ArcTanGent was the finale to this summer’s festivals. My friends are post-rock, noise-rock and math-rock enthusiasts (the festival’s main focus) and had been singing its praises since last year. Considering it was the first ‘non-metal’ festival I’ve been to, I found it to be an immensely enjoyable and enlightening experience. I too would recommend this little Bristolian festival to any metal fan with an open mind.
The line-up was very diverse and introduced me to several bands I probably would have never discovered if it wasn’t for last weekend’s adventure. Several bigger names I’d either seen before or already like such as Mono, God Is An Astronaut and Tero Melos, but coming home with a list of new artists you’re aching to check out is always a positive outcome to any festival. If I narrow it down to three bands who impressed me and I want to hear more of, they’d be Russian Circles, Year Of No Light and Fen.
Other essential festival criteria were met too; timing and organisation, a chilled out vibe, decent food… And slipping around in mud at 2am for the silent disco was a definite highlight of my weekend and probably the best late night entertainment I’ve encountered!
ArcTanGent now has a well deserved spot in my festival calendar.
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.
Unfortunately this will be the first time in five years that I will not be attending Hellfest Open Air; the most eclectic, well-organised and friendliest festival in the world (probably)! The French festival has become an annual tradition for thousands of metalheads and I’m sure that anyone who appreciates heavy music would agree that finding another festival that balances extremity with such a welcoming atmosphere would be a difficult task indeed.
Some of my most cherished memories are from Hellfest. Here are just a few of my favourite things about it:
The Line-Up (Every time!)
A quality line-up is always guaranteed, with a diverse range in genre. Whether you favour black, death, hardcore or doom, it’s likely all tastes will be catered for.
I will never forget that classic thrash-Saturday back in 2011. With Municipal Waste playing, followed by Destruction, Sodom and Kreator. I was in Heaven… Or Hell?
I always say to my friends that being at Hellfest feels like ‘coming home’ in some respect. The fact that you’re surrounded by thousands of other people who are there for exactly the same reason you are – to worship heavy music – feels so pure and exciting. In my experience the crowds have always been extremely friendly. There really is a magical atmosphere and I hope it lasts for years to come.
Living in England means that a quick trip across the Channel on a ferry is no real hassle, in terms of making the trip to Clisson by car. Yet the fact that the festival is indeed foreign adds to the excitement factor, in that you feel like you’re exploring other lands!
Plus the long drive through French countryside isn’t exactly horrid. Especially when the sun is beaming through your window.
I hope that anybody travelling to Hellfest today has a fantastic time! No festival in England succeeds in creating the perfect mix of quality music, atmosphere and value for money quite like Hellfest does.
After two days of being home the realisation is finally setting in – as is the case following Bloodstock every year – that festival season has come to an unwelcome end. Yet all of the incredible performances from 2011 will continue to exist as fond memories. Cherished memories from a place where quality music is the daily norm.
My personal weekend highlights ranged from fresh talent such as London’s Dripback and other more recently established bands including Cerebral Bore, to bigger names like At The Gates, with their explosive show on the main stage and of course thrash titans from both sides of the Atlantic – Exodus and Kreator. There were literally countless performances to be noted this year and I’m certain every Bloodstock-goer would agree on that.
After snowballing popularity and repeat visits from loyal fans year after year, Bloodstock fully deserves its reputation – of being the only festival operating in the UK that celebrates heavy music with genuine passion and dedication. I am already desperately anticipating next summer’s line up. Bring on Bloodstock 2012.