In all seriousness nothing prepared us for the incredible raw, sincere and bad ass concert that Metallica held in Clisson for the 15th anniversary of Hellfest. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start with the beginning.
And it all starts when Hellfest 2019 leaves. Nobody could have foreseen the musical desert that lay ahead of us. When the Hellfest 2020 got canceled we got scared. But with the 2021 cancellation we knew that the festival was getting pushed towards the cliff and fast. They couldn’t possibly survive a 3 year pause so they had to bet everything on the 2022 edition.
A ginormous congregation of metal and rock and punk. Just looking and the poster I have hung up in my room with the 2022 2-weekend 7-day line-up made me cry. And to top it all, they signed a band that was on the lips of many and in the dreams of all. Yes, it was official, Metallica was to headline the last day of the festival.
On one side I had a thirst for festivals, for concerts, for Hellfest. And on the other, it is always a pleasure to see my favorite groups play. So, no harm done in seeing At the gates or Mayhem over and over again. More than half of the groups on the roster are groups that never played Hellfest. And in 7 days you will surely have your fill of new and old music. And we had our fill. From all points of view.
I must admit I am biased. Very biased. It’s easy for me to go to Hellfest because I don’t live far away, and I can get days off easily. We have a house rented and we sleep well. Yes, I sound like a 50-year-old.
But I basically only go to Hellfest and no other festivals each year. It is probably a mistake soon to be fixed. But therein lies the answer to the question: why each year? There is, like with all brands, a fidelisation happening. But they don’t achieve that with a free burger, but with an experience. Quality. Improvement. And soul. Because even the most beautiful iron statues cannot bring so many people over and over again. It’s what stands behind them. And behind them is hard work and sweat and perseverance and love for the music. And I felt that each year.
So, this year the festival spanned over 2 weekends, the first one 17 to 19 of June, Friday to Sunday, as usual and a second weekend from 23 to 26 of June, Thursday to Sunday.
The layout of the main site was the same. You go in through the main entrance, the cathedral and you enter the magnificent grounds with the 6 same six stages and all the other accessories (bars, forest). There were water guns and sprays and showers. And Barad-dur looking poles to hold the main stage speakers. Overall, the look got an improvement. Not much but enough to be noticed. Metal corner got a new look with nice terrasses and a party tent.
There were some issues on Thursday, the day of the opening of the gates. People had to wait for hours in order to get into the camping. And to wait in the scorching sun can be somewhat problematic.
We suffer. And boy did we suffer and then some. Passing the day in 40 degrees was literally hell on earth. Friday and Saturday were spent basically under the tents of Valley, Altar and Temple. I couldn’t wrap my head around how all the metalheads could go around drinking beer after beer in this scorching heat. I was drinking a liter of water per hour. I think that even my sweat was sweating.
Things kicked off on Friday the 17. We got in in the early morning so as to get some Hellfest merch and this time we didn’t have to wait for hours in line. But all throughout the festival people just stood and queued for hours for merch that could be bought afterwards online. Anyway, my day started with ASG, a stoner trio from ‘Murrica which I discovered while buying records at Frozen Records in Nantes. Incredible energy and catchy riffs. Quite a few albums under the belt for these guys and it shows. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it sure does make it spin. Next gem on the list was Gatecreeper for whom I waited impatiently. I don’t know if the mustache is the next beard but sure as hell doesn’t ruin their Entombed infused sound either. Their last EP was a bit more on the experimental side with some doom passages and fast grinding short songs. I unfortunately had to bail the Opeth show. The 40-degree weather and the weirdness in the overall feeling of the band put me off and it was saddening because they usually give 110 percent and Mickael is awesome. Around the internet there were basically only good reviews so it must have been just me. Got to see the lovely people from Black Mountain with their soothing psychedelic Rock. Had to, as they don’t tour in Europe that much being from Canada. Next up was Mastodon and they did a pretty good show in spite of the harsh sun. They played of course some songs off the latest album which I find even more progressive. At first, I found it dull but it grows on you. And I prefer it that way rather than the straight in your face albums. At The Gates. What more can there be said? Must be the 7th time I see them, and I never get tired. Neither does Tompa apparently. Took a while to dig their last album, The Nightmare of Being but it’s a good enough album. And with such a voice who can get tired of At The Gates putting out new music? Deftones got everybody excited, and I read a lot of positive reviews. I found that Chino was most surely under the influence of something. I love me Deftones as much as the next bloke that grew up in the 90s and their 2019 concert was killer but how can you sing sad angry numetal and be smiling? Next, I had to check out Death To All and I have to recognize that Max Phelps does a great job in getting the feel of the original sound of Chuck. And I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see the living legends Gene Hoglan and Steve Digeorgio. Mayhem, despite them being one of my favorite bands, I only got to listen to one song then had to go tend to some urgent-ish car business, so my evening got cut short.
Saturday began with Heaven Shall Burn which I hadn’t got the chance of seeing although it’s not their first Hellfest. Their last double album has some nice songs, especially Protector which sounds so death metal. I still stand by Antigone from 2004 as being the best from these metalcore masters from germany. Pelican laid it out real heavy like and made the crowd squirm with joy under the Valley tent. In the killer heat. But we survived and rejoiced. Taake must have felt weird singing their cold bitter norwegian black metal under the searing heat, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying it. Quite a controversy on Hoest but this time no weird symbols were displayed. Deep Purple have always provided a good show but this time I think it is time to call it quits. Steve Morse wasn’t there. They provided a good show, Roger Glover and Ian Paice seem unaltered by age, but Ian Gillian shows some signs of fatigue, and the overall atmosphere of their show is beginning to falter. Somehow Hush was for me the best song of the concert. The jewel of the first weekend was Ghost’s concert. And what a spectacular show. From the costume change to the confetti at the end, from the jokes and games between the guitarists to the absolutely godlike voice of Papa. And not to forget bringing the old pope on stage and having him revived. True showmanship from these guys!
Sunday, I tried to peacefully see Regarde Les Hommes Tomber to get a better listen to how they present live their last album, Ascension. Unfortunately, the tent was jam packed, I see that the French like to support their own. For a concert at 3 o’clock in the afternoon to have a full tent is a feat. Ghaals wyrd did not disappoint and Alt Liv always gives me goosebumps. Ghaal’s scary as ever with his fixed glance. After that I got to get a poster signed by Watain and shook the guy’s hands. Maybe not too hygienic seeing as they get a bit too close to animal blood, but it has been done. To keep it in the family, I went to see Korn. Slightly disappointing. The sound was good, and the instrumentals kicked ass, but Jonathan’s voice was sub par and so didn’ do it for me this time. The highlight concert of the day was Perturbator with a magnificent light show and incredible scene presence from the main man. James Kent did guitars and synths and he was joined by his drummer. So as to have a maximum of live instruments. Such power comes from this type of electronic music (synthwave). To end the evening Watain held an incredible sermon. Maybe the lighted torch thrown into the public might have been a tad much. Yet Erik seemed to really enjoy being at Hellfest. They played in support of their last opus, The Agony and Ecstasy of Watain and what a jewel of an album that is.
After a long hot weekend, we got to cool off by the sea and recharge our metal (sic!) batteries. The french seaside was swarming with metalheads, and it was a nice sight to see. Thursday afternoon we were back at it with the concerts starting a bit later. Got my lips wet with Lowrider and Slomosa but I just didn’t click with the Swedish stoner. Solstafir were as always too VIP-ish for my taste and evenmore their last albums are a bit thin. Hangman’s chair really came through and pummeled us to the ground with their unique melange of melancholic sludge.
Came Friday and came the industrial-packed day. It is good to mention Health and Youth Code that went down well under the light rain. Our compatriots from Dirty Shirt got the public pumping and surely made new fans. Got to see Godflesh live, and I could check that off the bucket list. Good ol’ industrial metal with a legend of the metal world, Justin Broadrick. Earth I was looking for with high expectations, but I think maybe the 2-year break did not help as the feeling wasn’t all there. They are usually heavier and more incisive. Marduk unleashed hell and the beneficiated from the most perfect sound for a black metal I ever heard. And that reminds me. The sound was IMPECCABLE for most of the concerts, and I do mean IMPECCABLE. Even on the mainstages. You could hear every instrument and sometimes you didn’t even need ear protection. Exquisite. The night ended with Nine Inch Nails, the teenager in everyone must have rejoiced. I must admit I discovered them quite late in my life but I’m making up for the time lost. Powerful performance.
Saturday, I woke up early to catch Martyrdod and their Swedish crust. Not a big turnout for such a good band but they gave it their all and I always enjoy the craziness of the vocaistl. Hallas did not disappoint as I was having high hopes. Their adventure rock really delivers and takes you places. Arcturus was something out of this world. ICS Vortex was even more in character than usual, with a more chiseled stage appearance but not leaking in craziness. The band sure was happy to be there. And they even played To Thou Who Dwellest In The Night and they made my heart tingle. Next up Touché Amore and their emoish hardcore that always strikes the right chord. Got finally to see Kadavar. These German crazies really know how to pull off a show. On the disk, their stoner metal doesn’t seem so energetic but live they are all over the place, especially the drummer who seemed to be in need of an exorcism. Guns’n’Roses I got to see only November rain and saw the disappointment in people’s eyes. There was something missing, they were far away from the guys I saw in videos when young. The feeling wasn’t there. And I wished I wasn’t there to see them. So I went to see GBH instead.
And so, the last day came, and my bones seemed heavy. Incendiary really heated up the Warzone with heir unique sounding hardcore. I really dig the vocalist and his attitude, a bit more classy than your average heavy hardcore frontman.
Blood incantation was a nice surprise. They even sang the B side from their Hidden history of the human race album, a death metal song that clocks at 18 minutes. I was quite excited to see Eyehategod, but the show was slim and blant. Maybe next time?
Napalm death and Pentagram prepared me for the jewel on the top of the crown which was Metallica.
They were in it man! James humble and in control, Kirk silent but crafty, Lars really giving it all and as always Robert Trujillo doing his thing.
You felt the joy of them singing even after all these years. And they do it so naturally. The crowd was huge, so I regret not being closer to the stage, but the show was exquisite and i twas a chance to see them.
Long live Metallica because they earned it!