Hellfest – Clisson France

October 1st, 2011
by Arto Lehtinen

HELLFEST DAY 3 (The 19th of June)

Finally the last day. The one you feel like you were waiting for, but you didn’t really want it to come. People were obviously looking forward to this Sunday for two main reasons: Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne. Along with many other very interesting acts on the way there. And of course you don’t want to think that the next day all of this is finished and you have to come back to the normal, non-festival life.

But surprisingly enough today I manage to see the first band. Or better, I wanted to. Audrey Horne had made a very positive impression on me back in the days when they played at Sauna Open Air in Finland, thus I was curious to see again these Norwegians, and the ability of Ice Dale (Enslaved anyone?) at the guitar. The sun suddenly coming out helps to enjoy this early awakening even better, and after the first few songs I can have some spare time to download my pics and recharge the batteries in the facilities of the press area, actually very well equipped!

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Turisas comes next on the same stage, and the Finns are as full of energy as usual, unlike maybe the French audience who doesn’t welcome them in the same way as the one of their homeland, of course. Even if the crowd seems a bit shy, the show seems to work, or at least it was about to, since in half hour it could barely warm up the fans. There is time for only four songs two new ones in between “To Holmgard and Beyond” and their trademark “Battle Metal”. Still nice.

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Now it’s when I decide to take an unusual turn from my normal music taste, and go to check out Red Fang on the Terrorizer stage. This band is really groovy for their music, and not bad at all live! After all one good thing from festivals is that you get the chance to discover something new, maybe to widen your horizons, and this is one of those occasions.

Shame that in the middle of the show I must come back to the main side for Atheist, the Guns’n’Roses of Death Metal, judging from Kelly Shaefer’s outfit. It’s good that the set focus mainly on the earlier productions, as the debut “Piece of Time”, which concludes the show with the uber-classic titletrack itself. Not really a memorable gig honestly. I was way more into it back a few years ago when I first saw the band live. Now it didn’t seem like the band was really giving it their all, or maybe it was just my impression…

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Even so, now it’s time for the more entertaining and funniest band of the weekend: from Russia, Arkona! Masha is an extraordinary singer, and I’ll never be tired to say that I believe she’s better than Angela Gossow vocal-wise. She’s also quite an entertainer, and not only due to the wolf skin wrapped around her clothes. Arkona should deserve better fame, while still they don’t seem to have a really big fan-base. Nonetheless you just can’t refrain yourself from dancing at the rhythm of songs such as “Yarilo” or “Kupala I Kostroma”, which shows the true folk soul of these guys. It’s one of the shows I enjoyed the most from these three days, and I’m so looking forward to see the band again!

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After these funny moments, I can take it easy for a while and take a good break, which ends of course when Ghost comes on stage. The Swedish guys are absolutely incredible live, and you don’t want to miss that. It’s music for everyone, blacksters like it for their lyrics, old-schoolers love it for their music. And it’s really something to see a new band becoming so popular in so little time. It doesn’t happen often. The aura of mystery that surrounds the identities of these “nameless ghouls” sure helps in drawing the attention to them, but after all, when you listen to them you will find yourself singing their songs soon after, even if you don’t notice it! Along with their original songs from the debut, the now usual cover of “Here Comes The Sun” is a great touch to a show which is really noteworthy. And once again I can say “I’m glad I was there”.

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I can manage to see only quickly part of the Grave show before going to see the Cavanagh brother’s Anathema. Way too emotional for me though, especially since the set focuses on their latest “We ‘re here because we’re here”. Not my cup of tea.

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Way better it goes with Mr. Big. It’s been almost a year since last time I met Paul Gilbert on a stage, and with Billy Sheehan it sure makes a good combination. That of course is a proven fact, but I really must say the chemistry of this band is something you can see on the stage, as well as how much the guys are actually enjoying the show themselves. Along with solos of guitar and bass, there’s room for David Lee Roth’s “Shy Boy”, and the ending “Baba O’Riley” (The Who). Truly American indeed. But for once that’s the good stuff!

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On the other main stage, the Metal Queen Doro is ready to make her appearance, and for me is the 2nd time within a week, as for Ozzy and Judas later. Doro seems to be frozen in time, as she never ages. Always having lots of fun on stage while singing hymns like “Burning The Witches”, “Fur Immer”, “The Night Of The Warlock”, “All We Are”. She just delivers everything her fans want, and that’s why they love her (and throw roses at her). It’s good to have characters like her in the Metal scene, it really gives a sense of “unity” to the audience. I actually liked more the show the band did the week before, but anyway Doro is always Doro. You can’t complain when you see one of her gigs.

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The area is now so packed that it takes almost half hour to get from one side to the other, and this means one thing: Judas Priest!

 

The Epitaph Tour, which was supposed to be their last, and then became their “last worldwide big tour”, got the attention of all the fans, who didn’t want to miss the chance to see the band. Rob Halford, now going to turn 60, still have his tricks up his sleeve. Sure the fact that KK Downing left the band before the tour was a major turn off, although the new kid has proven able to sustain the attention and cover for him. A comparison would be out of question of course, but there’s nothing you can do when one decides it’s time to retire. It’s still odd that the guys use as  “War Pigs” from Sabbath, as their intro….and the show really has it’s turning point (for the best) when “Night Crawler” comes. It’s always great to hear these classics live. Even more so, it gives you the impression it’s too early when the band ends its concert after 85 minutes. “Hell Bent For Leather” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” compose the final encore, and apparently the audience feels more relieved that this is not a farewell but more likely just a goodbye. At least for a couple of years more, I guess.

 

 

Before Mr. Madman, I take the opportunity to bring myself to the other side of the festival and see Electric Wizard, since in the smaller stage is still time for some stoner/doom stuff. It looks like this kind of music is receiving a lot of attention lately. Besides, EW is one hell of a damn good band. The cinema screenings that can be seen behind the drums are a nice touch to an otherwise dark and gloomy show, with very few lights and tons of smoke. The latter mostly coming from the stage, I think. “Dopethrone” and “Funeralopolis” are in my opinion the best songs of today’s concert, and the tent is extremely packed already, as Hawkwind and Kyuss Lives! are about to come next.
 

But I must return to the main stage, of course after wearing a rain coat, and coating properly my camera. As every other photographer. While most of the people look at us like some strange weirdos, they’ll soon understand the reason. Ozzy Osbourne finally shows himself to the crowd of Hellfest, and with the second song, “Suicide Solution” the front rows, but mostly the photographers in the pit, get completely covered in foam, shoot from the old crazy man himself, who still behave like a little child. And sure he has fun! So much fun that in this cold night he poured water all over himself and get sick, forcing him to cancel his appearance a few days later at Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium. But before learning that he is not in his 20′s anymore, Ozzy delivers a good bunch of classics, which I can just hear since there’s so much people is basically impossible to see anything. Of course if you’re not 2 m tall. “Mr. Crowley” and “Bark At The Moon” brings back in time, and I must say this year I’ve found Ozzy in a way better shape than in the supporting tour for the previous record. At that time it was Zakk Wylde to do most of the job on stage. Now our bat-eating friend was instead jumping all over the place, smiling like a kid in a candy store. Gus G. proves himself as a really good guitarist, and Greece has given some interesting guitar players in the last decade. “Shot In The Dark”, “Iron Man” and “Crazy Train” are just a few of the classics delivered to the audience in this cold night, while still wet from all the foam I try to dry my clothes near the bonfires inside the area. Thanking who discovered fire. The final part comes with “Mama I’m Coming Home” and, surprise surprise, “Paranoid”. I actually enjoyed this show. Maybe because this time I wasn’t swearing in all known languages because of the foam all over my equipment. And now I really think it’d be about time to see a proper Black Sabbath tour. 

 

 

 

My last choice of the day, and of the festival, falls on Opeth. The creature of Mikael Åkerfeldt has the task to give closure to this year’s edition of Hellfest, together with Cradle of Filth, and Kyuss Lives!. Maybe it wasn’t really a great choice, since being already at my limit after having seen something like 50 bands in 3 days, it was already difficult enough to stand up, even more so while listening to prog/rock music. I sure prefer Bloodbath to Opeth, that’s for sure. It’s kind of disappointing also that there isn’t any new song from the upcoming album, which will be out in September, but maybe it’s still too early for that. It still looks like the fans enjoy the concert, but most of them lack of energy as well a t this point.

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As the audience slowly flows outside the festival area for the last big party of the event in the camping, it’s time for some good drinking to release all of the tiredness which piled up. Partying with old and new friends is the true essence of a festival after all, and for this sort of things Hellfest has proven to be the ideal place. Not to mention the awesome quality of the bands. Next year things will probably change, there is going to be a new location, capable to host more people, and Hellfest is ready to truly become one of the main poles of attraction of the summer. It has everything necessary to be able to succeed, so I can’t wait to see which place will be the new location, and the first bands announced for the 2012 edition. Packing and a long way to my homeland is what awaits me next. But my first Hellfest sure is something I will remember!

 The Official HELLFEST site

http://www.hellfest.fr/

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