PREVIEW: Hellfest 2015 - Clisson, France

It’s that time of year again when we all start allowing ourselves to get a bit excited about the summer ahead and begin to worry about how we’re going to pay for all the festival tickets. Choosing which ones to go to can be really tough when factoring in lineups, atmosphere, location and price, but between us we've been to shows and festivals all over the world and for us nothing quite compares to Hellfest. Sitting in picturesque Clisson in Western France and set during the scorching summer temperatures of June, Hellfest offers just about everything you could hope for in a Heavy Metal festival. We’ll be going into greater detail when our full coverage is published post festival, but for now we’ll focus on the main factor: the lineup. Below you’ll find all of our top picks from across the weekend, from the blast beating depths of the Black Metal tent to the leopard skin pants of the main stage headliners. Dig in.

Nuclear Assault
With Sunday’s main stage taking up the mantle of being the unofficial Thrash day this year it’s no surprise that the highlight of the day for all the thrashers are Nuclear Assault. With Danny Lilker’s retirement tour continuing after performing last year with Brutal Truth, this year he brings his seminal Thrash outfit Nuclear Assault to grace the Hellfest stage. With a back catalogue of some of the fastest, most brutal and punky Thrash Metal on offer and a suitable send off to an absolute legend, heads will be banged and beer will be spilled but the main stage won’t be the same on Saturday when Nuclear Assault have finished. - Drew’s Choice

Shining (Norway)
In the most complimentative way, it has been consistently difficult to categorise and define Norway’s Shining since their inception. They’ve always been very avant-garde, and they’ve always evolved with every passing album. It took numerous lineup changes and five studio albums in fact for the band themselves to be able to define what they do, but 2010’s Blackjazz did just that. When I saw them at Damnation Festival a couple of years ago I’d only heard of them in passing, but after I’d banged my head along to their thick and crushing guitars and shook my hips to their smooth and seductive saxophone, I left a fan for life. Jørgen Munkeby is a hypnotic frontman, and I can’t wait to see what they bring to a bigger stage and atmosphere at Hellfest this year. Headlining The Temple stage on Friday night, trust me when I say you can’t afford to miss it. - Nick’s Choice

Gary Holt's Thrash Metal heroes Exodus return in 2015, bringing their break neck brand of 'friendly violent fun' to Hellfest’s Sunday line up on the second main stage. After the recent departure of long time frontman Rob Dukes, fan favourite Steve "Zetro" Souza has returned for vocal duties, making this a set not to be missed by new and old fans alike. Be ready for a serious ‘Lesson in Violence’, and make sure you grab a partner for ‘The Toxic Waltz’. Bang your head against the stage, and remember if you hit the floor you can always crawl. - Siggi’s Choice

After witnessing the sheer power and intensity of a Bölzer live performance recently, my interest has peaked as to how this will translate to the festival environment with the band taking the logical next step up from appearances on a variety of tours and one offs to now playing at some of Europe’s largest festivals. With the underground buzz for the band being so huge following their two EP’s and a full-length supposedly in the works it’s a perfect opportunity to display themselves in front of a legion of potentially new fans. The two man outfit’s sound is achieved via an intense mix of hypnotic, powerful drumming and a mastery of riffs churned out on a ten string guitar. With an early set on the Altar stage on Friday I suggest for everyone to shake off their first hangover of the weekend and get down there for a mesmerizing performance of death worship! - Drew’s Choice

LLN Underground Black Metal legends Mütiilation created quite a stir when they were announced for this year’s festivities, leaving a wave of confusion and intrigue as to why Meyhna'ch had revived the project to return to the live arena after only a short stint of playing shows in the late 90’s. All things considered we don’t know what to expect from this performance, but with their Temple stage slot on Saturday being the only live date announced and the festival already touting this as legendary it’s not something to be missed. Expect raw and aggressive Black Metal in the classic French style and expect the tent to be packed. “Hail Satanas. We are The Black Legions!” - Drew’s Choice

Ice "mother fucking" T - need I say more? The godfather of Gangster Rap's Heavy Metal outfit Bodycount will take to the stage for their Saturday night headline slot in The Warzone tent, but expect no rapping here just good old fashioned hardcore Punk, Crossover Thrash, Speed Metal and more. It's hard to pin it down really but this is certainly a rare treat with tracks like ‘KKK Bitch’ and ‘Bowels of the Devil’ to be expected alongside the controversial classic ‘Cop Killer’. Bodycount are sure to make their mark on the Hellfest crowd and take me and Drew back to being teenagers again whilst they’re at it. Bodycount: not to be missed mother fuckers! - Siggi’s Choice

Armoured Saint
The Saint will march on Hellfest during their Friday main stage slot for some good old fashioned Heavy Metal madness. With John Bush at the helm and founding members and brothers Gonzo and Phil Sandoval on drums and guitar respectively, expect some serious falsetto action, ripping guitars and face melting solos from across their illustrious eight releases to date, right from their stalwart classic in 1983’s March of the Saint up to their most recent effort in 2010’s La Raza. All in all, just what you need on a sunny beer fuelled Friday afternoon, or any afternoon for that matter. - Siggi’s Choice

Judas Priest
When all is said and done, there will be a lot of moments from this year's Hellfest that will remain in your hearts and your memories for years to come. Standing atop them all will be Rob Halford's motorbike roaring out onto the stage during Judas Priest’s Friday night headlining set, and I daresay watching him belt out 'Electric Eye' will be amongst the top ten as well. Priest have been in my mind a lot lately due to the release of the new Mad Max being plastered all over TV and radio and subsequently reminding me of the shocking low budget but hugely entertaining video for ‘Turbo Lover’...It's a no brainer really; go and watch Priest with a cold beer or two on a summers afternoon and no matter how many blast beats you hear over the course of the festival, nothing will be heavier than 'Painkiller'. - Nick’s Choice

Craft have been releasing some of the finest hate filled, fast and raw Black Metal anywhere in the world since their inception in 1994, but they were exclusively a studio project until late last year when the band took on a number of dates in Scandinavia and Germany and I have been reliably informed that they slayed. Expect leather, spikes, corpse paint and some of the fastest, nastiest riffs that The Altar has ever seen with the satanic Swede’s bringing in the help of some former Shining members as well as jack of all trades Norwegian drummer Dirge Rep to complete the lineup. I can’t wait, a total highlight of the weekend for me. 'Fuck The Universe!' - Drew’s Choice

“Lay down your soul to the Gods Rock n Roll!” There’s no introduction needed for the Cronos fronted, Geordie lords of darkness who are returning to headline The Temple on Saturday as originators of the first wave of Black Metal sit atop of Norway’s second wave originators in (the true) Mayhem. With their filthy, sleaze filled, Satan worshipping Black Metal, the genres originators will be given a ruckus reception as their first three classic albums fill the setlist alongside highlights from their newest effort. Former member Abaddon put it best when he said this about the band on what you can expect from a Venom live show - "If you can think of every cliché, that's us. The loud, the fast, the bombs, the black magic....We are every cliché." - Drew’s Choice

We don’t usually include many of the big, obvious names on the bill in our festival previews. It goes without saying that you might be interested in watching the headline acts, but we couldn’t talk about this year’s Hellfest in any capacity without mentioning the main reason we’re crossing the channel and driving to Clisson, which is of course the mighty Scorpions! Having eluded all three of us over the years for some reason or another, their Saturday night headline slot promises to be, among other things, emotional. Too many hits to mention and too much expectation to put into words, The Scorpions promise to be one of the highlights of the festival and indeed our lives thus far. - Nick’s Choice

As far as visual spectacles go at Hellfest this year, Nightwish's Sunday night second stage headlining slot will undoubtedly be among the more extravagant. Touring off the back of their latest album Endless Forms Most Beautiful, their first with new singer whatsherface, expect symphonics, pyro, top hats and Gary Moore lookalikes galore from Finland's favourite storytellers. As a long time fan of the band and all of it’s previous lineups I’m still far from convinced about the latest setup, chiefly because I felt that the addition of both Anette and Marco had perfected the Nightwish formula. Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum were flawless albums and it was really sad to see them change things up yet again. However, I go into Hellfest with open eyes and ears and I really hope that they can change my mind. Fingers crossed. - Nick’s Choice

Saint Vitus
Following the arrest of current Vitus frontman Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich in Norway near the end of their autumn 2014 35th anniversary tour, Saint Vitus have drafted in original vocalist Scott Reagers for their Sunday night headlining slot, which makes this an opportunity not to be missed considering that Vitus as they are usually no strangers to Hellfest’s Valley stage. Reagers last recording with the band was 1995’s Die Healing, and even that was a reunion with Reagers originally having left the band after the release of their 1985 sophomore outing Hallow’s Victim. I fully expect The Valley to be filled on Sunday night to over capacity, with fans of America’s definitive doom band being given an opportunity to see rare outings of some legendary material and I’m sure a roaring rendition of the band’s self-titled track too. - Drew’s Choice

Tribulation have been bubbling under the mainstream consciousness since the release of their last album, but the tide is slowly turning upon the release of The Children of the Night with the band’s now more gothier aesthetic and brooding soundscapes as opposed to the straight up Death Metal of their youth. 2015 is a perfect time to acquaint yourself with the band, in particular their early morning slot on Sunday’s Altar stage lineup. Having toured across the globe with the likes of Watain and Behemoth, Tribulation are perfectly suited to play for a larger festival and with a wide and varied selection of songs to choose from you can expect a great show and also for them to never play this low down a festival bill again. - Drew’s Choice

Katon and his band of LA Thrash marauders are set to tear up the second main stage on Sunday with their early afternoon slot. We were blown away during Hirax's first ever UK show at Hammerfest in March, it was one of the the most explosive and breakneck Thrash performances we had ever seen (and we have seen a lot in our time!) that left us begging for more. Well we are more than ready for round two! So grab a beer or five and join us for one hell of a ride. I can't stress it enough - go and watch Hirax, you will not be disappointed. - Siggi’s Choice

Der Weg Einer Freiheit
German Atmospheric Black Metal band Der Weg Einer Freiheit will bring their sweeping, sombre sound scapes to Hellfest on Saturday afternoon, joining the already excellent line up of Black Metal bands on offer over the weekend. The band have had an excellent spate of festival shows over the last couple of years, Summer Breeze and Blast Fest to name a few, and have recently signed to French Extreme Metal powerhouse Season of Mist. If you’re like me and Black Metal is more your thing, or even perhaps if you fancy something a bit different then I highly recommend Der Weg Einer Freiheit. - Siggi’s Choice

The Exploited
Punk’s not dead. It wasn’t in 1981 and it isn’t now, and the Scottish lads in The Exploited are as much a testament to that now as they’ve ever been. The band’s sound encompasses old school punk with a thrashier edge and last laid waste to Clisson in 2011 with an intense performance that made most of their peers, even those much younger, pale in comparison. Even a heart attack on stage last year in Portugal couldn’t stop Frontman Wattie so expect beer, spit D-beat’s and Wattie’s iconic orange mohawk. - Drew’s Choice

In the case of Anthrax cancelling their appearance at Hellfest this year, all we can say is ‘Better Off Dead’ as their replacements are the kings of Teutonic Thrash themselves Sodom! Appearing alongside a wave of modern metal bands on Friday’s 2nd mainstage seems an odd fit but I’m sure the devoted will turn up for the band's signature chainsaw guitar sound and wall to wall violent thrash metal. As other appearances this summer promise to feature an old school setlist we can only hope that this is the case at Hellfest with rare gems such as ‘Deathlike Silence’ and ‘Witching Metal’ hopefully being given an airing in the late afternoon sun. Don’t miss them; they’re Sodom, enough said. - Drew’s Choice

Next up Russian Folk Metallers Arkona (not to be confused with the Polish Black Metal band of the same name but do check them out they are awesome) bring a dose of Slavic Pagan spirit to the weekend's proceedings. With Maria Arkhipova's beautiful vocals that range from death growls to enchanting singing, all to the backdrop of traditional Russian folk instruments and a hefty slice of heathen metal, what more could you want on a sunny Friday afternoon? So raise your drinking horns and celebrate the old Gods under the light of the summer sun. - Siggi’s Choice

Now if Arkona aren’t enough to get your heathen heart pumping then Latvia's Skyforger and their special brand of Folk Metal riddled with Latvian folk tales and melodies certainly will. I'm personally really looking forward to seeing this band live and I have been told they still do some of the old Black Metal material off the demo and first album to boot. With an energetic stage performance and a healthy dose of Pagan spirit, Skyforger are definitely a band not to be missed. Catch them on The Temple stage on Friday afternoon. - Siggi’s Choice

I always complain that there’s not enough Power Metal on at the festivals we cover. I completely 100% understand why there isn’t, but I whine all the same. Hellfest however always give me a special little something to point my plastic sword at so to speak. Last year it was Powerwolf, the year before that it was Symphony X, and in keeping suit this year it’s Epica! Founded in 2002, Epica have fought tooth and nail across just six releases to stand as one of the biggest names in all of Symphonic Metal, and deservedly so. Never sticking with a winning formula and always looking to outdo themselves with each new album, the culmination of years of innovation, experimentation and progressive writing resulted in last year’s The Quantum Enigma, an album that the band still find themselves touring deep into 2015 and that comes to Hellfest’s shores on the Sunday evening. For this first time viewing for me, I’m hoping for a live show that defines the band and their name, and I don’t suppose that I’ll be disappointed. - Nick’s Choice

Next up is yet another example of the sterling job Hellfest’s bookers do to bring the most diverse set of bands from all corners of not only the world, but also the subgenres of Heavy Metal. When Dead Roots Stirring arrived in my inbox years ago I’d never even heard of Elder. I have a very bad habit of ignoring a lot of American bands, and a lot of the good ones just get passed by. Luckily on this occasion, due to the awe-inspiring artwork on the cover, I hit play. Heavy in all the right places with plenty of room to progress. It was doom, but I liked it. Since then I’ve been digging the album out about once a year whenever I’ve needed something heavy and unforgiving with no agenda. The last couple of years has seen a small EP and a wonderful live album from Roadburn 2013 eventually lead to a second full release which landed earlier this year. Still touring off the back of Lore, I can’t wait to see how Elder make the jump from record to live show. - Nick’s Choice

Well that just about sums up our top picks for this year’s Hellfest, and with little over a month to go now it’s safe to say we’re getting pretty hyped about it. Drew’s roadtrip playlist and set times Spreadsheet of Absolute Power are already starting to take shape no doubt, so look out for us three stumbling around in our Denim and Leather colours, enjoy the festival, watch The Scorpions, and check out our full review of this year’s festivities in the days and weeks following it’s finale. See you out there \m/



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Title - The Sorrows That Refuse to Drown
Label - Ektro

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Date - 23rd- 26th March
Venue - Pwllheli, Wales  

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