Here’s the last battle scream. The last dawn, the passing frontier, the last day of Hellfest. The sky looks more cloudy and the heat’s on stand-by. The pace has been mind-boggling and the fact that so many have withstood each and every day, to the very last time-slot just leaves believing that so many, like us, see this festival as a catharsis, where music is the meeting point for all those involved. Sunday seemed to be the most stressful day when it came to schedules and overall planning. The choices weren't easy and the whole process of having to check out of the camping sight as well as assembling at the festival shuttles just in time to avoid delays was a nightmare of stress, fortunately all went well and there’s nothing but pure atmosphere at departure as it is at arrival. Even more nostalgic, let’s say.
We were more than excited to see one of the most punishing projects off of the Throatruiner roster, Plebeian Grandstand. The french four-piece were hitting the Temple stage in just about a simple attire as a topless and tight shorts, which seemed well ironic seeing the nature of the stage but seeing how one should never judge a band by its appearance, everyone present received some of the most physically punishing and technically challenging takes on black metal. Deathspell Omega keep coming to mind but these guys have a more punk/hardcore background which give them a new touch for speed shifts and transitions that can go as hard and smooth as anything you can imagine. Speaking of hardcore/punk, the Warzone stage was just about welcoming Los Angeles hard rock outfit The Bronx! It’s always awesome to see bands with this much intensity and delivery on stage. It’s always infectious, especially when you feel it from so far off. So much admiration for a band that convinced everyone what a memorable show, without any fancy props really looks and feels like.
Plebeian Grandstand and Lucifer
Au-Dessus, Rotten Sound, Warning and The Great Old Ones
The Bronx, Lords of Altamont and Nebula
A few years back, no one would’ve guessed a symbiosis so well built and designed. Zeal & Ardor are one of those bands that really had ease at building their own legacy in such an early stage of their careers. Their show at the Valley stage showcased how well versed and grown the group has become. Partaking in such a polarizing, yet functional, mix of textures, aesthetics and general mood, in between the scorching and punishing discharges of energy from their black metal facet, contrasts brilliantly with their “gospel” and soulful incarnation. It might sound silly, but trust us, it’s remarkably wonderful and delightful. The surge of an absolutely packed Valley, lets their performance speak for itself. Every single one was in total awe.
On the other hand, one can still find a decent show from a band who is overly attached to its aesthetic. The polish procession best known as Batushka are a great example. You see no faces, no twitch, just beautiful backdrops of religious and symbolic paintings accompanied by hooded priests and silhouettes paving the festival’s fresh air with the church’s incense and spacious howls. Their debut album, Litourgiya, was an instant classic for remarkably recreating all of those sensations in music format. Seeing that emulate that with such precision, fidelity and punch, is one of the greatest sensations a black metal fan can have.
Zeal & Ardor and Batushka
Iced Earth and Accept
Speaking of religion, many of the stoner/sludge listeners see Alice In Chains as THE band from the 90’s generations. Some might just call them grunge but we all know how fucking important they were to so many more movements. Since the passing of Layne Staley, the band became more special, like a bible or an example of how a 90’s band should age with time. By getting better. Their show was evidence of that. Even though the zero proximity and the blistering sun did limit the emotional experience of seeing so many great oldies like “Would?”, “Man In The Box”, “Rooster” and the cherry on top “Them Bones”, it didn’t stop anyone from singing along and feel every chord like it was the last one. The best part? Seeing one of the biggest mixes of older and newer generations together in such a gig. Hope to see them soon again.
Iron Maiden’s definition of a show, goes far beyond the limitations of a mere “concert”. It’s more than a musical, but it can go as far as a theatrical play. An epic of sorts. Each tour exhibits a different spectacle, which will never be seen again. This one, entitled “Legacy Of The Beast” is more focused on the older incarnations of Maiden’s discography, while surprisingly including songs from the infamous Blaze phase like “Sign Of The Cross” and “Clansman”, all delivered with a strong theatrical component. Another highlight was the inclusion of “Flight Of Icarus” which hadn’t been played live ever since 1986! The fans were more than delighted. Upon the encore, the sight of an endless Maiden army gave a more than warm welcome to the heavyweight riffs from “The Evil That Men Do” and after that, the show would be declared finished by the great anthem “Run To The Hills”. Leaving a sensation and idea that even Bruce Dickinson himself would be more than capable to sprint over to the other side of the Hellfest hill. His physical form remains impressive at such a later age, exemplary in every way possible. Definitely an unmissable spectacle, even accounting the amount of concerts missed from the other stages, but you may call it a necessary evil, when one doesn’t know when the next opportunity may come.
Amenra has been quite an ever present outfit where we come from. Portugal has been heavily connected with the Church Of Ra collective which preserves an almost intimate connection with the belgium band. Just like past bands who have been a notable influence on them, like Neurosis, Isis, Converge and so on, they maintain the concept of catharsis to new levels. Their set at midnight was a communion of people who see them in that exact blueprint. Their energy, their stage delivery as well as the visual aspect of their performance stands almost as crucial as the sonic proposition from the group. Being able to witness an hour of Amenra at the exact tick at midnight was special. Now more than ever, they’re holding the torch for this kind of subversive music and atmosphere. They have us right where they want us, at the palm of their hands.
Alice in Chains and Nighwish
It’s time to say goodbye. No tears, no sadness, just tired bodies walking about, heading home with a plentiful amount of great, awesome and beautiful memories. Just something to show to friends, family and listeners. One thing that we’ve learned over these past few editions is that every single new one, still feels like the first. That’s something we feel very grateful for.