That’s it for another year. I’m exhausted, sunburnt, skint and the countless performances are yet to sink in, but already I’m brimming with excitement for next year’s Hellfest announcements.
Having missed the French fest last year, I was a little concerned that its dramatic expansion in size since 2012 may have warped the overall experience into something unrecognisable from my beloved memories. My doubts were needless however as Hellfest is still a thriving metal utopia. You have to appreciate the rarity of a festival that consistently boasts such a high-calibre of extreme music alongside an unbeatable atmosphere.
This year Hellfest really lived up to its name due to an intense heat-wave across the whole weekend. You’d think weather like that would be ideal, but this was overwhelming. For someone used to the drizzle of England, the relentless heat actually made the long days quite hard. At times I found it too hot to think and generally couldn’t muster the energy to really lose myself every day. So yeah, I will definitely be better prepared for the possibility of another scorcher next year.
It’s a shame the heat got the better of me because we were spoilt for choice with places to be and bands to see. To sum-up all the best moments would mean writing about ninety-percent of the line-up. As such, this is only a taste of my 2014 experience…
On the Friday my first highlight was Toxic Holocaust on the mainstage. I’d wanted to see them for ages and the three-piece lived up to my expectations with a spot-on set. Being unfamiliar with the work of Nocturnus, the uniqueness of Nocturnus AD made quite an impression on me. Later we saw Slayer (or rather, half of Slayer) before dashing over to the Warzone stage to watch headliners Kvelertak kick serious ass. That was a treasure.
Like the previous evening, Saturday’s schedule consisted of an unbelievable sequence of death metal and we made the most of that by hanging around the Altar, gradually leading to the finale of Nile then Carcass – both always exceptional. One of the only mainstage bands we checked out that day were Hatebreed. Their tunes always work up a storm in Clisson and they got me sufficiently pumped for the evening’s headliners.
I don’t know if this year’s Behemoth performance rivalled the time they headlined the Temple stage in 2012, which sent shivers down my spine, but after the release of The Satanist it was excellent witnessing them tackle the mainstage. Watching the mighty Emperor was pretty special too and they were the last of the extreme bands on my list before chilling to Sabbath, arguably the perfect candidates to wrap-up a glorious three days.
Even if the heat did make me feel decrepit, the weekend was so sweet overall. What’s also cool is that surrounding businesses in Clisson continue to embrace the festival. The supermarket nearby, which often has queues for entry full of Hellfest punters looking to stock up on supplies, now decks the place out with Hellfest banners, promotes food and camping equipment for the crowds and the shop-floor staff even don Hellfest t-shirts. It’s nice to see them getting into the spirit of things and welcome us with open arms.
In terms of sales, it must be equivalent to Christmas week in UK supermarkets. But the members of staff clearly adopt an open-mind to the whole event, which is how it should be. Being immersed in metal culture and experiencing great festivals like these, it’s easy to forget that externally ridiculous prejudices still exist and that people aren’t always so sound. French politician Christine Boutin of the Christian Democratic Party once tried to have the festival cancelled and appealed for sponsors like Kronenbourg to pull out, claiming that the festival’s imagery would scare children and that the music encouraged violent acts.
Considering I’ve yet to encounter a single ticket holder who looks as though they’d hurt a fly, you have to laugh. Here we are in 2014 and Hellfest’s popularity continues to spread with fans and bands internationally. I truly believe that the Hellfest experience is unrivalled by any other festival.
Until next year!