Hellfest Open Air 2017 Sunday Review

Day Three, like every other day at Hellfest, starts off with a wander back to the Super U. Now as we have mentioned before this is not just any old supermarket. The place gets taken over by the Hellfest spirit and they don’t even seem to mind the massive queue of festival folks waiting to use their one toilet. Yep, we’d say Hellfest is an epidemic that has reached a severe state. Lock the city down. It’s always great to see how welcome everyone is made to feel as 60000 metal heads descend. Not that they really have much choice in the matter I guess as for us lot this is sacred ground and the Super U has became a cornerstone of that metallic faith. God bless the ice maker. God bless the suppliers of beer and wine. Thank you satan for the bread and the cheese.

And the Babybel, they do Babybel the size of your fist!!

But we digress…

After a rather smashing morning picnic of lemon sorbet and fanta infused with ibuprofen (age old hangover cure) accompanied by crusty bread, we take the long walk into Hell for the final day of festivities.

We arrive on site in time to catch a spot of Emptiness in the Altar (That’s the band, not the state of the crowd). By this point in the weekend people are really starting to feel the adverse effects of the fun and frolics and there are as many people asleep on the grass as there are punters enjoying one of Belgium’s finest (non alcoholic) exports.

We finally have the opportunity to brave the Hellfest Merch stall next, where things are starting to sell out pretty damn quickly. Mind you where else can you have Siberian symphonic black metal in one ear (which is very good) and totally, erm, shouty Metalcore in the other while you queue to spend your pennies?

I know which ear we preferred.

Large quantities of merchandise acquired, next up for us it’s time for Ghoul in the Altar. Now we had no knowledge of this band pre-festival, but since catching their set we’ve not been able to stop talking about them. In fact they kept us company, musically speaking, through an interminable French traffic jam on the way to Paris the next day. Ghoul are a good old fashioned rock’n’roll freak show fronted by hooded bogey men. It’s theatrics a-go-go with on stage eviscerations, biting the heads off babies and squirting blood into the crowd. Then there’s the fights on stage with demonic creatures, weird fellas and strange monsters. We really liked the Creepsylvanian critters and we weren’t alone, the crowd loved their whole “in dubious taste” vibe, and their awesome crossover thrash of course. This was the band that we never knew but ended up loving! Wall Of Death = wall of death.

Have medics on standby because this got a bit full on!

Sadly all too soon Ghoul’s show came to an end and we headed out into the furnace to catch something completely different on the main stage, is GothCore a thing? If so then Motionless In White fit that label.

They may have looked a bit like a poor man’s Marilyn Manson but they certainly had the French crowd eating out the palm of their hands. Must have been a bit bloody warm on all that goff gear and makeup though as the big fat sun in the sky put a bit of a taint on their morbid efforts. I reckon these would be much better to see in the dark of the Altar stage later on in the day but still a great performance. At least they wont get sunburn with all that sunblock on:)

Alas one of those “awkward bastard clashes” awaited us next. Old School thrash Vs Ragga Metal. Which to choose.. which to choose..

How about a bit of both ?

We kicked off with the awesome Hirax on stage up at the Altar. Now we’re big fans of crossover thrash and Hellfest was supplying that in large quantities this year. It’s a sort of music that just seems to fit in here, must be the weather.. and the booze.

Hirax have been around forever, but their infectious energy is undimmed and they were one of the “wow did you see???” bands of the weekend.

Lots of posing for the gaggle of assembled photographers too, which always makes for great shots.

We do like Skindred. Over the years we’ve seen them a shitload of times but never to this amount of people going quite this mental. Reggae meets metal meets punk in the late afternoon sunshine as the crowd work themselves further towards the inevitable heat exhaustion. This is like fusion cooking, only for music. For an instant party, just add Skindred. Especially when you get to the sight of tens of thousands of people “doing what the nig..”, erm, word we can’t use, but Benji can. “Do what the welsh chap says” he roars “take off your top or jacket. Hold it in the air. Wait for it motherfuckers”

“Keep it still”.

“Wait for it”

“4321”…. GO! and the biggest Newport Helicopter we’ve ever seen is off. Massive interaction from everyone as all around the place goes mental. This is spot on, and it’s the perfect slot for a summer festival. The party is well and truly brung, Skindred style.

I pity whoever has the task of following up that performance. Thats a massive ask. Any contenders? Well there is that little fella from Northern Ireland…

Yep, it’s Black Star Riders time on Main stage 1. As always, Ricky and co deliver the goods full throttle, no holds barred. Hits like All Hell Breaks Loose and Killer Instinct were made for places like this and, of course, Whiskey In The Jar didn’t go down too badly either. Black Star Riders always carry the energy and poise of a headline band, and as we watched Ricky and Damon work the catwalk we can’t help but wonder why these guys aren’t absolutely bloody huge yet.

Right, back up to the tent, and the shade, next.

Beyond Creation were up next for us in the Altar. Guitars with too many strings and not enough headstocks, this has to be prog metal, right?

Well, it is and it isn’t, the Canadian’s are undeniably highly technical but they still manage to belt out a crowd pleasing tune and they get a good response from a tent now littered with the bodies of the dead.. or maybe nearly dead.. or drunk.. or asleep.

Compared to outside this is a much cooler and more practical place to be. It’s getting a silly hot out their. I never expected Hell to be cold but c’mon, can we turn the heating down a touch please…

We stay in the tent metalplex as next up it’s time for Arkhon Infaustus in the temple. A set of kiddie ear defenders wouldn’t go amiss here, this is loud. They are hard-core brutal and, being French, are clearly a firm favourite here. Our poor ears are battered by the blackest of Black Death metal and it sends the place into rapture with, as you’d expect, crowd surfers, circle pits, general insanity, THE WORKS.

Great stuff, job done.

Alas then the wheels came off somewhat. Sanctuary are one of Team CB’s favourite bands and another “must see” for the weekend and they have drawn in a pretty massive crowd in the temple. Things started off with a few sound issues for these legends, a rarity at Hellfest, but even when things improved it seemed that Sanctuary weren’t firing on all cylinders.

Or even most cylinders.

Oh well, it can’t all be unadulterated brilliance, can it ?

As Alter Bridge began to play on the main stage we decided it was time to have a break and grab some food back at Camp Blabbath, mainly to escape the heat and partly due to the need for a costume change before we sweated to death. Sitting at the camper listening to Myles and co while enjoying a beer in the French sunshine, well there are worse ways to spend your time. Food and faffing about done we headed back along the road for the last time this year. It’s nearly over for another year.

This is a festival you just wish could go on and on. Real jobs or not, how cool would that be.

Blue Oyster Cult roll back the years and we enjoy them from a safe distance. From the back of the tent we did hear Prophets Of Rage firing up the anger on the main stage but as we’re not massive fans of any of their constituent parts that was as close as we got. Especially as we had to make sure we got into the Temple smartish or we wouldn’t get near. Hellfest royalty on next.

Few can escape the the lure of Phil Alesemo (you know, him out of Pantera) and we’re pretty sure that he keeps putting new bands together just so he can play Hellfest every year. We’ve had his stoner project and now it’s time for Phil does Black Metal, AKA Scour. It seems that for now the Temple was THE place to be and every photographer in the festival was in the queue to get into the photo pit, and we all got about half a song each.

Scour are hard and extremely heavy. Of course you know what you’re going to get with Anselmo vocals, and it isn’t going to be melodic. Honestly it’s like being punched in the gut by an angry, shouty man. “Make some fucking noise” the crowd are told. Down in the pit the security are starting to lose their cool, the waves of crowd surfers are surely expected but the whole atmosphere has darkened so, being big Heavy Metal types, we retreat and enjoy Scour from a safe distance. The roof seems like it might blow off with the weight of the riffs in the tent.

Hellfest loves Anselmo, and Phil is a Hellfest uberfan. We’ve seen him here year after year, in his capacity as a musician, a wine enthusiast and a lover Hellfest. Long may he continue popping over with any of his numerous bands. Any excuse eh?! Go’n yersel Phil.

Metal Church played the Altar at about the same time as Five Finger Death Punch took to the main stage but as FFDP are awful we decided at this time in the evening to find a nice corner, grab a beer and stay put for what was left of the festival. It’s worth taking a moment to admire the surroundings. The ferris wheel shining in all it’s glory, the fire pits ablaze, flame billowing out from the bars and merch stalls. It’s like a demonic, lovely wonderland. There is so much more to Hellfest than just the music. To some its a way of life, like a crazy metal carnival that takes way too long to come round then is over way too quickly.

Today has easily been the hottest of the weekend and it’s still not letting up. Massive shout out to the staff and security and the medical folk. It’s exhausting just watching bands and walking about, without having a job to do. The people who run Hellfest and the staff look after the punters well. We have been hosed down with water down near main stages and actively encouraged to cover up. Public service announcement over.. theres still bands to see.

Tonight we’ve got Linkin Park winding things up on the main stage and one of us will be transported back in time to our teens, when MTV was king and Linkin Park’s “In the End” video was always on. Depends on which one of us you ask if this is not in any way a bad thing.

The whole place erupted when Linkin Park finally came on to prove that Nu Metal is not dead.. even if it should be. Though slightly tired, we may have indulged ourselves in a mammoth crap karaoke version of In The End which basically had everybody with a pulse joining in.

They churned out all the hits but, well, nah, not for us and we headed out for a final mooch round Hellcity Square where we were greeted by the sight of  that bloke in his pants playing a cello and kick drum and blasting out some extreme metal. Thats how you do it! Touch of class.

Not saying he was better than Linkin Park, of course.

But he was.

You don’t know, YOU WEREN’T THERE.

Or drunk.

And with that the show’s over for yet another year and once more it’s been an absolute blast. Hellfest is the king of music festivals and once again offered something for everyone. We may have been battered, broken, hot, thirsty, dusty, tired and smelling like the undead but everyone left with a massive smile their face.

As we made our final trip to Camp CB, we had the usual thoughts on our minds. Did we get enough photos of the big guitar, did we really see the girl in the wheelchair crowdsurfing and, most importantly, how good was that man in his pants playing the cello and drums.

Hellfest, thank you for another awesome year.