Hellfest Open Air 2016 Saturday Review

It’s time for yet another “The day dawned bright and sunny” opening line to a Hellfest Open Air Review. In fairness we’d already seen more rain this year than on any of the previous ones, but nothing was going to dampen the occasion and we headed back into the arena for our second day in Hell.

Ambience-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-1-4

In-keeping with the “bloody hell, we saw them in Leeds in a wee club not long ago” theme set by Hawkeyes on the main stage last year, this year it was Steak Number Eight who were the surprise opening name on the massive Hellfest main stage. If the guys were in any way overawed by the occasion then it didn’t show (after a few initial nervous looks) and the French crowd were soon getting into the Belgian’s sludgy vibe.

From the new to the quite old, and Japanese. Loudness Have been around for ages, one of those “Ooh, didn’t know they were still going” names from back in the day. Their date in Hell was part of their 35th anniversary “Shocking Devil’s Land” tour which, as with many of their contemporaries, sees them taking their music to a whole new generation of fans who missed them first time around on account of not being born, or in some cases their parents not being born.

The Japanese veterans did seem to struggle initially to win over the Clisson faithful, but once they hit full throttle it was hard not to be swept along by their old school “proper” metal.

Entrails-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-12After a spot of breakfast (more of those mysterious “burger between two potato” things) we headed up to the Altar / Temple biplex to catch a bit of Entrails (as in watch the band, not catch entrails in the Ozzy Osbourne sense). Given that it was still quite early the band had attracted a crowd that almost seemed to rival that on the main stage. This is a festival that loves its Death Metal, and the Swedish band served up an old school jeans-and-t-shirt clad masterclass.

We didn’t know a great deal about what to expect of Entrails live before Hellfest, but they certainly grabbed our attention as just about the pick of the Death Metal over the weekend.

The next big thing for Team CB was on the main stage, but admittedly not for a couple of hours. There was one band over the weekend that a certain member of Team CB was not going to miss, and if the photographer didn’t get decent shots of them he’d be sleeping in a field somewhere.

Glenn Hughes-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-1Back to the main stage for something of a legend. Glenn Hughes is about the most, erm, venerable name on the bill and judging by the crowd that was packed in front of Mainstage 1 he was on just about everybody’s “must see” list. Glenn was resplendent in a (deep) waistcoat and the setlist was, as you’d imagine, a mix of solo stuff and highlights from some of the wee band’s he’s lent his considerable vocal talents to.

Mostly Deep Purple, quite a lot of Deep Purple.

Which is fine by us.

The highlight of the set came from the Purple daze, the distinctive opening riff to Burn getting the biggest cheer of the day thus far.

There were a lot of photographers in the queue for the photo pit as Glenn headed off Mainstage 1 and Atreyu let rip on Mainstage 2, but when they were called forward not many took the opportunity to get into the pit…

So we weren’t the only ones making damn sure we got in there for Sixx:AM.

Although they were in a respectable mid afternoon slot, Sixx:AM had an absolutely massive crowd, and one of the biggest queues of photographers all weekend. Thank god we got down when we did, even if it did mean having to stand there through Atreyu, who did raise a smile with a shout of “let’s keep this shit show going”. Think he may have meant “keep this shit going” or “Keep this show going”…

Or maybe not.

SixxAM-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-25

Sixx:AM arrived on the stage in a cloud of hairspray and attitude but it was immediately obvious something wasn’t quite right. This Is Gonna Hurt was mostly ruined by atrocious sound, the backing vocalists were pretty much inaudible from where we were standing and there was a real worry that this was going to turn out to be a massive anti climax after the pre-fest expectation.

SixxAM-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-22Luckily whatever gremlin had got into the system was booted into touch by the time the opener finished and from then on in we were in the Sixx:AM promised land. Of course Nikki was the main draw but we found our attention was captivated by DJ Ashba who made it all look so easy, and like he was having way too much fun.

The crowd were loving it, especially when the six-string demon went off stage and returned bedecked in the French tricolor. Way to get the locals 0n-side.

It’s nice when a band matches the hype, and Sixx:AM did exactly that. One member of Team CB is hopelessly biased in favour of anything Nikki Sixx but even the more objective half of the team had to admit, that was the set of the day..

So far.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-6If anything goes to demonstrate the breadth of musical styles catered for at Hellfest, then surely CB’s next two ports of call are about as far apart as you can get. In the shouty corner, from Massachusetts USA we have Grindcore veterans Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and in the AOR corner, from New York, Foreigner.

We’ve not seen AN live before, and they fitted quite comfortably into the big box of odds and sods labeled “not entirely our thing”. Their obvious passion and fury is somewhat dulled by the massive tent and after grabbing a few photos we headed off to see a spot of Foreigner to see if they still had the children’s choir for I Want To Know What Love Is…

…But we got bored before they got that far and headed back to the tent to catch a band we knew from three encounters already this year would be far from boring.

Fleshgod Apocalypse-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-17Fleshgod Apocalypse must be just about the only Death Metal band who have their own opera singer, pianist and wine. Apart from the striking gothic overtones of visual image they have a certain something that sets them apart from their contemporaries and, whatever it is, it f’kin works. We’ve seen them playing to packed festival crowds and we’ve seen them in tiny clubs on their King tour and they’re never short of outstanding.

Here at Hellfest it’s no different, with Cold As Perfection once again providing one of the highlights of the whole weekend.

From an expected highlight to one which was utterly unexpected. When we saw The Toy Dolls on the Hellfest line-up it caused a definite double take. Now to those of us of a certain age The Toy Dolls means only one thing, a certain cover version from 1982…

The Toy Dolls-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-8From the off The Toy Dolls were just brilliant. On a stage better known for it’s angry punk and heartfelt political messages there’s something curiously uplifting about three nutters singing The Lambrusco Kid to a rabid field of French metalheads.

When you get crowd surfing to Bach’s Tocatta In D Minor you know you’re in some strange parallel universe where nothing makes sense, but the Toy Dolls are pulling the strings. By about half way into the set both members of TeamCB were dancing and singing along to what was already the most fun we’d had all weekend.

And then it happened. Olga said “Here’s a new song… Yeah right”

To Bom-Bay.. A travelling circus came…

Right, this is silly. Half the population of France are trying to get over the barrier in one of the most impressive displays of crowdsurfing we’ve ever seen. There is no way a 35 year old one hit wonder should be this bloody good but by god it is.

Now given the aforementioned love of half of TeamCB in Clisson for Nikki Sixx, then if anything is going to top the joyous euphoria of the Toy Dolls then it’s going to be Sixx, DJ Ashba and James Michael on the main stage doing Shout At The Devil, even if it was with Disturbed.

But nope, even that couldn’t top what we’d just witnessed in the Warzone.

After Disturbed had done their thing, with another guest appearance when they wheeled out Glenn Hughes for a blast through The Who’s Baba O’Riley. If you lookup “festival crowd pleaser” in the dictionary there’s probably a photo of Disturbed at Hellfest.

Bad Religion-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-30

We headed back into the Warzone for one of our pre-festival picks. After the madness that was the Toy Dolls Bad Religion got us back on track with the serious face of Punk. Fuck Armageddon.. This Is Hell got the crowd surfers moving again as the band demonstrated that, like a lot of the bands on the Hellfest bill, the years have not diminished them. There was even a dedication to “all the people at those other stages”…

Fuck You !

Well what else would you expect? We didn’t see nearly enough of the Warzone in 2016, but the two bands we caught there on the Saturday were just about the pick of the weekend.

Ambience-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-1-3Phew, almost done. We really should get one of those pedometer thingies to see how far we walk over the Hellfest weekend, I bet it’s miles. Luckily it doesn’t feel like it, well until the next day when you feel like you’ve been given a beating.

Our last trip to the tent was for another CB must-see, Ireland’s favourite sons Primordial.

Primordial are one of those bands that belong in the dark confines of the tents, but are just way too popular to be there and deserve a main stage slot. In scenes reminiscent of Alestorm last year you couldn’t actually get near the stage so we sat outside and enjoyed the likes of As Rome Burns and No Grave Deep Enough from afar.

The big metal forest guardian chap beside us seemed to approve too.

From dark grandeur to ferocious intensity was how our day ended. While Twisted Sister filled the headline slot down on the main stage we stayed put in the tent (well moved a bit to the right) for another date with Barney and his Napalm Death buddies who played our day out with a series of gentle lullabies..

Yeah, right.

Looking at the lineup before the festival we were expecting Saturday to be the pick of the days, and so it turned out. We expected Fleshgod, Sixx:AM and Bad Religion to be great and they all delivered, but there was only one topic of conversation on the way back to Camp Blabbath…

Just how much fun were the Toy Dolls?