I never thought I’d end up in Hellfest. Being closer to the likes of Graspop and Wacken, I never pictured myself taking the long journey to France just to go to a festival. Then again, I never thought I’d see a lineup as solid as what Hellfest was offering this time around.
Headlined by Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Aerosmith, and showcasing a plethora of amazing artists including the legendary Emperor and Slayer, the Swedish war metal masters of Sabaton, angsty-teenage favorites Avenged Sevenfold, grunge masters Aerosmith, and black metal deities of Watain, to name but a few, it was obvious that the 2014 edition was something I simply couldn’t miss. And yes, it took me a while to come up with the descriptions I just used.
Being the cheapskates we are, we flew to Bordeaux instead of Nantes. We couchsurfed there, and then used BlaBlaCar, a carpooling site, to get to Nantes. From there it was just a train ride away to Clisson, where we couchsurfed once again. This process saved us quite a bit of money, since the tickets to Nantes were much more expensive, and it also allowed us to get to see Bordeaux.
Still, the 4-hour drive from Bordeaux to Nantes, with a lady that didn’t speak any English, was something I could have definitely done without.
The train from Nantes to Clisson was, as you can probably imagine, packed. We were very lucky, because we got on the train as soon as it arrived and managed to find a seat. Very quickly though, hordes and hordes of sweaty metal fans (probably the trenchcoats, black shirts, black pants, wool caps and fingerless woolen gloves were, in retrospect, a bad fashion choice) flooded our cart, so much so that you couldn’t fit a single more person, even if you lubed him up from head to toe (although I would have liked to see them try that option).
It’s always the same in festivals. I remember my painful journey to Wacken by train, and the by public bus, which was just shaped by unholy levels of body odor, heat and by being crushed against the window. That was my first and last adventure in public transport at festivals. Never again.
To check photos of the festival, just go to our Photography Page!
We started our festival by checking Kadavar, the German stoner metal band. While they didn’t disappoint, since they kicked the shit out of tracks like “Doomsday Machine”, we weren’t able to check their whole show. They were playing in The Temple stage, and it was so crowded, and so hot (under a scorching summer sun), that just being in the photo pit was painful. This was sadly a constant during the festival, the tent stages were just too damn hot, and so checking the shows was usually something we had to do for a few minutes at a time. We basically took the same approach as the firemen cleaning up the Chernobyl reactor: You either leave after a few minutes, or you die.
Not really being into any of the bands that followed Kadavar, we took the time to check out the place. Holy shit, is it big. Many times throughout the festival we got lost trying to find the right stages, or even getting to the food area. While the place is perfectly organized, and there are plenty of maps all around the festival grounds, it will take a bit of time to get used to the layout.
We stood back in the field, and watched Sepultura and Rob Zombie from a distance. While Sepultura did quite well, Rob Zombie was a bit of a disappointment. I had seen them a few years ago in Amsterdam, and I felt that a big chunk of the energy that I saw during that show was missing now. It seems to be that as Rob journeys deeper and deeper up his own asshole, pretending he is good filmmaker, his musical career seems to be be taking a dive in terms of passion. He sang the songs pretty badly (his voice was shit), and ran around the stage, but it really felt that he didn’t give a fuck about being there. It’s a job, and he doesn’t care about it.
Iron Maiden were, of course, something else altogether. They’re really an example for younger bands, in terms of what discipline and hard work can get you. They are one of those old bands that, unlike many others, don’t fill you with surprise when you know they’re still around. Although I wasn’t too happy to see that they’re only doing revival tours nowadays (a new album is supposed to be in the works, thank goodness), I can’t complain about listening to “Run to the Hills”, “7th Son of a 7th Son”, “The Trooper” or “The Number of the Beast”. You know, tracks that fucking defined the genre.
Slayer closed the evening with a pretty good show, even though I still think you can just zone off and not realize they changed their songs. They are still able to put up a good performance, even though Kerry King continues to be an insufferable asshole. YOU’RE INDOORS, KERRY, TAKE OFF THE FUCKING SUNGLASSES.
After sleeping way less than we should have (turns out that walking to my friends’ house, in the middle of the night, in a village with little to no street lights, is really fucking hard) we marched once again to the festival.
My hopes of shooting some bands disappeared as soon as I arrived and was informed that due to Aerosmith‘s special stage specs, no photography would be allowed throughout the day on the main stages, until after their show. While it was frustrating, it did free me to just check out the great festival that was Hellfest 2014 (as well as to drink a bit more than I probably should have!).
While Hatebreed was making everyone jump, mosh, and just go absolutely insane, we were at the top of the Ferris wheel, shocked at the amount of dust that was just floating around the stage. The night before it had been the same during Iron Maiden, where I had left with the taste of earth in my mouth, but this was even worse. Iron Maiden didn’t encourage moshing, while Hatebreed absolutely did. I get it though; it’s the kind of music you want to mosh to.
Deep Purple are one of those bands I just never thought I’d see live. They’re legendary, and for good reason. There’s something amazing about looking at these guys play “Smoke on the Water” that cannot be properly described. I mean, even when I was a kid Deep Purple were already a legend, and so seeing them here, live, was a dream come true.
We ditched Soulfly to check out Eluveitie. I can never get enough of “Inis Mona” or “Havoc”, so checking them out was a no-brainer. True, their tent was pretty damn hot, but it’s worth it.
Hellfest was all about tough choices, particularly around the main acts. Iron Maiden had conflicted with Watain, and now Aerosmith was clashing with Gorgoroth. Like everyone else, it ended up being a matter of balancing priorities: While Gorgoroth probably still have a few good years ahead of them, Aerosmith are in the “tell-all autobiography” stage of their careers, and so it’s only a matter of time before they have to pull the plug. And so, Aerosmith it was.
Steven Tyler deserves praise, really. Even though the dude is a recovering addict, and alcoholic, and that he looks like an anorexic housewife, his pipes are as powerful as ever. The band was absolutely on the level, and everyone did their best for a truly energetic and emotional performance. The only part that wasn’t quite up to the test was Joe Perry‘s voice, which sounded fucking awful every single time he sang. Maybe it’s time to leave the singing to Steve.
Depressed at the fact that I could only do it with a camera, I shot Avenged Sevenfold and checked out some of their set. The crowd seemed to receive them well (even though it was noticeably smaller than that of Aerosmith, showing that perhaps this wasn’t the right demographic for them) and I’m sure they did a great show. Since I’m not an angsty teenager though, I opted to save my energies for the next day and just start walking back home.
You never really think about how many muscles you’re using just by being on your feet, but apparently it’s a bunch of them. I know this because I could feel every single one of them as soon as I woke up. They were informing me that if this festival was any longer, I’d probably need a stretcher to leave.
I had plans for this last day. A carefully planned schedule of concerts, interviews and breaks. Of course, I was so tired that I just laid in bed until much later than I had planned. Add to that some unplanned delays courtesy of some friends of my friends, and I barely made it in time to snap about a dozen shots of Powerwolf, before being escorted out of the pit.
It doesn’t matter how many times I see them, Powerwolf are really entertaining. They really seem to enjoy what they’re doing, and to be thankful of the support they’re getting from their fans. They’re a bit campy, sure, but they’re a good band to look at.
How campy? Well, these are the lyrics to “Resurrection by Erection”:
Seether were boring as fuck. Jesus Christ. They, together with Soundgarden (I know, I know, heresy) bored me so much that I couldn’t understand why the fuck anyone would give enough of a fuck about them. “Black Hole Sun” couldn’t save Soundgarden‘s boring performance, nor could “I’m no Jesus Christ” save Seether‘s.
Megadeth, as douchey as Dave Mustaine continues to be, were great. It’s not just that they’re “classics” (so are Anthrax, and I don’t care about them), it’s that they really entertain the audience. Dave has lost some of showmanship, sure, and has built a nice little place for himself atop his pedestal, but that man can really fucking shred.
Speaking of legends: I never thought I’d see Emperor live. And holy shit did they rule. It was a great opportunity for black metal late-comers (like me) who either because or their age, or simply taste, never had a chance to witness the imperial power. In the Nightside Eclipse needs to be listened to live, believe me.
Emperor and Behemoth (who also did a kickass show, with Nergal being pumped as fuck during the whole performance) had to make up for the black metal bands I was forced to miss. 1349 being the victim on this third day. It was either them or Black Sabbath and, well, I’m not missing them.
Although I had seen Ozzy solo, and Black Sabbath fronted by Dio during their Heaven and Hell tour in 2009, checking the Ozzy-Iommi collaboration on stage was still on the bucketlist.
Ozzy is one of those guys who really surprise people. He’s a fucking medical marvel, because I think by most accounts he shouldn’t even be alive anymore. And yet, here he is, alive, kicking, screaming and headbanging (as much as possible). While off the stage he seems tired and slow, as soon as he gets behind that microphone he gives it all. An amazing show with great LED displays in the background, playing a psychedelic show to accompany the music, a masterful Iommi reminding us how heavy metal was created, and a fucking wonderful way to close a festival.
Hellfest 2014 was an amazing festival. I only wish I had enough time to check even more bands.
Then again, there’s always next year. See you in 2015!