Walking into the main arena after a hectic 18 hour journey over was a huge relief on it’s own but the sheer impact of the arena set up was far more than anticipated. The beer and merch stalls had interesting and ornate architecture with metal, rusted designs that really made it look and feel like you were in Hell(fest) and with 6 stages – Main Stages 1 & 2, Altar, Temple (which alternated its performances to allow for one band to play and another to set up) Valley and Warzone it was far bigger than expected.
With the large variety of big international bands and smaller bands there were too many on in one day to make up my mind on what to see, also with the daily offerings between 10.30am and 2am it was simply obscene. Don’t get me wrong that wasn’t a bad thing!
The extreme market was huge and popular throughout the weekend constantly rammed with people buying CD’s, vinyls, merchandise, drinking horns and guitars, some of which played by bands appearing at the festival. It was any metalheads mecca.
The only problem was the bureaucracy – to the press be prepared for countless arguments with security and being placed second to a lot of French media, to fans, be prepared to be herded like cattle.
Friday June 15th: DAY ONE
Friday started off as a promising day for weather however I realised that I was wrong when I thought that being at a European festival the weather may have been better and not so long after arriving, the site turned into a mudbath… As is traditional with all festivals it seems.
Of course working at the festival had its advantages and disadvantages – one being I was only able to see a few bands, however the bands I saw were fantastic. Gorod who played the Altar stage played an amazing set on home turf, songs such as ‘Here Die your Gods’ and ‘The Axe of God’ seemed to stir up the crowd into a wild frenzy of flying bodies and walls of death, it was a shame they had some technical difficulties towards the end and had to cut their set short but all in all, good job! the weather may have been better and not so long after arriving, the site turned into a mudbath… As is traditional with all festivals it seems.
Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn was the next band to catch my eye with their uncontrollable metalcore on main stage 2. Songs ‘Black Tears’, ‘Behind a Wall of Silence’ and ‘Endzeit’ were by far my favourites of the set and with crowd surfers and circle pits galore it makes the days weather almost bearable.
However, Cannibal Corpse (in my opinion) were one of the most intense bands of the day. Performing at the Altar stage they delivered a blinding set consisting of classics such as ‘Disfigured’, ‘I Cum Blood’ and ‘Hammer Smashed face’. The band gouged and maimed all senses stirring the crowd up into a fury of pure adrenaline which crushed anybody in the pits. The one thing I did notice about the staged tents (Altar & Temple) compared to the UK festivals is that there are no capacity limits at Hellfest… no barriers, or security stopping fans from getting inside when it’s only half full… in fact when watching Cannibal Corpse it hit me how much no fucks were given. A stampede of people ran in and out of the tent looking half dead and taking down anyone in their way to sweet fresh air, even standing on the outskirts of the tent you could feel the intense heat penetrating its way through the thousands of fans in there Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn was the next band to catch my eye with their uncontrollable metalcore on main stage 2. Songs ‘Black Tears’, ‘Behind a Wall of Silence’ and ‘Endzeit’ were by far my favourites of the set and with crowd surfers and circle pits galore it makes the days weather almost bearable.
Saturday 16th June: DAY TWO
The second day into the festival it was amazing to see the mixture of metal fans and families that were at Hellfest which created a friendly and comfortable atmosphere. Of course there were many weird costumes and after an hour’s trip to the arena I was pleased to see that the weather was much nicer and most of all it stayed dry.
Steel Panther rocked the stage at an earlier time than advertised which perhaps thinned the crowd to start with as no one was expecting the masters of glam metal. Of course it wouldn’t be your typical festival without a few ladies in the crowd flashing their boobs and what suits Steel Panther better than half naked women? They played a variety of songs from their new album, “Feel the Steel” and “Balls Out” including ‘Asian hooker’, ‘Supersonic Sex machine’ and of course, ‘Death to all but Metal’. All in all, the entire band showcased a comical and ‘colourful’ set that surely got the crowds moving and singing along all the way through.
As I made my way over to the Warzone stage for Cancer Bats I found myself unsuccessfully manoeuvring around large puddles of mud and as I finally found myself in the tent the conditions didn’t improve, with the sight of many muddy people. However they delivered a fantastic set, opening up on their cover of ‘Sabotage’ by the Beastie Boys which got the crowds riled up and with the crowd being addressed in French, it’s hard not to be impressed further by frontman Liam’s approach.
One of the most surprising moments of the weekend I saw was Guns ‘n’ Roses and more importantly, Axl Rose were simultaneously on time and not that terrible. Although half an hour of Axl & Friends plodding through the classics was enough and I made my way to The Temple stage for the Polish monsters, Behemoth.
Behemoth pushed all boundaries in terms of their technical abilities showcasing a perfectly choreographed set to a perfectly dramatic performance. The tent on the other hand was absolutely packed and many people were left outside to listen to them from afar, some
attempting to get into the tent and soon realising there was no chance. From the imagery to the music it was hard to not be impressed by the titans of ‘extreme metal’. They were by far one of the biggest highlights of the weekend so far.
Sunday 17th June: DAY THREE:
The weather had continued onto the last day of the festival remaining sunny all day until Ozzy Osborne took the stage and then it started to pour down which is quite fitting for the ‘Prince of Darkness’.
One of the stand-out bands of the day so far were DevilDriver. They’re a band that although I have seen many times, never fail to disappoint and with today’s set it proved just why. Dez works the crowd unlike anyone else in the industry and as the intro music to ‘End Of The Line’ began the pit was opened after the first few notes accompanied by a huge roar from the fans. Of course the performance was filled with the infamous Devildriver circle pits which encompassed almost the entire crowd. The crowd favourites ‘Clouds Over California’ and ‘I Could Care Less’ invoked the crowd into a frenzy of bodies flying.
Ozzy & Friends hit main stage 1 as the headlining act and after a lovely day of weather it started to rain just as he came on stage but the crowds still stuck through it. At the beginning he sprayed the crowd with a gunk machine – Something I expect from the likes of Rammstein or Motely Crue (who in fact sprayed the crowds with red goo at the end of their set earlier that day) but a bit strange coming from Ozzy. Maybe that was just me though.
The performance was tightly packed with many Ozzy (and Black Sabbath) classics, with ‘friends’ such as Slash, Zakk Wylde and Geezer Butler helping with the performance of each song. Unfortunately the show was cut very short due to Ozzy’s voice giving out (apparently).
By the end of the night the site had turned into a mudbath once again although this didn’t deter anyone from sticking around ‘til the end of the night to watch Finland’s Children of Bodom. Once again the tent was full of Bodom fans and as it continued to poor down with rain the tent gradually became more and more cramped as the set went on. They delivered an exceptionally tight performance throughout pleasing the crowds with their sense of humour, especially when frontman Alexi Laiho was passed one member of the crowd’s drink and dared to try it; safe to safe he didn’t look like he enjoyed the concoction inside very much. Classics such as ‘Hate Me’, ‘In Your Face’, ‘Downfall’ were definite highlights of the bands incredible set.
The end of the festival was bought to a spectacular end, as I made my way out of the arena for the last time the gigantic Hellfest sign had several people using gases and tubes to make the craziest noises and tunes by playing pipes and creating explosions. The crowds stood in awe taking several photos as they slowly trudged through the thick mud. This was definitely a fantastic and alternative end to a brilliant weekend.