REVIEW: Hellfest Day Three, Clisson, France 21/06/2015

As the relentless sun shone through our tents and forced us outside to face the final day of Hellfest, a delightful mixture of ‘Winds of Change’ and ‘Bloodlust’ floated through our heads from the night before. Looking at the schedule it was another very busy day indeed with lots to look forward to, chief of all the rarest of chances to see Scott Reagers perform with Vitus, something that we all thought we were ‘Born Too Late’ for. *Ahem*, is this thing on?

Nidingr
We started out the final day at Hellfest where we have collectively spent most of our waking hours - sipping cold beer and warm rum - at The Temple stage. Opening up proceedings were Norwegian horde Nidingr. Having been around since 1996 but not being the most productive band in terms of studio output and now on the side lines even more with Teloch’s involvement in the modern line up of (The True) Mayhem, it was interesting to see what the band had to offer. What they had was a brand of no nonsense Black Metal, delivered with no theatrics and no bullshit. A perfect way to spend half an hour at the beginning of a long day.

Tribulation

With the smell of burning incense drawing us away from the Temple towards the aptly named Altar stage for Sweden’s Vampyre metal act Tribulation known for their very distinct brand of horror themed, progressive and atmospheric Metal of Death. Mixing everything from The Door’s and The Beatles to Fields of The Nephilim and Watain with only half an hour to display their impressive sound in front of a crowd of people all recovering from a three day hangover this was no mean feat. Entering the stage fully clad in a primitive style of corpse paint and rather classy stage attire the band burst into ‘Strange Gateway’s Beckon, the perfect opener for a live show as well as the first track on their mesmerising new album The Children of the Night with the rest of their short set drawing from their last two more progressive efforts it’s difficult to capture a crowd in a surrounding that’s filled with sunlight and hung over people but Tribulation managed this with ease and once they had left there’s no doubt they had the crowd in the palm of their hands. If only they were given more time, Tribulation are clearly a band that are going places and there’s no way they will be this low down a festival bill again.

Khold

Back again we marched to the Temple stage and again for a Norwegian band, this time for the Black n’ Roll leanings of Khold. After taking a few years off from playing live the band now seems to be everywhere and Hellfest was no exception to this. The band is masterminded by Gard, who if nothing else has the most innovative corpse paint in the world with quite elaborate stage attire that leaves the rest of the band looking quite average in comparison. With a more groove laden sound and a slight industrial tinge, they delivered a competent performance that loosened up the neck muscles for later on in the day. Competent but nothing spectacular.

Exodus

We have always been huge fans of Exodus here at D&L and have seen the band many times over the years, but never with Zetro at the helm so this really was going to be a treat for us especially with Gary Holt off galavanting with Slayer it seemed like a fair trade off. Our main concern was after all the years would Zetro have the energy, stage presence and crowd controlling abilities of his predecessor Rob Jukes whose furious stage antics have become somewhat of a trade mark of the band in recent years. Well we can safely say Zetro had it in spades, stomping round the stage like a mad man pulling the crowd apart for walls of death while commanding dust kicking circle pits. The crowd were eating out of his hands, and vocally he did not miss a beat sounding word for word like he did on record and even putting Jukes to shame on his own material. Despite us thinking beforehand this was going to be a straight old school set from Exodus the band played quite a surprising mix of material from certified classics like 'The Toxic Waltz' ,'Piranha' and 'Bonded by Blood' to modern fan favourites like 'Children of a Worthless God' and 'Black List'. They even threw in a mini Slayer cover for good measure, and as a little joke for those wondering where Gary was. The band bowed out to 'Strike of the Beast', leaving nothing but devastation in their wake. Exodus are a band with a rich history and a fantastic body of music behind them that proves no matter the line up they are a band that just can't be stopped. Once again we walked away from the glaring sun of the main stage with sore necks and beaming grins on our normally miserable faces.

Grave Pleasures

A band that we were really looking forward to seeing again turned into one that was forgotten about due to the recent name change from Beastmilk to Grave Pleasures and them subsequently going unnoticed on the bill. Once we realised it was met with jubilation as their brand of hypnotic, apocalyptic post-punk was exactly what the doctor ordered in between spouts of crushing Black Metal. The departure of guitarist Johann "Goatspeed" Snell and the aforementioned name chance gave us cause for concern and there were fears that the band who had captivated us both on record and in the live arena over the last couple of years would be a thing of the past too. Thankfully, the figures that stood before us on The Temple’s smoke filled stage were more than happy to put us at ease by delivering a captivating show full of all the ghoulish escapades and lenitive rhythms we’ve come to expect and indeed crave from the band. Determined to keep the past a part of who they are whilst moving forward in this new direction, we were treated to a host of material from Climax including ‘Genocidal Crush’, ‘Love in a Cold World’ and the infectious ‘Death Reflects Us’. The new material - much like the new lineup on stage - was refreshing yet familiar and it seems fairly safe to say at this stage that the band we love has not only survived, but prospered. Looking ahead to September they will be moving firmly forward and releasing Dreamcrash, check back for the review of that closer to the time.

Alestorm

We’ve all seen Alestorm numerous times over the years - sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident - and their following of crazed, swashbuckling lunatics is always something to behold. Chanting mindlessly for the Scots whilst brandishing various bits of inflatable pirate paraphernalia above their heads, the wishes of the masses were granted at last as Christopher Bowes and his literal band of merry men waltzed out to the tune of ‘Walk the Plank’, and the chaos began. It was a variable medley of classic Alestorm on display with ‘The Sunk’n Norwegian’, ‘Nancy the Tavern Wench’ and ‘Keelhauled’ all making an appearance in the first half of the set, and the crowd was lapping it up. Now I suppose we have to mention the crowdsurfing. In our experience, the title for the most shirtless neck beards surfing over the rails and kicking everyone they can in the head on their way is tightly contested between the fans of Alestorm and Municipal Waste. After seeing the blissfully unaware and evidently unbriefed security attempt to deal with wave after wave of Alestormers in a reckless panic in The Temple that evening, we’re ready to award it to them. Although the creativity of the inflatables and indeed the manner in which they surf on them goes to the Wasters hands down. Alestorm kept the momentum at maximum throughout the show, right down to the end of their finishing double of ‘Drink’ and ‘Rum’ - a series of commands nobody needed to tell us but which we were welcome for all the same.

Epica

Other than a very late night slot for Nightwish that sadly we were too drunk to attend, Epica provided the only doorway into the mythical realm of Symphonic Power Metal of the whole weekend. The sun was shining, the main stage was packed and our editor was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Epica had begun! Having worked tirelessly since their inception to forge their name as one of the biggest in the genre, Epica were a commanding presence and looked at home on the main stage. If there was ever any doubt as to the band's popularity you would only have to look at the adoring front row of punters, clad from head to toe in Epica merch and looking up at Simone Simons like she was the second coming. Simone's voice was a beacon across a sea of gathered fans as they delivered a host of tracks from new album The Quantum Enigma, littered with some classic favourites along the way. It wont be long before Epica are touring a new album once more and we find these tracks blending in with the classics seamlessly no doubt. Finishing on the title track from Consign to Oblivion, Epica called it a day to rapturous applause. They'll be back for sure, and we hope to catch them in a more intimate venue sometime in the future, too.

Samael
For a small nation the Swiss really have produced some fine Black Metal and Sunday nights Temple line up was a tribute to that with seminal acts Samael and Triptykon (featuring Celtic Frost mastermind Tom G Warrior). Tonights offering was in celebration of 1994’s undoubted classic Ceremony of Opposites which was to be played in full from start to finish. With the band’s sound having changed so much over the years we were curious to see how they lined up for a set geared more towards the old school crowd but they blended the old with the new, utilising a half acoustic and half electric drum kit alongside an arrangement of samplers and keyboards. This set up had led to the material from Ceremony of Opposites to be presented in a more jazzed up form, utilising the path the band have travelled in their more recent years to give a new and industrial perspective to the album. The first noticeable thing about this performance was the off the charts enthusiasm that the band presented each song with - refreshing for an older band particularly one on a stage that praises the grim and nihilistic. Samael delivered a brilliant set full of energy and gave their material a lease of life which will surely see the band touring for the foreseeable future. The only downside to this reinterpretation was the last three tracks being drawn from Passage and Lux Mundi turning the Temple stage into a mini rave, much to the bemusement of unknowing onlookers and strictly fans of their older material.

Nuclear Assault
The weekends Thrash antics came to a close with Danny Lilkers Cult New York Thrashers Nuclear Assault. After last years show with Brutal Truth Lilker continued his farewell tour with in our opinion one of his best bands, once again dragging us out of the Extreme Metal tents and into the glare of the afternoon sun as the band ripped into a break neck set of punky crossover Thrash in front of a packed out main stage crowd. The beauty of Nuclear Assault is that the songs are short and sweet and the band managed to whip through quite a healthy dose of the back catalogue during the set - ripping through personal favourites like 'Brain Washed', 'Critical Mass','Game Over' and 'My America' and of course everyone's favourite "Hang the Pope". Once again the heat of the French summer didn't stop the legions of Thrashers from tearing up the Clisson soil in a frenzy of head banging and circle pits. Nuclear Assault departed the stage living up to their name, leaving nothing but a desolate wasteland behind them with a performance that stands as a testament to the legacy and contribution Danny Lilker has made to Heavy Metal and the longevity of the music he has contributed to.

Saint Vitus

Consistency is not something to be scoffed at and one band who have it in absolute bucket loads are Saint Vitus, always delivering both on record and in the live arena. However, after Wino’s very public substance problems the band seemingly have a cloud over their heads and a level of uncertainty with the return of original vocalist Scott Reagers. There were doubts as we made our way over to The Valley stage of his ability to sing the material and front such a legendary band but that was cast aside merely a few notes into 1995’s Die Healing opener ‘Dark World’. Reager’s stage antics might have looked a little awkward but he didn’t miss a beat vocally and was backed up by the feedback laden madness that only Dave Chandler can provide. Saint Vitus seemed to be nailing it. With a set drawing heavily from the bands classic 1984 self-titled debut mixed with the aforementioned Die Healing and the side of the stage loaded with members of various Doom bands who have played throughout the day including NOLA’s finest Eyehategod, they moved onto the standard closer ‘Born Too Late’, ringing true as much as it did in 1986 albeit with a torrent of balloons being dropped on top of the crowd, a seemingly odd touch. A classic band and a rare performance and there’s no better place to witness them than in the smoke filled Temple stage at Hellfest, an experience we probably won’t get the chance to relive again.

Tryptikon

Closing the Temple stage (admittedly the place we had spent most of our collective weekend) and also the end of the Swiss double header were Triptykon. Formed as a continuation of the Celtic Frost legacy, Tom G Warrior's Triptykon keep going from strength to strength. Now on their second album cycle and having laid waste to venues worldwide they were ready for Hellfest, unfortunately though not dabbling in Hellhammer material today that they had lavished previous venues with. WIth the sun slowly dying off and darkness descending over hell, Tom G entered the stage last of the band in a cloud of dry smoke and instantly burst into undoubted Metal classic and one of our favourite songs period ‘Procreation(Of the Wicked)’ letting the crowd know his illustrious past is not to be forgotten. With Triptykon being a continuation rather than a completely new band, their material has been consistently brilliant and Melana Chasmata being no different. I always find with a new album if the songs slot seamlessly into a band’s setlist alongside classic material it’s a true testament to that album’s staying power. ‘Altar of Deceit’ and ‘Tree Of Suffocating Souls’ were every bit as good as the now customary ‘Circle of the Tyrants’, but the true treat for the evening was a rendition of absolute neck destroyer ‘The Usurper’ from Celtic Frost’s Black Metal classic To Mega Therion. One thing about seeing Triptykon live - which we have managed quite a few times since their formation - is the utterly crushing guitar sound that Tom G Warrior musters that lays waste to all that stand before it. On top of that, just how loud and heavy this band are consistently with an atmosphere to match that is unparalleled but also the daring decision of the band to play longer songs which even with the one hour time slot they managed to close on the utterly soul destroying ‘The Prolonging’, all 20 minutes of the piece which slows to a funeral dirge before pulling the curtain on a crushingly heavy weekend at Hellfest.



After a day - and indeed a whole weekend - of the finest in Black, Thrash, Pagan, Power, Death and more courtesy of the magnificent men and women that put this most wonderful festival together, Hellfest was over for another year. There were fireworks, there were tears, and plenty of smeared corpse paint to boot. We would normally look ahead to next year now, however all three of us are engaged elsewhere for the weekend which means over the next few months we’ll be on the lookout for a few aspiring photographers and would be Heavy Metal journalists to represent Denim and Leather at next years festival. For more information or to apply, hit us up on Facebook or email nick@denimandleather@gmail.com. See you in 2017, Clisson \m/

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ALBUM OF THE MONTH-MAR '17

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!



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GIG OF THE MONTH - MAR '17

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

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