- Review by Razvan Aprodu
- Photo Gallery by Paul Voicu
When it comes to metal festivals there are a few names to throw around, but when you say Hellfest you say THE metal festival of the year. Year after year they relentlessly try to make the peaceful town of Clisson, France pop. 5,539 into a metalhead’s heaven. This year is no different.
You can begin your descent into hell in the Nantes trainstation where the trains to Clisson are announced on large Hellfest banners. Arriving in the little french town and making your way down to the festival grounds you pass by shops and restaurants that offer Hellish beers, Devil’s lunch and Helljam! Right on the outskirts of town, in the middle of a roundabout a metal guitar statue stands proud , right behind it the CLISSON ROCK CITY sign, both of them erected in 2014 to make a statement: we’re here to stay and to rock – the HELL CITY STREET! Everything was pushed even further than last year and you see that as soon as you enter the HELL CITY SQUARE, a remake of a London street, with metal shops and the Extreme Market.
The organziers bent over backwards to make it a memorable experience, one can see that in the hard work they put in the details. On the left you can make your way to the camping site and the Metal Corner, a place to rock out when not enjoying shows; on the right you move up to the giant cathedral welcoming you to the hellish place on earth, on a corridor of doom flanked by photos of past artists. Everything was planned so that you would have the best experience at hellfest, starting with the bars that are iron pieces of art, going by the garden, a place to relax between trees and iron sculptures, not forgeting the always present wine bar, a must for the french; the food stands offer diverse culinary experiences; last but not least the ferris-wheel, the giant ferris wheel which you can use to get a panorama of the whole Clisson valley.
But getting to the main reason why everyone comes to Helllfest, the music!
The Temple and the Altar had their remake, as usual, with a cathedral looming over the first and a giant 666 sign hovering over the latter. The main stages had their banners changed, nothing lavish there, except for the excellent ideea of putting a screen in the back, after the sound-shack, with speakers so those far in the back be able to catch the concerts also, as the sound always tends to distort heavily once you get a bit far from the stages . The Valley with its usual poles that to my opinion hinder the experience greatly has as usual a good heavy sound. The organizers left the Warzone in its usual location, making it just a bit more accessible and adding bars and toilets to the location, greatly adjusting the confort – it was always hard to enter and leave the area.
Day one started for me with the extreme metal stages. Gehenna are a legend and they should stay that way. The music would sound good but under a black metal banner. Downfall of Ggaia were a nice surprise as I already knew about them but wanted to see them live. Post metal/sludge at its finest with good heavy sound. Destroyer 666 never disappoint and they hold the banner high for Australia and their excellent metal bands. Hail of Bullets stormed through with their war themed old school death metal, the experience really pays off. Therapy were a must see for me but was disappointed by the vocals, and because I didn’t stay close enough to the stage, couldn’t enjoy a proper sound either. Impaled Nazarene, they are classics, they are gods, but unfortunately, once you listen to a song live, you have the feeling you’ve listened to the whole concert. Kylesa maintain the high standard of heavy bands in the Valley, they put up a good show. Sepultura had some good albums after Max left, they still do good music, they still send shivers down my spine when they sing Roots Bloody Roots but there is something missing. Iron Maiden made us wait but it was worth it! Bruce was in a hell of a mood, playful and hyperactive as usual. The stage decors changed with every song so we enjoyd a hell of a good show. Watain rampaged the Temple and they already established their well deserveed place in the scene with a atemporal black metal played with hate and precision. Walls of Jericho are always a breath of fresh air, especially in the dust laden atmosphere of the warzone.
And it’s always refreshing to see a good female vocalist screaming her lungs out. Enslaved left the viking side of the music and their prog black metal is exqusite, they play it well, especially live. They’re professionals, they’re talented. And they kick ass. Kvelertak is always a punch in the face, all for a good cause: feel good now. A great way to end the day: black metal mixed with punk and the energy of a thousand owls.
Incantation remain gods in the death metal scene, and the years that have gotten by don’t show as they put up a heavy show. Shining are as always the strong gulp of whiskey that sends shivers down your spin but in the end lets you feeling much better. And why shouldn’t you feel better when this giant norwegian cuts himself every show so you won’t have to? Gorguts came to Hellfest to show that death metal is not dead in Canada, it even got better – the prog elements on Colored Sands are like the cherry on top of the cake. I’m not a great fan of Hatebreed but their place in the scene is well known and they are always energetic in their shows. Tsjuder are another example that norwegian black metal is even after 20 years still on top when it comes to cold bitter music. Brutal Truth made a last and final :) comeback and it was nice to see some heartily played grindcore played by legends of the genre. Comeback Kid did not disappoint, on the contrary; they have a good vocal and the music has the same feel as on the disc. I don’t know what’s to say about Soulfly. It feels like “butter stretched over too much bread”. Monster Magnet were incredibly heavy, and I’m both referring to the sound of their american metal and to the size of the vocalist. Nile are mathematical in their singing and they NEVER disappoint, always a great show. Especially with Karl torturing the guitars like no one else. Gorgorth, with Taake on vocals were not as eerie as I saw them a month before but still they are gods and legends. Philip Anselmo and the illegals were the surprise of the whole festival for me. Althpough probably under the influence of french wine, Phil gave a great delivery with a sludge voice that is far from the one he used with Pantera. Carcass are back. I saw them a couple of years ago and the show was more feisty. The new album is praised by many. Are their live shows also?
Dordeduh, the only Romanian band at Hellfest; a great show but with a too long intro. Lowrider nothing new under the banner of stoner. Repulsion were a band I was really looking forward to seing and their oldschool deathgrind is a reall delicatessen. One can clearly see the influences on Napalm Death. Angra are for me the band that put out Fireworks, but everything since lacks the spark, so unfortunately their concert disappointed me. They went too mainstream, I think. Black tusk are on the list of bands praised by the scots with whom we enjoy Hellfest each year and I was happy to see them. Good hard sludge which always sounds better when sang by guys with beards. Unleashed, although they cook the same dish every time, are like that mom’s omlet you enjoy. Old school viking death metal with a kick. Black Dahlia Murder pack a punch with every song and they put up an energetic show. Dark Angel had a so-so show, but it is always hard to thrash as you used to. Behemoth put out Satanist and thus put out all the lights of their critics. Reborn after a deadly disease, with a sound mixing death and black in an unique melange, Behemoth is the leader of the easten european metal scene and they will make you notice that. For the Vreid show I felt the need to just sit down and take in the masteprieces of black metal coming from these norwegian metalheads. The imperfect vocals of Paradise Lost make it an even greater experience to see these brits live. Gothic metal at its best. Misfits brought their horror punk to France and I’m damn glad they did. Danzig is a legend and he’s great live. The mighty Emperor really felt like playing and that was obvious as they warmed the hearts of thousands of metalheads that didn’t even think to hope of the possibility of seeing Emperor a last time. Playing the integrality of In the nightime eclipse they were heavenly…or hellish, as you wish. Seeing Ozzy play is like going to the museum but Black Sabbath are Black Sabbath and it was an honor to see them play. 1349 don’t make much of a fuss, and it’s quite difficult to do otherwise given that the genre is so limited. What better way to end Helflest 2014 than with Opeth with its charming vocalist and great progressive extreme metal? Always a pleasure to see them live.
To sum up, Hellfest built something that will last through the years. A summer festival of high standards. A la prochaine!