Our bodies have seen better days. In spite of the physical conditioning that our arms, backs, legs, necks and so forth make us sure we know of, our minds are flooded with endless amounts of precious memories from over these last couple of days of constant music, food, people and heat. Withstanding such a martyrdom of unbearable heat and endless lines for decent hydration serve as a clear example of how the music fans can bear the pain in favor of the art. We’ve laid out our last batteries for the last day of Hellfest, noticing that even if it’s not the busiest of the entire weekend, we can still see a couple of names we need to mobilize in order to make this experience unforgettable.
Breakfast is always welcome, but we needed to move fast because there’s a small band that connects strongly with our ears just preparing to get on stage at the Warzone. We’re talking about Harm Done, power-violence affiliates and representatives of the local Nantes scene. They’re playing in their backyard with a crowd that seems as tense and experienced in chaos as the band does. Fast drums and straight forward juicy riffs, bludgeoning the loathsome atmosphere surrounding the simple and effective song structures the band is very much known to do. They always know when to shift the gears and shovel the grinding parts, either breakdowns, transitions or groovy progressions. It’s hard to resist a band that sounds so good and is so honest about what they say and what they believe in.
On the opposite side of the map, we head over to Altar where Belgium’s Emptiness were preparing to take over the stage. We admit that this was one of the names we were most expecting to see in the entire billboard but sadly disappointed by the lack of attendance or the early hour or even the sound that didn’t suit to be adequate for the space being. The band didn’t deliver the bizarre and mind-bending performance that their latest album Not For Music did for us.
Noon, perfect hour to go grab some food and establish strength for the rest of the day. We head immediately to Main Stage 2 to see Prong. Mostly regarded as a band that is plainly forgotten for the newer generations of heavy music, you can understand the amount of older people present during their set. Even for a band that had such a strong impact in the 90’s, they’re still physically and mentally apt to deliver that hammering industrial rock they’re known for. Even with the wind occasionally blurting out the sound, and knowing the sound itself doesn’t hold as relevant as it did some years ago, this is a band that really deserves every bit of praise they can get.
Harm Done, Prong, The Vintage Caravan and Emptiness
We went over to the Warzone once again, currently the ideal place to get a sunburn or die of dehydration. Awaiting a band that puts itself heavily on these standards of discomfort, beholding in its insidious nature a cathartic distortion underlining sheer madness in decibels, d-beat and blast beats overcoming the Entombed-ish guitars and belching vocals, we’re talking about Trap Them. Not a performance that could stand out in any way others haven’t, but it’s the sound that pulls us in a compulsive cardiac seizure.
The following slot gave us a headache. With some open-mindedness towards a sense of sacrifice, we managed to see two divine bands that hold the torch in their respective movements. First up, the beautiful and enchanting music of Crippled Black Phoenix that moved with such dynamics and color providing incredible stage presence and sound quality (kudos to the technicians) made sure this metal stage felt like a celebration. On the other hand, some feet away, we had the lifeforce of thrash metal, legendary Hirax opening the gates of hell with their intoxicating and mind-bending metal flashed like a syringe needle. Katon’s vocals just sound mental and truth is, you don’t even need to be a metalhead to enjoy the clarity of the lyrics and the anthemic timbre of such an operatic howl.
Trap Them, Crippled Black Phoenix and Ghost Bath
The A Day to Remember’s act was probably the most colorful of the entire festival. As if the fantastic day of sunshine was not enough, when the band enters the stage immediately ribbons explodes to the audience, which would happen again at the end. The band knows their strengths and quickly conquered the front crowd opening the concert with a trio of the most desired songs: “All I Want”, “I'm Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?” and “2nd Sucks” were the chosen ones and not long after we could see some security guys with hoses watering that burning crowd. After a sequence of not so interesting new songs, frontman Jeremy McKinnon informed that they wanted to have the title of the calmest moment in the entire festival, starting the acoustic “If It Means a Lot to You” all alone on the stage. “All Signs Point to Lauderdale” and “The Downfall of Us All” were saved for, which happened to be, an apotheotic end.
Amplifiers were still vibrating at the Main Stage 1 and DevilDriver were starting just on the left. We were already thinking ahead, and what in order for the night to go as smoothly as possible, we needed to save up as much energy as we can. Case to say that the grass at the Valley stage felt still and welcoming, as did the Pentagram's show-stopper right after. Important to say that the (current) trio was hands down one of the best shows the last day had to offer. Demonstrating pure doom rock with classical hymns from over the 70’s and 80’s, the British legends made sure every generation present, old and new, got to successfully carve their names in the back everyone’s mind. The Valley seems like the quietest of all the stages. It wouldn’t make any sense to not stay around and witness the astonishingly well played effervescent prog. Rock greatness of Blue Öyster Cult. An occasion more than ideal to share with a loved one, but since we were all by ourselves, we stood inspired by the band’s lovable vibrations. Too much good vibes for our taste for too long. We needed a nice dosage of misanthropic speed.
A Day To Remember and Ufomammut
DevilDriver and Blue Öyster Cult
Getting up on stage at the Temple, we save a very warm welcome to Phil Anselmo’s new black metal project called Scour. For most people, this is best known as a supergroup, consisting of Adam Jarvis (Misery Index, Pig Destroyer) on drums and Derek Engemann (Cattle Decapitation) on guitars, among others. Undeniable that such a project has a bright future ahead, but the idea of having a clearly precocious band playing at such a time admits how rushed their attention is. We’re not saying the sound isn’t ruthless or merciless, but it’s admittedly pretentious to put a band, whose vocalist still doesn’t know the lyrics, on so late in the afternoon with such a 50-minute setlist, even if we’re talking about Phil Anselmo.
Following a legend like Phil Anselmo, another one as Neil Fallon. Clutch takes the stage and the mob went immediately wild. One entire hour almost nonstop with an incredible rollercoaster of songs and funky riffs. They had, for sure, one of the biggest crowds on the Valley, even with people standing outside and dancing from far away. As usual, “Electric Worry” ranged the bell for the end which was the perfect motto for a final truly crowdsurf waterfall. Bang, bang, bang, bang, Vamanos, vamanos.
Next up, Emperor! A name that brings every chill of our necks to a standing ovation, just from saying the name, Emperor! Norwegian lordship withstanding our favorite concert of the day. Flames engulfing the first rows and raw madness invade the hordes of die-hard fans at the front. Everyone knows the lyrics and the melody are profoundly beautiful to the bone. All the fan-favorites are delivered in an hour of pure dismantled spiritual catharsis while closing the gig with the best two songs that could be played at the time. “I Am The Black Wizards” and “Inno A Satana”. This is what legends are made. Coincidentally, we had the fortune of encountering these mythical legends in the airport, surely they travel just as we do. Much to our dismay, it was sadly impossible to reach the pits of Coroner’s stage at the Altar. With such an incredible outcome of appearances invading the tent, we were strongly disappointed to not be able to Coroner as close as we could. The never-ending line made us wait and listen to the Swiss architects outside of the tent, which didn’t stop this from being such a memorable moment for us. A band whose legacy still shines brightly on stage with such a bright, flawlessly crafted and designed performance that so few can dream of delivering with 30+ years of experience, much less with 20 or 10. Behold the greatness of the Swiss anatomy, the embodiment of modern thrash taken to the deepest pits of the mind.
Clutch and Emperor
The festival was almost completely ended at this time. Only one time-slot left for us to get into, and as if it wasn’t already a hard decision to make, we’re also facing the dilemma of having to cut whatever band’s set short in order for us to try and avoid any further queues and head back to the airport in time of our early morning flight. The Dillinger Escape Plan ended up being our choice, and even for the rushing, from one side to the other, we were impressively surprised by how intense and animalistic the band moved along with the crowd. A decent goodbye for a decent band. Not fortunate enough to watch them until the end.
So much can be said about the experience we had the privilege to live and feel as a part of us. Like nothing we’ve ever felt before, there wasn’t a second spent in this roller-coaster of an event that never made us feel unwelcome or far from home. Music has this sort of involvement with those whose life has always depended on the presence of the art. We wave goodbye to a weekend we will never forget, and as a note of appreciation for the opportunity to be involved in the spreading of this message, may there be many more years of Hellfest and many more memorable and unforgettable concerts. After all, that’s what is all about for us.