Since its beginning in 2006, Hellfest has become one of the greatest, biggest and most respected metal festivals in Europe. It is known to host the best of the best on the scene and you can be sure that when your favourite band is touring that year, they will definitely show up on the fields of Hell. And as Nergal once pointed out, Hellfest is a Disneyland for metalheads. No wonder why… just looking around might pretty much cause your jaw drop from the sheer scenery. Rusted metal buildings, big ass horns just as you walk through the gates pointing down to the main stages, fire and blood – literary.
Fitting into the fields and on six stages more than one hundred and sixty bands in three days is called a hell of an achievement. Even more to make it still logistically okay and enjoyable for everyone. While the two main stages host the biggest names in the industry and mix of genres, the four smaller ones are dedicated to a particular style of metal.
While Altar and Temple were hosting bands with black metal, death metal or grindcore in their repertoires, Valley was something for people that enjoyed a bit more subtle melodies. One could get a taste of stoner metal and psychadelic melodies or enjoy the blues tones rolling down the stage.
Those three stages near the entrance are usually the first stop for everyone and are amazing to discover new bands. Especially those kinds that you never heard of before but yet their music caught your attention. Or you just said nope, definitely not for me. As I said, it is a mashing pot of different genres, but the stage times are quite cleverly organized, so it does not bother anyone.
The fourth smaller stage is on the other hand situated far back in the venue where a memorial of the late Lemmy Killmister with his statue on top is watching over the metal madness of the fields. Warzone is usually full of hardcore and punk rock bands again with amazing and so fitting scenery all over. It all just elevates the experience to another level when it is accompanied with rusty metal, statues of our guitar heroes and it just feels like home.
Over the course of three days you can choose from varieties of bands, different genres or just decide to chill on ones looking like benches. But as the evening is getting closer, more and more people are gathering in front of the two main stages that are hosting the biggest names in industry.
This year we again got a bit of everything. Great names like Dream Theater, Godsmack or Gojira brought their heavy banging shows. But we were not spared of some metal drama either. As it was circulating all over the internet, Manowar was supposed to show up during the first day and play approximately hour and a half long set. Oh well… they did show up. And left. I guess we will never know for sure that happened that day, but when such amazingly huge shows like Slipknot during Knotfest the day before, or KISS could be pulled of, one starts to speculate why Manowar were so damn special. But still, I’d say that fans were not disappointed and true heroes replaced Manowar in the last minute.
Even though Sabaton played the day before as part of Knotfest, they were able to fill in. Despite Joakim’s absolute loss of voice. Yet it was still absolutely epic and the fact, that Joakim was running all over the stage taping down lyrics sheets for his guitarists deserves huge respect. Huge voices of their men choir filled out fields of hell in front of the stages and no one left disappointed.
Second day fortunately did not include any more drama, but I guess no one would even care. Especially since everyone was waiting for ZZ Top, the Texan trio celebrating their fifty years on scene, and KISS, always epic, even though already a bit predictable. Until the headliners came on the stage, we get to see other great acts. Namely amazing guitarist with gold in his throat, Ritchie Kotzen and Eagles of Death Metal who love returning to France despite the country being part of their most horrifying experience. Also, Whitesnake and Def Leppard made an appearance on this year’s Hellfest and were great warm up for the main acts of the evening.
ZZ Top with beards nearly as long as their carrier, unleashed their well-known boogie which made even the oldest ones in the group dance around. Or at least on the small space each one of us had in the huge crowd. KISS came directly after them with Paul Stanley screaming on both sides of the stage, running around in his high booths and making sure that the response from the fans was growing with each song. And again, he flew over the crowd, they finished with Rock and Roll All Nite and the second day was nearly over.
The biggest European festival was nearing the end and I would take gladly another three days full of music. Even with the crazy hot weather. And hot days or not, Hellfest prepared another round craziness for the last day. I particularly enjoyed blues rock of Blackberry Smoke while chilling next to the stage but also went to have a look on Phil Anselmo especially when I heard the famous tones of Pantera’s Walk. But I guess none of it could cover the sheer epicness of the four last bands that were about to rock the main stages.
Nearly tearing down the whole stage along with it, Lamb of God unleashed themselves and the fans reacted heavily. Moshpits and death walls were again all over the place. But after this craziness a bit subtler group of guys appeared. Emphasizing on guitar riffs, the guitar god Slash with Myles Kennedy and band of Conspirators get to enjoy a beautiful sunset behind the huge crowd that were singing along with Myles from beginning to the end. Even though SKMC is not a band that great for festivals, this time they fit right in. Everyone wanted to see and especially hear the brilliant, ten minutes long solo and we got exactly that, if not even longer.
And after the pleasure which SKMC set was, one band was saying goodbye to their long and fruitful carries, the other one is experiencing a comeback, so to speak. Slayer and Tool, as the two bands finishing of the whole festival on the main stages, were exactly what we needed. No wonder that Tool is remaining so addictive even after more than a decade of silence.
And just like that, as the last orgasmic tones of Stinkfist were ending, we were already thinking of next year and how it could top the last three days. Hellfest Open Air 2020 is coming and I cannot wait to spend it again Hell.