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KNAC.COM Recaps The 2022 HELLFEST Open Air Festival - Weekend 1

By Larry Petro, News Monkey
Wednesday, August 17, 2022 @ 9:18 AM


June 27 - 26

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Review And Photos By Tony Sanchez
BARONESS, ELECTRIC WIZARD, GATECREEPER, MASTODON And THE DARKNESS Photos By Maria Landhall (@marialandhall, festivalphoto.net, livestagemusic.com)

The time has finally come for this epic edition of the Hellfest Open Air festival in the small town of Clisson, in the Loire-Atlantique department of France. Started in 2005 as the Fury Fest, Hellfest has grown from a small countryside hardcore festival into one of the biggest event in the world when it comes to Rock and Heavy Music. Something that sets Hellfest apart from all other large festivals in Europe is the stout fidelity of the festival goers. For the past 6 years, the festival is already sold out long before the official lineup announcement, which speaks mountains on the faith the “Festivaliers” or “Hellbangers” have in the organisation. Unlike most other festivals, Hellfest is run as a non-profit association, which means all the money generated goes back into making the festival a better experience every year. Many massive European festivals are owned by corporate giants who, let’s just say, do not put the festival goers as a priority. At Hellfest, the experience for the festival goers is one of the best if not the best one can find in Europe and perhaps even the rest of the world. Owning the land of the main site was a major leap for the organizers and unlike most festivals, the site and its massive infrastructures, albeit not the stages and tents, can be visited free of charge throughout the year like a metal version of Disneyland. Heck, it even has a 40m (132 feet) tall ferris wheel to enjoy some epic views of the entire site! And just like you go through a castle to enter Disneyland, at Hellfest you go through The Cathedral.

The 15th anniversary edition, originally planned for 2020, had to be postponed twice due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and yet most ticket holders chose to trust the organizers by holding their passes for 2 years instead of claiming a refund, which could have signed the financial end for the organization. Needless to say, they moved mountains in order to bring the most exciting lineup for their fans… A double edition, from June 17 until June 26, over 2 weekends with a 3-day break in between for a total attendance of 420,000 people during 7 days of nonstop heavy music, from 10:30am until 2am. 350 bands to rotate the 6 stages. Main Stage 1 and Main Stage 2 will host the headliners and more generic Rock acts, with a waiting time of 5 minutes(!) between bands. The War Zone, an entity of its own, for the hardcore crowd and every genre ending with a 'Core and The Valley for the Doom, Stoner, Psych bands. The Altar is for the more Trash and Death Metal fans and The Temple for Black Metal.

There are an additional 2 stages for local bands and after hours DJ sets. One is Hell City, just like Disneyland has a Main Street, Hellfest has Hell City where Metalheads can eat, drink, buy official Merch, shop in the immense Metal Market for anything you can imagine (t shirts, patches, hats, beer-drinking-horns, kilts, mugs, posters…), try a 3000€ ESP guitar, Harleys, get inked by one of the 22 tattoo artists, borrow an external battery to charge your phone, get a massage and much more. The other stage is near the food court in the camping area with even more shops and stands including for the first time a CBD shop (France is relaxing a bit on the subject).

When it came to the food, I don’t know if being in France was a factor but I’ve never eaten so well at a festival. They even had Lobster! Every single food stand, about 50 in total, had a vegetarian option and many offered gluten free products. Not the cheapest, but that’s to be expected. Although the town of Clisson is merely a few minutes’ walk and supermarkets are abundant in the area. The nearest supermarket (about 10min walk from the Camp site) called Leclerc (a sort of Wal-Mart) is an official partner of the Festival and even had its own stage with more local bands in the parking lot so you don’t have to spend too much time without Heavy music blasting in the proximity.

About 5,000 volunteers have been enrolled to make this event possible, 3,000 of them present for both weekends. From reception, waste management, crowd control, to camping staff, the infamous “Déssoiffeurs” (“thirst-killers”) who furrowed the entire site carrying 10L beer barrels on their backs to top up the thirsty hellbangers, and everything else you would need volunteers for. This year, the organizers even created the Hell-Watch, a team of volunteers roaming the site to help prevent acts of misconduct such as assaults, sexual violence and thievery. They even had a hotline and developed an app for anyone to report party-ruining behaviours. A great initiative, even though the Hellfest is particularly known to be one of the safest festivals if not the safest. Most first timers will be surprised with the friendliness of the locals, who do not shy away from the metal hordes harbouring the otherwise quiet streets of Clisson. The fact that the festival generated roughly 20M€ for a town with a population of 7,500 might help, but you’ll find most people in this region are typically friendly and welcoming (unlike us Parisians) regardless.

This year’s weather gave us the full spectrum of summer festival conditions. For the first weekend, a heatwave swop western France surpassing 40ºC (104ºF)! Local firefighters had to intervene, blasting the crowd with their water cannons in strategic locations. This might help explain why over 800,000 liters of beer have been served at the event this year. During the three-day interlude temperatures cooled off a little with some rain and some strong winds, enough to send a few non-anchored tents flying into the darkened skies, hovering over the camp side like swirling birds. For the second weekend, we had some heavy rain pouring down from an overcast sky. Many of us started to miss the heat after the first few hundred meters in the mud. When you’re camping, rain and wet clothes don’t usually equal good times.

Another event to make this 15th edition even more special was the unveiling of the new Lemmy Kilmister statue created by French sculptor Caroline Brisset, made of 5 tons of solid steel (what else?!) and reaching 12 meters high (approx. 40 feet tall). A special ceremony took place in June 23rd, with former bandmates Phil Campbell and Mickey Dee in attendance, where part of Lemmy’s ashes were placed inside the new artwork. Lemmy had been a fundamental force in helping the festival get to where it is today by being the first notoriously established musician to accept the invitation to perform at the very first edition of Hellfest, prompting other headliners to follow suit, and had returned many times to the unholy ground since. There is a truthfully symbolic and genuine motivation behind the memorial that you could really feel as the surviving MOTORHAD troops invited the crowd to raise their glass to the Godfather. A really special moment that transcended the stereotypical “Metalhead attitude” into an emotional experience.

Now that you know a little more about the festival, let’s go for a walk through Hell…

-Tony Oculos Caecos

Thursday Morning. After spending hours under the blasting heat waiting to get the bracelet that will allow us to enter the camping area in order to set camp, it’s finally time to go over the lineup one more time while roaming the Hell’s Corner and Hell city streets looking for a bargain meal. Let’s face it, there is no such thing as a bargain meal at such events, but we cut our losses and move on to get the gear ready for tomorrow. More than one pilgrim will feel the consequences of the hours spent under the hostile star we call the sun tomorrow. Sunscreen wasn’t on the list, a mistake I shall not make again. No one could have anticipated the heatwave that swiped France and most of Europe this mid-June, orbiting the 40ºC the entire weekend.

Tomorrow, the gates of the cathedral will open and tens of thousands of pilgrims will flood the 6 stages of the unholy land where no less than 350 bands representing all extreme genres of Rock and Metal are set to stand tall before a mix congregation of profanes and veteran warlords. With never-ending walks between the camp site, showers, toilets, H2O points, food areas, shops and the fest main site, this promises to be an endurance contest in which only the most passionate and dedicated amateurs of punishing music can come out victorious. Time flies and under the sun, one spends/wastes too much time walking endlessly between locations, queuing for the pit to photograph the bands, artists’ interviews back at the press tent, water points, toilet breaks, occasional feedings... Even with VIP/Press access to cut lines, one can only attend so many concerts.

Stay hydrated, cover the bald spot and preserve your energy. This is only the first day of a ten-day binge in hell…

Weekend 1 - Friday

GREENLEAF

They opened the ball at The Valley with “Let It out”, a delight at such a time of the day. The Swedes’ upbeat mood is the perfect kick-off for what’s to come. The set list covers most of their body of work and the energy was great despite some technical difficulties on guitar but Tommi Holappa dealt with it like a boss and didn’t let that affect their set. Too bad I had an appointment with another band's set to play at the same time at The Altar.

NECROWRETCH

The band’s blasting blackened Death-metal is surely an undeniable contrast. But what’s truly undeniable is how much these French heretics have raised their game with their latest work, 2020’s The Ones From Hell. Vlad’s vocals were excruciating and uncompromisingly visceral while delivering technical death-metal riffage on par with some of the greatest. This is no doubt one of my coup de Coeur of the year and being that they are part of the Season of Mist roster, you can be sure they are here for all the right reasons.

FEROCIOUS DOG

Keeping up with a somewhat bipolar running order, it was time for the MainStage 1 and a change of ambience with a festive crowd more inclined to sing along raising their beer pitchers than to havoc to a mosh pit. The sextet combined influences from Punk-Folk to Celtic-Ska bathed in a working man, left-leaning political stand. The crowd is very responsive and the band managed to create an intimacy with the public despite playing on one of the main stages.

ENFORCED

Back to The Altar for another 2022 discovery. The band took the stage guns blazing, or Thrash-Crossover-Riff blazing! The Richmond, Virginia quintet took on a full-house of approximately 10k heads slightly before 1pm, which is pretty impressive to say the least. Since the second they stepped on stage, frontman and vocalist Knox was cranked up to 12 on a scale of 10, not dropping an ounce of intensity during the entire set, barely any breaks if any in between songs and no talking, pure efficiency. Imagine one of those tennis ball machines but instead of balls, it threw mortar bricks left, right and centre, into the crowd. A true delight for Thrash and Crossover heads who kept the circle pit alive during the entire set. Check out their latest album, 2021’s Kill Grid on Century Media Records.

ELDER

Back to The Valley for a personal favorite. Some big changes in 2019 for the Massachusetts trio who have turned into a quartet with the addition of Mike Risberg on rhythm guitar and the departure of their drummer, replaced by George Edert, hasn’t altered their powerhouse performances. A 40-minute set felt like a glimpse given that the band is mostly known to play rather long songs by mainstream’s standards, and even though they slightly went over their allocated time slot, no one in the crowd complained. If any criticism, it would be for the programming team to allocate a longer set, a little later in the evening, for next time! The band has managed to establish themselves as a favorite in the realm of Progressive Stoner.

SETH

At The Temple, French Death/Black metal OGs and yet another killer band from the Season Of Mist roster took the stage with their theatrical live performance. The band unleashed the title song from their latest work La Morsure Du Christ (The Bite of Christ). What sets SETH apart from most other European bands in this genre is their choice to sing in French, giving not only for a distinct intonation to the vocals but adding to the mystic of an old world’s darkness. Saint Vincent’s vocals are scorched with pain and emotion, transmitting a burning sense of danger to the audience. Even from the pit the band sounded extremely well balanced and cohesive. Like for many other acts over the festival’s 7 days, and given their visual performance, it is certain that they would have benefited from a later slot to gleam brighter in the darkness of night. Still, a great performance by a force to be reckoned with.

GATECREEPER

I can’t remember why, but I was late at The Altar. They were more than halfway into the set and the place was too crowded to attempt a walkthrough towards stage left. Too far for any decent shot, I resigned myself to do the only thing I could do given the circumstances, enjoy the show… Having been a fan of GATECREEPER ever since their split release with IRON REAGAN, I can also appreciate their almost Doomier, slower tempo songs. A great show with a massive sound.

OPETH

Back to The Main Stage area for some more Javla Swedes. Again, I arrived mid-show making myself a way through the crowd for more adequate scenery. A well balanced sound albeit some inconsistencies in the vocals during the first couple of songs that I’ve witnessed and a somewhat lukewarm response from the crowd who seemed to be listening politely, too politely. But things changed for the better as the show progressed and Mikael Akerfeldt’s vocals really started to sound spectacular, regardless of whether he was growling or melodic. Despite the lack of “happening” on stage (a Prog signature?), the band sounded great and it was an enjoyable experience.

HIGH ON FIRE

Matt Pike and Co. took the state of The Valley after a reef… I’m sorry… a brief sound check. The place was only half full when the riffage begins, most likely penalized by the fact that a certain band was scheduled to play at the exact same time on one of The Main Stages, one of this year's massive clashes. But make no mistake, unlike on The Main Stages area, there weren't any tourists here, and the crowd’s reaction made up for the lacking in numbers, although as the set went on, The Valley filled up progressively to achieve a near full capacity. The band sounded pretty good despite some minor technical inconsistencies here and there, albeit almost unnoticeable. Uncompromised in its furiousness, HIGH ON FIRE delivered the goods under Clisson’s blasting heat, adding a few degrees to the infernal gathering at The Valley. A great Slap-In-The-Face show by the California trio.

MASTODON

The elephant in the room. MASTODON took Main Stage 2 at the same time as HIGH ON FIRE (what?) did in The Valley. Even though the area was pretty crowded, the intensity was somewhat lacking. Nothing wrong with the set as they actually sounded better than their previous large open air appearances and Troy Sander’s vocals were spot on. But it feels like the band plays it safe, maybe too safe for some, and are rarely found outside their comfort zone these days. Not meant necessarily as a criticism nor a compliment, just a fact that with a more polished and professional show comes a price to pay in the spontaneity and Rock’n’fn’Roll spirit department. The band has become too big for the other stages even though they would definitely be more suited to headline The Valley at 10pm than hit the Main Stage 2 at 5pm. The crowd reflects exactly that, a polite crowd of curious and enthusiasts, here to witness one of the “must see” bands. Both the band and the crowd seemed to go with the motion but it is to be expected at these kinds of gatherings. I will definitely be attending their next headlining gig in a more suitable venue to enjoy their masterful performance with a more initiated audience.

BARONESS

The crowd poured out of The valley. This show was a real demonstration, a vulgar display of powerful communion between a band and its audience. From the moment the band took the stage to the last note, it was conquered ground for the Savannah quartet. From classic to classic, they gracefully and passionately aroused over 10k fans with their sonic portraits. The sound was impressively controlled albeit loud. An enjoyable experience for all who had the fortune to be present in this moment.

ELECTRIC WIZARD

A strong herbal scent welcomed newcomers to The Valley. Unlike their Doomier almost Drone-filled performances in the past, this set was much more Psych Doom and thus more accessible to a wider audience. The backdrop screen flashed intertwined footage from 60’s and 70’s erotic, biker, occult and psychedelic films, strobing to the sounds of highly saturated guitars and reverberating drums. What came to mind observing the crowd tonight is “Just like witches at black masses”. Closing with "Black Mass" and "Funeralopolis", this first chapter of the 15th anniversary of Hellfest was on march to an experience of epic proportions.

Saturday

DUEL

Always a good time to attend their shows, the Texas Stoner veterans know how to work a crowd even under the blasting heat of a midday sun. They took on The Valley with their usual high energy fuzz goodness and treated the audience to a healthy dose of fat-sounding riffs and vocals.

ME AND THAT MAN

More of a curious peak, I wasn’t disappointed given I was never really initiated to the sound of BEHEMOTH. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the set even if the music itself wasn’t what one would call creative or genre bending by any means. It was straightforward bluesy soundtrack music that could have been featured on the Sopranos OST and could have easily been scheduled earlier in the day. Still, a well performed show.

THE DARKNESS

For anyone who would dismiss THE DARKNESS as a One-Hit Wonder Parody act, get your ass to one of their gigs when the occasion comes. You’re welcome. Since when does having a sense of humor automatically cancel any legitimacy? Fortunately, the crowd that day was either in the know or at least willing to be. A pure Hard Rock band is what took the stage this afternoon. Great musicianship cannot be faked and these guys can play. Justin Hawkins' singing is on par with his playing capabilities and demonstrated to be a true Rock Star, capable of shrinking a crowd of tens of thousands as if they were playing a theatre. I admit to not being fully familiar with their work but what I have witnessed this afternoon was undeniably pure Rock’n’fn’Roll. I will most certainly attend their upcoming shows in smaller venues.

PELICAN

Another personal favorite and first time witnessing. The Chicago Post-Metal quartet doesn’t waste any time getting down to business. It’s heavy, riff-based mantras layered on top of one of the most powerful bass sound I’ve heard so far at the festival, combined with crystalline melodies, emotionally bedazzling interludes and drums that will make your chest say “Ommmmm” are enough to convert The Valley into a congregation of fuzz worshippers. The overcrowded tent bows to the pounding rhythm of the riffs and extends all the way back outside onto the lawns, gathered under the screen broadcasting the performance, confirming PELICAN is indubitably deserving of a better time slot the next time they’ll grace the stage with their presence.

MESSA

There is no doubt the Italians quartet have been climbing up in the Doom scene these last couple of years. The Valley was slightly under half-filled, which is strange at this time of the day. MESSA delivered a clean, polished performance to the hypnotic voice of their singer that captured the spirit of traditional Doom. But even if I didn’t dislike the band, I felt that unlike acts like JEXTOTH or even WINDHAND, they failed to bring some kind of excitement or even something new musically and seemed to fall under the generic doom clichés one might expect. The scene has been getting saturated with Doom acts in recent years and without an actual purpose other than having yet another novelty female-fronted doom band, it is not that strange to find the Valley half empty just after PELICAN, who one might argue should have been playing at that time slot instead of MESSA, have literally exceeded the tent’s capacity in attendance. That being said, I liked what I saw of their show. I just question how the scheduling might have actually hurt the band’s ability to gather a larger audience.

STEEL PANTHER

The working band from the slums of West Hollywood. Something looked different this time around as Lexxi Foxx has been replaced by Spyder. Though this might be more noticeable in a smaller venue where banters are an important part of the show, it didn’t really impact the show at an event such as Hellfest. Sorry Lexxi!

The PANTHER is no stranger to festivals in Europe. They tend to play early which means they almost always play during daytime. But STEEL PANTHER is not about elaborate light shows or large scale props; it’s about having a good time and not taking things too seriously. Most of the crowd knew what to expect, gladly succumbing to the grotesque and refreshing light-hearted mood that filled the main stage area. But there were some that didn’t, and they expressed their discontentment with the band’s antics by frowning exaggeratedly like something smelled really bad. Try explaining that to the 20-somethin’ hard-core dudes covered with anti-system and Russian jail tattoos with their 30€ SUICIDAL hats and 200€ sneakers. They’re way too real to even begin to comprehend the necessity of singing about glory holes. It’s hard to say if they understood the seconds degree nature of the rants but either way, they didn’t like it, which made the show even more pleasingly entertaining to watch.

Now, one might say STEEL PANTHER doesn’t really improve with each appearance. There is literally no difference between the dozens of shows they played in Europe over the past few years. No additions to the act. Same old routine of shameless and topless girls lining up to showcase their guilt-by-association to the myth that all women at rock shows are slags. The déjà-vu of Satchel memorizing phonetically the words tits, pussy and dick in every language where they’ll be playing can get a little old, but a band that doesn’t take itself seriously despite the hard work it takes to keep the motor running will always have its place at Hellfest or any other rock festival. Let’s hope some touring promoters can appreciate what the PANTHER does and pump some coinage for them to get creative on tour. There’s so much more to do with the 80s metal extravaganza and if someone can, it’s the PANTHER.

MEGADETH

The band is a staple of music festivals in Europe and just like Russian Roulette, you never know what you’re going to get. Fortunately, this time it seemed Mr. Mustaine was in a good mood which, let’s face it, is the decisive factor of whether you are about to witness a great show or slowly succumb to the lack of commitment from the red hair frontman. From the get go, while awaiting in the photo line to get access to the pit, one could tell this was going to be a great show. The crowd immediately responded to "Hangar 18" and the game was on. Dave even cracked a few jokes introducing songs and even hinted to an upcoming MEGADETH album. His vocals sounded great and he seemed to be in really good shape. When it comes to his playing, I have witnessed uninspired days, but never bad playing. He’s the man. I was able to capture some cool shots right under him while he was soloing which were reminiscent of the cover from The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years VHS tape we’ve all owned at some point in our lives. Another great moment during "À Tout Le Monde", where the French crowd sang the French chorus part to the top of their lungs, to the liking of Mr. Mustaine. A great set list with the mandatory classics and some rarer tracks combined with an active and engaging band performance made this a great MEGADETH show.

DEEP PURPLE

A guilty pleasure to say the least. In their 7th decade, the band has managed to stay relevant musically and that’s quite an achievement. Not only that, but they also co-headlined the biggest music festival this year. So despite the fact that Ian Gillan cannot sing the way he did in the old days and that the band stage presence was highly contrasted by the younger bands that came before and after, they’re still DEEP fn’ PURPLE! Call it a bucket list thing, but standing in front of these legends as they unleash all the songs that contributed to make what heavy music has become today is a treat that I won’t be ashamed of. As overplayed as "Smoke On The Water" is, it does not get old. HAIL THE HIGHWAY STARS!

GHOST

Probably the most divisive band, at least this Saturday. Although I had other plans for the evening, I had to peak at the shooting stars. To be frank, I do not mind GHOST. Given the musical panorama these days, we could have done way worst. The overproduced, yet unimpressive show is polished, well-choreographed and lacks any sense of danger. Well, the same can be said of the so-called Hardcore bands strutting in the warzone, to be honest. At least, for better or worse, GHOST had the merit to surprise and be different, unexpected. Their live sound was powerful and intelligible, no doubt the hired musicians knew their drill and are proficient players. Tobias Forge was in control of the crowd and his vocal chords, showing an impressive aptitude to hold back as to not jeopardize the next gig. Hit after hit, they seduced the crowd and might have even convinced some cynical purists. The few songs I have witnessed didn’t displease me one bit and one cannot deny Tobias’ talents when it comes to writing a catchy tune.

ENVY

Now, the “plat de resistance” of the evening. One of the most anticipated bands of this entire 15th edition of Hellfest. Their latest appearance was elected my many as best ever to grace the Clisson stage. Talk about hype. I had the chance to meet the band for a brief interview just a few hours before their performance and was now waiting to gain access to the photo pit. One thing they told me during our encounter is that they flew to France only for Hellfest then were flying back home, which tells you something about the relationship this festival has with the artists. After what seemed to be a technical issue, the band left the stage after a sound check as a track intro started playing on tape through the PA. You could read the confusion on the crowd’s faces and even photographers were looking at each other wondering if there was going to be a band to photograph. Suddenly, ENVY storms the stage and began their sonic assault on the audience. Words will not suffice to describe the energy, an energy so contagious and genuinely guided by the commanding sound the band crafted on that stage that it left you gazing and incapable to look away for even a glimpse of an instant. When three heavily saturated guitars are present on a stage, one can expect some serious heaviness ripping chest and legs. The dry ground vibrated though the crash barriers as I laid back against it to capture the band, united with the front rowers who were mystified in excitement. ENVY’s music is a rollercoaster of emotions, an OST for suicide and a serenade for the beauty and ugliness of passing time. Impossible to categorize or stamp a label, it’s simply ENVY. Music to be experienced.

Sunday

PENITENCE ONIRIQUE

The band appeared onstage, faces covered with black hoods and ornamental headdresses. There seems to be a trend within these Post-Black-Metal and Atmospheric Black Metal bands to wear some sort of identity concealing accoutrement these days. They came in, blasting heavy yet controlled riffs that will remind you of certain acts from across the pond. The sound was a little chaotic at first but got clearer and more balanced as the set went on. A great performance by the French band, technically proficient and motivated to rise up the ranks of the roster at Season of Mist.

REGARDES LES HOMMES TOMBER

REGARDES LES HOMMES TOMBER (WATCH MEN FALL) is yet another French alumni of the New Wave of Black Metal and also part of the Season of Mist roster. They seemed to have dropped the hoods of earlier days for a more natural look, albeit some makeup still remains. These guys are potentially the rising stars of the Post-Black-Metal Scene in France and Europe... heck even the world! Just looking at the astonishing attendance that day, you could tell something is happening with this band. It is true that they are homeboys to the festival, being locals, but I haven’t seen that many people overflowing the tent that way, having almost as many people outside the tent as there were inside. We can easily estimate a crowd of over 15k people, if not 20k! The intensity and energy of the show was contagious to say the least. The singer swung back and forth, left to right, possessed in his growling and with enough charisma to tame the over-populated Temple. The guitarists made constant eye contact with the crowd in between whiplashed headbanging to the beat of their demonic riffage. RLHT has come a long way from their debut, opening for WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM in their hometown Nantes, to this glorious afternoon on the unholy ground of Clisson. A well-deserved triumph for the Enfants du Pays!

GAAHLS WYRD

The Temple wasn’t as crowded as expected, being that Gaahl is a legendary figure in the Black Metal community. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the fact that JINJER were scheduled on Main Stage 2 since the Ukrainians play a more mainstream Metalcore, even thou a big hype surrounded them this year, obviously. Nonetheless, the crowd was exited as the amps began to roar "Carving a Giant" by GORGOROTH, and displayed their content with raised horns. From within the smoke emerged a dark and slender figure, slowly walking to take the centre stage as the band proceeded. Staring serenely into the audience, face painted emerging from his leather jacket, Gaahl raised the mic to his mouth, unleashing his illustrious, visceral growl. The set list incorporated his work in GORGOROTH, GOD SEED (Alt Liv and Aldrande Tre), TRELLDOM (Hoyt Opp I Dypet) and off course from his excellent GastiR - Ghosts Invited ("Carving The Voices", "From The Spear", "Ghosts Invited", "Through And Past And Past"). A great performance by an artist that defies genres and whose evolution as a musician promises great things in the years to come. Will look forward to his next visit in Paris.

DOWN

The Main Stage 1 is crowded, as it should be. Pepper Keenan neared the front of the stage for the rest of the Nola ensemble. The Kid himself, Mr. Phil Anselmo made his appearance wearing a Black Sabbath Vol. 4 T-shirt as "Lysergik Funeral Procession" came through the PA. I had never witnessed Phil Anselmo onstage and this is a special moment. There have been mixed feelings about his participation at the festival given the controversies in the past few years, but none of that can spoil this moment. The crowd was beyond responsive and so was yours truly. A couple of songs in when the band launched into "Lifer", a favourite, dedicated to Dimebag and Vinnie by Phil as an intro. Phil sounded pretty good. I had seen some footage in the past few years where the heavy smoking had taken its toll on the kid but I have to say that he actually sounded great that day. He was really communicative with the crowd and the whole band seemed to have a great time on stage. A really good performance by the Nola crew.

MISERY INDEX

I got in the pit late but thankfully the security let me in nonetheless. The band was already tearing the stage apart with their sulphuric Death Grind. The circle pit swirled interminably, incessant even during the few seconds break in between auditory battering. I’m not familiar enough with their work to comment on the set list but the intensity of their performance sure served them well in my book. I did buy their album Discordia at one of their gigs in 2006 in Vancouver and always appreciated their style of blasting Death Metal. This made me want to dig a little deeper into their work.

PERTURBATOR

One of the aliens of this year’s edition of Hellfest. I’ve been a long-time fan of the music from this Parisian Synthwave musician. His presence here shows how eclectic Hellfest can be, giving a platform to all genres who can be considered extreme. Now, PERTURBATOR isn’t extreme in the typical sense of the word, but neither are WHITESNAKE or GHOST. The stage design is minimalist yet sophisticated and futuristic, in the eye of a beholder from 1986. The music, albeit heavily synth based, is heavy and pounding. Ken held onto his SG guitar behind his synth and sequencers while the drummer pounded his custom-designed, Mad Max-inspired kit to BPMs that would easily suit any Death metal band. One of the toughest acts to photograph yet one of the most satisfying moments of the day. It was like beholding the soundtrack for a movie inside your head. A movie that involved a cyberpunk New York City and a neon lit warehouse, for some reason.

JUDAS PRIEST

A giant falling trident is suspended over the Main Stage 2. It was time to witness another OG. From afar and within a mixed and diverse crowd, I could see Rob Halford sporting a bushy white beard, bent in half, screaming the chorus of "Painkiller". After all he has gone through recently and the fact that the Metal God is 70, nothing other than impressive comes to mind. I wouldn’t expect the man to run around the stage. The mere fact that he can still look good in leather and sing PRIEST songs the way he does if abundantly sufficient. Guitarist Richie Faulkner was on fire, keeping the energy levels up on stage. His amazing fretboard skills didn’t hurt as the man nailed every solo without dropping an ounce of intensity in his performance. I’d recommend you go see them on tour while you can, we don’t know how many more there will be. Hail Rob Halford!

KILLING JOKE

Back at The Valley, it was time to witness yet another legendary band and its iconic frontman. The pit was full of photographers and there was still a pretty long line waiting to gain access. The band kicked in with "Wardance" when a possessed Jaz Coleman walked onstage, determined to impose his weirdness on the crowd. The set list covered all the eras of the Notting Hill band, from their Wavy earlier works to their more Industrialized later endeavours. The band sounded really good and although you could sense a certain performance disparity between the musicians and Coleman, all seemed to have a great time on stage. After all, Jaz Coleman is an alien and should not be compared to mere mortals. I was able to attend most of the show before making my way to The Temple and boy what a great time. The crowd was as mixed as it could get. A plethora of Metal-Heads, Goths, Civilians and Weirdos danced and cheered the night away. A definite highlight of the first weekend.

WATAIN

Change of setting for the very last show of this first weekend. The stage adorned with reversed crosses, bones and flaming tridents sets the mood. Very little dancing to be expected, or maybe a different kind of dance. The Swedes take the stage and began the ceremonial mass of saturated torment. It was a great Erik Danielsson that night, both in terms of vocals and intensity. The band played mostly from their newest album The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain but also "Lawless Darkness", "Sworn To The Dark", "The Wild Hunt" and "Trident Wolf Eclipse", closing with "The Serpent’s Chalice". What better way to end this first chapter of the 2022 double edition of Hellfest than in the burning trident of hell?

This has been quite an experience thus far and the next three days of rest will be much needed…

Check out some more photos from the first weekend of Hellfest!
Photos By Tony Sanchez
BARONESS, ELECTRIC WIZARD, GATECREEPER, MASTODON And THE DARKNESS Photos By Maria Landhall (@marialandhall, festivalphoto.net, livestagemusic.com)


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