Hellfest Festival 2015 – Sunday 21st June
It’s a beautiful Sunday morning. The sun is up and our hangovers hasn’t kicked in just yet. Great success!
We stop by the bar (obviously) and head down to the Main Stage to catch a band whose appearance has been kept as a secret for quite a while now. The Official printed Hellfest programmes with stage times are not much help as well, as the artist for this particular slot at 11:40AM still appears ‘to be announced’. But with a little patience and some research (thank you, mighty Internet!) it is clear that the band to appear on the Main Stage this morning is going to be the aspiring thrash metal outfit Lost Society (5/5) hailing from Finland.
With a great passion for heavy metal, that’s obviously the driving force behind the unstoppable energy that Lost Society use as their best tool on stage, the guys in the band can’t be much older than 20. And the youthful energy and genuine excitement the band release on stage this morning is contagious.
It’s refreshing to see new bands being given the opportunity to play on Main Stage of such large-scale festival like Hellfest and if there is a band that truly deserve the slot by working their asses off for it, it is Lost Society. Playing a mix of songs off their debut and second albums Fast Loud Death and Terror Hungry, Lost Society prove that they got what it takes to become a well established thrash metal band in the near future.
There are not many bands that can pull it off, but Lost Society persuade the crowd to do a ‘wall of death’ and it’s not even the bloody lunch time yet. And that pretty much says it all. “Thrash metal is for old guys with fuck-tons of experience.” Said no one ever. (Anna)
It would be unfair of us to say that Eths’ (4/5) huge early morning turnout has everything to do with their shared French origins with the festival. Because they’re actually bloody good. There’s a proper intro and everything before Rachel Aspe starts to growl and roar at the new day as the band start up ‘Samantha’. Incorporating some more melodic singing as well, there’s something quite split-personality about the two styles, which works in their favour as a point of interest. Those here liked it anyhow. (Kirsty)
Swedish metal lot The Haunted (3.5/5) have got Marco Aro, their old singer, back to replace their original old singer Peter Dolving, who previously replaced Aro on his second run with the band…. Ah let’s just leave it there. It’s a smallish crowd at this time, with the Eths lot having dispersed a bit, but Aro still lumbers down to crowd level to sing with those holding the front line. Aro is not slouch, but he’s no Dolving whose huge vocal range enabled The Haunted to spread their wings and he visibly struggles on songs with more of that tonal variety like ‘The Flood’. He’s also bleeding from the head after smacking it with the microphone. Behind him the band sound morning fresh, particularly the drums of Adrian Erlandsson, whilst in a perfect festival scheduling moment At The Gates and former Haunted man Anders Björler joins for classic ‘Hate Song’. (Kirsty)
And while Red Fang are absolutely killing it on the Main Stage, we wander off to The Warzone stage to catch the ultimate punk / hardcore supergroup Off! (3.5/5). Off! come from Los Angeles, California and include previous members of such bands, like Black Flag, Burning Brides, Earthless, Redd Kross and many more making them a union not to miss at Hellfest.
Off! manage to attract a crowd of decent size despite the extremely hot weather and three-day hangovers that, by now, appear to be a trending thing this morning. And despite how exhausted and drained Hellfest party people might seem, Off! release tons of raw energy that seem to shake up even those who appear to have pulled an all-nighter.
With their songs, like “Void You Out” followed by “Wiped Out,” “Darkness” and “Red, White and Black” and inspiring speeches from Off! frontman Keith Morris, Off!, just like Dead Kennedys two days ago, do not struggle for a second to convince us that punk rock is very much alive and kicking. (Anna)
Previously Oregon rockers, and David Letterman appearers, Red Fang (3.5/5) were up in a packed out Valley tent, back when it was too small and they were too oversubscribed. Seems this stuck with the organisers because this time they’ve got a Main Stage slot and are filling up the hill instead.
It’s proper roasting out, and whilst their sunbaked stoner comes off good, some songs just work better than others. ‘Doen’ has more oompf for example and ‘Wires’ gets people crowd surfing on the sun’s rays. We reckon the Fangsters can easily keep taking stages like this come the next few years. (Kirsty)
Back to The Valley Stage and next up are one of the most popular and highly anticipated instrumental / post rock band Russian Circles (4/5) from Chicago, USA. Bringing their unique form of psych-inspired instrumental rock to Hellfest, Russian Circles set the mood just right for those hiding away from the sun in the shade inside the spacious Valley tent.
Mostly known for their technicality using multiple musical effects and ambient atmosphere the band create when it comes to their live shows, today’s performance is far from being a disappointment even to those not familiar with Russian Circles material. The intensity and multiple layers of the sound created by only three men seems pretty mind-blowing and even the lack of vocal performance does not make Russian Circles set less entertaining. (Anna)
Carach Angren’s (3/5) Dennis Droomers even talks in a black metal voice. And mixes up a shedload of different languages, including the Dutch black and symphonic metallers home tongue, which means we may have to assemble a team of specialists to know exactly what’s being said.
Whilst deciphering things is part of the fun, this feels too much like a ‘performance’; not staged in the sense that it’s fake but staged as though someone has thought about direction a lot rather than just going out there and doing it. That includes the face paint. Maybe it’s the concept nature of the material, plus the orchestration, but it’s also there in Droomers’ own movements. It’s all fine and dandy but you find yourself looking for the interval break. (Kirsty)
Back to the Main Stage and it’s time for Thrash Metal legends Exodus(3/5) to bring their signature Bay Area thrash to the shores of France.
With Steve Souza back on vocal duties and Gary Holt, unfortunately, absent due to his commitment to Slayer, Exodus still appear in good shape and ready to show Hellfest that they’re still ‘the originals’ when it comes to playing thrash metal. With Heathen’s Kragen Lum standing-in for the very much missed Gary Holt, making a great addition to the band, yet we still can’t help but to feel as if the main driving force of the band is missing.
Ultimately, Exodus provide a killer show with the ever so present circle pits, walls of death and ridiculous amount of moshing as the crowd goes ‘over the top’ mental for songs, such as Slayer’s “Raining Blood” (a nod to their guitarist being excused to join Slayer on the road and in studio), “Bonded By Blood” and “The Toxic Waltz”. (Anna)
Back to The Valley tent to cool off after Exodus set and catch a bit of North Carolina’s finest Stoner Rock outfit Weedeater (4/5). Possibly, the most laid back band around, Weedeater deliver an exceptional show swinging bottles of Jack Daniels, praising Stoner lifestyle (what else you’d expect from a band with such name) and playing the rawest type of Stoner/Sludge your ears would have ever witnessed.
“Next song is about weed and we hope you fucking hate it!” declares the frontman Dave “Dixie” Collins before kicking off yet another whiskey and weed fueled track and letting Travis Owen to steal the show with his exceptional drumming skills. Songs like “Goliathan,” “Cain Enabler” and, of course, “Weed Monkey” stand out as the ultimate highlights of Weedeater’s bass-driven and down-tuned performance while allowing plenty of space for tongue-in-cheek humor and not taking themselves too seriously. (Anna)
Finland’s Grave Pleasures (3.5/5) have recently changed their name from Beastmilk in case you haven’t heard. Although if you have to forever remind people of that by following it with the words ‘formerly Beastmilk’ it’s not much of a name change. Mind you Grave Pleasures only have one album of material to draw from and it’s Beastmilk material so the distinction is far from clear. The band don’t seem to be suffering in terms of quality, although the songs largely fall into similar territory. ‘Fear Your Mind’ sees Kvohst take on a Danzig-quality, whilst unveiled newbie ‘Lipstick On Your Tombstone’ also sounds suitably horror-inspired. (Kirsty)
The Altar ain’t exactly jumping for Germany’s Morgoth (3/5). Most of the actual work is being done by the band, who put on a fine windmill display, whilst those who have popped by to wait for Alestorm/escape the sun/maybe watch Morgoth (delete as applicable) put a few lazy horns in the air.
Backed by good old blue and red lighting, the apparent favourite of bands that don’t see much sun, there’s not much to mark Morgoth out from the multitude of death metal/growly bands to have passed through here this weekend. Dark but meh stuff. (Kirsty)
“You know what’s good for sweat, punching yourself in the face”. Interesting advice there from Eyehategod’s (4/5) Mike Williams. He’s got a real way with people. As does the band’s New Orleans sludge baked music.
You gotta give a big hand to Jimmy Bower on that part, he’s got grooves coming off him like heat from Hellfest’s fires. Meanwhile Williams maintains a proper punk rock air, so ‘New Orleans Is The New Vietnam’ sees him spitting over a Down-like riff (no guessing where Anselmo and co got some inspiration). It’s fine stuff. (Kirsty)
Take note, people of Hellfest. Alestorm (5/5) have a psychedelic banner featuring banana ducks – why is this not on the main stage? Oh and this tent lost sight of its capacity a while back and the surrounding area is solid with people. Clearly rousing pirate metal performed by Scots is not just a niche in a niche. With banter like “This is a song about crocodiles, who thinks they’re a crocodile?”, you can laugh or you can admit that it’s got your Jolly Roger stirring. With a jig being cut in the pit from “Walk The Plank” to the simply named “Rum”, this is the moment you recall when someone asks if you had fun. After all when the crowd surfers start from outside of the tent you know there’s a good thing going on. (Kirsty)
Max Cavalera should be less worried about getting everyone to sing along to ‘Babylonian Pandemonium’ and concentrate more on his own vocals. Cause they don’t sound fucking brilliant. The rest of the band are fine though, if you’d like to know. Thank God that Cavalera Conspiracy (3.5/5) can be relied on in other areas then, mainly pit starting.
Inevitably a lot of the set is given over to Cavalera covers from Nailbomb and Sepultura with ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ basically being sung by the crowd who jump as commanded, until the end just gives up, seemingly due to technical difficulties. Still a small child (presumably belonging to Igor Cavalera) comes on to throw out drumsticks so that’s pay-off… yeah? (Kirsty)
Dutch symphonic six-piece Epica’s (3.5/5) backdrop is as you could guess – big time fantasy artwork and such, but the bursts of flame to herald ‘The Second Stone’ give it a tougher edge. Early on Simone Simons’ vocals don’t really come on with the full-on power expected of symphonic metal, although she owns on range. Plus her curved mic stand is bad-ass.
You can’t ignore the numbers either – those are a lot of people out front, and Simons’ short burst of French elicits screams. So we guess she said something good. The inter-play between Simons and the growls of Mark Jansen gives the set list some different tones, but by the time an hour’s up you feel just a bit epiced out. (Kirsty)
And then it’s time for the one and only Fred Durst and his entourage to shake things up a bit. Excuse the haters and nay-sayers, but we get cosy with other party people right at the front and get ready for what’s looking to be one hell of a show.
In Flames (4.5/5) have got one hell of a light and smoke show. Of course that means nothing on its own, but coupled with some sound squeezed from the quality tube, it gives this late night headliner type status before the actual headliners are even on. When you consider how many years they’ve been in the game though, more than you ever seem to remember, it’s no surprise that they long ago mastered the good show arts.
They don’t go for much in the way of old stuff, but among the newer, ‘Deliver Us’ takes on big stage anthem status and ‘Drifter’ sees a massive circle pit unfurl. By the Swedes’ own admission it’s one of the few truly ‘heavy’ songs aired tonight, but you don’t need so many goes with the hammer when you hit that hard. (Kirsty)
“You’re a liar” screams Phil Anselmo. Not at anyone in particular, but the crowd when asking who has heard Superjoint Ritual (4.5/5) before. Heard them or not, this is the band’s first show ever outside of the US so it’s something pretty special. Anselmo’s banter is on top form as well – “Who likes Megadeth? Good, fuck go home and listen to them then. They suck.”
Most of the set is Anselmo mumbling that they’ve time for “one more song”, but when they play ‘em it’s like all Anselmo projects meeting, the rage of The Illegals meets hardcore punk meets the groove of Down/Pantera. The latter is in part down to Eyehategod’s Jimmy Bower who is on his second set of the day.
They mainly pull jams off first record ‘Use Once And Destroy’, not dedicating ‘The Alcoholik’ to Eyehategod’s Mike Williams and citing ‘Fuck Your Enemy’ as big in the charts in Nebraska. Well it’s also big in the pit here. Hellfest has long been a place where you get to see magic and what we got right here was a truckload of the stuff. Those who missed it will probably lie and say they were there. (Kirsty)
This year the gates of Hellfest are modelled to look something like a mammoth church or cathedral. It seems an apt choice after a weekend spent worshipping at the altars of some of the baddest, heaviest, goddamn best music out there. If this is our church then deliver us some more.
Guess that means happy fucking birthday Hellfest! You and I are gonna keep getting older together. (Kirsty)