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Hellfest 2016 | FESTIVALPHOTO
 

Hellfest 2016

Review4380_Hellfest_metal_market

Here we go again, Hellfest, with a few new features along the way! Tomorrow when the gates open, I will discover the improved Warzone’s stage and surrounding bars with the Lemmy statue, a brand new site scenery and a fun Red Bull zip line over the main stages’ pits called « Descent Into Hell », among other surprises. Until then, the place has never been so welcoming and I feel at home as soon as my stuff is unpacked. Third time for me to say hi to my friends, take a look around the extreme market and party at the camping site! I am ready, so BRING IT.


Time to wake up for the first day of the festival!

Friday, June 17th

First thought of the day: the queue waiting in front of the main entrance is becoming a very serious, never-seen-before problem here. Despite my VIP pass and the detour that I have to make in order to work around it, I still miss 90% of the Moonreich show (which, by the way, seemed to be very good...). And I guess it’s just the beginning... Not the best way to get this party started, right? I can tell that I’m not the only one who’s disappointed by looking at other people’s faces.

* Cruachan – 12:15 / 12:45 – The Temple

I decide to make the most of having some time on my hands by waiting for Cruachan in the front row, that is still empty at that point. For the first time, I’ll get to see the Irish Folk Metal pioneers whose music I’ve been listening to for years! Hashtag special moment incoming.

Unfortunately, their set was so short that it’s difficult for me to say how I felt about it. For sure, it was a good 5-songs show to start the day with, with a well-balanced Blackened Folk « brawl and party » setlist but they had the bad idea to play the extremely soft « Ride On » as their last song. Ok, it’s their « hit », I get it, and at some point they just let their experience do the talking, but it felt so uncalled for in my opinion... I mean, they only had half an hour to break our necks and leave victorious! Too bad they chose to waste a lot of time playing this dull power ballad, while the audience was in need of another battle tune.
The sound wasn’t perfect at first, but it kept improving over time. Apart from this, the outfits and make-up of the seven (!) band members looked good and they had a great stage presence. I was particularly impressed by the power of Keith’s voice and the strength that emanates from his face when he’s singing his heart out. The skilled drummer stood out, too. I’d be more than happy to see them once again in better conditions, giving all they’ve got somewhere at night on the occasion of a headlining show.

* Solefald – 13:35 / 14:15 – The Temple

Wait, what the f*ck did I just watch?
Seriously, I didn’t have a clue about what was happening on stage. I never had listened to Solefald before, so it was a huge surprise for me. It certainly was something intense to experience, even though, from my point of view, the band’s music is generally way too « messy » to be really enjoyable to hear. So strange and off track that it quickly ends up weird.
However, I have to say that the musical execution was flawless (a special mention to the vocalists), from the beautiful nordic hymns to the (very) annoying exotic madness of « World Metal with Black Edges », for example. That said, I don’t understand why they feel the need to use so many samples, which constantly distort their live performance. After a while, I even found it difficult to take the band and their music seriously... All of this was too diverse to be on point, I guess, or at least put in a crazy way that was too much for me to handle.
Interesting point though: an artist, who was the first to come on stage, was painting a canvas throughout the show. It turned out to be a black and creepy horse head with the band’s logo written over it. I thought that it was a nice way to set up a dialogue between the arts, as if the band’s music itself was giving shape to the picture.
In a word, I went to the puzzling concert of an eccentric band. I’ll definitely give another try to their songs in studio version as soon as I get over my first mixed impressions.

It’s time to go eat something now! The shows that I saw this morning were a nice warm-up for the great weekend that waits ahead of us.

* Jambinai – 15:50 / 16:40 – The Valley

It wasn’t easy to make a choice there and then, but when I look back, I really think that I did for the best: I chose to miss Havok in order to go see, for the first time and out of curiosity, this incredible Korean experimental band. And believe me, all the people who were standing in the pit of The Valley at this time of the day felt lucky to enjoy the true moment of grace that Jambinai gave us. Also, a friend of mine told me later on that Havok’s sound was terrible, so...
Of course, one can always complain about the problems inherent in big summer festivals and everything (I do too, in my spare time), but if I have the chance to make discoveries such as Jambinai every once in a while, at Hellfest or somewhere else, I think that it’s 100% worth it to spend an awful lot of time wandering aimlessly under the sun, drowning in a sea of drunk bodies.
Jambinai bounded the Hellfest people together for nearly an hour, and I sensed a lot of joy, love and respect in the air throughout their show, something unusual that resulted from the truly heartfelt music that was played before our open eyes. It would be vain to try to describe Jambinai’s music with my poor English vocabulary, so you’d rather listen to the last song they played that day (the magical « Connection ») by clicking on the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56dv3XHUISY

Not that Metal, huh? It didn’t matter in the end, it was just something else. A moment of inner peace and harmony that we had never lived before, taking the shape of the greatest sound and light show of the festival so far, which was perfectly underlining the music’s breathing. I want to say thank you to the outstanding musicians who were extremely focused on their performance and yet sincerely happy to take us with them, far to their eastern dreamscape, on the very day that their new album « A Hermitage » was released. Perfect show.

* Kampfar – 16:45 / 17:35 – The Temple

With the backflag stretched and the torches ablaze, the show can go on with Kampfar on the Temple stage!
The scenery was wonderful when the Norwegians appeared. Unfortunately, a pretty bad sound (of the classic « I hope you looove double bass drum » kind) and a frozen performance (not in the good, trve black sense of the word though...) quickly damaged my initial enthusiasm, given that the cold and subtle harmonies of the band’s music and its raw power have been its trademark for years now.
However, what a possessed frontman we had there, doing the show all on his own! Indeed, it was fascinating to watch Dolk scream like a demon and then unleash his unique brand of clear vocals before walking around while haranguing the dedicated crowd. After only a minute, you could tell that Kampfar is the fight of his life and that he will never surrender to any trend. No matter how hard you’ll try, you’ll never be more Metal than Dolk, because they simply don’t do guys like him anymore. Claws out, he never rested and kept asking the fans to give him the energy he needed to go on, headbanging like a madman until the very end.
So, I recommend every metalhead to go see Kampfar live at least once in his lifetime, in honor of Dolk and the great art that he’s been creating for the last two decades, even if I personally like it better when I’m at home with my headphones on. Respect.

* Vader – 17:40 / 18:30 – The Altar

I was very pumped up about meeting the Polish Death Metal giants for the first time, but I’ll admit that I decided to leave the pit long before the show was over, just because it was boring as hell. A poor sound (the legendary « let’s try to listen to extreme Metal without hearing any guitar riff » live sound that you hate), zero movement on stage, no light show whatsoever, and a setlist devoid of any musical contrast. Of course, the musicians were all amazingly well-trained (a special mention to the octopus drummer, beast mode: ON), but their drier-than-a-nun’s-pants « show » disappointed me BIG TIME (like a significant part of the audience, as far as I could tell). Too bad... I guess that you had to be a fan of the band to have a fun time there.

et’s get drunk, time to party my friends, I have a full bottle of bourbon waiting for me on the campsite. (Yes, this could be an important clue to understand what will happen next!)

* Dropkick Murphys – 22:05 / 23:05 – Mainstage 2

I don’t think that I was intending to go see the Dropkick Murphys’ show at first. But with the anger of having missed Magma (I blame it all on my friends), the bourbon kicking in and the need to party like there will be no tomorrow, the few notes of « Johnny I hardly knew ya » that I heard in the distance were enough to reveal the beast in me. Then, guess what, I miraculously managed to get to the center of the pit, but please don’t ask me how.
From that moment on, it became an awesome « fight for your life » show for me. I don’t remember much of it, apart from having the time of my life brawling with hundreds of cheerful people in a very friendly atmosphere. A failed attempt at crowdsurfing later (falling down head first, of course) and back on my feet, I finally surfed for the last song of the set, as it was supposed to happen in the first place, I guess.
I don’t really know what to say about the performance. The music was fresh and well-executed, and « Rose Tattoo » drove every living soul who was standing in the pit crazy once again. Actually, I think that the audience did most of the job with this show. It was all about having a hell of a fun time, and I’m proud of having been a part of this highlight of the festival.

* The Offspring - 00:45 / 02:00 – Mainstage 2

Well, I was drunk, you know…


Satuday, June 18th

* Heidevolk – 15:05 / 15:45 – The Temple

It was my first time seeing Heidevolk live, even though I have been a fan of theirs for a long time. I first discovered them with the release of « Walhalla Wacht » back in 2008. I have to say that I was full of doubt before their set started, because of all the line-up changes that the band have encountered for the past few years (and especially the loss of their two charismatic frontmen alongside their muscular axewielder). A tree cut from its roots usually dries and dies, doesn’t it? Well, I have to say that the band surprised me in a very good way in the end. Despite these changes, Heidevolk managed to put on a very professionnal show, both heavy and fun to watch at the same time. The sound was right on point, the audience was more than cheerful and the two new singers nailed the job. Unfortunately, not a single song off their first album, « De strijdlust is geboren » (my personal favorite) was played today, but the setlist still kicked the crowd’s ass with huge fur-booty classics (« Saksenland », « Nehalennia », « Ostara »…). Their new songs, that I don’t know that well, perfectly blended in and gave me a bright hope for the future of Heidevolk. Lesson learned, I admit that I was wrong to hold such a strong prejudice against this band, which definitely is a first class one. Voorwaarts!

* Toy Dolls – 18:35 / 19:25 – The Warzone

Ha ha ha, the Toy Dolls were EXCELLENT on the Warzone stage. Their crazy punk rock, which instantly set a no fuck given atmosphere, was just the type of music that I needed to get a nice adrenaline rush in the middle of the afternoon. Lots of dumb gags, matching stage moves and lovely british accent were on the agenda of the established 1979 power trio. It just felt amazing to everybody there to become an element of an united giggly crowd in the blink of an eye. Still as skinny as he ever was, the frontman Olga delivered some classy guitar licks to the people with confident simplicity. They played all their hit songs as if it were the eighties all over again and I enjoyed it very much. Thank you, Toy Dolls, and please come back soon!

* Moonsorrow – 20:25 / 21:15 – The Temple

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the unique and audacious Moonsorrow to you! The band’s ambitious songwriting hit me hard in the guts today, as I was once again falling in love with their music. The live rendition of their long songs was perfect, in spite of the totally uncalled for epileptic light effects. However, the band has a weak point: the lack of a real frontman and therefore of the quality talking that one should do with their audience from time to time. Anyway, it was incredible to witness how fast time passed by when they took the Temple stage by storm. In my opinion, Moonsorrow’s majestic music is the completion of what most of the other Folk/Pagan Metal bands out there are trying to create (a bit of Finntroll here, a bit of Ensiferum there, etc.). They have been around for more than fifteen years now and they always have managed to stay relevant and push the boundaries of their own art further. What a rush it was for everyone involved! Kudos to you, masters!

* Bring Me the Horizon – 21:55 / 22:55 – Mainstage 2

I had to wait in line for the Twisted Sister show so, you know, it’s not really my fault. Bombastic show and garbage sound/music/singing. Great energy, even though it seemed that all the songs were « about depression ».

* Twisted Sister – 23:00 / 00:15 – Mainstage 1

My third Hellfest edition, my third Twisted Sister show! This time, on the occasion of their « 40 And Fuck It » farewell tour, they played at night for a better effect and their light and sound system was bigger than before. Mike Portnoy appeared to be a solid addition to the band’s line-up and Dee Snider stole the show once more: the frontman was ecstatic and he carried the (pretty static) band on his shoulders for the whole set. The show was done the american way, so it sometimes was a bit too « spectacular » for me, if you know what I mean, but the band never failed to impress the enthralled audience upon which they unleashed their most memorable hits. I’m glad that I was given a proper chance to say goodbye to this legendary Hard Rock band. Fare thee well, Twisted Sister!

I have been hungover all day long and I can hear my bed calling. Tomorrow will be a hard day and I desperately need some sleep.


Sunday, June 19th

* Municipal Waste – 12:15 / 12:45 – Mainstage 1

Take Gama Bomb’s crossover thrash attack, get rid of their famous patented brand of fun and you have Municipal Waste’s show at Hellfest! I only needed half an hour to feel sick about the Americans’ show. This kind of music should be played with spontaneity and a sense of derision. Well, this time, the show was going on in the pit and not on stage, thanks to the fans who got up early enough to come to see Municipal Waste playing. An unprofessional (the band nearly got kicked out of the stage by the festival’s crew), boring show (especially for the band, or so it seemed) and a real disappointment. I guess that they will stay more of a studio band for me…

* Orphaned Land – 12:50 / 13:30 – Mainstage 2

It was a strange show, one of the all-or-nothing kind. I mean, the band isn’t half-assed at all when it comes to songwriting. Their complex oriental-sounding rhythms and scales struck my ear and created an exotic climate in the pit that is unusual for a Metal festival. The very complexity of Orphaned Land’s music has been holding me back at first and it was difficult for me to get in the right mood to fully enjoy their show. Don’t get me wrong: I had a good time, but overall, I found that their sound was too odd and poppy and the Tankian vibe of the singer’s voice, combined with his bland stage presence, failed to catch me. Next time, maybe? Because they certainly have much room for improvement!

* Vintage Trouble – 13:35 / 14:15 – Mainstage 1

Fantastic performance by Vintage Trouble! Who would have guessed that a few simple old school Rock n’ Roll songs could blow the Metal people’s minds? The frontman is one of the best showmen that I have ever seen. If you like elegant songwriting and electric energy, you have to check them out! A breath of fresh air under the blazing sun of Hellfest.

* Dragonforce – 14:20 / 15:00 – Mainstage 2

The worst show of the festival. Let’s talk about the awful sound: what’s the point of seeing Dragonforce live if you can’t hear the f-ing guitars? Unfortunately, it was all about the double-bass drum today. Also, a lot of technical problems prevented the band from doing their thing and Marc Hudson even had to take what seemed to be a very looong time to speak with the technical crew because he couldn’t hear himself singing in his earplugs. Only five songs were played with this sloppy sound before the band had to wave goodbye and leave the stage. Two words: huge fail (and this comes from a DF fan, so I guess that the haters were laughing their asses off…). Ok, this show wasn’t easy to do for Dragonforce, but it was hard to bear for the audience. It felt like absolutely NOBODY was involved in it happening.

* Gojira – 16:45 / 17:35 – Mainstage 1

Here come the beloved French metalheads of Gojira! The national pride is ready to play at home and invade the Mainstage 1 once again. It was a special show for the band: not only was it Mario’s birthday but it also was an anticipated time for them to present some new songs off their new album « Magma » (which had been released two days previously) to their loyal fans. And Gojira put on what was without a doubt one of the best shows of the festival. A lot of fan-favorites off « From Mars to Sirius » and « The Way of All Flesh » set the stage on fire and drove the audience crazy. The live power of the Gojira-machine is difficult to describe, it is something that you have to experience at least once in your lifetime. It’s the story of four simple men shaking the place to the ground with their heavenly heavy sound. The Duplantier brothers were on the top of their game and my neck managed to hang in there. It was all good and the dozens of thousands of people out there had a great time. Vive Gojira !

* Amon Amarth – 19:40 / 20:40 – Mainstage 2

It isn’t easy to do a good show when you have a poor sound, but that’s what Amon Amarth managed today! The Vikings’ set was very enjoyable to me. Even though I have been a fan of theirs since the release of « With Oden on Our Side » (that has been is my favorite AA album to this day), it was my first time seeing them live and I had a real blast. Hegg’s voice was incredibly powerful and the whole set was flawlessly executed (despite the absence of the band’s historical drummer Fredrik Andersson). The setlist was amazing (there was something for everyone) and the scenery was impressive (drakkar bows, smokes and flames). Amon Amarth is a great live band that makes their legions feel alive and strong. An uplifting show!

* Black Sabbath – 23:10 – 00:40 – Mainstage 1

I was listening to/watching them from afar. A good but slightly boring show in the end.

* King Diamond – 00:45 / 02:00 – Mainstage 2

As expected, King Diamond did the best show of the festival and it was a true honor to witness it, to be there to support this legendary artist and his fellow musicians tonight. I mean, he won all the awards at once: best sound (crystal-clear guitars), best setlist (the « Abigail » album was played in its entirety, among other surprises), best performance (his voice actually sounded greater than ever), best musicianship (Andy f-ing LaRocque and the team), best staging (hilariously cheesy spooky acts). The audience was grateful, because King Diamond gave us all he had, and it was magical. He even stayed alone on stage for two or three minutes after the show was over in order to thank all the people in the front row, without his mic, just like that, from man to man. The Hellfest organizers couldn’t have thought of a better band to put and end to their festival. A memorable and relieving experience. Long live the King!!

Now comes the time to party all night long before we finally leave and also to say goodbye to you, reader. I don’t know if I will be back in Hellfest for the next years (I have come here three times), but I strongly recommend you to do so if you haven’t already! Cheers and rock on!


My personal top 3 shows of the festival (each day kept a treasure!):

1 – King Diamond
2 – Jambinai
3 – Moonsorrow

Review4380_Hellfest_audience

Writer: Paul S
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