As I write this I am still trying to recover from Hellfest. I don't really know where to even begin with our run down of the festival.
We traveled to the festival from Leeds with Argon Events, a festival transport company that specialise in European festival transport, even as we sat on the coach we were receiving emails confirming bands for interviews at the festival so we knew we were in for a busy weekend.
After around 25 hours of travelling and picking up companions we arrived at the gates of hell, with around 2 hours to wait before we were allowed in we took time to soak up the atmosphere outside of the festival grounds. The place was heaving, people had set up their tents on the grass verges to shade from the belting heat, and there were chants happening every 2 minutes in French so we didn't really know what was going on.
From where we were stood we could see an enormous guitar monument signalling where the festival was and in the distance we could make out the tops of the buildings that make up Hell City Square.
Once the gates to hell were officially open we were pretty much straight in, picking up our passes and making our way through Hell City Square, which was enormous! It was packed full of things to see and do.
Live Wrestling and music was on offer from the first day.
A wide variety of shops, tattoo parlors, merchandise stalls and much more were present at Hell City Square.
Once we had looked around Hell City Square briefly we made our way to the campsite to set up base for the week. It took us around one hour to pitch a tent, it was stressful and so to calm ourselves down we took a walk to the nearby supermarket to gather supplies for the tent.
If you weren't happy with the amount of bands playing the actual festival you could go down to the supermarket, which also had the local McDonald's besides it, to watch a whole host of local bands to kick off your festival.
DAY ONE - FRIDAY
The first day was a very busy one for us with interviews happening throughout the day. This was also our first taste of what Hellfest was all about, and the sheer size of the festival was mind blowing. Another important note was just how clean the whole area was, there was hardly any litter anywhere!
The heat was not too bad on the first day, peaking at a cool 30 degrees. We managed to catch sets from Okkultokrati, Betraying The Martyrs, Evergrey, Avatar, Krisiun, Helmet, The Devin Townsend Project, Corvus Corax, Baroness, Deep Purple, Obituary, Rancid and Alestorm.
The bands that stood out to me on the first day had to be Avatar, Rancid and Alestorm.
Avatar are slowly starting to make a name for themselves on the gigging circuit and have shared the stage with some of the biggest names in rock in recent years. Their set at Hellfest demonstrated that they deserve all the plaudits that are coming their way with an enigmatic stage presence and powerful performance they won over some new fans and we are hopeful of seeing them again soon.
Rancid have been described as the most important punk band in modern history and it is hard to disagree with that. Their set at Hellfest was enormous, they completely packed out the Warzone stage and fans were kicking up the dust late into the night as the band ripped through years of hits in a packed out set list.
Alestorm are one of my favourite bands, and they have been for many years. So to see them at 1am at a packed out festival slot was incredible. The set was massive, the fans loved it, people were crowd surfing, crowd rowing (the entire crowd got on the floor, I was dragged down by a French guy who insisted I sat near him to row for the duration of the song) it was mental, absolutely mental and a great way to top off day 1.
To spare you all reading paragraphs of the usual 'this band was good' stuff I will pretty much sum up the other bands we saw, they were all delivering sets that were both expected and suitable for Hellfest, each with their own unique chemistry and energy.
You can check out all our interviews with the bands on our Youtube, links are at the bottom of this review.
Day two was a little busier for us as we were up early doors after a late one watching Alestorm. We were straight into the action though as we caught sets from Monkey 3, Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons, No Turning Back, Nails, Ugly Kid Joe, Dee Snider, Turisas, Saxon, Airbourne, Comeback Kid, Primus, Aerosmith, Opeth and Deafhaven.
With so many legends, icons and all round incredible bands on the second day it is difficult to pick just three that stood out to me, but I am going to go with Nails, Turisas and Airbourne, although I think a special mention needs to go to Deafhaven, who produced one of the most incredibly beautiful sets I have ever seen live, so minimalistic with hardly any vocals and yet still so powerful.
Nails, who's songs were just absolutely in your face, taking no prisoners, pure unadulterated metal have to be one of the finds of the festival for me. I had never heard of the band before seeing them at Hellfest but was told by Darren that they would be a great watch, and he wasn't wrong. I think within their set time they must have played every song they had ever written purely because the songs are short and absolutely not sweet. They didn't really stop for crowd interaction until after the set to thank the viewers for coming to see them which gave them more time to do what they do better than anybody else I saw all weekend, tear the absolute shite out of the stage.
Turisas were incredible. Having already admitted my love for Alestorm I was told, again by Darren who was rapidly turning into my tour guide of bands to see, that I would love Turisas, and he wasn't wrong. The face paint cladded mob really added an entertainment value to their set, which was set our as an unfolding story as each song passed by. The music itself was also amazing and probably one of my favourite sets of the weekend.
Airbourne are renowed for their live show's, they are just absolutely fucking mental. I saw them at Download Festival before Hellfest and was absolutely not missing them. They delivered perfectly and even threw in a death defying stunt as front man Joel climbed up the stage rig to play part of the solo from 'Runnin' wild' before descending to complete the set. If you ever find yourselves at a festival with Airbourne on the line-up do not miss them, you will not regret it.
So, after what seemed like an eternity in Hell we arrived at the final day. We didn't catch as many bands as we were very busy in the press area Sunday with the majority of our interviews happening throughout the day, we did however catch sets from: Northlane, Vodun, The Vintage Caravan, Deez Nuts, A Day To Remember, Prophets of Rage, Five Finger Death Punch, Linkin Park, Slayer and The Dillinger Escape Plan.
It was again very difficult to pick out three bands to highlight but I am going to go with Prophets of Rage, Linkin Park and The Dillinger Escape Plan.
Prophets of Rage are as about as prestigious as any super band can possibly be. With an enormous arsenal of original tracks and songs from the combined artist's previous bands the set was always going to be huge. There was obviously some political agenda to the set, as you would of expected, but the band delivered what has to be regarded as one of the most hit packed set list in existence, finishing with what they regarded as 'the most dangerous song in the world' 'Killing in the Name'.
Linkin Park have come under fire lately with their new releases being criticised by fans for not being heavy enough, and with that in mind many people were sceptical over their set at a metal festival. I think, personally, that the band silenced some critics with their set. The band played through most of their hits from previous albums as well as performing some of the newer songs which have fallen under fire, the most surprising thing being that those songs actually don't sound too bad when performed live! I think the worst thing I could say was I wasn't totally happy with the way they performed some of their songs, diluting some down into some kind of ballad format. All in all I was very happy to see the band live on stage and they delivered exactly what you would expect from a Linkin Park set.
The Dillinger Escape Plan were the final band that we saw from the weekend and a perfect way to close the festival for us, after a hectic weekend of enormous bands TDEP closed off the festival perfectly as they bow out in style after calling it a day. The show was so enthusiastically energetic, which is a feat in itself considering the band were on stage at 1am and everybody was tired out. The crowd were still kicking up the dust as the band ripped through their set as the flame throwers spat out one final time across Hellfest.
I think a final word needs to be said about just how well the festival was organised and maintained throughout the event. There was hardly any litter on the ground, security was perfectly positioned, it was easy to enter and leave the stage zones so you never missed any bands you wanted to see and there was pretty much no waiting time between watching ba band take to the stages.
Hellfest completely reiterated just how much of a flawless festival it truly is this year, hopefully we will be back in a bigger capacity next year!
Links to interview:
The Vintage Caravan
Of Mice & Men
Betraying The Martyrs