A sunny cloudless Friday in Clisson set the stage for one of metal’s most eclectic festivals of the year: Hellfest. On June 20 the small French town near Nantes became the epicenter of all things hard and heavy for 3 days of hellish tunes.
Hellfest made it a tradition to cover a large variety of subgenres, more so than any other European festival. Regardless whether you’re into the bleakest, most morose music imaginable or simply want to party all night long, everybody will find something to their liking on one of the five stages and then some.
Those who managed to get in early got a chance the experience the crushing wall of sound of Hyborean doom with Conan in the Valley or get a taste of True Singaporese extremity with Impiety in the Temple.
If black and death metal were the altars you worshipped at, you could essentially just stay inside the large tent and hop from the Altar stage to the Temple and back. At the temple we underwent the rituals of a slightly underwhelmed Gehenna for whom the scorching summer sun was probably just too much for their blackened Norse souls. Following hot on their heels came the fired up bestial warriors from down under, Destroyer 666 and the Finnish latex cult of Impaled Nazarene with a dose of chaotic, audio torture.
On the other side at the Altar the tanks started rolling under a Hail of Bullets. Being essentially another version of Asphyx with an obsession for World War II, they never disappoint and launched their doomed death tunes with surefire accuracy.
In case that still wasn’t old school enough for you got the chance to experience some aural archeology with the revived Nocturnus, now called Nocturnus AD and the resurrected Death, sans Chuck obviously. Even Hellfest can’t bring him back. Never the less, they played the old classics with vigor.
If all this scary, Satanic racket was not your cup of tea you could rejoice at one of the two main stages where more mainstream oriented bands would play. One thing can be said for sure, they spared no effort to put up as many big names up there as possible.
With Death Angel, MOD, Trivium an inspired, reinvigorated, but mostly f*cking loud Sepultura and last but not least headliner Slayer, main stage 2 sounded like any thrash metal fan’s wet dream come true.
On the first main stage, we will fondly remember the nostalgic trip of angst ridden rockers Therapy? before the true commercial heavyweights marched in. Sabaton’s rule of any festival stage is well documented and deserved. Less so with Rob Zombie, whose popularity with the kids continues to be one of life’s many enigmas. Iron Maiden got to close stage one on the first day with a set that concentrated heavily on their catalogue from the eighties. Not that anyone in the audience minded.
Back at the Temple saw the onslaught of the Vikings with Turisas’s battle metal and the more refined Enslaved. None were prepared however for the majesty of Watain, whose diabolical ritual is as extreme as you’re likely to ever witness, yet is somehow strangely accessible, barring you don’t mind the impaled pig’s heads and several gallons of blood.
The hour of midnight had struck, the time of the Wizard was here. Electric Wizard’s passage in Clisson from a couple of years back was still well remembered, although for some it might have had more to do with their projected 70s sexploitation flicks during the show. No bare breasted maidens this time round but a psychedelic trip with Mark Greening back behind the drum kit.
Rounding it off at the Altar came Septic Flesh with a foretaste of their upcoming new album. With their monumental, symphonic masterpieces the first day of Hellfest came to a grandiose close.
Time to hit the sack and get ready for day two!