void
Age of Reason
N.I.B (Preceded by ‘Bassically’)
Fairies Wear Boots
God Is Dead?
Children of the Grave
Paranoid (w/Sabbath Bloody Sabbath intro)