Hellfest 2013: Day Two

author AP date 01/07/13

On the second day of Hellfest '13, the weather turned markedly worse, with frequent showers and violent gusts of wind dictating the proceedings. It was ambivalent in the worst possible way: spells of pressing humid heat intertwined with shivering cold as storm clouds swept over Clisson, with the result that it was impossible to decide whether to wear Wellies and deal with the discomfort, or if one's feet would remain dry with ordinary shoes. In any case, we are not a meteorological institute; we are a rock webzine. As such, I won't trouble you further with such trivial ranting, and get right down to business for Day 2, which had a distinct nu-metal focus to the concerts on the two Main Stages.

For impressions of the festival in general, as well as reviews from Day 1, click here. Otherwise scroll down to read mine & PP's thoughts on some of the performances on Day 2.


DAY TWO

Skindred @ 10:30-11:00 on Main Stage 2

It's still early in the morning on festival standards, and Skindred are ten minutes late to open the main stage, not exactly the best start to any set. But eventually they do make it on stage to the tune of "Imperial March" from Star Wars, except it's a modified version embedded with 'ragga' rhythms (reggae/metal combo) that the band is known for. They throw down immediately with crazy electronics, while their vocalist, who is looking like an authentic rastafarian, removes his military helmet to reveal a bandana, which he will proceed to use as a prop through the set. Basically, Skindred's set is a great party started and a wake up call for anyone still half asleep, both because their music is so upbeat and catchy, but also because it is so god damn innovative and unique. The vocalist showcases diverse dance moves on stage, whether side-ways stepping or dancing on tp of the amps to their reggae- inspired metal tunes. "Pressure" draws a huge response from the crowd, and new song "Kill The Power" is so inherently catchy that the crowd learns the chorus after the first try. When the vocalist later gets half of the crowd to take off their t-shirts to swing them above their heads football style during "Warning", everyone is sold, if they weren't that already. I don't think any other band coud've moved the main stage crowd in the same way as Skindred did this morning. Amazing. [8½] PP

P.O.D @ 12:50-13:30 on Main Stage 2

It's been 10 years since P.O.D last were in Europe, announces vocalist Sonny Sandoval early on in their show. On paper feeling like a comedy booking given their entirely irrelevant status in the recorded music world, P.O.D quickly prove everyone wrong with big stage experience that shows immediately from the first song. Yes - and I can't believe I'm saying this - but the rap metal of P.O.D, complete with the hip hop-esque appearance on stage rathern than a rock band, is actually pretty fucking good live. Their singer is full of energy, either bouncing across the stage like a madman, or kneeling/bending down to scream his throat out during the heavy sections. Speaking of which, there are a lot more of those than I remember; maybe P.O.D are playing their heavy material on purpose given this is Hellfest and all. Either way, the band absolutely explodes on stage during the heavy sections, and showcases both the energy and the songs needed to justify a main stage slot. "P.O.D DOESN'T CHANGE, SAN DIEGO CALIFORNIA LIFESTYLE MUSIC", Sandoval shouts, and he's right. P.O.D in 2013 sounds the same as P.O.D in 2003, except their live performance has become genuinely good. Predictably the band finishes with "Alive" to huge sing alongs echoing across the crowd - redeeming themselves from the Limp Bizkit status I always thought they had otherwise. [7½] PP

Procession

Procession @ 12:50-13:30 on The Valley

My Saturday at Hellfest '13 begins with a dose of melodic doom metal, courtesy of a band that proves the six degrees of separation theory: though originally from Valparaiso in Chile, Procession currently reside in Sweden, and include the son of one of PP & I's father's colleagues, guitarist Jonas Pedersen, in their line-up. As such it is of course a pleasure to see how far the band have come, featuring at one of the biggest metal festivals in Europe before a sizable audience. Instrumentally, some of the band's work draws parallels to Primordial, though vocally Procession's guitar-wielding frontman Felipe Plaza Kutzbach (who, by the way, doubles as a session guitarist for Nifelheim) is more akin to Sentenced and Poisonblack's Ville Laihiala - particularly in "Raven of Disease" off the band's 2009 EP "The Cult of Disease", which in some parts sounds more akin to classic heavy metal than doom.

Procession demonstrate confidence in their abilities, and this reflects in a captivating stage presence, with drummer Uno Bruniusson coming across as especially radiant. But above all else it is the strength of Procession's material that carries their performance, with the title track to their masterpiece "To Reap Heaven's Apart" (2013) and "Chants of the Nameless" from their debut LP "Destroyers of the Faith" (2010) sounding downright surreal in the early afternoon haze, the abundant lead arranged written to perfection. Procession deliver a fine mix of old songs and new, full of rich melodies, melancholy and mourning. [8] AP

The Casualties

The Casualties @ 13:35-14:15 on Warzone

People often call The Casualties the punkest band on planet. The more I watch them play live, the more I think opposing arguments are like arguing against facts: retarded. Today, the set starts with the vocalist pouring two beers on his face and then shaking them off violently. "Unknown Soldier" follows shortly after with a reasonably big woohoo sing alongs, while the guitarist breaks the strap of his guitar but tears the next couple of songs through anyway. The whole set reeks of middle finger in the air-attitude driven street punk, especially when the vocalist screams in his characteristic throaty manner that they still hate cops, religion, racism et cetera. They are tired of circle pits, it seems, so they challenge audience members to a punk rock chicken fight, the winner of which will receive free backstage passes, free beer, free merch and much more. Basically it consists of big guys with small guys on their shoulders, trying to make each other fall in the pit. Pretty funny. It's raining right now though, so the party vibe is dampened a little bit, though it is restored again with the massive gang sing alongs of "We Are All We Have" at the end of the set. [7] PP

Coal Chamber @ 14:20-15:10 on Main Stage 2

Today's theme is nu-metal early on, so the next band on Main Stage 2 is Coal Chamber, who were one of the pioneers of the genre with releases as early as in 1997 and 1999 before the movement really took off. They're from the heavier end of the genre, more akin to koRn's early material than Papa Roach, and broke up in 2003 only to get back together in 2011. They treat us to a number of crushing nu-metal numbers, while providing some entertainment on stage: the guitarist is being a purposeful dick to the crew, knocking over mic stands, drum equipment, and whatnot, causing a constant stream of crew running across the stage to fix it (while the drummer throws drum sticks at them from behind, pretty funny). Their female bassist dances around in circular motions in her gothic outfit, whilst the vocalist leans low down for some heavy headbanging otherwise. Their stage show can best be described as 'tearing' with much heavier riffs than you're used to hearing in nu-metal, but otherwise they didn't capture the crowd's imagination very well today. [6½] PP

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats @ 14:20-15:10 on The Valley

Following a doom laden beginning to the day, I remain planted near the Valley tent for the next 50 minutes in anticipation of a rather different proposition in Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. These are a very casual looking bunch of beardy dudes who make their entrance in a non-chalant manner devoid of any intro track or unnecessary theatrics. It's appropriate demeanor from a band whose closest modern musical associates are Graveyard and Witchcraft, but this air of indifference that emanates from them does not make them a particularly interesting act to watch live. Musically, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats balance themselves between banging heritage rock songs such as "I'll Cut You Down" and "Crystal Spiders" and slower, gloomier compositions like "Mt. Abraxas" that naturally remind me of Black Sabbath. As the quartet - comprising guitarist/vocalists K.R. Starrs and Yotam Rubinger, bassist Dean Millar and drummer Thomas Mowforth - jam their way through the deceptively catchy "Mind Crawler" off their newest lovechild "Mind Control", I make note that this is probably the least metal band at the festival, and although the four dudes are well and truly lost in their own music with no real connection to the audience, there's a healthy amount of good tracks to appreciate aurally here, with the more ballad style picks in particular stroking my curiosity. [6½] AP

3 Doors Down

3 Doors Down @ 15:15-16:05 on Main Stage 1

Okay, so what the fuck are 3 Doors Down doing here? I mean I like the band and all, but seriously, what the hell? They're the odd one out by a long shot with their pop rock songs, despite early material having a hint of grunge to it such as "Duck And Run" and "Kryptonite", both of which are aired today. Nevertheless, they do surprisingly well in front of a hardened metal audience, perhaps because everyone needs a good mid afternoon relaxing breather from the heavy music that otherwise dominates the festival. And maybe it's just me, but it seems like the frontman acts a little tougher than usual today, pacing the stage from left to right in his casual tempo, but also clenching his fist as if to show off his guns every now and then. Either way, it's a nostalgia driven set for most people it seems; I guess metal heads used to be listening to 3 Doors Down as well back in their youth. [7] PP

Down @ 17:05-17:55 on Main Stage 1

There's always the danger that, when watching a band twice in one week in an identical setting, the second show is going to be too similar to the first and thus warrant less praise. That is the case with Down, whose performance at Copenhell stood out as one of that event's clearest highlights, this afternoon - though thankfully it isn't the exact same course of events. Beginning the set with a short jam session that sees vocalist Phil Anselmo pretend-banging an inflatable Lolita doll that he requests a security guard throws him, Down plough through largely the same array of songs as at Copenhell (though with "New Orleans is a Dying Whore" and "Underneath Everything" omitted due to the stricter time constraints here).

Anselmo is his usual ultra-macho self, telling us all to "shut the fuck up with the Down-chanting" before introducing "Lifer" with a hefty burp and short tribute to his deceased compatriot Dimebag Darrell. Visibly energised by the song, he then proceeds to rhythmically pound the microphone into his forehead until he bleeds, providing the appropriate visual aesthetic to one of the heaviest, and certainly the manliest performances at Hellfest '13. "Lysergik Funeral Procession", which Anselmo dedicates to the late Jeff Hannemann, and the faster "Losing All" drive the enormous audience into a frenzy, and once Anselmo has taken the time to call out a KISS fan who has taken position upfront for his idols later, telling him he looks like Grandpa Munster from the CBS television series "The Munsters", "...flipping pizzas and shit" and that he has "man-boobs".

"Bury Me in Smoke" concludes the show in breathtaking fashion as Matt Pike, Jason Newsted, Kate Richardson and others join Anselmo, Kirk Windstein, Pepper Keenan, Jimmy Bower and Patrick Bruders on stage, and the crowd of celebrity musicians smoothly medley into "With Nothing in Return (Walk Away)" with Windstein taking over the vocal duties. What a finale! [8½] AP

Gallows

Gallows @ 17:05-17:55 on Warzone

I feel like this is a recurring theme in my Gallows reviews. "Abandon Ship", "Misery", etc just don't sound right with Wade as a vocalist. Especially now when the second Carter brother has also left the band. The chaotic edge and unpredictable showmanship that was a staple during especially the former show is just not there with the new constellation. That being said, today Gallows are pretty awesome aside from the awkward beginning. "In The Belly of The Shark", for instance, works its magic, especially because the Vera Cruz vocalist joins in for a verse in the song. The band has a ton of hardcore energy on stage, and Wade even makes his way down to the barrier to put on a gas mask during "Orhcestra Of Wolves". I'm still convinced though that their own songs work better with Wade as a vocalist than the old ones do, but they play a solid set overall today, with the highlight being both Wade and the guitarist crowd surfing while still playing the song. [7½] PP

A Day To Remember

A Day To Remember @ 18:00-18:50 on Main Stage 2

A Day To Remember kick off their main stage set with a new song that's heavier than any song they've written to date, far surpassing even the debut album material. It's a trend that the band upholds early on, playing heavier and more metalcore oriented material until reacing "NJ Legion Iced Tea", which marks the beginning of catchy material of their set. Now, I've always liked A Day To Remember, but here at Hellfest, their one chord breakdowns really stand out in stark contrast compared to actual songwriting by most other bands at the festival. These are pseudo-heavy in the way that they sound heavy on record, but after watching Hate the other day, and realizing that Rotting Christ are playing at the same time, they just sound rather stupid and one-dimensional in contrast. The band has a weird red angry birds mascot ons tage throwing merchandise and white balloons into the crowd before sailing into it with a life boat, which feels totally gimmickey and unnecessary at this kind of festival. They're playing in front of the smallest main stage audience I saw all festival (aside for Bullet For My Valentine), and the crowd right next to the stage waiting for Accept is mmultiple times in size. Perhaps realizing this, ADTR call out "if you don't like our band, we still came here from far away", which feels more like giving in than fighting against the general sentiment: the shallow nature of their music is really exposed at this festival, and only the front rows really care about their set. That the clean vocals are still atrociously off tune doesn't help at all. [5½] PP

Rotting Christ

Rotting Christ @ 18:00-18:50 on Temple

After growing restless at the shite being served by A Day to Remember, our photographer Rasmus Ejlersen & I decide to soothe our metal hearts with a helping of extreme metal, courtesy of the Athenian Rotting Christ. Wise decision, it turns out. Rotting Christ excel at blending death and black metal with thrash, but the emphasis is on melody, a deluge of which is blasting from the PA by virtue of both a symphonic backdrop from track, and profuse amounts of mesmerising guitar leads. Though these are a rather malevolent bunch ("Societas Satan" seems to consist almost exclusively of chanting "Lucifer, summon!" and shrieking "Satan, Satan, Satan, Satan, Satan"), my impression is that they are more mysterious than evil, their epic and at times slow compositions with choral aah's, and the mystical lighting giving the performance the look and feel of a summoning. It's satanic to the point where things become a little bit silly, but even so the strength of Rotting Christ's material keeps them afloat. I make a mental note to check them out on record later, and then quickly make my way back to camp to change my shoes, only to find our tent is at the verge of exploding in the wind and rain... [8] AP

Red Fang

Red Fang @ 19:50-20:40 on The Valley

...which is why, instead of checking out (personally one of the most highly anticipated shows at the festival in) Witchcraft, I succumb to repairing it, leaving Red Fang to be next in line for me. Red Fang are, as usual, brimming with energy and intent; they look in excellent form today, in their element, as it were. This a band who know how to balance the dynamics of a live show, and as such across the eight songs that comprise their setlist this evening, the audience can shuffle between psyching out and introspecting to the tune of newer songs like "Hank is Dead" and rocking out with the older, more Mastodon inspired stuff à la "Bird on Fire" and the always magnificent "Prehistoric Dog". Although by no means a spectacular performance, Red Fang bust out their tracks in confident and consistently tight fashion, with especially bassist Aaron Beam's singing approaching perfection. [7] AP

Papa Roach @ 20:00-20:50 on Main Stage 2

You can say what you want about Papa Roach, but few people can control a crowd like vocalist Jacoby Shaddix can. Their music may be shallow on surface, but his halfway screamed, roughened vocals sound great on the Hellfest main stage today. Combined with bouncy energy and audience-driven showmanship, Papa Roach put on a showcase of how nu-metal can still be relevant in 2013. Shaddix makes his way down to the barrier, a feat not easily achieved considering how high up the main stage is (I didn't see any other band do it the whole festival), and screams up close to the front rows. The crowd goes wild, of course, obeying every command Shaddix gives for the rest of the set. It's their 20th anniversary as a band, so they air a great deal of classic songs from the old era. "Silence Is The Enemy" has literally everyone in the crowd bouncing up and down, and both "Scars", "Lifeline" and of course "Dead Cell" have big sing alongs across the crowd. "Lifeline" in particular has everyone ahead of the mixer tower jumping for good portion of the song, and the latter song sees circle pits everywhere in the crowd. Yes, this is a nostalgia set for most people, but for most metalheads who were starting with music 5-10 years ago, Papa Roach was one of the stepping stone bands that got them into metal in the first place. That's why the crowd reception is as good as it is, and since Shaddix is such a great front figure, the Papa Roach set is one of the best main stage ones throughout Hellfest 2013. [8½] PP

Converge

Converge @ 20:45-21:45 on Warzone

My original plan was to watch Converge play a few songs at Warzone and then catch ZZ Top playing at the same time on the main stage. Turns out that plan wasn't going to happen, because Converge pull one of the best festival sets I've seen them do to date. Their set is an example of insane energy on stage; Jacob briskly paces the stage left to right, the bassist is jumping up and down like crazy, and even Kurt Ballou is moving around at levels not usually seen despite the complexity of his riffs. Overall, the Converge set feels like pure, unadulterated chaos on stage, complemented by a fantastic setlist that's packed together with minimal crowd interaction to ensure we get our money's worth throughout. It's like watching a basement style show unfold on a festival stage, absolutely brilliant. To quote my notes from the show, "fuck ZZ Top". [9] PP

My Dying Bride @ 20:45-21:45 on Altar

Hellfest has a custom of dividing its bands between the various stages based on genre, but with the doom metal of these British legends they seem to have made an exception, given they are to be found on the death metal and grindcore oriented Altar stage. Then again, MDB do not possess the stoner and/or psychedelic element that most of the Valley bands have, preferring instead a distinct Gothic influence to their slow, mournful compositions. With next to no familiarity with the band's music, I am pleasantly surprised to find violinist/keyboardist Shaun Macgowan enjoying such a prominent role, as this touch of classicism seems to set MDB apart from most other doom metal bands I have experienced in my day. I love the instrumentation here, but alas, I find the prospect of fully appreciating Aaron Stainthorpe's sullen, anguished singing too daunting an endeavour, fitting though it may be with respect to the music. Still, there's an inherent quality to MDB's songs that can only be achieved by decades of experience, so immersing myself in songs like the brilliant "The Whore, the Cook and the Mother" I do end up growing rather fond of the band's show tonight. [7] AP

Bullet For My Valentine @ 22.05-23:05 on Main Stage 2

A dramatic, almost theatrical intro music surrounds main stage 2 before BFMV enter the stage, but although they are probably the biggest -core band at the festival this year, the genre is just not getting any love here whatsoever. The crowd size is abysmal compared to Papa Roach earlier; the attempts at crowd control therefore seem superficial and unnecessary, fake at worst. Nobody really gvs a shit, and it feels like Marduk would eat these guys alive if given the chance. The crowd waiting for KISS on the right side is enormous, which must be discouraging for the band on stage. When they air the metalcore classic "Hand Of Blood", this too is a far cry from the passionate performances of London back when the band hadn't blown up yet. Today, they are a shadow of their formers selves, looking more like a bunch of has-beens on stage more than anything else, which is an incredible feat considering it's only six or seven years ago when the band released their debut album. [4] PP

NOFX

NOFX @ 22:55-23:55 on Warzone

"Hellfest sounds so angry. You should add an O. HELLOFEST", is how Fat Mike, the guitarist of NOFX, comments on Hellfest 2013, adding "We're a punk rock band, we're not metal". Apparently they are the second best band playing at Hellfest 2013 after Morbid Angel according to him. "We're no ZZ top but we' pretty good", he continues after "60%" and "Dinosaurs Will Die", and proceeds to rip on KISS ("Kiss is not a good band") before El Hefe calls Gene Simmonds a 'butt pirate'. This is pretty much standard issue at any NOFX show; as is appearing obnoxiously drunk and forgetting lyrics to, say, "Champs Elysee" during the show. Usually half of the show's entertainment value is in the mid-song banter, but tonight, they're on a tight schedule and drummer Smelly is rushing them on throughout the set, so they're playing several songs in a row more times than I ever remember in a NOFX set in the past. "What Now, Herb?" is the new French national anthem with lyrics basically saying "France...France...because we live in France", and generally NOFX play a solid setlist of featuring some of their best songs. "Kiss sucks, Bad Religion rules", is how they end the set before "Kill All The White Man" is aired. It's a standard NOFX set that's pretty funny, but nothing out of their ordinary standard. [8] PP

KISS @ 23:10-00:40 on Main Stage 1

Once NOFX finishes, I rush over to the main stage to watch KISS. I've heard lots of things about KISS' live shows, but there is really only one way to put it: they put on one of the greatest rock'n'roll productions that I've seen. There's a gigantic screen behind them, fireworks exploding everywhere usually synched with the guitars or the vocals, ridiculous costumes, and robotic stage platforms that rise and extend far into and above the audience with the guitarist and bassist standing on top of them. "Let me come see you", Paul Stanley proclaims, before ziplining (seriously) about 80 meters from the stage to the mixer tower to play a solo high up above us. Rock'n'roll. Confetti explosion is a given, as is a drum set that elevates extremely high, and insane fireworks to close the set. Maybe KISS isn't relevant as a band anymore, but this is how a main stage arena rock set should look like: rock stars doing whatever the fuck they feel like. [8] PP

Cult Of Luna @ 00:00-01:20 on The Valley

The Swedish post-metal enigma Cult of Luna take their positions on stage to the tune of "The One", an instrumental piece off their latest album "Vertikal" (2013), cloaked in dim backlight and ripples of strobe that coincide with the rumbling in that track. There is no light on the band members themselves, which creates a fantastic effect of total de-personification, as if Cult of Luna were mere vessels for their dark, long-winding compositions. In a sense, on stage Cult of Luna look as abstract as their songs sound; from the powerful, crushing-turns-triumphant aesthetics of "I: The Weapon" to the droning contemplation of "Finland" and finally "In Awe Of", the show takes the character of an obscure dance of sound, light and silhouettes. It looks absolutely astounding in the dark of night, and with a sound mix as phenomenal as this, there really isn't much negative to say about what this Swedish septet conjure from the darkness now enveloping the festival area, and also from within themselves. Not a single word is spoken through the 1 hour 20 minute set; truly, Cult of Luna are a band veiled in mystery, and in the context of the music they write, I wouldn't have it any other way. [8] AP

KoRn @ 00:45-02:00 on Main Stage 2

I remember watching KoRn at Copenhell in 2011 and concluding that despite the decline in the relevance of much of their music (the nu-metal stuff), this was still an outstanding live act with the capacity to breathe new life into their songs in the live setting. Jonathan Davis is quite simply one of the best frontmen in metal, a born performer with incredible charisma; and whilst James 'Munky' Shaffer and the returned Brian 'Head' Welch on the guitar, and Reginald 'Fieldy' Arvizu on the bass are slightly more timid in their antics, the predominant impression one gets from watching KoRn is that they know exactly what they're doing. They ooze the kind of confidence only a tremendously experienced band can have.

Honestly though, it's all about Davis and, most important of all, Ray Luzier on percussion, who cement KoRn as a live act to behold. Luzier is frankly phenomenal, to the extent that even just watching him perform would be enough to warrant KoRn's performance the highest acclaim. That even the dubstep-infused songs off "The Path of Totality" (2011) that are aired - "Narcissistic Cannibal" and "Get Up!", which by the way, sound fantastic live - are delivered in full with live drumming is impressive in its own right; that Luzier lives his role as a drummer, swinging, throwing and catching his sticks acrobatically with unfaltering precision, and contorting his face to exude his obvious passion for this work provides the icing on the cake. Davis, similarly, gives every ounce of himself to be part-entertainer, part-madman, with the lightning speed 'grunt rants' unique to KoRn's music in particular coming as almost unreal.

Indeed, KoRn are in perfect form tonight, and proceed to deliver on of the absolute highlight shows of Hellfest '13. That no other band sounds even remotely similar to them of course adds to the impression; but with a parade of hits to prowl through, including "Coming Undone", "Did My Time", "Here to Stay", "Got the Life" and "Freak on a Leash", a perfect sound mix delivered at deafening volume, and a performance marked by energy and will, what you get here is absolutely magical - and I find myself transformed into my 13 year-old self once again. [9] AP

Bad Religion

Bad Religion @ 01:05-2:05

"This is the latest show we've ever played. We might fall asleep", Greg Graffin states during the Bad Religion set. They've been a band for 34 years, so a 1am set is pretty late for them. Either way, they continue where NOFX left off earlier by ripping on KISS, but otherwise there is almost no interaction between the band and the crowd. They play their songs in rapid fire manner, trying to get through as many songs as possible. This is awesome, because the setlist on this tour is great, with classics like "Generator", "I Want To Conquer The World", "You", and "Punk Rock Song" embedded within newer tracks that also receive a great response from the crowd. "Fuck Armageddon...This Is Hell" sees Fat Mike and Eric Melvin of NOFX join on stage to play a couple of notes, but otherwise, this is a standard Bad Religion show by all counts: solid and consistent all the way through, with good energy and big sing alongs during the hits. [8] PP


HELLFEST 2013 - DAY 3 reviews will be posted later this week!

All text by Aleksi 'AP' Pertola except where otherwise indicated.

All photos by Rasmus Ejlersen

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