Hellfest – Clisson France

October 1st, 2011
by Arto Lehtinen

HELLFEST 2011 DAY 2 (The 18th of June)

Being able for once to sleep for more than 4h in a festival, and even in a tent, is quite an achievement. But damn, it sure is cold in this place for summer! After the shower-queue I’m ready to embark into another day of madness in this incredibly rich festival. So much to see, so much to do. Is not something a human alone can possibly do. Even so today I wanted to be there soon enough not to miss the Swedish all-female band Crucified Barbara, those girls are pretty damn catchy, and also damn pretty. Apparently I’m not the only one to think so, since there’s already quite a few people in front of the Main Stage when the show begins. As the band performs equally from its two albums, is more and more clear to me that I really did a good choice to wake up in time for this. Way to go girls! (and now some coffee for me…).

Whiplash soon after is in charge of awakening the increasing audience on the other main stage. The bass player Rich Day just can’t stand still a moment, which makes up for the little braids on Tony Portaro’s beard, kept still by some skull-shaped weird things. Whiplash gave a good touch to the morning, and set the mood for the awesome Angel Witch.

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The creation of Kevin Heybourne, only original member left, has in its ranks Carcass’s Bill Steer, which just add to the curiousity of the metalheads headbanging at these NWOBHM classics. The self-titled “Angel Witch” is the highest highlight of this morning. And now let’s go taste some of those famous French fries. Apparently French puts those in almost everything. Which is a good thing for a festival since normally the quality of the food is not really the best. No complains about that here, in fact, all the opposite!

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Hail of Bullets is my next target of the day. The dutch guys lead by Martin Van Drunen (Asphyx) are a true killing machine on stage as in the themes of their lyrics. “General Winter”, “Berlin”, “Tokio Napalm Holocaust” ignite the passion of the crowd, which completely goes nuts at the sight of this show. The band is in a great shape, as it was one month earlier in Helsinki, and I truly enjoyed this gig. Congrats again HoB!

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Now the wave of thrash metal is getting serious. Municipal Waste literally creates havoc – as always – when they hit the main stage n°2. Every kind of flying thing is going toward the stage, shoes, people… everything. Including body-surf non-stop and of course raging moshpit and furious head-banging. That’s how thrash metal should be! The American guys are really amazing at taking all of this out from their audience, unleashing their “inner beast”. And of course it’s all about the fun. A lot of it.

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A small parenthesis before getting into the core of today’s main courses is represented by the pagan/folk metal act Skyforger, coming all the way from Latvia. This is a band a really like a lot, and that didn’t disappoint me one bit, except maybe that I would have enjoyed a more acoustic set rather than all those heavier songs. But still it’s understandable in this day filled with Thrash. A big part of the set is taken from the newest “Kurbads”, like “Son of the Mare”, but what really gets the fans going even more nuts is the songs from “Latvian Riflemen”. I just love that album. Bagpipes, flutes, and these sort of folk instruments simply make this band’s shows great. Of course thanks to another great performance.

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And now it’s time for THRASH!!!! With some deviations in between, that is. Schmier and Destruction opens fire in late afternoon when the crowd starts to be almost too big to fit in there. The idea of seeing Destruction/Sodom/Black Label Society/Kreator/Bolt Thrower/Coroner in a row is mind-blowing, just not to be rude. If you are a thrash metal fan that’s a dream coming true!

“Mad Butcher”, “Thrash Till Death”, “Nailed To The Cross”… I really missed those! Forgive here my ecstatic state, but you have to understand. The newcomer Vaaver at the drums does still a nice job, but is obviously the Mike/Schmier duo that literally pulls the strings. I have seen even better from Destruction, honestly speaking, but still!

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Frost’s 1349 is a small exception in the evening, but I had to see this band at least once. They actually made a really good impression on me, and I definitely will be checking them better again, with less rush, at the next opportunity. I heard someone complained about the flames since he got one lens partially melted. That’s what you get when you’re not careful in front of the stage! These guys brings true evil on the mass for the 50 minutes of their set. Honestly, a freaking good show.

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The same can be said of Sodom, of which I didn’t quite like the set though. Of course they’d have been crazy to leave out songs like “M-16” or “Agent Orange”, but I was looking forward for example to hear again Ausgebombt live. The fans went crazy anyway, which must mean the show hasn’t been bad after all. Sodom too has recently changed drummer after 13 years, and maybe that downgraded the show a little. Nonetheless, Angelripper uber alles!

It’s now time for some “softer”, still ass-kicking, and actually amazing show with Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society. The new record has given new pearls such as “Overlord”, which are again presented live in all their magic. The gig begins with “Crazy Horse”, and Zakk wearing that traditional indian feather-head gear. “Bleed For Me” brings back in time, while still enjoying the amazing guitar riffs of Mr. Wylde, while DeServio makes his own show at the bass, all enriched by “sidekick” Nick Catanese. “Fire It Up” proceeds the long guitar solo, another amazing guitar-moment, and the fans are totally captured by it. “Concrete Jungle” and “Stillborn” ends this short festival-set. And it’s with bands like these that you wish there could be just a little more time!

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The absolute best today from the German trio is then Kreator. Mille Petrozza and Co. don’t give a single moment to take breath in their incredible set. “Hordes Of Chaos” opens the show throwing a wall of sound to the thrashers in front of the stage and starting a killer mosh-pit, of the big kind. Personally I don’t know if their setlist could have been any better, as the only thing I could think of that was missing is “People Of The Lie”. But such an aggressive attitude and one amazing song after the other made for an incredibly intense show. Maybe the best I’ve ever seen of Kreator!

It’s difficult now to slow down your heart-beat and get in the right mindset for Scorpions, also because I must divide myself between this stage and the Rock Hard tent, where Bolt Thrower is about to play in between the German rockers’ show.

For what I could see, pretty much the beginning and the end, the band lead by Klaus Meine enchanted the tens of thousands of people covering the whole area in front of the two main stages with their rock hymns, “Big City Nights” and “Rock You Like A Hurricane” of course about all.

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On the other hand, the English Bolt Thrower gave their all in an unforgettable performance in front of their fans who were going ape-shit crazy. “The Killchain”, “…For Victory”, “No Guts, No Glory” are my personal favourites of this great concert. Nothing to do with the wonderful experience of three years before in Germany, when I first discovered the band, but still I really liked the gig. And apparently I’m not the only one!

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I wish I wasn’t completely exhausted when Coroner took its turn on stage, so that I could have enjoyed it more. But as the cruel fate of being the last band, I guess that’s what happens. There is still a lot of people watching though. And with good reasons! These Swiss guys are one of the long awaited come-backs of the year, and sure knows how to do their job. The crowd is mostly quite drunk by now, but still trying to react to the show of these thrashers, which was preceded by a firework show in memory of Patrick Roy, a politician who has always supported the metal scene and Hellfest in France, and who died about a month before the festival.

Coroner’s gig ends with the amazing “Reborn Through Hate”, and the people slowly return to the camping to drink more. As of me, I’m just way too tired this time. And still have that sort of excitement from seeing so many awesome bands all together. The winner of today is probably Kreator, but Black Label Society, Bolt Thrower, and many other bands have their good share in making this Saturday absolutely great. See you tomorrow for Judas & Ozzy!

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