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Hellfest 2018 - part 2


Written by: Darkside Momo
Published: 13.08.2018


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



Part II of our Hellfest 2018 report, featuring my ramblings once again enhanced by Musclassia's experience.

Previously...


Table Of Contents

Saturday the 23rd, better things than nü

Sunday the 24rd, apotheosis?

Conclusion - Is the tourist the enemy?






Ahhh I woke up decently rested and without any headaches, thankfully. So back to the traditional Maredsous Tripel for breakfast . Yet, after a migraine, I usually feel a good power-up... And that wasn't the case. Shit.

I've been accused of being biased against nü metal. Guess what, yes I am, especially today, as the mainstages band are (with few exceptions) of the nü variety - and if not, they're of a commercial metalcore persuasion. So yeah, I planned all along to steer clear of the mainstages today, with the exception of Body Count.... But don't worry, there's plenty of stuff to enjoy for me today...
What about you, musclassia?

The line-up for the Saturday was probably the least specified for my tastes overall; I popped in and out of a few performances, as well as taking a trip back to the campsite for a couple of hours mid-afternoon, but only ended up catching 5 full sets. However, those sets were amongst the best of the festival, so what Saturday lacked in quantity for me it made up for in quality.


Guess what, we're thinking about the same one (read on, read on! )

Anyway, as I took my usual time on the campsite, I missed the sad clowns of Pensées Nocturnes, who by most accounts were really convincing.


Bloodshot Dawn 11:40/12:10, Altar

I could have gone and see Black Bomb A, a nice French Hardcore band, but I've already enjoyed them live several times... and this was my first opportunity to see Bloodshot Dawn, so the choice was easy.
So early in the morning - and please consider it's the third time slot already - the audience was pretty active and receptive to the melodic death metal of our British guys; there's been a serious circle pit going on during the set! The band was happy to be there, and played flawlessly songs mostly taken from their latest output "Reanimation" (no surprise here, seeing the recent line-up changes. BTW James Stewart - who's also Vader's drummer - wasn't here). But well, that's my main gripe with this show: they played nothing from their first effort, arguably their best. For shame, really, as I would have enjoyed "Quantum Apocalypse" (or any other, really) immensely.
Oh, and they also dedicated a song song to Vinnie Paul. The news was so fresh I actually learned it from them...





Hantaoma 12:15/12:45, Temple





Hantaoma, Stille Volk's violent little brother, finally released their second album Malamòrt thirteen (!) years after the excellent Malombra, so their set was eagerly awaited by quite a few people.
Sadly, the sounds started quite sloppy, but it thankfully got better - me moving around certainly had something to do with it too. Anyway, theirs was a good show, short but powerful, with an emphasis on the newer songs - which are definitely good, but I would taken more of Malombra myself.
Now, I just hope these fellow Pyreneans will headline a show somewhere near our beloved mountains!





Demilich 12:50/13:30, Altar

The Demilich? The one who offered us the monumental Nespithe? Oh my fucking god, count me in!
The death metal connaisseurs weren't numerous under the Altar, but those who were sure did enjoy something great, profoundly old-school and weird at the same time. No stage antics, no props, just four guys happy to play one of the strangest death metal known to mankind.
And, those growls, man. Those growls!

Like Schammasch, this is a band I wouldn't normally spend the time and money to travel to see at their own show, but they make for a really interesting band to catch an abbreviated performance of at a festival. I have known of, and (very rarely) listened to, Nespithe, for a long time, and wondered how that technical music would come across live. As I predicted, some of the fine details definitely got lost in the mix, but you could definitely pick up on some of the weirdness going on underneath the intensely heavy death metal. My favourite thing about this set was the humour of Antti Boman, cracking off a joke or witty remark before most of their songs, as well as the clear enthusiasm they had for the opportunity to perform at a festival like Hellfest. Not my favourite set musically, but the overall positive vibe made it a fun opening show of the day.





Misþyrming 13:35/14:15, Temple

Then Misþyrming drew a bit of a crowd. Sure, their looks were striking, with their businessmen attires stained with red (they actually made me think a bit about American Psycho... Icelandic Psycho?). They sure played with conviction and rage their black metal, that sounded nasty but pretty regular to these ears.
All in all, it was more than a decent show, but I can't say I got the hype that seems to surround this band. I'm probably not the best to judge either.




The mainstages then saw the new nü French revival, super sayen style, with Rise Of The Northstar. They're really growing fast here in France, and the crowd was nuts, but I still can't stand their music (if you're wondering, I saw a small part of their show on the screen in the VIP area).

At the same time played Psykup. They always bring me fond memories of University, where and when I saw them a few times - they're indeed from my hometown Toulouse, and didn't even have an album out back then. They're wacky, bizarre, and good live... but not to my tastes anymore (I saw them at home last autumn and left before the end... that said, playing after Benighted isn't an easy task anyway),
Yeah, they were interesting and did put quite a show. But I seriously regret not seeing them back then in Uni too, as the music, well, didn't really interest or move me at all.


Oranssi Pazuzu 15:05/15:55, Temple

I seriously wonder if, in the end, Oranssi Pazuzu ain't just better in a festival setting. It's the third time I see them - first one being at Hellfest 2012, the second in a Toulouse venue last year - and both Hellfest shows were awesome while the Toulouse set was quite meh. One could expect daylight would be a hindrance to get caught in their dark psychedelia, but it sure as hell isn't, the intoxicating nature of their music is so potent it sucks you in anyway.
But shit, my headaches were coming back... So I sat in the grass and drifted, totally washed away in dark waves of nightmarish psychedelia. Earplugs on, I certainly didn't care that their sound was probably the loudest of the whole fest.

The next full set I saw was a band I'd frustratingly missed at Roadburn in 2016, and after seeing this I'm very glad I was given another chance to experience them. I've known and passingly enjoyed their studio work, but even though I have a couple of their albums kicking around in my digital library, I'm not all that well acquainted with them, so I wasn't fully prepared for the sheer hypnotic pull of this show. Admittedly, I remember being slightly drowsy during this show, which also was the case during a similar enthralling set by Dark Buddha Rising at Roadburn 2016, but in both cases I think that slight fogginess added to the experience, as this sonic maelstrom and combination of eclectic atmosphere and black metal drive almost overwhelmed me. Easily in my top 5 shows of the festival, which I wasn't expecting at all.


And then a single coffee (don't ever, ever, brutally stop drinking coffee, OK?) saved me (thanks again Moose), and I was pumped as fuck and ready to go for the rest of the week-end. Finally my post-migraine euphoria and energy kicked in!




Akercocke 16:00/16:40, Altar

This wasn't a band I could even consider missing. Sure, Ho99o9 were appealling, but Akercocke have released several fantastic albums and written one of the best songs of the previous decade ("Shelter From The Sand"), so I was eager to see them live.
But hey... no suits? OK, so be it, as long as the show's good.
And good it was, no doubts about it! Jason Mendonca seemed to have fun, Paul Scanlan was suitably evil looking (but enjoyed himself too I'm sure), and David Gray was impressively precise behind the drumkit. Oh well, all were tight as fuck anyway, and blasted our eardrums with abandon, as the setlist was clearly more on the extreme and brutal side of their discography. That was great!



O rly?


No, really. What was Sam Loynes (Voices, The Antichrist Imperium) doing at the front of the stage? He played during less than one third of the whole set, and spentthe rest of his time, well... I don't know, trying to be evil trance-like or whatever? I'm sorry to say he was probably one of the most useless keyboardist I ever saw on stage. I should have taken more pics of him just being weird or airdrumming . I guess the front of the stage wasn't the best place for him, and it must have been awkward for him too.

But seriously, no "Shelter From The Sand"? MEH.




Ho99o9 16:00/16:40, Valley

I saw these guys supporting The Dillinger Escape Plan in early 2017, and it's shows like this that make me wonder what other gems did I miss out on simply because I hadn't been introduced to the group. Another top 5 set, this was a hugely fun show and one of the very few that inspired me to get a bit of moshing action going on. Their mix of hip hop and punk, amongst other things, results in short and sweet songs that flip on a knife edge from periods of flailing, manic hardcore punk to extremely headbang-able grooves. I've listened to their songs online, and for the most part I'm not sure it's really the kind of thing I'd care to spend too much time on, but live it is just an insanely fun experience from first minute to last.



Heilung 16:45/17:35, Temple

There seems to be quite a demand for neo-folk right now, and French metal label Season Of Mist followed the trend by signing and promoting Heilung. And well, the Temple was packed, overflowing with people on every side.
Musically, this was another world. A jump in times long past, with ritual singings, drums, sticks, steel and flute. Impressive, and quite trance-like for those who loved it, but, well, it wasn't really to my tastes. Or more precisely, it certainly appealed to my primitive self, but nothing more.
Wait wait wait! You haven't mentioned the time when the six warriors onstage jumped into the photopit and climbed on the barriers and were supported by the security guys (and us!). That moment was awesome too. However, I would have preferred to see them by night, just like Wardruna last year, who played only lighted by braziers... And that was magical.




Shit continued on the mainstages, as Pleymo took the stage - they were famous, actually one the nü leaders in France in the early 00's, and they sure were well welcomed. At the same time, old school death steamroller Memoriam took no prisoners.
But well, I was elsewhere...


Dälek 17:40/18:30, Valley

Dälek was the first hip-hop band I liked, one of the very few I listen to, and the first one I went to see live (as a side note, their opener for that 2015 tour was Moodie Black, whom I saw again doing a great show just a few weeks before Hellfest).
Well, sure hip-hop (especially some industrially bleak one like that) didn't draw that much of a crowd. It must have felt tame after the Ho99o9 storm, as the set was really minimalistic. No videos, no fancy lights, just MC Dälek, DJ rEK, and guest Mathieu Vandekerckhove of Amenra fame on guitars of added texturing. I guess this was a mistake, as the show could have used a little more oomph; and while I certainly enjoyed it, with the setlist mostly centered on both Endangered Philosophies (fantastic "Echoes Of...") and Absence ("Eyes To Form Shadows", always my fave), the audience quietly dwindled during the set...




After that... I could have checked a bit of Arkona...
You really should have...
...but the overpacked, overflowing Temple stage discouraged me immediately. One quick look at the running-order, and I went near the Warzone to eat while listening to Terror. Yeah, listening and not seeing, as they too did draw quite a crowd. But what we heard was some plesantly nasty and violent hardcore!


Body Count 20:00/21:00, Mainstage02

And after that, off to my only stint one the mainstages for the day, with Body Count. My friend and I sure didn't stay until the end, because the sound was bad, and Ice-T seemed more bent on ranting and various blah blah than on playing actual music.
So, sure, we missed Powerflo guesting on "Cop Killer", but heck, Body Count didn't even play "Born Dead". Heck, this remains one of the biggest dissapointments for most - according to the HF forum, that is (for the biggest, read on, read on, it happened on Sunday).


Enslaved 20:45/21:45, Temple

After taking a quick break, and catching a few Orange Goblin tracks, it was on to a real personal favourite. This was the 6th time I'd seen Enslaved live in a 3-year period, and some of those shows have been amongst my all-time favourite gigs, so expectations were high. However, seeing them so regularly did mean I had basically already seen this setlist in very recent memory, which did take some of the surprise away from it. On the flip side, both times I had seen them in 2017 they had had real issues with the vocals being drowned out in the mix, which was thankfully rectified here. As always, Grutle was having fun, as was the band in general, albeit with a bittersweet element as they announced that it was the final show for drummer Cato Bekkevold before leaving the band. It was a typically high-quality show, and the epic outro of "Sacred Horse" gets better and better every time I hear it. Probably the biggest 'negative' during this show was the dust cloud kicked up by the neighbouring mosh pit, a general issue at this festival given just how dry the ground was, but it was most notable here.


As for the dust clouds, I must say I experienced them most under the Valley, as the wind just seem to avoid this tent entirely, always leaving a light smog of dust over the ground.
Nothing to add on Enslaved, really, 'cause that's for sure, these guys never disappoint. But I was however surprised by the relative lack of audience for them, something I already noticed under the tents - apart of the big or hyped names (and yeah, "Sacred Horse"!).




Dead Cross 17:40/18:30, Valley

Well, I had never heard of Dead Cross before, but when my friends told me it was a Patton + Lombardo band, I knew I was in. I was quite surprised to hear some hardcore-ish stuff under the Valley; I wasn't expecting that, and I'm still wondering why they weren't programmed on the Warzone instead.
This was actually my first live Patton experience, and while he didn't overdo it, he still was that quite unhinged and fantastically versatile frontman. Best moment I saw was when he asked if someone wanted to come onstage, then rejecting offers from volunteers only to pick a nine years old kid. Who of course didn't speak English at all, and was pretty nervous, almost frightened. But that's kids, and he quickly got over it and sang - well, tried to - with Patton during the chorus.
But well, that was all fun and good, but the music wasn't that exceptionnal. Now that I had enjoyed seeing two legends onstage, let's check CoB a bit on the Altar stage.




Children Of Bodom 21:50/22:50, Altar

All has already been said many times about Children Of Boredom's live experiences. But the huge crowd pressing itself under the Altar was actually in for a better set than usual; while it still was boringly lifeless on the more recent stuff, the fucking old ones did fucking shine (fucking "Downfall" was great, as was fucking "Hate Crew Deathroll", for example).
Yep, Children Of Bodom did actually deliver a decent set, with bonus kudos to the bassplayer's French speech!


Then... Avenged Sevenfold set has seen some pretty peculiar moments.
Yeah, that really was a "Nightmare". Twas the only song I really wanted to hear, but... The singer definitely had problems singing and admitted it, so he asked a fan to climb onstage and sing in his stead. I left.
(btw you can check this in the Arte documentary).

But who cares in the end? For me (and musclassia too)... It was Neurosis time! And while I heard that their 2013 show here wasn't that great, I had a good feeling about this.


Neurosis 00:00/01:00, Valley





Anticipation quickly rose in the front ranks, already packed fifteen minutes before the beginning of the show.

I am a post-metal fan, and have been a huge fan of Isis, and subsequently Cult Of Luna, for a long time, with a Cult Of Luna show in 2014 being a serious contender for my all-time favourite live music experience. However, Neurosis, the third of the big three bands in the sub-genre, and probably the most significant, had taken me a long time to adapt to their particular style, and even when I saw them double-headline at Roadburn 2016, I still wasn't fully on board with them. Those performances inspired me to truly delve into their catalogue again, and in the subsequent 2 years I have become far more fond of them, particularly the likes of Through Silver In Blood, to the extent that they are a primary influence on my amateurish attempts at songwriting. As such, I was very hyped to finally get to experience them live as an actual fan (this was probably my most anticipated show at the entire festival), and they did not remotely disappoint. Kicking off with "Given To The Rising", I was hooked from the first minute, but it really kicked on to another level in the second half, with the closing trio of "Burn", "Reach", and the colossal title track of "Through Silver In Blood" making for a truly extraordinary 30 minutes that rendered any bands playing after them redundant. How could anyone begin to sound interesting after going through the catharsis of those three songs and being pummelled by those relentless closing minutes of "Through Silver In Blood", capped off with the huge drumming outro? An awesome show, a brilliant way to end an excellent second day, and probably my personal highlight of Hellfest.


Yes, as soon as "Given To The Rising" started, we were off for home hour of bliss, with a really balanced setlist ("Given To The Rising" - "End Of The Harvest" - "A Shadow Memory" - "Burn" - "Reach" - "Through Silver In Blood") that featured perfectly both the eerie atmospherics and the crushing heaviness. "End Of The Harvest" was just perfect and "A Shadow Memory" is really great live. And, then, the twelve minutes of "Through Silver In Blood" floored everyone (oh my gosh, the intensity of that finale!).
Neurosis are probably my highlight of this 2018 edition too, but there's a close contender on Sunday (albeit in a different genre). They sure gained new fans tonight (I know one of those). Hell, even my cousin grudginly admitted it was a good show - and he doesn't like them at all!
What more to say, really? Neurosis are to be experienced and not merely seen. As soon as possible!




After that, we saw that pitiful excuse for fireworks (we've had oh so many times better during previous editions...), and then Dimmu Borgir...




Dimmu Borgir 01:05/02:05, Temple

Well... I've seen them in Oslo a few years ago, and they were much better. Shagrath's voice wasn't very good, and the sound on the whole was pretty meh. I'm sad to say I was a bit disappointed...
Sure, for my friends and I, one look at the theatrical entrance and stage props (including inverted crosses, how original) was enough. Either you liked it, or...
They definitely look like evil Disney characters!
Now I'm seriously wondering if that's purposeful or not. Maybe actually it is, but if so it's quite at odds with the evilness they professed in their younger years... Just compare with, say, Caïnan Dawn, Misþyrming (think about evil in our world... suits or cartoons?) or Zeal & Ardor (Manuel really that possessed, unhinged look at times). Who's the most frightening, really?


Not being motivated to check either Hatebreed or Parkway Drive (who, according to many on the Hellfest forum, did actually deliver the most stunning performance of the whole fest) we went back to the campsite to drink some beers before sleeping.







Same perfect weather as usual. Now I'm pumped up and totally in shape (not moshing must've helped a bit I guess), and that's great as I have quite a lot of bands to see. But would anyone be able to top that Neurosis experience?

For me, this was honestly the opposite to Saturday. Sunday was so stacked with bands that I was looking forward to seeing that bands that I would've normally expected to be 'festival' bands that I could check out, such as Exodus, Ensiferum, and At The Gates, couldn't even get a look in. I barely even had time to pause and sit down, and could virtually feel my feet surrendering and my back caving in by the time I was walking back to the campsite, but it was completely worth it.



Plebeian Grandstand 11:05/11:35, Temple





The Temple was quite empty when homeboys Plebeian Grandstand took the stage. Their furious fusion of black metal and hardcore (well, more focused on the former as of late) was violent and chaotic as we love it. The black in their sound made them play under the Temple, but their hardcore roots were pretty visible.
Yeah, I guess playing barechested ain't that tr00, you know
In a live setting, the subtleties of their dissonant music easily get lost in favor of pure aggression, but that aggression did shine through on an impressive scale... Well done guys!




Crisix 11:40/12:10, Altar

Then I happened to catch some Crisix. This young thrash revival band (heavily sponsored by the Monster brand) took many people by surprise with their really decent and catchy thrash metal. They clearly were having a lot of fun, and this was really infectious - that's a band actually bringing the fun back in thrash without being cheesy. A nice discovery and a good show!




Orden Ogan 11:40/12:10, Mainstage01

I'd come across Gunmen last year, and whilst I didn't end up revisiting it, I thought it was one of the better power metal albums of recent years, so decided I'd try to catch a bit of these guys early on Sunday. They had the usual issues of early Mainstage bands in terms of minor sound issues and a half-asleep audience, but I felt like they did the best they could. However, I never truly engaged with it and ended up leaving early to go catch Au-Dessus.





Au-Dessus 12:15/12:45, Temple

Given the recent discussion of this nomenclature on MetalStorm I feel hesitant to use the term, but the post-black metal group from Lithuania, one of several groups on the Temple stage I would attribute the term to on Sunday, were the first band I was looking forward to on this final day, and the alternation between full-pelt black metal assault and more atmospheric, creepy segments came across well in the tent. I preferred the slower and moodier parts to the periods of all-out blasting fury, but I really enjoyed the whole set in general.


Well, I'm sure I've heard some of their set while I was eating an excellent steak tartare in the VIP / press area, but I can't remember anything of it tbh (the tartare, however... ).


Then I went to take some pics of Rotten Sound, whose grindcore was pretty nasty but failed to connect with me (and I seem to remember a more-static-than-usual audience too). So I left early, as I also was curious to see...




Warning 12:50/13:30, Valley

Since I first arrived on MetalStorm and saw Watching From A Distance at the top of half the 'albums of the decade' lists of regular users, I have failed to board the hype train for Warning. I always found the songs to be tedious and repetitive, and the vocals soporific. However, there was nothing better on, so I thought I'd pop in for half of their set. To be honest, I didn't really dislike it, but I still didn't experience that feeling of despondent misery that their sound seems to summon in doom fans, so much as an increasing sense of boredom, which ultimately drove me to leave before the end of the set.


Well, I still don't like regular doom like this, and definitely failed to connect with Watching From A Distance on tape, but this was such an unexpected addition to Hellfest's line-up that I had to check them anyway. And well, as soon as I entered the Valley and closed in to take some pictures, it was as if a huge tide of raw emotions washed over me, overflowing from Pat Walker's singing. It was something sad, but soothing at the same time, all really beautiful and moving - but just like musclassia I didn't feel any despondant misery. I guess he smiled too much and enjoyed the reactions his music was provoking.
Impressive, really impressive. Let's be honest: I still don't like Warning's music, whatever its numerous qualities. Yet this show (far less boring live to these non-doom ears than Conan, for example), as soon as you entered the Valley and opened your heart, was pure emotion. Its takes Anathema level output to move me so much, yet Pat Walker's singing was just that. I'm more than glad to have be part of what is supposed to be, as I learned afterwards, the last Warning live performance ever.




The Great Old Ones 13:35/14:15, Temple

I'm now pretty familiar with these guys's live performances, as I've seen them quite a few times already, but it's always a pleasure to enjoy them again and their Lovecraftian black metal. It was time to discover, by the way, that Gorod's Ben Barby is now the band's bassplayer.
Oh well, no surprises here, once again it was great and tightly played - and I can nitpick enough to say I prefer them in the darkness and stage lights of a venue. They sure pleased their old fans, and gained new ones alike, as they so rightfully deserved!

Another arguably post-black [DSM: I wouldn't say that, but let's stop the nitpicking ] band on Sunday, the audience was once again subjected to a mix of relentless black metal with blast-beats galore alongside periods of more muted but still menacing foreboding. I think I've never been as keen on TGOO as the likes of Au-Dessus as their priority seems more skewed towards the former, and again, whilst I enjoyed the show, it didn't grab me in the way the Lithuanian's set had. On the other hand, my friend had the complete opposite experience, and appreciated me introducing him to The Great Old Ones, so they clearly impressed some people more than they did me.





Then I happened to pass close to the Altar where Exumer played, and sure that was headbangable. Old thrashers know the trick, right?
At the same time, on Mainstage01, there was In This Moment. I wonder if the band's appeal - for the male audience - was anything else than the suggestively-clad Maria Brinks...
Oh shush... I liked the music, and the show was quite beautiful and visually interesting, with Maria and her doppleganger...


Tombs 15:05/15:45, Temple

I'd remembered listening to the likes of Savage Gold by Tombs in the past and enjoying it, but I hadn't listened to them in a while before catching them here, so clearly had underestimated the extent to which their sound was dominated by black metal. It ended up being a bit too 'in your face' for me, and after 20-30 minutes I needed a break, so went to wait for Iced Earth.


A solid set, really, but as musclassia said, it was more centered on their aggressive black side than on the moodier, bleaker moments. Still all in all a good show that I enjoyed from start to finish.




I could have gone seeing either Iced Earth or The Lurking Fear. Nay. I preferred to spend some times chatting with a friend I knew from Les Imaginales. That's for you, Amandine (that's also what festivals are for, after all).


Iced Earth 11:40/12:10, Mainstage01

Once upon a time, I was such an Iced Earth fan that I paid extra to get a VIP package for one of their shows, meaning I got to have a nice awkward meet and greet with the band where I didn't really know what to say. My interest in them has notably lessened over the subsequent half-decade or so, but I was still somewhat excited to catch them here. After a couple of minutes, however, that excitement was sorely diminished as I realised that the sound was completely messed up. It was such as shame to have a singer with the pipes and conviction of Stu Block be barely audible in the sound mix, only guessing at what epic sounds he was coming up with that were for significant sections almost completely drowned out. But it wasn't just the vocals that suffered, as for substantial periods the guitars were muddied such that the details and melodic parts were lost, with the drums and rhythm guitars dominating the mix. The Dark Saga used to be my favourite album by the band, so imagine my surprise when it took me up until the chorus to recognise "Vengeance Is Mine", as that iconic opening guitar line didn't come through at all, which was confirmed when the song finished and the same guitar line was again inaudible. Far and away the biggest disappointment at the festival, and given that Iced Earth's live sound has previously been criticised, and no one else had issues to the same extent (Judas Priest were the only other band I remember noticing problems with the sound, but not nearly to the same level) [DSM: oh yes there was, but you dodged it like me ], I suspect that it was a fault on the side of the band's crew rather than the festival itself.



Killswitch Engage 16:40/17:25, Mainstage02

Almost every band from these guys onwards I either have or will see elsewhere in 2018, as I have tickets to see Killswitch Engage supporting Maiden at the O2 in London in August. Still, given that I'm such a fan of the band, there was no reason not to get to see them given that they were right next door to Iced Earth's debacle. Thankfully, they actually had a sound mix that enabled you to hear the vocals, which is pretty necessary for the band. Not the greatest time I've had seeing the band, at least partly due to the hesitance to mosh on a concrete floor (why is there in front of the Mainstages, Hellfest? It seems such a health risk). Additionally, the crowdsurfing was pretty incessant throughout, which I guess is to be expected, but it was a bit much. Despite that, the setlist covered songs from the albums I like (basically everything except to the two self-titled's) and the band and audience was having fun, and so did I eventually.



Then, Månegarm played some real good pagan. Except that the supposedly catchy "Odins Owns Ye All" clearly broke the mood for me.


Zeal & Ardor 17:35/18:20, Valley





The hype for these guys was clearly intense, as I skipped the final Killswitch song to get a decent spot for Zeal & Ardor, and had to battle through a pretty sizeable crowd to do so. It seems perhaps not everyone had actually looked up the band before deciding to check them out, as it seemed like more people than usual were exiting prematurely. Thankfully, the people in my vicinity were clearly fans of the band, which is nice because to a certain extent so am I, and I really enjoyed the show. I'd seen them headline before, but at that point they only had Devil Is Fine released and available to the public, so for half of that set they played either rough early drafts of new songs or stuff from the seemingly unavailable self-titled debut. This time, with the recent release of Stranger Fruit, they actually had the material to fill the set, and I felt like songs from both albums came across well, although I don't understand why they downtune Devil Is Fine live, I feel like it takes something away from the song. I also wouldn't've minded them playing "Children's Summon" or "Built From Ashes" live, but otherwise this was a thoroughly enjoyable performance.


FAN-TAS-TIC!
Wonderful. A fuckin' revelation!
My friends weren't the only ones. Zeal & Ardor were probably the Hellfest 2018 discovery for many people... And while I won't be as raving mad about Z&A as many, it still enjoyed a lot that really good show, with Manuel Gagneux looking so possessed (and trying so hard not to crack a smile or two!), and the songs reaching quite a new level in a live setting. Next time, more people singing in the audience like a real church chanting would be perfect!




Batushka 18:25/19:15, Temple

After that enjoyable twist on blasphemy, it was time to check another one. After gospel, let's get to orthodox chanting, Batushka-style. While I was aware of the hype (even if I still haven't checked Litourgiya, the affluence under the Temple (not that big as for Heilung or Arkona, tho) surprised me nonetheless.
On stage were those static robed figures surrounded by a great stage set-up, playing some real quality stuff (I definitely got the hype, OK), that I'll be sure to check in Toulouse this september! So I left to grab something to eat.
I stayed. It was good all along and I liked it, but not my friends who felt it was always the same thing. But they're not into black metal to begin with, so...




Amorphis 19:20/20:20, Altar





After Z&A, there was finally a lull in the proceedings on my end, which was convenient as it was around dinnertime and would be the last break until 2 am. After grabbing a bite to eat, I planted myself up close for Amorphis, and picked up the distant sounds of Batuskha, who I was actually pretty impressed with considering I hadn't heard them before. After they finished, Amorphis came out and delivered the usual high-quality set that I expected. There was a lot of material from the new album Queen Of Time in there (I counted 4 songs), but they all came across well enough, and whilst the rest of the set didn't have much in the way of big surprises, I appreciated the inclusion of "The Castaway", one of my favourite songs from the seminal Tales From The Thousand Lakes, and one I hadn't seen them perform previously. Ultimately, Amorphis act as good proof for me that the factors that make a band one of my favourites on record, and those that makes a band one of my favourites live, are not necessarily identical, as Amorphis, one of my very favourite bands to listen to, regularly perform sets of high quality full of songs I really enjoy, but whilst I always enjoy the shows, they're always a 7/8 out of 10 experience rather than a 10 out of 10 revelation. Still, they have yet to disappoint, and I hope that continues when I see them in the autumn.


Yeah, he's right; it was a really great set, but it lacked the little something to make it awesome; I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless, particularly the two oldies but goodies "Against Widows" and "The Castaway". And I liked the song they played on tapes while leaving the stage... which was none other than a hummpa cover of "House Of Sleep"!




Meanwhile... Megadeth and Baroness 19:20/20:20

Yeah we, poor us, missed the worst sound of the fest. That pretty dubious honor falls to Megadeth.
You know I'm a fan, Momo, right? Well I honestly can't tell if they did open their set with "Rattlehead". There just weren't any guitars at all, and after that problem was 'solved', the sound just stayed awfully bad. What a shame!
According to Rock Hard France, Megadeth's sound enginner got fired after that catastrophe.

Still during the same time slot, under the Valley were Baroness. Those with social media connections (not me) knew the band had a problem, as their drummer Sebastian Thomson had to fly urgently back to the US. The three members left only had a few hours to try to prepare an accoustic show (as they didn't want to cancel). Those who lived that show all describe it as a pure emotional moment - Tompa Lingberg himself asked us duiring his At The Gates show, "how many in here watched the Baroness set over there before? That was fucking amazing! How many guys and girls cried during that set?", before dedicating the next song to them). The band themselves did post this on their instagram account...


Alice In Chains 20:25/21:25, Mainstage02

I always find Alice In Chains' festival appearances slightly strange. They're one of the most popular rock bands from the 90's, have delivered well-received material recently, and regularly get booked for lengthy main stage slots one or two positions before the main headliner, but crowds don't usually seem to care that much for them. They'll turn up in numbers, but compared to other bands in similar positions, they usually seem to be pretty stone-faced for the most part, and this has happened in multiple countries now that I've experienced. Personally, AIC are a big favourite of mine, and I appreciated the fact that the two Mainstages were right next to each other, so that I could see their set whilst searching for a decent position for Iron Maiden. Still, whilst I thought they were good, they didn't inspire real excitement in me either, so I can't say I'm without blame either. Something about their sound or performance just doesn't seem to be suited for festivals, but maybe people liked them more than they were letting on.


Septicflesh 20:25/21:25, Temple

I gave up on Septicflesh after the boring Titan...
Shame on you, cousin, shame on you. Codex Omega is great.
Yeah, I know, and the songs they played of it were actually good. But I prefered to rest and sit under the Altar, just hearing the songs. It felt like usual Septicflesh, with symphonics and clean vocals on tape, etc. Titan songs felt just as lame as on the album to me, while classics like "Anubis" or "Pyramid God" still were instant crowd pleasers.
You should have come with me, really; we've both seen them a few times already, but this one was even better. First, Seth Siro Anton had his right shoulder dislocated, yet he asked a roadie to get his sling off. Second, because we were just behind the sound and lights deck; and seeing the lady in charge of the lights enjoying the show to the fullest, taking pics and headbanging just like the rest of us - to the point that she sometimes missed a step and triggered lights a bit too late - added a whole new level to the experience. Awesome!


At The Gates 21:30/22:30, Altar

One fucking hour of Gothenburg-style violence, this one. Even with Iron Maiden playing (as Tomas Lindberg reminded us), the Altar was packed, with some moshing and crowdsurfing going on, not to mention the huge cheering and shouting!
And while I knew At The Gates were great live - their 2008 show being one of the best out of the best Hellfest line-up ever - I still was blown away by the sheer awesomeness of it all. It's been noted numerous times, but Tompa is really one fantastic frontman; cheering, snarling, smiling, he's sure as happy to be onstage and see people banging to his band's music as is his friend Mikael Stanne. Around him, tight as the proverbial duck's ass, the band - with now Jonas Stålhammar replacing Anders Björler - was relentless in pummelling us with no less than six songs from the classic Slaughter Of The Soul, the rest coming either from the latest To Drink From The Night Itself (the eponymous song opened the set) or At War With Reality.
An asskicking show, easily the best of the day for me. I definitely can't wait to see them again, opening for Boremoth, er, Behemoth, in January next year!





Iron Maiden 21:30/23:30, Mainstage01

I hadn't fully looked into the Legacy Of The Beast tour pitch, so I think I was under the impression it was another classic songs tour as they had done 4 years ago, when I saw them deliver an amazing setlist at Sonisphere. When on only the second song they whipped out "Where Eagles Dare", I realised that this possibly wasn't going to be the classics only set that I had anticipated, and so it proved, with a heavy focus on Piece Of Mind, deep album cuts from the reunion albums, and not one but two (!) Blaze Bayley era songs. Honestly, it was a nice surprise, as this is probably the last time a lot of these songs will ever be performed by Maiden, and considering how much they'd avoided the likes of "Flight Of Icarus" over the past decades, they seemed to get a kick out of doing these album tracks. The stage show, even for Iron Maiden, was at a pretty staggering level of extravagance, with about 4 costume changes in the first 4 songs, an array of props, a whole catalogue of stage backgrounds, and multiple Eddies. I really liked it, but I must confess the lack of enthusiasm of the people around me for anything that wasn't "The Trooper" or from "The Number Of The Beast" was a little irritating (heck, even "2 Minutes To Midnight" got a pretty lukewarm response around me), and I do hope on home soil there's a bit more love for them. Still, Maiden are consummate professionals, and Bruce's enthusiasm after so much time is honestly inspiring, the conviction he puts into every song, in every performance of his I've seen, is really unparalleled.



While I enjoyed the end of Maiden's show - from afar - the Temple hosted quite a crowd again.
Ensiferum? Just like Månegarm, that was some decent folky stuff, and the audience was quite nuts.


Exodus 00:00/01:00, Altar

While this was a different Exodus than the one which previously played at Hellfest - without Holt and his Slayer commitments, but with Steve Souza back - the monstrous thrash beast was still very much the same aggression-wise.
Feels like I've been crushed by a freight train.
That's for sure, and contrary to the aforementioned Slayer, Exodus never disappoints live.
Anyway, as I wasn't in the moshpit because of my fragile camera, I felt slightly disconnected and finally left for...




Amenra 00:00/01:00, Valley

I've had a slightly mixed experience with Amenra live over the years. I was a bit put off by them the first time I encountered them in 2014, to the extent that I didn't listen to them until I caught them at Roadburn in 2016, and was singularly blown away by their live intensity and atmosphere. I was looking for more of the same when I saw them in London earlier this year, but it didn't live up to that experience at Roadburn, so I wasn't sure what to expect here. Ultimately, this was everything I was hoping for in London, and I think the rest of the audience was in agreement. When Neurosis had played the same stage and slot on Saturday, the crowd was pretty static for the most part, but during Amenra, pretty much everyone around me was headbanging and swaying in pretty exaggerated fashions, seemingly caught up in the same trance I was, and I had to put a distracting amount of focus into avoiding being subjected to (or inflicting) any accidental headbutts. Even with that distraction, however, the unparalleled ritualistic intensity that Amenra live shows are renowned for was on full display to maximum effect, although I was slightly disappointed that "Boden" didn't make the setlist, as those opening chimes have almost become synonymous with the band for me at this point. Probably the pinnacle of what was a top-notch closing day of the festival.


I attended only the second half of their set - I already saw them in Hellfest 2014, when they played really early (quite the evolution in four years!), and while the live experience was great, I couldn't stand the vocals. This time, they were lower in the mix, which was good for me (and I must admit that I'm not as allergic as I was four years ago). The lights, either a black & white video or blindingly white, forced me to close my eyes.
At that point, with my earplugs on, I decided to just sit down. Eyes closed, breathing a dusty air, surrounded by heavy music, feeling the vibrations on the ground, slowly headbanging, lost in it all... That was quite a fantastic sensory experience. But a stupid moron tried to 'wake me up' or whatever. Let me enjoy the music how I want to!


Carpenter Brut 01:05/02:05, Temple

Carpenter Brut were a great way to close this Hellfest edition, as long as you like this retro synthwave thing anyway. I like some of the songs (well, "Turbokiller" at least), and Otto wanted to see them, so here we were. Plus, two Hacride members were onstage, so that's always a reason.
I must say the set was good, mostly following the Leather Face story arc.
And the lights were absolutely awesome!
Yeah, sure they were really good, probably the best the Temple saw this year, but I've seen much better (anyone who has ever seen Ez3kiel will know what I'm talking about). Noteworthy guest too, "Mat" McNerney, who sang on some songs off Leather Face was onsite with his Grave Pleasures, so he was happy to oblige and sing his parts too.
They finally finished on "Maniac", the classic cover, thus ending the storyline.
But by that point I had already left, as I wanted to catch just a little bit of Nightwish, and drifted to take some last minute pictures too.


Nightwish 00:55/02:05, Mainstage01

I was almost tempted to skip this, as I'll see them in December and I was aching all over, with a lengthy return journey looming the following morning. Yet as I left the tent following the end of Amenra's performance, I just couldn't resist the temptation to make one last trip to the Mainstage to see what I could look forward to in the near future, when my energy reserves will hopefully be less depleted. They started a few minutes late, which almost inspired me to go back to the campsite given my physical condition, but once they got going it was a nice way to finish the festival. Floor Jansen was in typically fine form, and seemed to greatly appreciate the number of people that had stayed until the very end of the festival for them, and the setlist, sampling throughout their discography, was pleasant enough, with a mix of the usual staples ("Nemo") with some surprising choices ("Gethsemane"). Probably my biggest disappointment in my times seeing Nightwish live is that the old songs don't seem to come across as well as ones from the later albums. I really like Oceanborn, particularly the first few songs off of it, but "Stargazers" and now "Gethsemane" have failed to recapitulate that same majesty in a live setting. Those issues were counteracted by the final song of the setlist, and the festival, being the predictably epic "Ghost Love Score", which will never fail to stir potent emotions in me, on album or live.


This was really, really mellow...
Said my cousin. Well, I'm happy to say that the last two songs - the only ones I saw - really did the job with all their pyrotechnics. And, well, it's "Slaying The Dreamer" we're talking about (and I missed "End Of All Hope", damn).








Seeing how the fest evolved, I feel Hellfest was as its usual now: smooth, efficient, and professional, for a fest this size. Not without problems, obviously, but I'll get to that.

Each year, the decorations and landscapes of the Hellfest grounds get additions. The mainstages bar got all solid rusted metal for good, with that huge ball of rust and fire on top (quite visually striking at night, and the smoke gave it quite a Final Fantasy VII meteor feel to me).



After the 'Hellfresh' near the Warzone last year (a whole covered area with sprinklers everywhere), this time two towering walls of water, with pre-programmed logos 'drawn' in the falling water, were set in the main area. Visually impressive, they were an instant hit and I'm sure we'll see those again.


The tourist problem

A recurring problem that finally exploded on the Hellfest forum this year: the tourists. This pejorative nicknames describes those people who came at Hellfest barely knowing the music, and who ain't there for that, but more probably because it's edgy and/or trendy to be there (or it looked cool on TV). The kind of people that bring chairs with them, sit in view of the mainstages, and don't move at all.

Skipping away all the 'posers' accusations, I experienced two main problem - and I said 'experienced', as while reports of sexual misconduct are on the rise, I've never been witness of anything like this myself.
  • The mainstages quickly become totally out of reach and are a chore to navigate;
  • Overall, I saw a slight decrease of audience under the tents, depending on the bands playing.

Sure, a few exceptions notwithstanding, most of my must-see bands were small bands on the Altar and Temple stages, so I once again had few problems navigating on the grounds. I probably wouldn't have said the same thing if I had to go to the Warzone regularly - but it's still feasable, with the woody Kingdom of Muscadet as a dusty shortcut.

Meanwhile, as long as you don't even consider the mainstages past the half of the afternoon (or even before), the bill is still pretty awesome. Some hints of Roadburn (under the Valley mostly), other big and underground acts, and even a broadening of horizons (they're not the only ones to do that, but it's always great to have the likes of Wardruna, Carpenter Brut or Ho99r9)? Yes please! Hellfest always walked that thin line, with some mainstream appeal bands on one hand, and real underground gems on the other.

But doing the splits like this is sure a perilous exercice... and maybe the balance has been broken somewhat? Now that they've grown up I guess they'd better be careful to stay on the fence if they still want to be successful. Tr00 metalheads are certainly not the main part of the audience now, but alienating them for good would be a terrible move, as the mainstream audiences are much more fickle. Time will tell, but if too few trve metalheads come, bands playing under the tents wouldn't have reasons to play there anymore (and I don't think enlarging your penis the fest site will change the problem, if they sell more tickets).

So, to answer my own question, probably the tourists ain't. But it's still bloody damn irritating to see your beauf neighbour at Hellfest too.


Various other issues and non-issues

On the whole, the sound was generally considered to be less good that last year. I can't compare, obviously, but I didn't have any real problems - maybe it was thanks to the earplugs that, given my old age now, I systematically use - particularly on the Altar where I didn't experience the recurring problems that plagued it two years ago. Avoiding the mainstages sure helped, as I didn't witness the Iced Earth and Megadeth wrecks (but Nightwish had too much bass).

Queuing, apart of the terrible two I already mentioned (the 2019 pre-sale and Hellfest merch) was maintained on a manageable level. That, plus the non-refundable goblets and Hellfest T-shirts reportedly of a worse quality than before, gave a slight 'we grab money where we can' aftertaste.

Oh, I also forgot to mention the serious lack of 'official bands merch'. Far less bands than before... but why? Oh well, that 2018 edition saw a first for me, as I didn't walk home with any new band shirt...

Musclassia also mentioned pavements in front of the Mainstages - there was some at the Warzone also. I was worried, too, but Ben Barbaud (HF's main man) said it was to reduce the dust levels in front of the moshing stages - and, as far as falling people went, wasn't worse than the stones you could have found before. Well, I don't know, but I haven't heard of any problems, so I guess it worked - and will probably be implemented in front of the other stages too.


"Musclassia's Hellfest experience"'s conclusion

It was a long way to go to Hellfest, and my early experiences there left me concerned regarding what was to come. Thankfully, those fears were unfounded, and I honestly felt that, for the number of people attending, it was run impressively smoothly. As far as the music went, there were a couple of disappointments (Judas Priest, Iced Earth), but otherwise, it was a good mix of classic favourites of mine delivering, getting the chance to catch other groups that I always had a passing interest in seeing but never an opportunity such as this, and a handful of real surprises (most notably Oranssi Pazuzu), all capped off with a truly stunning performance by Neurosis. Depending on the line-up next year, I could be seriously tempted to go again, and if so, I might even bother to buy a ticket with my name on this time!



Conclusion

Whatever the problems, I had a good time once again, as I had plunging in my memories and videos to write this report. And while the writing / editing part can and does have its tedious parts, it's worth it for the sole pleasure of reliving great moments over and over again

As always, it'll depend on the bill, but HF could see me coming back again next year - or the next one. And as I already said, I really like the slight broadening of horizons, with touches of hip-hop, neo-folk and synthwave. The link to metal is still here, so it's fine. BTW, the five already confirmed 2019 bands are Carcass, Dropkick Murphys, Manowar, Mass Hysteria, and Slayer (so yeah, there's once again mainstream appeal and big metal names).

But, if I ever get a migraine again, I should at least try to have it on thursday, right? The post-migraine kick of energy would probably last the whole three days in a setting like this...

Thanks to everyone I met, talked to, drank with, and generally enjoyed this new Hellfest! That obviously includes Marie; my cousin Thibault and Ludovica; Fred 'Moose', Yoann and Flavia; the whole Etienne / Miki / Fabrice / Jérome / Audrey crew; Amandine and Vincent; and all the others!



The curtain falls... (that's water, actually)






All right-aligned text by Musclassia (once again, thanks 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 13.08.2018 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

Comments: 4   Visited by: 29 users
14.08.2018 - 20:39
musclassia
Wow those 5 bands announced so far inspire incredibly mixed emotions in me - Dropkick Murphys are fun but can't say the other 4 do much for me. Thanks for putting this together; every time I read about those Saturday shows, especailly Neurosis and OP I feel some excitment stirring in me again. Saturday vs Sunday was literally 'somewhat lower reputation bands putting on sick shows' vs 'established names putting on enjoyable shows' - not sure which one I enjoyed more but I appreciate the variety. As far as finding the balance goes; I think as long as they keep a good calibre and variety of bands on Alter, Temple, and Valley, it should be good enough to conteract whatever risks they take on the main stages, but I guess we'll see what lineup they deliver
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14.08.2018 - 20:54
Darkside Momo
Retired
Written by musclassia on 14.08.2018 at 20:39

Wow those 5 bands announced so far inspire incredibly mixed emotions in me - Dropkick Murphys are fun but can't say the other 4 do much for me. Thanks for putting this together; every time I read about those Saturday shows, especailly Neurosis and OP I feel some excitment stirring in me again. Saturday vs Sunday was literally 'somewhat lower reputation bands putting on sick shows' vs 'established names putting on enjoyable shows' - not sure which one I enjoyed more but I appreciate the variety. As far as finding the balance goes; I think as long as they keep a good calibre and variety of bands on Alter, Temple, and Valley, it should be good enough to conteract whatever risks they take on the main stages, but I guess we'll see what lineup they deliver

Yeah, we'll see. As for the 5 bands, well, HF headliners usually don't interest me that much, but this time, Slyaer for the last time could be interesting (at least a bit), and for sure Carcass are great live (and Dropkick Murphys are fun). I'll probably be a winp and poser again and stay the hell ourt of Manowar's sight, however - or just check a bit just to laugh about it
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15.08.2018 - 11:18
Bad English
Masterchief
Half of bands are rubish here.

Good was: AMORPHIS, Hantaoma, Enslaved, Dumen Burger , Orden Ogan, Warning, Toie old grat ones, Iced Earth, Wish night,

Misseed: basically nothing because good bands you saw here live.
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15.08.2018 - 17:36
that guy
^ Dumen Burger? is it with cheese? tomatoes?

Wish night? never heard of them?!
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