“Hell ain’t a bad place to be”. There’s probably no better way to start the review of the mighty Hellfest! This huge festival happening each year in Clisson (France) has had exponential growth in popularity during the last few years and we have reached the point now where every year the tickets go sold out in less than 3 hours, way before a single band is announced on the lineup! The festival is known for being mainly metal-oriented, with 2 stages entirely dedicated to death/black/doom/extreme metal, but Hellfest has also evolved considerably from its first editions and is now offering a lineup which is also including many bands from the classic/hard rock scene.
Hellfest features 6 stages in total: 2 main stages (where the biggest bands and headliners play), the Altar Stage and the Temple Stage (dedicated to death, black & doom metal bands), the Valley Stage (mainly for stoner rock bands) and the War Zone (dedicated to punk & metalcore bands).
One of the main aspects that allow Hellfest to be a one-of-a-kind rock/metal festival is the fact that the site where the festival takes place is not rented, but it is owned by the hosts of the event, which means that they have literally built absolutely stunning permanent structures which are not taken down once the festival is finished! The village is a rock city with tattoo shops, clothes, motorbikes, musical instruments, two huge tents with a rock market, a huge number of bars, statues, installations, waterfalls, facilities of any kind, areas for fire shows, an entire forest decorated with atmosphere lights hidden in bronze towers. All of this goes beyond amazing!
The whole organization is also unbeatable: with your wristband, you get an attached microchip that allows you to recharge and pay cashless anything you want to buy inside the festival! Food, drinks, Hellfest merch…absolutely everything! This considerably reduces the time requested to buy your items and it’s a real ace on top of the security that it brings to the system. The site is so beautiful that it really seems you’re in a dream at first sight: you get perfectly green real grass that you could even walk without shoes during the entire festival! Fire and flames spitting from towers are constantly happening at nights all around the site and absolutely mind-blowing fire shows made by professional artists take place every evening! The 2 pair of stages Mainstage 1 and Mainstage 2, as well as Altar Stage & Temple Stage, alternate their sets and this gives the opportunity to have almost no break between 2 bands. The program is scheduled from 10:30 am to 2:00 am every day, no other festival runs for that many hours in one single day! It is also the reason why the number of bands playing at the Hellfest is always bigger than the other rock festivals around Europe.
HELLFEST 2019 HIGHLIGHTS
The first day of the 2019 edition starts with shocking news in the morning, just before doors were opening: Manowar wouldn’t have played their headline set scheduled for that very day! The announcement was made via Hellfest official facebook page with a clear statement that specified how the band decided to leave the festival despite being already onsite. As of today, what happened exactly is unknown, but Manowar and Hellfest are going through legal ways and the truth will maybe come out one day, but one thing is for sure, leaving the fans from all over the world who travelled for days and miles to come to see you play is the most unrespectful action that an artist could make! People have spent money, time, they took days off from work to see you and on the day of the show you decide not to show up. Well, this is unacceptable. Anyway, the best part of this story is that in the early afternoon an announcement was made by the festival saying that Sabaton would have replaced Manowar as Friday headliners! The bands had played the day before on the same stage at Knotfest and being fans of Manowar they stayed on the site to enjoy the initially scheduled show of Manowar, that was then transformed into their set! And man, they gave a wonderful performance! A show full of epic songs, fireworks, fire, flames, military choirs, a full-size tank on stage, absolutely amazing! Despite Joakim having troubles with his voice after 3 songs, the band honoured their commitment by still playing the full set with the two guitarists taking over the singing of the songs with superb vocal skills while still playing their guitar parts! Hail and respect to the heroes of Hellfest 2019!
Other highlights of the day included Carcass, delivering a set of unbeatable quality of sound. Radio Moscow showing how Blues Rock can be the catchier sound ever, Dropkick Murphys making us dance and sing along for more than one hour non-stop; Dream Theater showing us that aliens actually exist on Earth (John Petrucci delivered a divine performance) and Sum 41 reminding us all when we were teenagers and that they are still kicking ass on stage after all these years!
Saturday was the day where classic rock/hard rock took over with legends such as Whitesnake, Def Leppard, ZZ Top and KISS! David Coverdale showed he’s still an icon of rock n’ roll, able to deliver a performance of a very high level! The songs of Whitesnake’s new album sound really good live and they show that the band is still at a top-level!
Regarding Def Leppard, I can only hope that wasn’t their day. I am sure they are still way better than the performance they delivered at this festival. Elliott struggled during the entire set and Phil Collen wasn’t accurate on many of the songs, let’s just say that it wasn’t their day. ZZ Top is always enjoyable, despite not being the most spectacular band ever, their songs are so catchy that you just forget about everything else. And then comes KISS! They delivered an epic show! Not only because of the fire, but the flames, the fireworks, Paul’s Zipline or Gene’s blood spit out, we could experience an incredible vocal performance from Paul who looked like he was back in the days of their glorious career! We will miss KISS as hell once this farewell tour will be over!
Other highlights of the day included the great shows of metalcore bands Whitechapel and Architects, the incredible talent of Richie Kotzen and the absolute stunning set of Within Temptation! Sharon den Andel is one of the greatest symphonic metal singers in the entire world and delivered unbelievable vocals throughout the set! The new modern sound of Within Temptation works very well and the crowd seemed to enjoy quite a lot this new chapter of the band.
Sunday couldn’t start better as Tesla brought to the main stage their incomparable sound able to reach every single fan of rock & metal music, no matter their favourite genres! Sunday is also full of classic rock & hard rock legends such as Lynyrd Skynyrd (who played an emotional farewell set) and Slash ft Myles Kennedy delivering, as usual, the greatest performance you could imagine! The surprise of the day was Clutch who showed that you can create catchy and powerful songs that are at the same time. Sunday was also the day of thrash metal legends Death Angel, Testament, Anthrax, Lamb Of God and the mighty Slayer!
Lamb of God delivered what is probably the best set of the weekend! Their sound is absolutely unbelievable, with Randy Blythe showing that his growl vocal skills are among the best in the world! Slayer finally delivered another fantastic and consistent show, saying goodbye to their epic career with a high note! In conclusion, the headliners of the day Tool played a show that was honestly really hard to enjoy, even if we’re talking about impeccable musicians, I strongly believe that you can’t do a show where you don’t want to be seen live, otherwise, you are completely out of the live show concept.
Hellfest 2019 has once more proved to be the leader of rock/metal festivals in Europe, with such a high level of overall management, cleaning, decor and lineup above many (if not all) other festivals. The proof that this festival is on another level is the fact that it always sells out even before the lineup announcements for the following year and there is no way you can be disappointed by Hellfest.