Hellfest Open Air 2016 Sunday Review

Two days done, one to go. So far Hellfest 2016 had more than lived up to expectations (but then again doesn’t it always?). There’s no place quite like this and we were determined to squeeze as much musical goodness out of our last day as we could.

Raveneye-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-13Hellfest 2016’s Sunday started for TeamCB with an unexpected spot of culture. There’s nothing quite like a bit of Edgar Allen Poe-try to kickstart your day so Raveneye’s intro tape of, unsurprisingly, The Raven set the scene nicely. As usual at Hellfest the place was already packed down the front of the main stages and the classic rock tones of guitar maestro Oli Brown was the perfect gentle introduction to our last day in Hell.

Of course being Hellfest, things won’t stay gentle for long so we can’t stick around, especially when there are those “burger between two potato slices” things for breakfast.. and lunch..

Wonder how many we can smuggle back into the UK ?

Hegemon-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-1We were really quite enjoying Raveneye, but there’s no rest for the wicked and we headed back up to the Altar / Temple megatent for our first (of many) appointments there. Hegemon are one of those “Brutal, In a good way” bands that grab you like a horny rottweiler and don’t let go. It may have been a bit early for the shouty vocals and death metal formula banging percussion but considering it was so early in the day the Hellfest faithful are in out force. Loads of head banging as people try to shake the demons of alcohol out of their heads.

To make space for more demons of alcohol.

Hegemon certainly woke everyone up, and it was a fist-in-the-air triumph, especially when they threw in some anthemic, almost celtic, curve balls. There were no circle pits or crowd surfers yet so the security look a lot more relaxed, we’re sure they’ll have plenty to do later in the day though.

Next up on the main stage were the day’s first “must see”. Iron Reagan had blown us away at last years Hellfest so we kind of knew what to expect from Municipal Waste. The scene was set by a massive “dump Trump” backdrop featuring the universally loved American wig wearer blowing his brains out with a pistol. Every festival has a moment when things spring into life, and with a cry of “Hellfest fuck shit up” the beast within the French crowd was roused from it’s slumber as the security in the pit got their first workout of the day. Frontman Tony asks “Why are you up so early?”, but it’s a silly question.. Everyone is here to lose their shit to the crossover thrash party.

Municipal Waste-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-15

Thrash For Satan sees Tony demanding, and getting “more crowd surfers” as the place stays suitably bonkers. This really is superb, even if the band are a bit distracted by the bodies flying past on the big zipwire thing that runs the width of the arena. Kill The President is, of course, included along with a new song to fit the present situation in their homeland. Kill Donald Trump may have been short but I think it got the point across.

After a band clearly having as much fun as Municipal Waste, back in the tent Fallujah couldn’t really complete. Maybe by this point in the weekend we’re Death Metalled out but we quickly found ourselves missing the sense of fun that Municipal Waste brought to the Hellfest party.

Skalmold-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-11Fortunately it’s not all serious and technical in the tents, and fortunately Skalmold were on hand to get the party back on track again..

Well either Skalmold or the pitchers of Magners cider.

Reading the band’s bio before the festival they were another “must see”, I mean a Folk-Viking-Metal band, what’s not to like about that ? The Icelanders were clearly in the mood to give the packed out tent a damn good aural seeing to and the crowd loved them.

And us ? Yep we loved ’em too. Band of the day so far and they’d take some dislodging from that slot. That’s one of the great things about the likes of Hellfest, discovering your next favourite band as you wander around the site. The whole thing is on a scale that makes that possible and that’s probably why everyone who goes raves about it.

As a wise girl said, other festivals just don’t seem the same after you’ve been to Hell.

Vintage Trouble-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-1Next up we headed back down to the main stage for a date with Dragonforce, but before that we caught the end of Vintage Trouble’s set. Now you know how Slipknot, Skindred et all do that “get down” thing when most of the audience crouch down before obeying the inevitable “jump the fuck up” order from the stage, well Vintage Trouble took that to a whole new level. Not satisfied with most of the crowd following the instruction, folk who stayed standing were named and shamed “You in the red jumper, get down”…”I can wait all day”…

There’s always a classic rock interlude at Hellfest, but I don’t remember one being quite this well received before.

Dragonforce-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-25Of course wherever Dragonforce go there will be circle pits, but the band had to overcome the festival sound gremlins before they could really hit their stride. Of course having a fluent french speaker on hand is always going to be a help when it comes to padding out the awkward silences while whatever particular gremlin has his cock in the technology is found and given a damn good kicking.

Once things got up to speed this was vintage dragonforce and we couldn’t help thinking this was their natural environment. The band were whirling around the stage like dervishes and the crowd were going pit-crazy.

Yeah, circle pits, lots of circle pits.

And crowd surfers, lots of them too.

And now for something completely different.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, a lot, the great thing about Hellfest is that it takes you out of your familiar musical territory. It’s great when a band goes from an unknown name in the running order to someone you listen to a lot, and for half of TeamCb at Hellfest 2016 that band was The Vision Bleak.

The Vision Bleak-Iain CackBlabbath-19

Our initial thoughts when the white face painted Germans (well, mostly Germans) kicked off was, well, wow, just wow. Take the gothic grandeur of the likes of Paradise Lost and mix in some of the darkness of Primordial and you have a winning formula, especially when it’s delivered with style.

They’re not even all dark and serious though, with The Night Of The Living Dead being instantly memorable, and instantly sing-alongable.

And sing along we did.

We headed back out into the French sunshine for a spot of full blown symphonic epicness from Tarja on the main stage before we headed back into the tent for a double bill of weirdness…

Brodequin-Iain CackBlabbath-11The first thing that struck us about Brodequin was the conspicuous absence of a drum riser or kit on the stage, a deficiency that was explained when the band came on and the percussionist took up station at the back of the stage behind a tiny keypad thing, which outs a whole new slant on “drumming your fingers”.

Brodequin were a band that frankly didn’t look like they’d be delivering much, well until they let rip with some of the most brutal extreme metal we heard all weekend. Cue headbanging, crowd surfing and circle pits, with the angry-faced drum-pad-dude laying down the torrent of beats that underpinned proceedings.

OK, they weren’t exactly our thing but 10/10 for shock and awe !

MGLA-Iain CackBlabbath-4The oddness continued with MGLA. The band walked on in single file and took their places on stage. Each member was resplendent in a black leather jacket, black jeans.. oh you get the idea, lots of black. To finish the look off they were also wearing what looked like morph suits under everything which were, unsurprisingly, also black.

Another band we knew nothing about that we left raving about, Ghost’s nameless ghouls on a budget may have gone little on crowd interaction, but they went large on old school proper Black Metal and the Hellfest hordes loved it.

Insomnium-Iain CackBlabbath-12After getting battered about in the pit with MGLA we retreated to the food court nearby for a spot of dinner before making our final assault on the summit of Hellfest 2016. We may have been starting to slow down a bit as we listened to Insomnium from afar but they were the perfect soundtrack to a lunch of something or other on toast. We needed a break, especially as we had a hot date with some bearded vikings later on.

Before that though, there was the small matter of Slayer on the main stage. The crowd packed in to the main arena meant that all thoughts of getting anywhere near the entrance to the photo pit were banished and we found a spot on the grass a respectable distance back and waited to be impressed, more in hope than expectation.

The last couple of times we’ve seen Slayer they’ve been a shadow of their former selves, but legends are legends and frankly it’d be rude not to go see them.

And it’s just as well we did, because remember that “shadow of their former selves” thing, well that certainly didn’t apply to their Hellfest date with destiny, they were brilliant. Clearly the loss of Jeff Hanneman knocked the creative fire out of the band but after taking a while to find his place and put his stamp on Slayer (probably no mean feat given the egos involved) Gary Holt has made stage right his own, and given the band back their punch.

We could have done without Tom’s Hee-Haw French accent though, and we’re still not sure Dead Skin Mask counts as a love song, even a Slayer love song.

Seeing Slayer at Hellfest has got us properly fired up for their Headline slot in the UK in August, if they’re back in this kind of form it’s going to be f’kin stunning.

Amon Amarth-Iain CackBlabbath-3

Having been to the inaugural Download Paris the week before, the next three bands on the main stage were ones we were looking forward to. The obligatory longship dragons on mainstage2 announced the imminent aural rape and pillage from Amon Amarth. We’d got a decent mid-field slot for Slayer but it looked like half of France had the same idea, so well and truly wedged in with lots of new friends we Amon Amarth-Iain CackBlabbath-2bounced, we jumped, we learned the French for queue is dick, we learned French people have unidentifiable alcohol in their hip flasks, think it was made from plums, not sure…

Anyway, the Vikings exploded onto the stage in a cloud of dragon breath and that was that, We sang along and we raised out viking drinking horns !! (Yes, we are the cliche, actual drinking horns bought when it seemed like a good idea… possibly when drunk).

It’s amazing how little those viking drinking horn actually hold, I think we’ll stick to the big pitchers next year.

Amon Amarth were, as expected, brilliant. There’s nothing quite like being in the middle of throusands of festival goers (who live for the music, not the scene) all singing along and generally losing their shit on command.

From a band who had impressed us a week before in Paris, to one who didn’t seem to hit the heights.  Megadeth don’t seem to have been firing on all cylinders of late, and alas that was the case in the Clisson sunshine so we battled through the crowds and headed back up to the Altar / Temple for another “new to us” name.

The running order said “Empyrium”, but the drum kit said The Vision Bleak, something that’s designed to confuse our addled brains a week later when we’re looking through the photos !! Empyrium’s  bassist also looked very familiar, looked awfully like Fursy Teyssier from TVB (minus the white face paint) pulling a double shift.

Empyrium-Iain CackBlabbath-11

As the tempo of the day was winding up to a crescendo Empyrium slowed things down a bit, well a lot actually, and gave everyone a chance to catch their breath. They were one of those bands who did seem a bit out of place in their slot on the bill but they certainly got a respectable response from the tent.

We’d had enough running up and down the site by now, so we stayed near the back and enjoyed the dark majesty of Ghost from afar. Fortunately Papa’s voice was in much better form than it was in Paris. At download  a nasty cold had almost led to the cancellation of the gig but fortunately here he was in much better shape and clearly loving it.

Ambience-Iain Hawkins-CackBlabbath-1Cameras packed away and beer in hand, Our last band of the weekend was largely settled by an inability to find a suitable vantage point for Black Sabbath’s latest last tour. Luckily the joys of Hellfest veteran Nick Holmes and his Paradise Lost buddies more than made up for that, even if we could still feel Geezer’s bass rumbling through the ground from the opposite end of the site.

As a way to end the weekend this was unbeatable. Minimal stage set, no costumes but an inescapable, huge, majestic presence Paradise Lost are the undisputed lords of dark, gothic metal. “Raise those hands, Hellfest” bellowed the charismatic front man..

Oh, ok, one more time then.

And so, tired but happy, our Hellfest 2016 came to an end. Once again it had shown us just how a music festival should be done (apart from the cashless debacle). Highlights of the Sunday were undoubtedly The Vision Bleak, Skalmold  and (for one of us anyway) Taake but out of all the great sets and legendary bands we’d seen over all three days of Hellfest 2016 one name stood out…

There is no way The Toy Dolls should have been that much fun !!!

Merci Hellfest, see you next year x