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KNAC.COM Recaps The 2022 HELLFEST Open Air Festival - Weekend 2

By Larry Petro, News Monkey
Monday, September 12, 2022 @ 10:50 AM


June 27 - 26

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Review And Photos By Tony Sanchez
MGLA And GAEREA Photos By Maria Landhall (@marialandhall, festivalphoto.net, livestagemusic.com)

Weekend 2
Thursday

PHIL CAMPBELL & THE BASTARD SONS

We start the second part with some pretty safe and straight forward Rock n’ Roll. As it was to be expected, lotsa MOTORHEAD covers that got a few fists up during the first few bars but didn’t seem to really get the crowd started this Thursday afternoon on Mainstage 1. As often with the earlier bands, the sound isn’t impeccable and Phil’s vocals don’t seem to get the party started but it’s always great to see him onstage!

STEVE VAI

Even though it might not have been the ideal setting, I couldn’t pass on seeing the man that made a deal with the devil, the master himself, Steve Fkn’ Vai. Grey sky and hints of rain hovered over the Mainstage 2 as the maestro launches into "For The Love of God", as a glimpse of sunlight broke through the heavens. What more can you ask for? Met him briefly at his press conference in the press area and the man is always a class act.

ZEAL & ARDOR

Just like with ENVY a week earlier, there was a certain hype around the band by looking at the attendance waiting almost an hour before the band was set to hit The Temple. And just like with ENVY, it was justified. This amalgamation of Bluesy Avant-garde Gospel vocals under a crust of post-Black-metal noise was surely a discovery, at least live since I’ve known about them since right before the pandemic started. Powerful performance, great musicianship and amazing vocals from the three singers. Make sure to check them out if you haven’t done so already.

WHITESNAKE

While many of my peers chose to cover mostly the contemporary bands, I always have a foot stuck in the past and even though WHITESNAKE was never my cup of coffee I had to check out a legend in his own field. On The Mainstage 1 David Coverdale was in a really good mood, interacting with both the audience and the band in a genuinely friendly way. Talking about the band, these musicians are phenomenal players that made all the classics sound pitch perfect even from the pit. Mr. Coverdale himself gave a lesson in class holding the front stage and doing justice to his musical legacy from the heights of his 70 years of age, commanding total respect from yours truly.

SOLSTAFIR

A band I was looking forward to witnessing this year after the releases of their last two albums, Berdreyminn in 2017 and Endless Twilight of Codependent Love in 2020. But to my surprise, the setlist was entirely from their previous three albums Köld, Óta and Svartir Sandar, the latter two also released on Season of Mist. The Finns played a great show in front of a motivated crowd and, as usual, didn’t disappoint with their performance albeit a harsh mixing that made the vocals sound overly present at times. Coming to a close with "Goddess of The Ages" couldn’t have been a better choice as the entire Temple raised their arms in gratitude.

HANGMAN'S CHAIR

Being Parisian, I’ve seen this band countless times in the Greater Paris area over the last few years. Their down tempo Doom riffage by Julien and Cédric, powerful bass by Clément and Mehdi’s surgical yet organic drumming, combined with Cédric’s melodic vocals will undoubtedly hint at some ALICE IN CHAINS influence during their Sludge moments. But make no mistake, this is not a band that sounds like any other. Capable of delivering enchanting melodies without compromising their trademark down-tuned heaviness, this gem Doom Sludge quartet paint a more realistic picture of what it’s like to live in the city of love where roses and autumn have corroded into a concrete nightmarish vision of grim. Always delivering in their live performances, they are always a pleasure to witness.

HEILUNG

The Temple couldn’t have had a more suited name for what came next. For those of you unaware of the Pagan phenomenon that seemed to have plunged Europe back in the dark ages the last few years, there has been an abundance of Vikings sailing the ground of the festival this year. We know some TV shows might be the culprit but non the less, paganism is business and business is good. I have known about HEILUNG for a few years now but never associated them with anything metal. I had seen clips and many photographs of their shows and was looking forward to experience it first hand, so what better place than the most timeless place on earth, at least tonight. And it’s really not something you could describe with words in an article; you could, but you’d fail to do it justice. The experience is as visual as it is auditory, and if you’re close enough to the stage it is also aromatic. As explained by Maria, Christopher and Kai during our encounter, the Night or Darkness is a fundamental component of their performance and even of HEILUNG in its essence. The stage clothes worn by the many Warriors and performers and instruments made out of bones and antlers combined with the lighting gives this surreal and otherworldly feeling of truly being somewhere else in time. A ritual, celebrating the primordial elements that bound us all in what we call life and death. A unique experience to witness.

JERRY CANTRELL

Back at The Valley for the last show this Thursday. Not just a show as far as I’m concern, but an appearance by one of my all-time favourite and inspirational musicians. With a lineup that promises for a good show, the goods were delivered. Ex-DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN’s vocalist Greg Puciato was a total beast, especially when hurling Layne Staley’s part during the AIC covers. Amazing and most probably the best rendition of 1990’s ALICE IN CHAINS vocals I have witnessed live. Tyler Bates on guitar duties was great, a well rounded touring musician that knows the drill. Jerry’s vocals sounded impeccable and his playing was, well… it’s Jerry Fkn’ Cantrell. Lotsa ALICE IN CHAINS that night, to the delight of the full house; "Them Bones", "It Ain't Like That", "Check My Brain", "Down In a Hole", "Man In The Box", "No Excuses", "Would?" and "Rooster". What a class act this guy has been his entire career. More than a mere influence, an inspiration for whom AIC fans around the world have granted their lifelong affection.

Friday

GAEREA

Have you had enough of hooded Black-Metal bands? Not this guy! The Portuguese delivered a gritty performance in support of their sophomore work Limbo, released in 2020 by Season of Mist. Their previous work, Unsettling Whispers, released in 2018 by Transcending Obscurity was very well received by the critics and powers that be. Despite the early hour the Temple is quite receptive and seem converted to the cult. Great stage presence without much décor, the singer delivered tormented vocals and the instrumentals sounded great despite the few technical glitches. A must check’em-out now for Black-Metalheads. Will look forward to seeing them again.

STONER

In the Valley, two OGs of the desert scene take the stage, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork formerly of KYUSS. This power trio signed to the spaghetti label Heavy Psych Sounds Records (as with all Oliveri’s and Bjork’s musical endeavours) delivered exactly what you’d expect from these guys without much novelty, which isn’t what the crowd demanded I suppose so it all worked out. "Green Machine" as a closer was almost too predictable to not be true but it got the job done.

NITZER EBB

On the Mainstage 1, another UFO of this 15th edition. I was really looking forward to see the Essex boys in action and curious about the reaction they might get at a festival like this. Mind you, this was an industrial Friday on Mainstage 1 so it’s not like they were scheduled between SUICIDAL TENDENCIES and MAYHEM. The set was great and even though it rained on and off the crowd seemed to have a good time. The stage felt a little empty with only two members performing, one being anchored behind a DJ desk, but the energy from Bon Harris was contagious enough to have a good time. Too bad they haven’t made use of the giant backdrop screens to liven up the stage but I suppose they had little time to prepare for a two-man show so kudos to them.

A.A. WILLIAMS

Back at The Valley for one of my most recent discoveries. The dawning darkness of A.A Williams' voice bewitches the audience, who capsizes in this gentle tempest of lyrical blackness. The band is efficient in making her the center of attention in a set built like a composition to climax with songs like "Melt" and "Control". The crowded Valley responded very well to her performance showing once again that heaviness doesn’t measure in BPMs. Looking forward to see her again on tour with MONO.

KREATOR

Under the rain at Mainstage 2, a very different setting. The stage is decorated with gore figures, corpses, severed heads and gloomy artwork. Who doesn’t like pyro at a Trash Metal show, come ‘on! The band plays from many of their albums, including Hate Über Alles and debuting "Strongest of The Strong" live for the first time. The band had a really good time onstage, particularly new bassist Frédéric Leclercq who thanked the crowd for making his birthday truly special. Great gig by the German Trash veterans.

MINISTRY

Uncle Al and Co. took Mainstage 1 under a thin rain still pouring onto the crowd. Rain covers and ponchos as far as the eye could see from the crowded pit. As an intro and in politically charged Al Jourgensen fashion, the Ukrainian national anthem. The sound is massive as they jump right into "Breathe". Al was boiling hot, in no mood to plant himself behind his mic stand and let the comrades do the show, front stage from beginning to end and even going down in the pit to tickle the public. A huge sound and a collectively satisfying performance. All the classics like "Stigmata", "Burning Inside", "N.W.O.", "Just One Fix", "Thieves", "So What" and the BLACK SABBATH cover of "Supernaut" ravished the crowd. As a closer, we got "Alert Level" and the powerful "Good Trouble" from their latest work Moral Hygiene. Looking forward to their next visit as headliners for their Moral Hygiene tour.

ALICE COOPER

Knowing that I would be around the mainstages for the next headliner, I decided to witness another living rock legend while I had the chance. For a fan of hard rock and horror films, the question does not arise, this concert is a must. Everything you could expect from an Alice Cooper show was there, an outstanding stage performance, rocking musicians and sets straight out of Lucio Fulci's films, j’adore. The atmosphere in the crowd, even on the side of the Mainstage 1, was electric and everyone sang along to the classics. Thank you Vincent.

NINE INCH NAILS

The rain has somewhat settled while Alice Cooper is closing his set, powerful and color filled. On Mainstage 1, a different choreography has been taking place for the last hour or so. Roadies, stage managers and techs going back and forth setting up for what’s to come next. A minimalist setup using only the most central part of the stage framed with vertical light structures next to where the band will stand gives a most intimate setting as one might experience in a theatre show rather than an arena or in this case, humongous stadium-like stage. The backdrop is familiar, a weathered off, white piece of fabric with rusty shades and run offs. Could this be? Or is this just a nostalgia trick made to appease the most truthful enthusiasts in the audience? Hazer on. Alice is standing on a riser arms up on the Mainstage 2, as powerful light sflood the crowd. Loud cheers. Just a glimpse, we must focus on the task ahead. Only certain photographers are allowed in the pit tonight, while the unchosen have spread across the main stages’ audience, ready to snap “ambience shots”, sticking out within the crowd like Travis Bickle did at Palantine’s rally. My camera is recovering from a mud bath it took in the War Zone, God knows how or during which band. I will not be Travis tonight. It is time to reassess the almost 30 years that separate yours truly with the 16-year-old who got a copy of The Downward Spiral weeks before dropping out of high school. An assessment we’ll have to postpone momentarily as the thick smoke fills Mainstage 1. Already? Have I assessed it already? A quick gesture of the thumb to confirm time, over 6 minutes have passed since Alice exited Mainstage 2. Darkness slopes from the heavens while a thick white cloud caresses the first ten rows in the audience. I couldn’t see the mud anymore, it was covered by hundreds, thousands of unknowns, all gathered to witness NINE INCH NAILS. Where did they come from? How long have I been gazing at the backdrop on that stage? A loud bang! I know this bang and if all goes well that bang didn’t come alone. Bang! Ok, it’s happening, stay grounded. Could someone tackle me? Bang! Can one get Covid from mud? Bang! Some peers who had gathered near me earlier gather even closer, recognizing what is about to happen. We acknowledge one another. Bang!Epilepsy might be a cause for concern at this point. Bang! Nodding, submitting to a BPM switch… Bang! …that will undeniably… Bang! Change the… Bang! …course of… Bang! …the evening…Bang!

The crushing beat of Mr. Self Destruct pounds heavily on the PA. Between the thick fog and the strobe lights, it is unclear if the band took the stage until the camera operators’ signals come through the giant video screens on each side of the stage. Grainy black & white 16mm-ish handheld footage show Ilan Rubin beating his drum set. Eyes off the screen and onto the stage, still nothing. Too much smoke? Almost 30 years. This is exhilarating, not nostalgic. The fog had now faded to retina-appropriate levels, allowing for deeper scrutiny of the stage away from those brain-eating screens. At close range, these giant screens coupled with the hand-held footage are only bearable in short glimpses, just enough to witness the complete experience. No respite onto "Wish", then "Last". Trent’s trademark crawled down over the mic stand pose in sight, check. What a character. What an exotic bird. "March of The Pigs" comes next then straight into "Piggy". Robin Finck, committed stage left, seems unaffected by the passing of rivers, pushing and pulling like it’s 1994. "The Lovers" and "Reptile" slow down the BPM before the energetic and quite accessible "Less Than" gets some positive reactions, even from the “tourists”.

It also comes as a reminder that this is not 1995. Ilan Rubin is strategically and cleverly positioned front stage right, transferring his energy onto the crowd and adding to the dynamics of the show and the setlist. After all this was Hellfest! Not just an edition but the Hellfest edition thus far. Comprehensibly, Trent didn’t take this opportunity to experiment with some Avant-garde electro instrumentals featuring a Bowie hologram. This was NINE INCH Fkn’ NAILS. "Letting You", "Sanctified", "The Frail", "The Wretched" and "Heresy" are played almost consecutively before the awaited "Closer" (talk about a crowd pleaser, rightly so). Alessandro Cortini’s grounded sense of calm adds its own mystic to NIN live performances. Atticus Ross might have seemed a bit out of place during the heavier songs but holds quite a bit of responsibility, keeping part of the digital mayhem in check when Cortini is on bass duty. Given how major his role has developed to be within NIN’s creative process and not unlike Cortini, his calmer and more reserved stage presenceis non the less commanding. They lash into "Burn" before bringing out HEALTH to perform "Isn’t Everyone", a collaboration track. "Gave Up" brought memories of the Manson/Tate murder house where Trent had set his ‘nothing studio’ during the recording of the Broken EP, immortalized in the music video featuring a young Marilyn Manson. "The Hand That Feeds" preceded "Head Like a Hole", commanding the ritualistic thousands of raised hands during the “Bow Down…” verses, like it has since the mid 90’s. Just enough time to come down from that collective chanting high, when the first few notes of Hurt turns the entire crowd into a choir. One could almost forget about the sea of blue screens hovering over the crowd. Keep your eyes on the stage…

Very few bands on their fourth decade have managed to be something any artist wishes he/she could be at this stage of his/her career, relevant. NINE INCH NAILS is a morphing entity unbound by time, genre or fades, and if what the 60,000 people in attendance tonight have witnessed is a nostalgic act, then it was one done right.

DECAPITATED

I decided to leave early to avoid the sea of people that would depart after NINE INCH NAILS’ set. As I was walking away like David Banner at the end of an episode of The Incredible Hulk, carrying my photo bag on one shoulder to the ending of "Hurt", I passed by The Altar where the screen indicated the next band to be performing. I had recently received a digital copy of their latest work Cancer Culture from an acquaintance at Nuclear Blast Records and really liked what I heard. What the hell! My camera is covered with dried up mud so crusty it looks like a fossil from a bad Alien movie. I won’t be able to get back to work until tomorrow evening so let’s just join in for some late night brutality. The band is loud and powerful, sure, but with a mastery of sound that connects groovy rhythms and solos, overhung by the equally controlled grunts of Rasta. Their sound is a steamroller loaded with incisive blades all orchestrated to the millimeter. Nothing sounds out of place and they seem to show a certain restrain, especially with the songs from Cancer Culture, or at least it was my impression at this hour deep into the night. Even though I wasn’t particularly familiar with their work, their performance got me hooked until the end of their show.

Saturday

GARY CLARK, JR.

Late start today after spending most of the morning trying to locate a photography rental store. I unsuccessfully tried to fix my camera body which is now drying from a last resort fresh water bath. The Mainstage 1 was not full but the crowd was spread out on the lawns, still recovering from last night’s festivities with the dirty blues of Gary Clark Jr. in the background. It’s a nice break from the heavier stuff and well suited for a 3:25pm time slot.

MYLES KENNEDY

Still on Mainstage 1, Myles Kennedy gives a nice performance a few hours before his longtime top-hat collaborator takes the very same stage. I have never been a fan of ALTER BRIDGE or the stuff he’s done with Slash, nothing against the guy though but it’s just impossible to conceive a GNR song unless Axl is on the mic. I did enjoy the gig though, as a warm up to what was to come. Myles can really sing and is a great guitar player in his own right.

AIRBOURNE

Always on Mainstage 1. I should mention that after much thought I resigned myself to not cover any other stages today, waiting for the West Hollywood bad boys. Don’t judge, we all fan-out sometimes. After giving in to the inner 16-year-old the night prior with NIN it was only fair I’d given in to the 13-year-old that night for GNR. Back on track. I really didn’t know much about the Aussies other than they played a somewhat commercial full-blown AC/DC infused Hard Rock. Music-wise it’s pretty much it. Predictable riffs and cliché Rock’n’Roll lyrics you could almost sing along without knowing a single song. The crowd responded to the far-out energy of the singer/guitarist who looked like an amalgamation of Angus Young and Bon Scott inside a single body. You can’t deny the party anthem vibe they gave out and the all out performance. The singer kept throwing beers into the audience between TWISTED SISTER-inspired Hard Rock speeches and praising Lemmy as an immortal. It’s all harmless clichés but it got the job done. Well done.

GUNS N’ ROSES

Mainstage 1, hours later. Now, I have skipped reviews of EPICA and NIGHTWISH simply because I am not a fan of the symphonic metal thingy and it’s only fair not to comment if you just don’t dig something.

The crowd fills the entirety of the site, fading into the horizon behind me. The Mainstage 1 is set and ready to go when the first members of this GNR incarnation appear amid a cloud of fog. Even though the entirety of the tour is marketed as a reunion of the original members of GUNS N’ ROSES, there is a strong aftertaste of a reheated microwave meal. As one of the biggest fan of the 1985-1993 era GNR (seriously, not just saying it), I won’t fall into the trap of calling out some missing faces to the gathering. Instead I intend to witness what’s unravelling before me and enjoy (or not) what this may be. Duff’s silhouette emerges from the back, wearing a STOOGES shirt, and begins to strum the intro to "It’s So Easy". Slash, wearing his top hat, riffs away to the intro. For better or worse, it’s on.

Immediate reaction from the crowd as the full line up in now fronting the stage. It only takes a few minutes to see something is definitely off, and it’s not what everyone has been banging over and over, no, it ain’t Axl’s voice. It might be the fact that these (3) guys are the complete nemesis of the dudes who haunted my bedroom walls as a teenager. Aging boomers with a Malibu tan who seemed to shop for clothes in the Rockstar section of a West Hollywood Hot Topic. As the show went on, it just felt like well-rounded musicians lacking any sort of real chemistry banging a greatest hit setlist for an easy cash grab. And I don’t mean they were slacking in their playing or vocals, Axl didn’t half-ass it on the singing, quite the contrary, but it just felt like a compromised business grind, not a band. After all, these guys aren’t dumb, they built something so immense with only 2 albums that they’d have to be a bunch of complete idiots not to capitalize on it. I get it. We get it. And the thousands of people in the crowd waiting for that song they liked in high school couldn’t care less. For the lifelong fans on the other hand, it’s a harder pill to swallow. And I’m witnessing this from the comfort of a 10-day festival for which I have a press accreditation. Imagine having to spend hundreds of Euros (or dollars) for the occasion. But let’s make the best of it.

They sound good and with all the slack Axl got on his looks and his vocals lately, I think he sounds pretty good. Sure he can’t reach that gritty fkn’ sound he’s notorious for but he doesn’t sing out of key or rely on some auto-tune gimmick to fake it till he makes it, does he? He seemed in a good mood and they all seemed to get along just fine up there, just not as a band but as business partners. Ok right, the best of it. So half way through the set, most people seem to have a good time except the diehard skeptics who shrug and raise their eyeballs every time Axl lands flat on a squeal. Remember these guys who hated Use Your Illusions back in the day? Now they complain that it ain’t like it was in the Illusions days. These people make me want to enjoy the show more than I actually am. Though I won’t deny I had my moments of joy when they did sound pretty amazing, in particular during the consecutive "Reckless Life", "Live And let Die", "Shadow of You Love", "Rocket Queen" and "You Could Be Mine". I mean, you can’t deny these guys' ability to play. Slash sounded great even though the mix buried his leads at times and even Ferrer and Fortus are great musicians. I really don’t know what to make of Melissa Reese’s contribution, nothing against her but she adds to the plastic “not so dangerous” feel of the band onstage. Knowing the asking price for a decent ticket at their shows, I don’t know that I’d pay that much cash to see them, but again, never say never. There are some footages and audios of their most recent gigs where Axl sang mostly with his natural timbre like he did on "It’s So Easy" or "Down On The Farm", completely dropping the falsetto, and it sounded killer. Add a featuring of Izzy and Steven for a club-era mini set and why not Matt for a few Illusions tunes and I might play the part of the sucker. All in all, glad I was there. Their legacy is so significant that we can look past all that !GnfnR! Note: The video bootleg of their gigs at the Roxy in 1986 has been played during the writing of this live report.

Sunday

UFOMAMMUT

The Doom titans took The Valley amidst a cloud of purple hue. The unmistakable tone of Urlo’s Rickenbacker roaring through the PA, soon followed by Poia’s growling V sets the tone for the very few profanes in attendance. For the rest of the full-house congregation, horns up and bowing heads in harmony with the blasting hits of Levre, who joined the trio on drums in 2021 after Vita’s departure in 2020.

After a time of reflection and reassessment of the band’s future following the departure of their drummer, they cleared the board and reset their pons. Stronger than ever with Levre on drumming duties, the Italian phoenix rises before a crowd of riff-addicted connoisseurs. Very few “tourists” in attendance. How could they? The Valley is full. During the photographic duty in the pit, I made a point to pause for a second and take a mental note of the crowd’s raised hands after each song, grateful. Nothing unusual or particularly surprising at a metal concert, but the expressions of untainted delight on their faces hinted that they were much more than simply reacting instinctively. As anticipated, heavy hypnotic riffs, psych synths and unquestionably makes-your-chest-vibrate drums painted the landscape. UFOMAMMUT is the answer for those who claim Doom metal is all the same. Fools! Within that heaviness lays such an eclectically driven sense of purpose, as if every note was meticulously placed where it belonged as opposed to simply pounded senselessly for the sheer sake of being “heavy”. Loud it was, but never too loud.

With their latest work Fenice released on Neurot Records, not only was the band reborn after some times of uncertainty but they have transmuted themselves into something new. One who has followed the trio for some time will undoubtedly recognise the maturity and even a certain abandon of genre-related boxes in their current work. It took their entire career, with each new work drifting a little more from the perceived conventions of the Doom-Sludge genre to where they are now their own.

UGLY KID JOE

Mainstage 1 for a band I honestly didn’t know much about other than the hits from the early 90’s. The band seemed pleased to be there and the crowd response was pretty good. Whitfield’s vocals were really good and into it. I wish I’d known more songs from the setlist to enjoy it even more but it was a pleasant surprise. Cool show.

EYEHATEGOD

Back at The Valley for the pioneer Sludge-lords from Nola. Solid state amps took over the warm fuzzy sound of tubes to deliver crushing riffage into an approving audience. Sound-wise the show wasn’t blessed by a good start. Whether it was technical or human or most likely a bit of both, they didn’t sound their best that day but it kinda matched their performance, rowdy and uncompromising. Gary Mader had to wrangle with some apparent difficulties with the bass gear while Mike Williams seems to be struggling with his own altered state, as you’d expect. Jimmy Bower held the reigns of this performance and was, in my (not so) humble opinion, the strongest link. Overall an actually pretty awesome EYEHATEGOD show!

MGLA

The Temple is once again the stage for blackened masked figures and soundscapes of darkness and decay. The polish powerhouse makes unanimity in the crowd’s response that answers present to the beholding mayhem. MGLA seem to grow not only with each new work but with each new performance. A treat for amateurs of Post-Black Metal.

PENTAGRAM

You never know what you’re going to get when attending a PENTAGRAM show. This time the news only came a few days before the event, having replaced THE OBSESSED on the bill. It seemed THE OBSESSED had been announced on the lineup before the band had even committed to appear at the festival. Heck, I wasn’t even sure if Bobby would be performing that night, given all the bad press he got regarding recent controversies back in the US. The band takes the stage and launches into "Sign of The Wolf". From the pit I could observe a nervous Bobby Liebling taking deep breaths, glazing at the audience. He walks to the centre of the stage to the welcoming raised horns of the congregation. It only took an instant for Bobby to become Bobby, gawking at the crowd in the front rows eyes wide open and gesturing like only he can. His vocals were somehow faint and discreet at first but by the second song it almost sounded like he was lip synching to a tape, except he wasn’t. The band was incredible and sounded amazingly good. Like many I had seen the Last Days Here documentary and being there that night seeing Bobby shine so bright was truly a heartfelt moment. I suppose this served as a warm up for their 50th anniversary Tour, and if this was a hint of what’s to come I’d recommend booking yourself a ticket to witness one of the last standing icon of the genre.

MERCYFUL FATE

Back at The Temple for another icon. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it in time to access the photo pit, having enjoyed the PENTAGRAM show in its almost entirety. A giant upside down cross sets the tone for the highly elaborated stage, with a huge “marble” staircase leading to an altar where King Diamond rose from darkness. His vocals are insane given the Danish demon had just turned 66(!) a few days before the show. Overall a great concert with an outstanding performance by the man himself. The band was great also but didn’t seem too keen on the stage outfits, Hank Shermann in particular with a reverse cap clashed a little with Diamond’s full-blown theatrical costume, but that’s also what makes them MERCYFUL FATE I suppose.

ORANGE GOBLIN

The Valley is quite populated given who is playing on Mainstage 1 at the same time. The blue-collar Doom-Sludge quartet from London stepped onstage and dialled 11.5! Ben Ward addresses the crowd during all the breaks, joking about the Mainstage 1 and being truly grateful for the attendance. This is something you might get when skipping a headliner for a smaller stage, a truly spectacular performance by a band who didn’t take the audience for granted and expressed their gratitude with words but mostly a truly epic show. The setlist was a delight for all connoisseurs of the Goblin and made this gig a highlight of the entire festival.

METALLICA

I had to sneak as close as I could from Mainstage 1 to glimpse even just a few minutes at the beast. It has to be mentioned that a METALLICA army of fans had been camping the Mainstage 1 the entire day adding to the suffocating amount of “guests” in the attendance that Sunday making the site so overpopulated (yes, even more than the usual daily 70,000) that the main stages area was impossible to reach by 5pm, hence creating resentment from most Hellbangers. Just like with GUNS N’ ROSES the day before, a lot of 1-day ticket holders clustered the entire festival making trips between stages, food stand, water points and toilets really difficult. This year the Biggest of the Big Four had requested a 900m2 (9687sf) private backstage area with kitchen, gym, rehearsing space and a staff of 120 people. We all remember James mocking Axl’s rider during their co-headlining tour in 1992. Well, seems like the Oscar for biggest diva this year won’t go to the red haired frontman. I honestly don’t have much to say about the show that night, it sounded amazing, even far back, and well produced as you’d expect at that level. I don’t want to sound like a hater, there are plenty of those around, but I couldn’t feel any excitement coming from that huge stage. Sure, as usual, a part of you wants to enjoy all those classics that have paved the soundtrack of our lives since we were teenagers, but the wiser, more cynical part of your brain won’t cut any slack to your requisite for yet another nostalgia act. Not unlike the experience of the night prior, I couldn’t say I’d go to a gig if it wasn’t accredited, and if someone wanted to buy me a ticket, I’d most likely take the cash and go see 10 hardworking bands instead (and even have change for a beer).

TRIPTYKON

The last show of the night at The Temple. Always good to witness Tom G. Warrior and the cumulated fatigue from this journey in hell contributed to the state of numbness we all felt at that time in the Pit. The last shots to immortalize the event. I couldn’t honestly tell if the band sound good or great. It felt like my earplugs had melted and were now a permanent part of my body. A few CELTIC FROST classics like "Circle of The Tyrants" and "Mesmerized" were of course special moments during the set. A great way to end this amazing 15th edition of Hellfest Open Air, surrounded by raised arms, mud and cheers…

Epilogue

It’s been quite a ride. The 2022 edition is set to achieve a cult status in the years ahead, no doubt. The passing of time will allow the true Finishers (those who completed the full 10 days on site) to look back fondly to their time spent in hell that year in this little corner of western France. From heatwave to rain storm, few hours of sleep in between loud heavy music played at decibels beyond imagination for most common mortals, this is definitely one for the books.

Sure, there were aspects of the festivals that were less appealing to many. Let’s start with the overpopulated site during the second weekend, particularly Saturday and Sunday, that made circulation around the main stages a nightmare. Nothing can be done, I suppose, as the organizers won’t sell less tickets just so random “Billy” can skip about in between stages like he’s in the opening of Little House On The Prairie. Same for the amount of tourists who aren’t particularly there for the music, but more for the experience. For many “not so metal” people, attending the Hellfest is kinda like their version of Burning Man. What really surprised me was the abundance of festival merch worn by the Hellbangers. Not band merch, but festival merch. The lines to buy official Hellfest merch were insane. Again, nothing wrong with that if it helps bring such a treat of a lineup each year. There were also the dozens of “VIPs” who didn’t seem to even know some 350 bands were playing just a few meters away, laying in lounge chairs drinking mojitos all day and night. Again, they didn’t really bother anyone.

I’m actually ok with the mojitos and the lack of beauty sleep if they bring bands like PELICAN, ENVY, UFAMAMMUT or MONO just to name a few, alongside the biggest headliners you could think of today. They call Hellfest the Disneyland of metal; well I think this is a compliment. The improvement in its organisation over the years and even some of the innovations pioneered by the organization (Hellfest Productions) cannot be denied. All the artists I’ve had the chance to meet during the 7 days have praised the organization for their level of professionalism and warm welcome regardless of their position on the running order, which speaks mountains about the commitment to stay true to their “by the fans, for the fans” ethic. The compromise that the organizers make to bring all spectrums of heavy music into such a colossal event has to earn the respect of all music lovers, and the imperative of putting the Hellbangers’ experience as their top priority explains their universal triumph and confirms their status, in my opinion after this special edition, as the biggest heavy music festival in the world.

What’s next? Time will tell... See you in 2023 for the 16th edition of Hell.

Thanks to Roger and all the Hellfest Press Team for making life a little easier for all of us.
Tony - Oculos Caecos

Check out some more photos from the final weekend of Hellfest!
Review And Photos By Tony Sanchez
MGLA And GAEREA Photos By Maria Landhall (@marialandhall, festivalphoto.net, livestagemusic.com)


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