Over the years, the Temple stage has always assumed the role of promoting the most relevant, prevalent, promising and legendary extreme metal acts out there. In its primal core, the heart of the stage always fed on the speed of thrash, the erratic chaos of grindcore and the primitive and visceral weight of death metal. This year was a bit different, especially during the opening day, where the festival’s curation decided to build a more diverse set of sonic ramifications, that this particular stage had never witnessed before, some of which we would be more used to catching somewhere at the Warzone stage.
One of the first acts of the day, Cult Leader, are a perfect representation between the punishing weight of primal grind and hardcore music, along with the emotion of metalcore, darkwave and many other influences. Unfortunately for such a promising act that has so much to offer, the daylight’s brightness did not help in any way to build the right atmosphere needed for Cult Leader’s ritual. Thriving off of enormous guitar tones and urgent transitions between mid-paced and fast-paced sections, you still find plenty of raw human honesty in the midst of the brutality. Which leads us to conclude that such a stage tends to cut out the intimacy demanded by a performance like the band usually delivers - proximity is the key!
The same issue regarding the sunlight evading and rupturing the entire concert’s atmosphere was even more prevalent in the following set right next at Altar’s stage, where Uada would disperse it’s immense, melodic and expansive sound without the right amount of feel. One leaves an open suggestion to Hellfest’s visionaries if there is a way we could somehow blind off the light during some of the atmosphere-dependent acts out there.
Immediately right after, came the time for one of alternative music’s most talked about bands of the moment: Daughters! Once again helping to redefine the sense of “dark” that is usually associated with the stage, one could immediately point out frontman Alexis Marshall's provocative, intense and wild stage presence as one of the band’s strongest points. However, their own incredibly unique sound should be enough to drag you in, and tell you that you should believe the hype. Cacophonous, dissonant, loud and often enigmatic, it’s impossible to remain indifferent to the almost performative and brilliantly confrontational presence of Alexis, who spent so much of his time facing, staring and “speaking” to the frontline crowd. Unfortunately for the band, the crowd just stood in their most part almost indifferent to their own intensity. Maybe not the right stage? Maybe not the right time? Maybe not the right crowd? Maybe. But they do deserve better.
The day was just barely beginning and it was time for Power Trip to get on stage to heat up a boiling afternoon on the Temple space. Making sure everyone would not stand still for one second, the band immediately punched the crowd into a whirlwind of aggression and thrash! Riley Gale’s relentless and contagious attitude, stood the tallest when affirming severe critics to a society filled with marginalized and alienated people. Often referred to as one of the most empowering forces of modern day thrash, all you can do is catch them in a live setting to really understand that.
The fire would burn even higher with Kvelertak shortly after. After two previously memorable feats at the Warzone stage, and a troubled time in the band’s career, Kvelertak are back at Hellfest for the first time with their newest singer Ivar Nikolaisen, this time at a much more modest time-slot, the setting is of a welcoming tone, and as soon as the black metal storm showers the crowd, one can immediately tell that Ivar is not interest in nothing else but in being his true self, something that adds so much to the band’s already uniquely powerful delivery. Tirelessly storming the stage and the crowd with what could be named as one of the day’s most memorable performances, one could not see a head standing still. With a crowd completely rendered to Kvelertak’s wake, there was nothing left to do but to return the favor and make sure the norwegian would feel the exact same energy. It couldn’t get any more wild than this, classic song after classic songs, band members crowd surfing, and a big ass Kvelertak flag filling the stage to wrap it all up. A true anthem.