Hellfest 2018 - part 1

Event: Hellfest Open Air 2018
Written by: Darkside Momo, musclassia
Published: 08.08.2018


Hellfest 2018 - The Bands (Sunday) by Darkside Momo (66)
Hellfest 2018 - The Bands (Friday) by Darkside Momo (36)
Hellfest 2018 - The Bands (Saturday) by Darkside Momo (71)
Hellfest 2018 - Sights & people by Darkside Momo (36)

Hellfest: Clisson, France, 22/23/24 June 2018

So, after 2016, 2017 once again saw no MetalStorm delegation at its gates. But the 2018 bill was too good to pass up, so this thirteenth Hellfest edition had me coming back once again Clisson Rock City. Being the sole MS staff member there, I could have been the only one to write about it, but some voices were impossible to silent... or on the contrary really kind to express themselves.

Just a, now usual, note before we start: the Arte crews filmed 30 different shows which you can all stream freely, plus a long documentary that originally aired on Saturday 23rd and which showcases, apart of the horrible ramblings, songs from Bullet For My Valentine, Children Of Bodom, Hollywood Vampires, Pleymo, Cro-Mags, Avenged Sevenfold, Body Count, Swinkels, Nile, A7X again, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, Bad Religion, Europe, A Perfect Circle, Stone Sour (in that order).

Table Of Contents

Thursday: Back is Good?

Friday the 22nd, migraine FTW

Food and water for the cats?
Everything set for those who'll care for them?
Cousin ready?
Hell yeah!!

An uneventful 6-hours drive later, we chancefully managed to park our car in the overflowing Leclerc parking lot. Which is only five minutes from our camping spot - when you're not loaded like a mule, that is. Anyway, that's far closer to heaven (or hell) that we even dreamt of, which is pretty nice. And well, seeing tide after tide of black-clad people with beers invading just about everywhere re-ignited this feeling of home.
Almost home. While it's still infinitely better to be surrounded by metalheads rather than by average-joes, I must say I felt slightly estranged. Probably because the Imaginales and its great community of would-be fantasy writers and established ones is just the place for me now.

Anyway, camping was as usual, and otto, my cousin and I installed our tents while some of our friends went looking at the first football match featuring the French team (while I certainly don't give a fuck about football / soccer). Thankfully this year our part of the campsite proved damn quiet, which was just awesome. BTW, thanks again to our British neighbors for their little electric pump!

Then, queueing. As always at Hellfest, you would say. Sure, as far as VIP / press people were concerned, it went pretty fast, but on average it took more than one hour for regular hellfesters to pass through the gates (while two years ago it went much faster).
After that, Hellcity Square, with its spirits bars (vodka, rum, whiskies, and so on), beers (watered-down Kronenbourg), food stalls (only three - but more were to be found on the way to the camping), and Extreme Market, beckoned. It was time to learn that the refundable plastic goblets weren't refundable anymore. Light gains make a heavy purse I guess.
Oh, see that queue at the right, stretching all along? That's the one for next year's tickets. Only 5000 sold, costing 40 or 50 less than the regular ones (that is still a whooping 169, mind you). That's a bargain... if you're willing to queue for more than four hours on average.
Hey, last year it went much faster... But there were eight persons selling the tickets.
Eight? Whoa. There were only four this year. No wonder this became such a chore.

Music? Yes, there were bands playing, first on Hellcity Stage, then in the Metal Corner... But I honestly can't say I paid any attention to them, and only checked a small part of Babylon Pression (they're average nü/punk/metal, for those interested).

Anyway, after a few more beers, time to get some rest! While dozing off to sleep, I nonetheless wondered how a newcomer would see Hellfest...

My friend and I set out on the multi-leg journey from south England to Clisson early Thursday morning. After arriving in Clisson and singularly failing to find a bar showing the football, we decided to go to the Hellfest site and join the queue, colossal in size and glacial in speed of progress, trailing away from the gates. I think we must've spent 2 hours in the queue, which was enough time to receive some joking comments from passing Frenchmen (I was wearing a Peru football shirt, which was exactly the conversation starter I thought it might be when France were playing them in the world cup that afternoon), and to fret about whether the second hand tickets (with obvious fake names on them thanks to the tout who couldn't even be bothered to come up with normal names to put on the tickets he'd sell on) would let us in. Eventually we managed to get in without any issues, and after finally putting our tents up, we went in search of food, only to find that the only 3 food stalls open in the area adjacent to the campsite were seemingly unprepared for having to cater for an entire campsite's worth of people. It probably took me about as long to get an underwhelming baguette as it did to get into the site in the first place! I must admit, after this day I was slightly concerned about the organisation of the festival; however, once the main arena area had opened up, everything was mercifully much smoother for the rest of the weekend. I have to say, as far as the camping experience went, the quality of the portacabins was above and beyond what I've experienced at previous festivals, but the noise of drunk and debaucherous festival-goers at 3 am in the morning was also beyond what I've suffered in the past. Overall, after the chaos of Thursday was navigated, the remainder of the festival actually impressed me for the most part in terms or facilities, layout, stage times, and so on.

Time to go in Hell proper, under a perfect weather (full blue sky, shining sun, and not blisteringly hot - about 25°C in the shade) that would last all the week-end. Seems the usual long queueing at the entrance was a bit less long than in previous years (that's a very good point). Oh well, I did take my time to enjoy the new VIP / Press area - actually it was new last year, but as I wasn't there in 2017 that was quite a nice discovery for me.

Three French bands opened the hostilities: Malemort, Fange, and Drakwald, who play some kind of melodeath with a folkish flute - sounds quite like Eluveitie, right?
Hey man, their show was decent. Plus they did what was probably the first 2018 wall of death ever.
More seriously, you missed some great shit just after that. Cainan Dawn were really, really great. I must say that their occult black metal sounded quite classical, but the show was good; especially the singer, who looked completely possessed, was quite striking in his white clothes.

Meanwhile, outside on the fest grounds, stretched four long, very long queues for HF merch - that was another three-plus hours queue (to buy worse quality T-Shirts that previous years by all accounts), but at least contrary to yesterday, depending on where you were, you could enjoy some shows on the big screens.
I must say that Darkenhöld did play some really decent melodic and atmospheric black metal (and they do have a kick-ass band logo); it's nothing extra-ordinary, but still really pleasant stuff, that was well received by the audience.

Then came the first two bands I wanted to see - playing at the same time.

Misanthrope 12:50/13:30, Altar

Misanthrope are still that kind of 'love it or hate it' affair. I certainly enjoyed their music at the turn of the millenium (this was their best era), but now... they're so kitsch in their baroque way, it's kinda irritating. Yet Jean-Jacques Moréac is one hell of a bassplayer, so I went in anyway. And that was quite a trip down memory lane - they even played "Le Roman Noir"! - but when they started the new songs it was just mehhh. Not that they're badly written, but that kind of plaintive singing SAS de L'Argillière is so fond of nowadays is just terribly lame.
Just as I told you. I honestly was wondering why I even enjoyed them before, and quickly left.
Well, I wouldn't be as definive as you but... yeah, you've got a point.

But as I stayed a bit longer than intended in front of Misanthrope, I only saw the end of Tesseract, who sounded precise, and at the same time seemed quite laid-back and happy.

Alas, that also was the time my headaches started to show. So slightly, so smoothly, I didn't really care about them at first

After recuperating from the previous day's journey, my friend and I ventured towards the stages, passing through the delightfully cheesy Hellfest church entrance display on the way. After catching a couple of songs from Toseland (I honestly wonder if people enjoy this band's music or if it's just the novelty of a sports star fronting a rock band, as every time I've stumbled upon them at festivals I've been singularly unimpressed), TesseracT (who once again failed to stir in me what they seem to do in most other modern prog fans), and Dopethrone (who I generally enjoyed for the brief moments I got to watch them), the first band I was actually excited to see came on.

Schammasch 13:35/14:15, Temple

Schammasch were a perfect festival band for me; I didn't harbour enough interest in them to journey to one of their shows, but for a 30-odd minute early slot at a festival with other great bands, it was an opportunity not to be missed. The setlist veered away from the tribal ambient work from the last disc of Triangle and the Hermaphrodite EP, sticking to the moody black metal that makes up a large proportion of their material (the only song I could say they played with certainty was "Metanoia"). As for the performance, there were no major surprises; it was good music, played well by a proficient band. Despite the elaborate costumes, they didn't necessarily bring anything to elevate the live experience beyond the simple satisfaction of seeing their music played, but that was perfectly sufficient for what was, personally, a warm-up show for greater bands to come.

I didn't bother to check Schammash as I'm not fond of them, and I've been quite unimpressed when I saw them two years ago.
You didn't miss that much. It was pretty unimpressive.
The broad daylight outside mustn't have helped.
Clearly, no. But I was a bit disappointed nonetheless.

Playing at the same time, as far as cover bands go, The Chris Slade Timeline was the closest to AC/DC you'll ever get at Hellfest I guess.

Benighted 14:20/15:00, Altar

The next step for me was pretty obvious. Even with Celeste playing at the same time, Benighted was the way to go. Revered in France, loved abroad by those who know them, it's still a shame they had such an early slot, as proved by the fully packed Altar stage in such an early hour. So well, we only got 40 minutes of brutal death ultraviolence as usual ("Let The Blood Spill Between My Broken Teeth", now a live classic), with Julien being as always the perfect frontman and vocalist he is. From hardcore shouts to porcine cries to death growls, he shifts from one to the other with a versatility that's still as impressive as ever.
Icings on the cake: Arno from Black Bomb A came singing on "Cum With Disgust" (excellent!), and just as during their last tour, we got the "Biotech Is Godzilla" cover! So Benighted, as usual, left everyone exhausted and happy. They've proven once again you just can't tire of good things (even if I didn't mosh, thanks to my camera).

Then, Nordjevel. That's some trve black with corpsepaint, yet it felt oddly appealing to me, as I usually don't like the genre; their shrewd use of melody is probably the culprit. Anyway, while their show was good and certainly not static at all, I headed to the VIP/Press area to rest a bit.

Rose Tattoo 15:05/15:55, Mainstage01

"This isn't Rose Tattoo", said a lady watching them on the screen in the VIP area. Well, they sure sounded slower and mellower than ten years ago, but Angry Anderson is now 70, so I guess this explains that. Anyway, he seemed particularly happy to be here.
Now, let's take some paracetamol. Shitty headaches.

Rose Tattoo were not a band I was particularly familiar with before going to Hellfest, aside from the one song covered by Guns N' Roses on G n' R Lies, but my Australian festival buddy was very keen for them. After catching the end of Mike Portnoy's latest boring post-Dream Theater project, Sons Of Apollo, we got up nice and close to watch these veteran rock 'n' rollers put on a fun show suitable for the glorious sunshine. Personally, I didn't have much more than a passing interest in the music, but for those more enthusiastic about classic hard rock, the group seemed to satisfy, even with their advancing age. I ended up walking over about halfway through the set to the adjacent Mainstage 2 and watching the remainder of their performance from a distance in order to get a good spot for Converge.

Uh, where was I? Oh yeah, almost 4 PM. Even when, at the last minute, Origin were replaced by Voight-Kampff (I'm told this French tech thrash/death band, who mention Atheist, Coroner and Death as their main influences, were fantastic), my mind was set: it was time to finally see Converge!

Converge 16:00/16:40, Mainstage02

I won't pretend being a huge fan of the band, but I certainly like some of their songs and hugely respect their oh-so-influencial chaotic brand of hardcore. Without surprise this was fantastically energetic - with moshpits and crowdsurfing agogo, Jacob Bannon pacing on the stage, delivering kick in guts after kick in the guts.
So as a first contact this was pretty much excellent, but it seems that even weren't at their best - sure, headlining the Warzone would be more fitting (something they already did I think).

I've listened to this band's music from the studio quite a lot, attempting to have a breakthrough, but I've yet to reach a point where I truly enjoy more than a couple of songs. However, after having a great time during their Jane Doe Live set at Roadburn 2016, I made a point of catching them this time round. I must admit I didn't feel quite so warm towards them this second time, for reasons unknown. I've always found Jacob Bannon's high-pitched shrieks difficult to love, and so they proved again, whilst despite all the aggression, I once again struggled to find hooks to really pull me into their music. Ultimately it was a generally fun, energetic neck workout on what was for the most part quite a relaxed day, but it wasn't the early highlight that I was anticipating given my previous encounter with them.

Joan Jett and The Blackhearts 16:45/17:35, Mainstage01

Mainstage 1 was very much reserved for classic rock artists on Friday, with Rose Tattoo followed up by the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll, Joan Jett. There were certainly far worse bands to experience whilst waiting for Meshuggah, and whilst it wasn't a particularly memorable show, it was pleasant enough background music for said wait, and Joan Jett was in good form. She also suffered the same curse that the next band to play on Mainstage 1 is victim to (although not to the same extent), with the crowd only really waking up for "I Love Rock 'N Roll". To be honest, I've never really enjoyed sets where everyone perks up for one classic song, it always feel like an awkward group karaoke song rather than a performance by a classic artist, but I guess it's to be expected at popular festivals.

Well, I must say I've heard different opinions on that one; either she was considered quite energetic, or static, old, and going through the motions. Depended on whom you asked, really.

Saor 16:45/17:35, Temple

Forty minutes of furious headbanging under the sun didn't do me any good, but thankfully my next stop was under the tents for Saor rather than Joan Jett.
Clearly one of the many treats Hellfest 2018 offered, I was really happy of this opportunity to check this great Scottish, atmospheric black metal band. They didn't disappoint! We were offered a 50 minutes journey through the moors of Scotland, guided by some pretty static but focused bards. My only regret was, while a violonist was onstage (good!), there was no piper - those were on tapes only.
Anyway, that was great, and it lulled me into a headaches influenced dozing state, my mind floating with the music...

Meshuggah 17:40/18:30, Mainstage02

Easily my favourite show on the Friday, Meshuggah are a band that I've struggled to get into for nearly a decade, and even today there's only a few songs that I'm truly keen on. Thankfully, those songs (the likes of "Bleed" and "Rational Gaze") were every bit as good live, whilst the other music I've previously been less that enthusiastic about seemed to gain something, as I felt compelled to headbang and move along to the infectious polyrhythmic grooves for the entire set. My neck was sore for the rest of the festival thanks to them, but it was totally worth it, the power and energy was everything I was hoping for based on what I'd previously heard about the Meshuggah live experience.

I dozed a bit maybe, but sure I wouldn't miss Meshuggah, so off under the sun I went again.
Without any surprise, this was a monster of polyrythmic precision, and a headbanger's nightmare. Seriously, how do you keep in rhythm with this? Oh well, this certainly didn't stop anyone in front of Mainstage 2 anyway, neither did it prevent moshing and numerous crowdsurfers (including a wheelchair). And behind the serious faces, you could easily see the band was pleased with the welcome. How could it be otherwise, really? Tomas Haake's precision was absolutely jaw-dropping, and Fredrik Thordenthal, just like in 2011, had fun with his solos, tweaking, changing them, making "Bleed" even better. Excellent!

After that, getting off the mainstages zone to get to the Temple, passing through that whole pack of people waiting for Europe, was quite an ordeal, really. Never again should I go near the mainstages for the rest of the fest, that crowd was a nightmare.

Mysticum 18:35/19:35, Temple

Three musicians - two guitars, one bass - towering more than two meters above the stage standing on arrow-shaped pedestals. Black and white screens on the back, on the pedestals, displaying inverted pentagrams and various hypnotic or industrial images. And a relentless drum machine. All humanity erased by an industrial war machine. Mysticum's set was nasty, evil - and as such very good; I wouldn't be surprised if they were the most blasphemous and satanic band of the week-end, as befits a proud member of Norway's second BM wave. Impressive, really impressive, but migraine was already getting the best of me and I slept some of the time.

Then off I went. The smelly smoke of a cigarette pushed me over the edge. Time to go to the campsite, take some real medicine, get as fresh as possible, and sleep. And sleep, sleep, sleep.

Europe 18:35/19:35, Mainstage01

Whilst there were clearly a large proportion of the audience who were only listened to Joan Jett in expectation of "I Love Rock N' Roll", it was nothing compared to contrast between 90% of Europe's set, and the inevitable mini-party during "The Final Countdown". I'm by no means a Europe fan, but I think it's a bit unfortunate for them that they are so renowned for a song that doesn't really represent them as a whole. The majority of the setlist was competent and committed hard rock, although not necessarily to my tastes, whilst "The Final Countdown" felt like a favour to the audience rather than anything they enjoy doing, which I expect is the case. Still it does mean that they continue to get to play prominent main stage slots at major festivals, so they probably don't mind it too much.

Steven Wilson 19:40/20:40, Mainstage02

Steven Wilson isn't necessarily, at least with his more recent output, musically aligned with the general heaviness level of Hellfest, something he himself noted. But with personable stage presence and audience interaction, plus a very good performance, I think he generally won over the audience. If I remember correctly, in addition to singing duties he also played at various points guitar, bass, and keyboards, fluidly moving between them around his accomplished backing group. I'll admit the setlist was not what I would have picked from his solo career and Porcupine Tree discography by any stretch of the imagination (really, nothing from The Raven That Refused To Sing?!), but I enjoyed this performance nevertheless.

Sólstafir 20:45/21:45, Temple

Sólstafir have always been a band I kinda liked, but there's something about their sound that I find slightly offputting. Part of it I believe is the vocals, but both on a previous occasion seeing them at a festival and here, I felt more positively towards them, and the band in general. This was a really pleasant and moving setlist, and I never felt time drag during the hour-long performance. The title track from Otta was a personal highlight, but in general I felt they did a good job of conveying the atmosphere of their music, even (or especially) in the quieter moments.

Eyehategod 21:50/22:50, Valley

I was surprised to see that EHG were currently active, as last I'd heard Mike Williams was having serious health issues. However, he seemed lively enough at Hellfest, as did the rest of the group. To be honest, my memory of this set is pretty foggy, as I was mostly sitting at the back of the tent and giving my legs a rest, but as someone who's never been all that fond of Eyehategod (mainly due to my general disinterest in hardcore punk), I generally had a decent time watching them.

Judas Priest 23:25/00:55, Mainstage01

The Friday night headliner, if I'm being honest, it may have been that I was too far back to pick up on it, but I felt a real lack of buzz and atmosphere during this show. The band did the best they could, but something just didn't feel right during this, and it fell a bit flat for me. I remember there were notable issues with the sound during the first few songs (although I can't remember the exact nature of them), but even when they were resolved I didn't find myself becoming any more enthusiastic. Possibly others closer to the stage had more fun but this was a bit of a flat ending to what was otherwise a pretty decent opening day to the festival.

I then caught snippets of Napalm Death and Therion on the way out, but don't think I could've managed much more of either given my building fatigue at that point.

So... what did I miss, guys?
Church Of Misery and Suffocation were good. And you know I'm a Sólstafir fan, so I enjoyed it a lot. They really got the knack to interact with the audience now.
Holywood Vampires - that's Alice Cooper + Joe Perry + Johnny Depp - were a decent cover band, I'd say.
We were sitting too far to clearly see Judas Priest, but we still heard them... while being unable to divert our eyes from the Altar screen where Barney was running as usual. Weird mix.
On the Warzone, Bad Religion were good, but Svinkels were some kind of shitty alternative hip-hop, man. It was their first time with two guitars, but who cared?
Satyricon were good; I really enjoyed thir set even if I didn't know them beforehand.
However, it seems that Therion went downhill, really. It was boring, and I couldn't stand the new female singer's voice.

To be continued... here!

All right-aligned text by Musclassia (thanks again mate!)
All the rest by Darkside Momo, with various more-or-less accurate transcriptions of comments coming from friends, strangers, and overheard conversations alike.


Written on 08.08.2018 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.


Comments: 6   Visited by: 51 users
08.08.2018 - 18:54
Bad English
Nice one, but sad there are crush in line up, when good bands dont match. Its sadest part of big festivals, but well I never will attend.
Nice part about football hehhe I would not care about WC in such case, but WC years can be bad for such events.
This can b bigger as Wanker Open air soon.
But about NMS, well MS Europe revieves and things are dead, old writter attent but are lazy to wrote, maybe its time nw blood write and old ones go home ..

I hope some revieves comming up soon more.

Our young hearts are born with such grief
And we have paid the penalty of truth
The season, of our stolen youth
Shall teach old hearts to break
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
09.08.2018 - 02:22
Darkside Momo
Oh, I forgot to mention...
None of my friends did check A Perfect Circle (and I probably wouldn't have either), but I discovered "The Doomed" thanks to the documentary on Arte (starting at about 1:33:00). Fantastic song, fantastic live, too bad the rest of the album isn't on par with it...
My Author's Blog (in French)

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you"

"I've lost too many years now
I'm stealing back my soul
I am awake"
09.08.2018 - 03:20
That Mysticum live show looks amazing. I'm sure the music is amazing as well I really like the vest the one on the right has on too.

This may have been the best Hellfest line-up I've ever seen.
09.08.2018 - 09:26
Darkside Momo
Written by VIG on 09.08.2018 at 03:20

That Mysticum live show looks amazing. I'm sure the music is amazing as well I really like the vest the one on the right has on too.

It sure was good (and yeah, visually impressive)
Written by VIG on 09.08.2018 at 03:20

This may have been the best Hellfest line-up I've ever seen.

It's a matter of tastes, really, but it's certainly one of the best indeed
My Author's Blog (in French)

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you"

"I've lost too many years now
I'm stealing back my soul
I am awake"
14.08.2018 - 20:19
Cheers for putting this together man! Your glowing words about Mysticum made me look up their set; tbh having watching some of it on YT I don't think I'm regretting missing them, but you conveyed your own enthusiasm nicely, even if you did have headaches to deal with
14.08.2018 - 20:51
Darkside Momo
Written by musclassia on 14.08.2018 at 20:19

Cheers for putting this together man! Your glowing words about Mysticum made me look up their set; tbh having watching some of it on YT I don't think I'm regretting missing them, but you conveyed your own enthusiasm nicely, even if you did have headaches to deal with

Thanks and thanks! Ahah sure Mysticum ain't for everybody - that drummachine / norway BM combo is quite an acquired taste - but visually it was both impressive and quite fitting
My Author's Blog (in French)

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you"

"I've lost too many years now
I'm stealing back my soul
I am awake"

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