FESTIVAL REVIEW: HELLFEST 2019 Live at Clisson, France – Day 1 (Friday)
After the sheer extravaganza of the first-ever Knotfest meets Hellfest, we were all set for the 14th edition of the largest metal music festival in France – Hellfest.
As we stood in line for a much needed cold shower (off-topic: It was a pleasant surprise to see the cleanliness of the toilets and showers at such a large festival) in the hot blistering Friday sun, news broke off Manowar‘s cancellation from the billing. As they were the headliners for the day, many fans had traveled across continents to witness them and the disappointment was palpable in the crowd. The suggested rumors regarding the reason for cancellation made the band a joke, which ran through the entire festival. The band that in turn got the most brownie points (a.k.a. new fans) was Sabaton who stepped in last moment. As they say, one band’s loss is another band’s gain.
Across the day we managed to catch a plethora of acts, both big and small, across multiple stages (in the following order).
The band took the mainstage early in the morning before the clock struck noon. Despite such an early performance, their local popularity was on display, as a sizeable crowd amassed. For a band that has been around for over two decades, they showed their experience by putting a short yet pitch-perfect performance. To the pleasure of the fans, Klone ended their set with a new song “Yonder” off the upcoming album ‘Le Grand Voyage.’
Many people scoff at the over-the-top power metal ballads of Gloryhammer, but every single person at the mainstage enjoyed their charismatic performance. With a set consisting mostly of songs from the new album ‘Legends From Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex’ including the popular “The Siege of Dunkeld (In Hoots We Trust),” the band put in a performance that was a mockery on the outside, but a dedication to the art on the inside. While we are not sure if they can set “The Universe on Fire”, “The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee” ensured these vagabond space warriors gained some new fans to accompany the next chapter of their grand voyage!
Hunting for shade from the sun, we made our way to the Temple to witness the American black metal act – UADA. With their slightly melodic black metal sound and hooded avatars, they have drawn comparisons to Behemoth, but their set proved they have their very own foundation. A music first approach was evident with the loud assault of riffs, while the members hid behind the daze of the smoke machines. The powerful roar in Jake Superchi’s vocal delivery (especially on “Snakes & Vultures”) kept the audience captive for the entire set.
If there was one performance that could be dubbed as the surprise of the day, it would be Daughters. With their mix of hardcore, industrial metal, and noise rock, the band put a show composed with pure raw energy, both in terms of music and visuals! From banging the microphone till he cut his own head, to whipping his back with a belt, Alexis Marshall left most audience members gasping. Unafraid to jump into the crowd or stand atop a vertical stage monitor, the vocalist gave it his all from “The Reason They Hate Me” to “Ocean Song.”
If Daughters had brought the energy into The Altar, Power Trip came and ripped the place into shreds. Right from “Executioner’s Tax” the crowd went absolutely ballistic, despite Riley Gale quipping in “You do not know us, so you do not care what we play.” These Texan thrashers are clearly at the top of their game, and the sheer destruction they laid on the audience with tracks like “Firing Squad” and “Manifest Decimation.” Hopefully, the multiple simultaneous circle-pits (three to be precise) within the small space of Altar showed the festival organizers to shift them to the mainstage’s next time!
DEMONS AND WIZARDS
We were excited to see the project of Iced Earth‘s Jon Schaffer and Blind Guardian‘s Hansi Kürsch go live after a span of 19-years and they did not disappoint! While we were slightly disappointed in not getting some taste of the upcoming album, the band played classics from both their albums in tracks like “Crimson King,” “Fiddler on the Green,” along with a cover of Iced Earth’s “Burning Times” and Blind Guardian’s “Welcome to Dying.” The set showcased that classic heavy metal done right still has a unique appeal, and Demons and Wizards is one project we hope to see live more often in the future.
ALL THEM WITCHES
Tired from the assault of The Altar earlier in the day, we decided to take a breather and head to The Valley. On stage, ready to bleed their blues into the audience stood All Them Witches. Sadly, the sound on the Valley stage was far from perfect, with a piercing low end troubling many in the audience. Nevertheless, the band put a mesmerizing show, ranging from “Diamond” to “When God Comes Back.” The quick pace of “Fishbelly 86 Onions” getting a tranced-out audience, suddenly awake was surely the highlight of the set!
UNCLE ACID AND THE DEADBEATS
If there is one band that is at the heart of the doom revival in Europe, it is Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. These Black Sabbath worshippers are true masters of doom. Right off “I See Through You” the atmosphere in the valley changes as if the audience has suddenly been charged up! Uncle Acid (Kevin R. Starrs) stays in the shadows as The Deadbeats take the light, while the band weaves through classics such as “Pusher Man,” before ending in a truly fuzz-tastic way with “No Return”!
TRIUMPH OF DEATH
While studying the line-up, I had somehow completely missed Tom Warrior‘s name, but luckily the large crowd gathering in The Temple arena caught my attention. Hellhammer is probably one of the few bands that never released a studio full-length but managed to get a cult status unlike any other! Watching the demo works being played live was clearly an experience to remember for not just fans of the band and Celtic Frost (they did play “Visions of Mortality”) but for all fans of black metal! In a fitting tribute, the cover band finished the set with the very song they take their name from – “Triumph of Death.”
After a powerful performance by Sabaton at Knotfest meets Hellfest, they switched from Mainstage-2 to Mainstage-1 and returned the very next day as a last-second replacement of Manowar. The band not only managed to play a bigger set but invited a bunch of fans onstage to sit and drink as they celebrated Midsummer’s Day (summer solstice) with Hellfest! Three songs into the set, Joakim realized he had sung his heart out and clearly could sing no more. But they were quick to say “we don’t cancel,” and the two guitarists Tommy and Chris stepped in and sang as lead vocalists using lyric sheets placed on their mic stands! This not only gave the show a unique charm but also earned the band a lot of respect from all those in attendance.
It was finally time for the band that Hellfest calls “French Superstars” – Gojira. If there was an aesthetically and sonically pleasing show that came close to Tool’s performance on the final day, it was this set. The array of lights change with every variation, break or acceleration, the very foundation of Gojira‘s music. The setlist is perfectly put-together to cover all major points in the band’s history, from opening with “Oroborus” to “The Shooting Star” from ‘Magma’, and wrapping it all up with “The Gift of Guilt.” The fireworks aid the instrumental closing segment of that last track to make it a sight to behold, the moment etched in the memory of all those in attendance.