Hellfest Festival 2014: Sunday 22nd June
Day three already. The final countdown. The hard goodbye. Parting is such sweet sorrow. And all those things. Although let’s save them until after the 15+ solid hours of music still to come yeah?
Let those last day blues wash away by taking a swallow of Blues Pills (3.5/5). A better way to start the day than one of your five-a-day, frontwoman Elin Larsson might look a touch like a hippy Avril Lavigne through these hazy eyes but she doesn’t remotely subscribe to the same musical ‘taste’. The perfect bluesy voice lies over those old-school grooves which have soul in their souls, dropping between high semi-shouts and deep tones on the same line. They do make them like they used to it seems.
Texans Scorpion Child (4/5) are also graduates of the old school, but with a major in hard rock edge. Despite having had a lot of line-up changes, including some at the start of this year, the boys just saddle up and whip those riffs into shape. There’s a sort of Led Zeppelin feel to Aryn Jonathan Black’s voice, wrestling with the psychedelic/heavy metal undertones the rest of the band are banging away at, and there’s just a slight worry that sometimes they might overpower him but it seems not today.
Staying with the main stages, In Solitude (3/5) set a darker tone with their melodic heavy metal lugged all the way over from Sweden. Must have been a nightmare to get through the metal detectors at the airport. Newbie “Sister” is a depressive family ode if there ever was one, but The crowd is sparser than they might have liked though, and flagging.
Likely it’s the heat and the two manic days before, but for their set it’s all up to Sister to make us forget that, and they don’t quite manage it. Even with frontman Pelle “Hornper” Åhman rocking the spoons during “He Comes”.
In Solitude setlist
Death Knows Where
A Buried Sun
Horses In The Ground
It’s far too bright and sunny out on Main Stage 1 for all this sludge business, but somehow Kirk and co still manage to convey the feeling that we’re being crushed in a vice. Sounding surprisingly clear as though someone’s shaken up their set and some of the sediment has drifted down to the bottom, Crowbar (4/5) play slow, and they play fast in all the right places.
There’s little room for settling in, which works in their favour, and new tracks like “Walk With Knowledge Wisely” get more than a polite response. Closing with the mighty “Planets Collide”, Crowbar go out with a bang almost as loud as that event might actually create.
It’s hard to know whether to treat Powerwolf (3.5/5) as a proper power metal band, or something more ironic. They have the corpse paint and the outfits, and they play convincingly. But songs like “Resurrection By Erection” suggests the latter, as does Attila Dorn’s banter, which is all a bit nudge-nudge-wink-wink.
Not that it gets much reaction from any ladies present – either no one understands or they’re pretending they don’t. His dramatic, theatrical tones are more impressive, and as the cheese and puns keep coming you can’t help but warm to Powerwolf.
Sanctified With Dynamite
Amen & Attack
Sacred & Wild
Resurrection By Erection
Raise Your Fist, Evangelist
Werewolves Of Armenia
We Drink Your Blood
Seether (3.5/5) take you back to a time of angsty youth, when grunge reigned supreme. Soft-sad-one “Fine Again” pops out early on, and makes you want to bury your head in your pillow again. Shaun Morgan’s vocals aren’t wavering under any emotion though, and the harmonies from the back are spot on.
“Remedy” continues to sound like an approximation of Nirvana, and it makes you think that this kind of grungey-alt rock hasn’t felt like an event for some time. Being out in the open though means what would have been a concentrated blow in some mid-sized venue becomes quite fuzzy around the edges.
Words As Weapons
Rise Above This
In The Valley Black Tusk (4/5) are rock n roll with added bite. And tusks to gore you on. The stoner/punk riffs and drums are easy to get locked into, whilst the rowdy vocals are not the standard but somehow suit.
With a style that sounds as though it’s been dragged over a grater-load of musical influences and as a result has been left rough but with pieces of each embedded within, Black Tusk are just the thing to knock you out of the ‘it must be perfect’ frame of mind. A bit more time would be nice, but for as long as we have them the crowd don’t stop.
In a change to the schedule (which is not unusual here), Dutch black n’ roll group Heretic play The Temple in lieu of Urfaust.
View from the photopit:
Continuing the black metal theme on this stage, we have Heretic (standing in for Urfaust). Indeed the bass player is actually from Urfaust so we have no right to feel cheated. Heretic play black metal with their own slant, very much bass driven nd with almost a punky feel to it – not unpleasant at all!
Hail The Beast
Horns Of Hell
Sweet Little Sacrifice
Give Me Darkness
Gods ‘n’ Slaves
Tyrants Of Evil
Angelcunts & Devilcocks
It’s On (The Devil’s Blood cover)
Before Myles Kennedy went off with Slash, he got together with the disbanded lot from Creed and they made this little thing called Alter Bridge (4.5/5). Although they’re not so little really, and neither is the crowd gathering.
See, this is great sunny weather music, and the sun has got a whole lot of hats on. “Addicted To Pain” starts like someone turned the keys once the car was already cruising, with Kennedy sounding at the top of his game, whilst “Rise Today” is a masterclass in melodic fist clencher-cum- arm waver. As has been made quite clear before, Alter Bridge could quite easily step over the gap and be topping some sort of bill here one day soon.
Alter Bridge setlist
Addicted To Pain
Come To Life
Cry Of Achilles
Ties That Bind
Across the way Annihilator (4/5) are proving thrash bands can do good back-up signing too. Not that anyone came here for that. Good news then that they still give you something to get your neck into. Starting with something new in “Smear Campaign”, and working back through the old, Annihilator are better for their lack of pretension. Thrash isn’t a lovely ballet and we don’t all need to bloody pretend it is; it’s about music that carries you along with it, that pushes you with every note, and encourages you to cut loose. Thumbs up then guys.
King Of The Kill
No Way Out
Set The World On Fire
Road To Ruin
At the same time Equilibrium (4.5/5) are making a massive crowd going nuts with their folk-gone-dark antics. “Was Lange Währt” starts out as jolly as fuck, and then the vocals begin and it sounds like someone from the otherside is telling the story. Someone demonic.
Oh and the guitarist appears to have been practising his Alexi Laiho poses. Anyway Equilibrium use bold symphonic melodies and their native language to tell us stories that we may not ‘understand’ without a translator, but it all sounds bloody brilliant. Did we mention you can dance and pit to this simultaneously? Well you can.
Was Lange Währt
Blut im Auge
Der Ewige Sieg
Or if neither of those are your thing, desert rockers/stoners House of the Broken Promises are filling The Valley with riffs.
View from the photopit:
House of the Broken Promises was born out of Unida (also playing Hellfest). Stoner rock from California. Fiercely heavy in a stoner way with a very heavyweight guitar sound (and beards that would impress ZZ top), HOBP don’t do anything that will shake the world but are solid and suitably impressive.
Following on the adjacent Altar stage, The Black Dahlia Murder (4/5) are far from the John Does of the melodic death metal scene. It takes the crowd a bit longer to warm up, but persistent calls from the band get things moving, and when they start they don’t stop. “Moonlight Equilibrium” sounds positively wicked, whilst “Necropolis” spits blast beats. Sometimes you feel the lines blurring and the setlist becoming almost indistinguishable, and then some minor flourish will cut through to mark its own identity. With the band not letting up for a second, for those in the pit it’s almost an endurance test beaten out on the skin of the drum.
The Black Dahlia Murder setlist
In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me
On Stirring Seas Of Salted Blood
Their Beloved Absentee
Raped In Hatred By Vines Of Thorn
Den Of The Picquerist
Everything Went Black
Malenchantments Of The Necrosphere
What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse
I Will Return
Coming hard on the heels of Annihilator, Dark Angel (3.5/5) demonstrate why they are known as the L.A. Caffeine Machine. We don’t know how much it takes to get them going these days, but we’ll have a double shot because they spread their wings and then it’s just relentless.
They remind of Megadeth, they remind of Metallica, and sometimes even hit something Slayer-esque but with higher pitched moments… in fact the only problem is in the process of making us think about all our favourite thrash guys, they’re not making us think only about Dark Angel. Just serves to highlight how many strong players there are in the thrash game.
View from the photopit:
“Darkness Descends” was awesome!
Dark Angel setlist
We Have Arrived
The Burning Of Sodom
Time Does Not Heal
No One Answers
Never To Rise Again
Death Is Certain (Life Is Not)
Perish In Flames
Bringing something more extreme to the Main Stage 2, Behemoth (4/5) certainly look the part, and sound it with their epic intro. The material is all there, with latest release The Satanist super lauded by all and sundry, but the bright light does slightly diminish songs which would thrive in the shadows.
Unfortunately, aside from the frontline hardnuts, the crowd is also a little static, with people either not sure how to react or suffering from third day heat syndrome perhaps. No denying though, you feel a little choked up when leukaemia-survivor Nergal announces “It’s great to be alive”. Yes it is.
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
As Above So Below
Slaves Shall Serve
Christians To The Lions
Ov Fire And The Void
At The Left Hand ov God
Chant For Eschaton 2000
O Father O Satan O Sun!
Born out of Windir, and doing black n roll better than most, Vreid are a really treat dans le Temple (4/5). Going up against Behemoth is to go up against… well a musical behemoth, but these Norwegians still get people through the door.
Cause good music will always find ears to fill, and these guys offer level amounts of catchiness and scary darkness. The only niggle is that most of the set is Windir covers, which may be what people are here to see, but Vreid have a solid set of songs of their own and it’s a shame more didn’t get an outing.
Arntor, A Warrior (Windir cover)
The Spiritlord (Windir cover)
Eldast, utan å gro
The Profound Power (Ulcus cover)
On The Montain Of The Goats (Windir cover)
Svartesmeden og Lundamyrstrollet (Windir cover)
Journey To The End (Windir cover)
Stepping on stage with a bag of ice down the back of his oversized leather waistcoat-cum-collar, Jerry Only must have been relieved the Misfits (4.5/5) weren’t billed earlier in the day. He launches into his classic minimal chat – just one snippet intro for each song, whilst Dez Cadena lurks on the side continuing to look like a Scooby Doo villain that might be unmasked any second. This being punk we get close to double the songs a set of this length would usually hold, and despite this being punk the sound is drinkably clear. Aside from a slight slip up going into “Skulls” the band don’t make a wrong move, with the setlist full of classics “Scream!”, “American Psycho”, and “Descending Angel”. It’s no bloody surprise they close with “Die, Die My Darling”, and no-one utters a single word of protest.
The Devil’s Rain
Land Of The Dead
Teenagers From Mars
Some Kinda Hate
Curse Of The Mummy’s Hand
Jack The Ripper
Abominable Dr. Phibes
Dig Up Her Bones
Return Of The Fly
I Turned Into A Martian
Where Eagles Dare
We Are 138
Thirsty And Miserable (Black Flag cover)
Die, Die My Darling
Let’s face it – Emperor’s (5/5) presence is enough to make people happy. The fact that they’re playing music, the fact that they’ve reformed for these handful of shows, and the fact that they’re playing In The Nightside Eclipse in full has probably permanently fixed faces into mad grins. They of course don’t look like the uninitiated would expect, there’s a kind of Randy Blythe geek look to frontman Ihsahn, but the sound is mighty. It feels as though wherever you are in the arena you’ll be hit by it. Oh my, here is black metal made beautiful, uplifted by its progression as opposed to bogged down. There’s a reason these guys influenced the hell out of everyone else. Right now though no-one else matches up to them. It’s a triumphant return, and those who missed it will be haunted by it ten years down the line.
Into The Infinity Of Thoughts
The Burning Shadows Of Silence
Cosmic Keys To My Creations & Times
Beyond The Great Vast Forest
Towards The Pantheon
The Majesty Of The Nightsky
I Am The Black Wizards
Inno A Satana
Wrath Of The Tyrant
Those missing it may just be in The Temple watching Icelandic metallers Solstafir confuse everyone trying to find an easy label for them.
View from the photopit:
When you go to a festival as huge as Hellfest, you know what to expect from all the big names and more often than not they deliver as expected. Every now and again, though, you catch a band you’ve never heard of and they make an immediate impression. Solstafir were one of those bands this weekend. Hailing from Iceland and sporting cowboy hats they already made you go…”What?”.
When they started playing though, the music was mesmerizing. I cannot describe it really, very difficult to pigeon hole but suffice to say it was not like anything else I heard all weekend. Probably the biggest surprise all weekend (apart from the fact there was a food stall selling vegan food!)
Ljós í Stormi
Goddess of the Ages
Meanwhile The Valley is entering the final stretch as penultimate act Spirit Caravan (3.5/5) take to the stage, and continue the fine tradition of stoner/doom that has been laid down over these three days. They’re good, yeah, dragging out notes till you’re twitching with anticipation, and although they do eventually let it go, it remains steady, head-noddy fare.
For a band that have been split up for 12 years, they don’t sound half bad, but it still feels like there’s some rust that needs to be knocked off. Coupled with a crowd that are more static eyes than moving feet and there’s a sense that we’re mutually engaged in some practice exercise.
And then it’s straight back over the way for Swedish melodic death metallers Soilwork.
View from the photopit:
The last time I saw Soilwork, I wasn’t really impressed to be honest, they looked like they were just going through the motions and would have preferred to be at home watching the tele.
However, at Hellfest, it looks like a different band! They are obviously well up for playing and energetic and vital. Just as well too, Soilwork have a lot to give!!
This Momentary Bliss
Like The Average Stalker
Spectrum Of Eternity
The Living Infinite I
Let This River Flow
Follow The Hollow
Stabbing The Drama
And suddenly it’s time. It feels as though there should be a roll of thunder, a flash of lightning, but then “War Pigs” starts and it’s introduction enough. Black Sabbath (5/5) are here.
Compared to Dickinson and Tyler’s athleticisms from the nights before, Ozzy is a meandering mess. Shuffling a few steps either way before clutching onto the mic stand again as though it’s his only anchor point to reality. He continually calls to see the crowd’s hands as though that’s his only way to discern that they are real. But his grin is just touching, and those gathered are so under his spell that if he asked them to shit in their hands they bloody well would.
Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi stand either side like seemingly calm pillars of sanity, poised, controlled, but actually dealing their own kind of crazy through their fingertips. Iommi in particular is fixed in quiet concentration, only giving a slight inclination of the head or smile to let us know how much he’s enjoying this. And whilst Butler starts to look tired towards the end, Tommy Clufetos pounds away with the energy of youth.
New tracks “Age Of Reason” and “God Is Dead?” aren’t as broken in but they don’t sound odd in the Sabbath stable, whilst the band seem to have looked at their old material with fresher eyes giving it a slightly modern twist in the drumwork. And it’s great. Talking of the drums Iommi leads Clufetos into a massive solo and not one word is uttered in protest.
“Black Sabbath”, “Iron Man”, “Fairies Wear Boots” – did we need a reminder of how important these songs are, how good they are? After teasing with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, we get a single song encore in “Paranoid” which takes out the entire area. We all owe these guys a debt of gratitude.
Black Sabbath setlist
Into The Void
Age Of Reason
Behind The Wall Of Sleep
Fairies Wear Boots
God Is Dead?
Children Of The Grave
Look it’s Black Sabbath on the Main Stage. It’s Sunday night. Everyone is hot, tired, drunk – and 1349 (4.5/5) still pull in a crowd. Black metal has really represented this weekend, but these guys are above and beyond at this stage. Costumes and make-up adding to the overall impression, the band drive “Maggot Fetus… Teeth Like Thorns” out of the gate at speed, whilst Olav “Ravn” Bergene drags every word out of his throat.
The musicianship is particularly impressive, giving every song its own distinct character, which by the end descends into a blur of speed that wrings the last drops out of all in front.
Maggot Fetus… Teeth Like Thorns
Sculptor Of Flesh
I Am Abomination
Riders Of The Apocalypse
Pandemonium War Bells
When I Was Flesh
Next door, and closing down The Valley for the weekend are US stoner rockers Unida.
View from the photopit:
Think something similar to THE House of Broken Promises (with whom they share members). Stoner rock, mighty heavy and not a bad way to (almost) close off the festival weekend!
Stray (Leafhound cover)
With Iced Earth out, there’s just two bands taking this festival across the finish line and as such Opeth (4/5) is pretty well subscribed out of those who are still standing. These Swedish prog metallers make for good 1am listening – it’s not so breakneck that you lose interest through no longer being able to stand, but it’s not so soft-footed that you quite fall asleep.
Between their gentler, sung songs, and the harder, growlier stuff they manage to find some appeal for most, and although they’re not working with the easiest conditions (late night spot and tired crowd) Opeth manage to send some final notes to bump up against the Altar tent’s roof.
The Devil’s Orchard
Demon of the Fall
And there we have it. Another year down, and another year where Hellfest has raised the game. Whilst there were some grumbles from regular goers that the festival had got ‘too’ big this year, complaints seem few and far between. With next year Hellfest’s 10th anniversary, we’re excited to see what they might bring to the table. For a festival that does fire and fury on a regular basis, seeing them do a celebration is sure to be something special indeed.
Not that this year was anything but. Once again the line-up was bursting with a complete mash-up of genres from punk and hardcore to black and death metal, stoner and doom to thrash and rock n roll, and once again it was all the better for it. Hellfest may not have the most regimented and tested systems, their one song photo pit policy could do with stricter enforcing due to the huge number of photographers,and their knack for notifying people about line-up changes is still below par, but they know how to do the bit that matters… the music. And with Black Sabbath playing, two years after they were billed to, it feels like a chapter has closed – a chapter from heavy metal’s past.
Hellfest 2015 – join the party!