FESTIVAL REVIEW: HELLFEST OPEN AIR 2018 at Clisson, France – Day 2 (Saturday)
After the lengthy schedule on Day 1, I decided to recuperate for the first half of Day 2 to recover and soothe an annoying sunburn from the previous day. An hour past noon, I plodded my way to the main stage, where I was greeted by all-women hard rockers L7. They were missing one of their usuals, drummer Demetra Plakas, who was replaced by a dude, and this took some shine from what was probably the only all-women band at Hellfest. Frankly, the music was your average grunge, hard rock types, though I’m sure this Los Angeles born ensemble would’ve been the stars of the show back in the day. Vocalist Donita Sparks at a point of time cheesily explained that reason behind the band reuniting was the same as the name of one of their songs – “I Came Back to Bitch”, while occasionally making a dig at Trump, which is the norm now with LA / Southern Cali groups and celebs.
I further caught a glimpse of Tremonti to see what he’s like live, and was impressed by his confidence behind the mic, considering he’s been a back-up vocalist for most of his career with Alter Bridge and Creed. I particularly enjoyed the title track off the new album, ‘A Dying Machine’, one which has been stuck in my head ever since. I next went over to watch a bit of Akercocke, but not before messing up the location and catching a bit off Ho99o9 instead and getting a glimpse of horrorcore that band is known for. After finally arriving at the right location, I immediately identified with Jason Mendonça’s unique vocal style. I had only heard their new album ‘Renaissance in Extremis’ and “Disappear” was a fun listen, along with some attractive guitar passages on the other tracks. The sound was great on this ‘Altar’ stage.
After interviewing Tremonti and Eric Friedman, I took a big break before heading to Temple to catch Enslaved for the second time in a year. The setlist hadn’t changed much and the material was still fresh in my mind, except this time the sound was excellent. Enslaved have these powerful riffs that strike you with even more vigour live, very evident on the first track I listened to “Storm Son”, as well it’s successor “Thousand Years of Rain”, a track about which Grutle Kjellson made a sarcastic remark on the weather in Norway. The band then asked the French to sing their national anthem in a great sequence of events, before playing their ‘own’ on “Sacred Horse”. They announced then, with the emotional outro, that the gig was the last one with Cato Bekkevold on drums. I next caught a few songs from their Scandinavian neighbours melodic death metal outfit Children of Bodom, ones which took me straight back to my high school days. “Are You Dead Yet?” one of their ‘anthems’ had people screaming from all corners of the arena, while “Needled 24/7” sounded as dynamic as ever. There were a few songs, presumably from newer albums, that I didn’t recognize but enjoyed the show despite it being too crowded for comfort.
I went in early in early again to wait for Avenged Sevenfold and ended up listening to a whole bunch of songs from Limp Bizkit on the adjacent stage. It pained me to see that there are so many talented bands out there that could put up a much more extravagant show if they had the means, but don’t have the fame that bands such as Limp Bizkit have. Fred Durst in an instance openly boasted they’re completely unrehearsed and feel shitty for those who are do reherse. If the half-arsed rap rock or nu metal or whatever you call it wasn’t bad enough, they also spent ages with gimmicks such as Durst heading to the audience and clapping hands right in the middle of a track, while the guitarist, Wes Borland, painted in black and silver, decided to do head out and do some crowd-surfing amid another. It was almost an insult that they ended with a sample of “Don’t you forget about to me” at the end because forgetting the half hour or so I caught of the band was exactly what I wanted to do.
Thankfully Avenged Sevenfold, for much of the show, stuck to their music. It’s been a long while since I listened to the band, but I’m a huge fan of the ‘City of Evil’ while the new one, ‘The Stage’ was very solid. I even have a soft spot for ‘Nightmare’. I was surprised by how popular they’ve become over the years and M. Shadows read my mind, saying how, when they were openers for Iron Maiden back in 2006, a lot of people would have laughed if they thought the band would be co-headliners with Maiden in the future. The band dedicated a few songs to the deceased Vinnie Paul, including a few words before the fist-in-the-air “Hail to the King” and a short video tribute. Even on “So Far Way” which was written for the deceased A7X drummer, The Rev, Shadows extended the song’s meaning for everyone we’ve lost over the last few years in the rock and metal. Synyster Gates has got to be one of the most underrated guitarists in the metal community: He knows how to write riffs and can switch on the technicality with ease – evident on the fantastic solo off the opener “The Stage”- while also adding subtle acoustic passages for variation. The performance wasn’t without gimmicks though: On “Nightmare”, Shadows pretended to lose his voice and got a fan on stage (clearly pre-picked, but the guy enjoyed himself) to sing the track. After a few ones I failed to place, I thoroughly enjoyed “Bat Country” and the firework-strewn closer “Unholy Confessions”. The crowd surfing was even more intense during this concert than on Priest, but hey, it’s all part of the experience.
I wasn’t particularly interested in Parkway Drive on the main stage so I instead headed to watch Dimmu Borgir, who are known for their bombastic live acts. The genre of metal is black with a few symphonic and melodic parts, and the whole setting, even if on one of the smaller stages, was grandiose. The band were loud and heavy, and the posters and backgrounds were full of sinister imagery, while the members were draped in seemingly bulky costumes and airbrushed with eerie face paint. I am not aware of their discography or setlist, but on one track they brought out a huge drum to add the overwhelming effect of their music.
That was the last band of Day 2 folks, a relatively calmer day between two jampacked ones.
Also view our photo gallery of Day 2 here!