REVIEW: Hellfest Day Two, Clisson, France 20/06/2015

As we tucked into a selection of cheeses, cooked hams and freshly baked French baguettes whilst perusing the schedule for the day ahead, it was clear that it was going to be a very busy one, even for Hellfest standards. So after filling up our hip flasks, charging our camera batteries and applying a generously northern amount of sun cream, we headed for the arena in anticipation of what could well be the best day of the whole weekend.


Taking to the stage with the kind of energy and enthusiasm that only Americans could possess, Elder more than helped the gathered zombie masses regroup from the antics of the night before with their early set in The Valley stage. For a band that describes themselves as “the definition of a work in progress”, they played like veterans of the road and left with more than a few new fans to boot after delivering a well oiled set. 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring was the album that originally peaked our interest in the band so it was nice to hear some material from that alongside tracks from their latest release Lore during the short but memorable half an hour set. A special shoutout has to also be given to whoever was in charge of the lighting during this set that managed to fill the stage with moody blues and sweeping reds despite the glistening morning light beaming in through the tent entrance. A great start to the day and one to keep an eye on for the future in Elder.

Der Weg Einer Freiheit

There are many good ways to recover from a slightly hungover Saturday morning. A good hearty breakfast, a long country walk etc, but none beat a healthy dose of Atmospheric Black Metal to blow Friday nights cobwebs away. Der Weg einer Freiheit are a band who are really starting to make a name for themselves after recently signing to French label Season of Mist (home of Mayhem, Drudkh, Ascension and 1349 to name a few) and we were really looking forward to seeing them live. The Germans took to The Temple stage and launched into a short, sharp set of some really beautiful and sweeping Black Metal full of sombre riffs and picturesque mid-tempo sections alongside thundering Hate Forest-esque blast beats. It's safe to say we were very impressed. Der Weg einer Freiheit take a no nonsense, no theatrics approach to their stage show - no corpse paint, no candles etc - in a sense just four unassuming blokes who let the music do the talking, overall reminding us of a German Winterfylleth both visually and musically. It's safe to say it was a fantastic set full of atmosphere and quality musicianship with a strong vocal performance and the band really painted pictures with the music which in our opinion is the key ingredient for Atmospheric Black Metal. When all was said and done we walked away fans that day and were left craving more. And just in case you were interested, the name translates to ‘The Way of Freedom.’


The Temple stage played host to some real underground gems this year, and none more than Swedish cultists Craft whose music is the embodiment of raw Black Metal with their status in the underground bordering on legendary. With the band having been releasing the most ripping and unholy Black Metal since the 90’s, it was with quite a surprise that they took to the live arena last year which carried on into 2015 with this appearance at Hellfest to celebrate them signing to French curators of death Season of Mist. With so much ground to cover in such a small slot the band wasted no time in whipping their corpse painted faces into action and let the onslaught begin with a no nonsense show and a setlist plucked from their four previous full-length efforts. Vocalist Nox offered very little animation but a completely unholy vocal delivery literally reaching to the depths of hell to muster up his guttural chants. The new for this year open tents provide a lot more light which can sometimes hamper the live performance of particularly grim Black Metal, but this didn’t take away from Craft’s carnivorous delivery and spite. Unfortunately, with only a 40 minute set it seemed to be over just as our necks had warmed up from yesterday’s abuse. A top set all round and if you get the chance to catch Craft live we thoroughly recommend it as you never know how much longer this foray into the live arena will last.


Three words - "Power From Hell!". Round here at D&L we love a good bit of Thrash and one of our favourite cult Thrash albums is Onslaught's 1985 debut Power From Hell. With our minds still blown by Craft’s blistering performance we made the quick jump over to The Altar stage to catch Bristol's finest Thrashers and whip out our air guitars. With Sodoms performance on Friday still fresh in our minds we were ready for another break neck dose of one of our favourite metal sub-genres and boy were we not disappointed. Onslaught ripped into a set list with a healthy mix of new and old material as the packed out Altar tent went berserk into a sea of head banging, air guitars and mosh pits. From old School heroes in painted Voivod leather jackets to thrash revival kids in flip caps and municipal waste shirts, Onslaught went over a storm with the crowd. Whipping through classics like ‘Metal Forces’, ‘Fight with the Beast’ & ‘Let there be death’ then of course finishing on the belting ‘Onslaught (Power From Hell)’, Onslaught bowed out leaving the carnage behind them and proving once again the longevity of Thrash Metal and it's ability to move a crowd in the live arena. We were left with sore necks, dry throats, ready for a nice cold beer and more than ready for Exodus on Sunday!


Arriving again at The Temple, this time there was an air of mystery in the air as Kvlt icons and probably the most popular of the 90s LLN scene Mütiilation were to perform a one off show after not playing live since 2001. Much to the disdain of keyboard warriors, purists and bedroom elitists everywhere, Meyhna'ch had decided to perform this one off at a large festival and for those in attendance it was certainly worth it. Meyhna'ch entered the stage looking like a drugged out zombie with a white wife beater and long dreadlocks, which is far from the corpse paint and cloaks of his early press shots. Bringing together his ensemble, they ran through 7 songs ranging from the band’s earliest works to some of their later material, having brought in AZK6 on drums and a particularly energetic Makro (of Samael fame) who took on lead guitar duties for the performance. Whilst not expecting much of a spectacle in regards to the performance, our primary worry was that the rawness wouldn’t translate to a live setting and with LLN releases being praised for their coarse, simplistic quality we were curious if the unique atmosphere of this period could be captured. Fortunately this was unfounded as the guitars were laced in layers of feedback and rawness with Meyhna'ch offering a spiteful delivery that was true to the spirit of his creation. The highlight for ourselves was certainly the airing of two tracks from the band’s debut full length Vampires of Black Imperial Blood which is one of our favourite Black Metal releases altogether and the brilliant closer ‘Destroy Your Life for Satan’ - words to live by judging by the state of Meyhna'ch by the end of the evening.


After fighting through hordes of screaming, warpaint clad bodies to reach the photo pit, Ensiferum took to the stage to rapturous applause before breaking straight into ‘Axe of Judgement’ from the band’s latest album One Man Army. The new album would be a running theme, but surprisingly not an unwelcome one. Fans of Ensiferum tend to be split between the new and old material/lineup, but there were only die hards to be found in The Temple on this evening and they numbered in their thousands pouring out of the tent and into the festival. That being said, amongst the new album tracks were some real treats form throughout Ensiferum’s illustrious catalogue, and alongside ‘Warrior Without a War’ from the new album the main highlights of the set were in ‘Lai Lai Hei’ and especially a rare venture into the first album with ‘Treacherous Gods’. An explosive performance as ever from the Finns; The Temple was left pumped up for the rest of the evening and we were left with more than a few memorable crowd photos.

We make the day and a half road trip to Clisson and Hellfest every year for various reasons. The lineup, the weather, the picturesque location, the list goes on. Every year, though there is a moment when we definitively know that we’re going, and this year it was when the Scorpions were announced. They’re a band that we all worship yet one that has always eluded us, and as night fell on Hellfest and we had just finished watching a truly spectacular fireworks display to mark the tenth anniversary of the festival, the Germans began a very different unstoppable invasion of France. The next hour and a half was like something out of a fairytale. It was the set we’d always dreamed of from the Scorpions, with tracks like ‘The Zoo’, ‘Winds of Change’ and even an acoustic medley of ‘Always Somewhere/Eye of the Storm/Send me an Angel’ that practically left our editor in tears appearing in the first half alone. Schenker and Jabs were masters of their craft, skipping around the main stage delivering effortlessly poignant riffs whilst grinning like Hannover cats. Klaus Meine was everything we’d built up in our minds and more, seemingly unable to go two sentences without letting out a “come on babyyyy” or two. Highlights from part two of the show came from crowd pleaser ‘Big City Lights’ and D&L personal favourites in ‘Dynamite’ and ‘Blackout’, leaving us starting to think if this set was entirely dedicated to us and waiting for Beadle to jump out of a nearby bush. Now normally encores are something that we despise beyond all reckoning, but we were more than happy to let the scorps off, so when they gently broke into the ballad to end all others ‘Still Loving You’ as another firework display took place above them, we basked in the glory of the situation until it’s climactic end. Finishing up as always with ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ before bowing out, the Scorpions left us with a real sense of gratitude as we raced across the dark fields of Clisson to catch Venom in the tent.

As we were well past the Witching hour there was no better way to end the day than with the originators of the style we all love, Venom! Taking to The Temple stage with a wall of Marshalls and a ridiculously large drum kit, Newcastle’s second favourite sons were intent on showing the young bucks how it’s done. Opening with a mixture of new material and some of their singles from the early 80’s including the brilliant ‘Bloodlust’, Venom took to the stage with an intensity and vigour that you would expect from a band that prides themselves on delivering a show from their early days, until now favouring quality instead of quantity with Hellfest being no exception. Other than the lack of pyro (a Venom staple and one which Cronos blamed the organisers for denying us) everything was as it should have been. Even without the theatrics you would expect it’s all about the music and Venom certainly have the material to deliver on that part, starting with a thunderously bassy version of ‘Buried Alive’ that left one of our writers needing to go to the toilet. Cast in Stone isn’t generally peoples go to Venom album and for good reason, but a rare airing of ‘The Evil One’ before getting to the business end of the set went down well. We were then treated to a run through of the band’s most popular material from their first two legendary albums Welcome to Hell and Black Metal, the latter of which’s self-titled track was a treat to see live. The still strong crowd chanting “lay down your souls to the gods rock and roll” is something that will stick with me until my dying day. Truly a legendary band that still deliver a brilliant show even without all the bells and whistles.

And after an exhausting albeit very rewarding day of nonstop heavy metal, day two was over. We headed back to camp with Venom still ringing in our heads to reflect on around 14 hours of bands wondering if we’d make it to Nidingr the following morning. Thankfully we would, and you can catch what happened on day three in the coming days.



Artist - Jesters of Destiny
Title - The Sorrows That Refuse to Drown
Label - Ektro

Thirty years after Jesters of Destiny arrived, dropped Fun at the Funeral and disappeared back into the night, they’re finally back with a second full length release courtesy of Ektro Records, and whilst it could never live up to first album, the eccentricity of the band shines through once more and it’s a crazy ride from start to finish. Pick it up on April 4th!



Artist - Hammerfest IX
Date - 23rd- 26th March
Venue - Pwllheli, Wales  

One of our main highlights of the year, this month we’re off to Wales for Hammerfest, HRH’s Heavy Metal flagship. With the return of two Power Metal titans alongside a host of others, this year looks to be one of their best ever. We’ll be covering the whole festival and conducting interviews as well so lookout for the cameras!