Hellfest 2013: Day Three

author AP date 09/07/13

In the wake of some late-night performances for all three of us attending the festival, we find ourselves - once again - missing a number of the late morning sets due to fatigue. Once again, we are awakened by the sound of a heavy shower rattling against the canvas of our tent, and we decide to wait it out until embarking on our final day of hard work to bring you the most extensive coverage of Hellfest '13 possible. Fortunately, the weather promises to be better for the remainder of the day, so off we go to devour a traditional French breakfast (croissant and coffee) before braving the rank stench now emanating from every fence in the festival area and watching an enormous amount of music with it in our nostrils.

For our articles covering days 1 & 2, click here and here, respectively.


DAY THREE

The Ghost Inside @ 11:40-12:10 on Main Stage 2

This scribe's Sunday is opened by one of the few -core bands on the bill this year, namely The Ghost Inside, whose previous release "Get What You Give" was critically acclaimed across the board. It's early and the sun is peaking from between the clouds, yet their big melodies draw only a few people this early. "We drove all night to be here today, and we were honestly afraid nobody would come to see us, so thank you so much for checking us out early", shouts vocalist Jonathan Vigil after "Outlive", sounding genuinely thankful for even the small support the band are getting. They put on a showcase of high energy and synchronous jumps and the usual hardcore stuff, where especially Vigil flies across the stage. Unfortunately the band's many cleans are still way, way off from what they are on record, as evident on particularly "Engine 45". That said, their songs are otherwise extremely strong so it's hard to fault their performance, other than there could've been more people here, but early slot is an early slot, and that's that. [7½] PP

Svart Crown

Svart Crown @ 11:40-12:10 on Temple

Sunday for me begins with a barrage of groove laden blackened death metal by Svart Crown from Côte d'Azur in Southern France. They're almost on home ground - easy to tell, as they look to be brimming with confidence and deliver their short set with effortless finesse. The quartet (vocalist/guitarist JB Le Bail, guitarist Clément Flandrois, bassist Ludovic Veyssière and drummer N. Muller) sport imposing statures that, when combined with the glowing pentagram hovering above the stage, and a sample of a young girl screaming in terror at the beginning of "In Utero a Place of Hatred and Threat", give them a feel that is equal parts terrifying and authoritative. The atmosphere is perpetually dark, with eerie melodies leading the By the Patient-esque onslaught in the likes of "Ascetic Purification", and one cannot but bow in respect of Svart Crown's songwriting ability, not to mention their quality as showmen. [8] AP

Krisiun

Krisiun @ 12:15-12:45 on Altar

Next up is something a little more exotic: blistering death metal served straight up by Ijuí, Brazil based veterans Krisiun. Here the focus shifts from atmosphere to pure merciless pounding, as the trio appear on stage clad all in black and cloaked in a flood of red lighting, to deliver their fast, brutal and very old school take on the genre. With "Combustion Inferno" they produce wealth of different parts expertly strung together by cool transitions, but discounting the obvious strength of Krisiun's recorded material, there really isn't much here to yell "Hurray!" about: bassist/vocalist Alex Camargo and guitarist Moyses Kolesne glue their feet to the stage, and the drummer carries out his duty without conveying much personality. In death metal such a presence tends to be enough however, provided that the band members at least paint grim expressions on their faces as is the case here, but such a performance will never be spectacular in my book. As Camargo puts it, Krisiun's intention is that they're "...gonna play loud, and [they're] gonna play fast". And in that, they succeed. [7] AP

Inquisition

Inquisition @ 12:50-13:30 on Temple

The South American takeover continues with Cali, Columbia born black metal duo Inquisition (also known as Inquisición), who currently reside in Seattle, WA. On the drive to the festival, our photographer Rasmus Ejlersen spent much time preparing me for this phenomenon, whose lyrics are apparently more than just a little controversial at times, and whose guitarist/vocalist Dagon is in possession of a rather unique style of growling: tremolo snarling. But in the live setting, unless you're familiar with the band's material, the lyrics play no role; really this sounds like standard fare, though very grim sort of black metal played at a hefty tempo.

With bands that consist of just two members (the other one here being drummer Incubus) it is often the case that one grows bored of their static performance, but that is not the case with Inquisition. I find myself thoroughly entertained from start to finish, noting especially Dagon's gunning and pounding gestures with his instrument and his demonic appearance as a nice touch of evil befitting this trve form of black metal. Instrumentally (and philosophically too, I suppose) the songs remind me of Taake - another infamous provocateur; varying between slow, almost pagan-sounding stuff with a dusting of clean chants, and blastbeast driven, thrashy black metal pummel. It's generally good stuff, but I have a feeling this would work much better in a more intimate environment. [7½] AP

Mustasch @ 13:35-14:15 on Main Stage 1

Leaving the darkness of the Altar/Temple tent for some rare sunshine and dinner in front of the rightmost main stage, I arrive just in time to catch the Swedish Mustasch beginning their set. The quartet play an anthemic, though bass-heavy brand of metallic hard rock - though sadly they lack a performance to maintain my interest. True vocalist/rhythm guitarist Ralf Gyllenhammar has a fantastic voice in the live setting, which earns plenty of approving nods from yours truly, particularly during "Down in Black"; but the bare stage setup and absence of any movement fails to keep me interested for very long. [5] AP

Graveyard @ 14:20-15:00 on The Valley

Graveyard are rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with, among fans of both rock and metal. As such, I'm not exactly surprised to see the Valley tent seething with anticipation as a deluge of air raid sirens fills the air to introduce "An Industry of Murder" off the band's latest album "Lights Out" (2012), and of course these Swedish maestros of heritage rock themselves. Joakim Nilsson's singing is outstanding, enough so to brush off the at times inaudible lead guitar, but once the classic rock masterpiece "Hisingen Blues" is aired, any such worries are swiftly forgotten. The quartet are bathed in pale yellow, white and orange light, giving the show a rustic feel so befitting the band's style and tone, and with what I consider to be one of the best rock ballads ever written, "Slow Motion Countdown", the atmosphere inside the tent starts to near euphoria. What makes Graveyard such an enthralling band to watch live is their knack for speckling their songs subtle, yet somehow still striking solo bits that aren't included on record - a detail culminating when the band break into a prolonged instrumental jam halfway through "Thin Line", growing faster and faster until it resembles a frantic free jazz session, and then seguing perfectly into "Ain't Fit to Live Here" and "Goliath", before the brilliant "Endless Night" and "Evil Ways" conclude things in deservedly triumphant fashion. Though the sound mix could be better, and the band of course more energetic as they were in their show at Amager Bio in Copenhagen earlier this year, Graveyard still muster up one of the standout performances at the festival - though as Graveyard rank among my favorite bands of the now, that statement may be dusted with a certain amount of subjectivity. [8] AP

Ihsahn

Ihsahn @ 15:55-16:40 on Temple

I've been looking forward to watching Ihsahn (for those not in the know, the former guitarist/vocalist of Norwegian black metal legends Emperor) for some time now, so I relish the opportunity to finally do so here. But having heard none of the man's recorded solo output, I have no clue as to what I should be expecting, especially as Ihsahn is famously backed by avant-garde metal group Leprous as session musicians. The performance begins in slow, doomy fashion, with the strange, enchanting howls of keyboardist Einar Solberg canvasing the tent with a mystical atmosphere; but then quickly transforms into more familiar symphonic black metal territory, though with distinct progressive and avant-garde influences too. In fact, as the set progresses, I become more and more convinced Ihsahn is black metal's answer to Dream Theater, look and eight string guitars and all. It's like nothing I've seen or heard before, and with a backing band as eager and energetic as Leprous, constantly thrashing around the center-piece, Ihsahn himself. There are times when things get a little too experimental though, as when "The Grave" doesn't seem to head in any particular direction. [7½] AP

Pig Destroyer

Pig Destroyer @ 15:05-15:50 on Altar

One of the most extreme bands tempo-wise, grindcore band Pig Destroyer fills up the Altar tent early on with their vocalist's erratic bursts of chaotic headbanging and shaking his head viciously in every possible direction. He's got short hair so this is no standard metal headbanging either, this fits more under the "that guy is insane" category, fortified by his thick roars over the nonsensical soundscape. A crowd member wearing a weird sheep costume moshes on stage for a song, until J.R. Hayes says "alright it's getting a bit awkward now dude" and pushes him off. In the meantime, the rest of the band are busy shattering minds and ears with their aggressive tempo and extreme style. [7] PP

Misery Index

Misery Index @ 16:45-17:35 on Altar

Misery Index waste no time, launching headfirst into a barrage of punishing, pedal-floored brutality, though thankfully not without a healthy dusting of melody and - above all - infectious groove. "The Seventh Cavalry" in particular exposes the band's penchant for writing slow, groovy modern death metal that begs headbanging, and drives the crowd before the Altar into a flurry of thrashing hair-dos, and "Demand the Impossible" provides a welcome onslaught of glowing intensity to incite a frenzy. In the end, however, the recorded output of Misery Index (at least the songs aired today) prove a little too unvarying to keep me grounded. [7] AP

Cockney Rejects @ 16:45-17:35 on Warzone

After soothing my taste buds and mind with some white wine as a result of a brutally oriented morning of metal, it's time to find some melody on the festival and who better to provide it than Cockney Rejects. They are the prototypical 'pub punk' band whose members look like the types you meet in English pubs having an ale or two. Or if you ask their vocalist Jeff Geggus, they are the number one Oi! punk band on the planet. "If anyone disagrees, come and fucking see me", he continues with a thick Cockney accent, while looking like a guy ready to pick a fist fight with you if you just look at him wrong. That's why the best way to describe the Cockey Rejects set is 'hooligan anthems', or "Go on lads let's play football to the tune of music'. It's otherwise very basic three chord punk, but the sun in shining and the songs are catchy, and yeah, the band are pretty good. [7½] PP

Korpiklaani

Korpiklaani @ 17:40-18:30 on Temple

Temple is packed to its limits for Korpiklaani, the Finnish folk metal band that specializes in singing about booze and, well, about nothing much else, really. They are basically a metal version of Flogging Molly: violin and accordion melodies are a plenty, and maddeningly catchy songs that have simple choruses like "Beer beer" that echo across the whole tent. The band have so many members on stage it's difficult to find much room, but especially their violinist makes an impression with his circular dancing across the stage, while vocalist Jonne Järvelä takes every chance to break away from the mic with his guitar. These are party anthems that get the whole tent dancing. [8] PP

The Sword @ 17:40-18:30 on The Valley

It's always a pleasure to behold the passion that Kyle Shutt injects into his guitar-playing, stroking each chord like it's the best thing he ever felt, living and breathing The Sword's riff-heavy stoner metal. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that this performance will be no match for the band's showing at Lille Vega in Copenhagen earlier in the year, with the remnant band members Bryan Richie (bass), J. D. Cronise (guitar/vocals) and Santiago Vela III (drums) projecting what can only be construed as a lack of enthusiasm at best, and boredom at worst. They look tired and hung over, and as a consequence, the performance drones on for 50 minutes without ever really awakening my interest. Technically everything is in order, however, and especially "Cloak of Feathers" sounds as fantastic as always, but all in all this feat, or rather lack thereof goes down as my most disappointing experience at Hellfest '13.

[5] AP

Gojira

Gojira @ 18:35-19:35 on Main Stage 1

It does not look much better as Gojira take the rightmost main stage, as despite virtually being on home ground, this is far too early a slot to do these French progressive death metal heroes any justice. What is usually a breathtaking light show must here be compensated for with an expectedly responsive audience and monumentally heavy sound mix, which, judging from the enormity of the wall of death and moshpit that manifest themselves during "L'Enfant Sauvage", is the case. The setlist of course has been customised for a show on home territory, with plenty of rarely aired oldies such as "Fire is Everything" scattered amongst the more recognisable "Backbone" (which, I once again must concede, has one of the best metal riffs ever written in its intro and outro) and "The Heaviest Matter of the Universe", so for a non-Frenchman such as myself the performance does carry a wealth of aspects to behold. But even so, there is something utterly paradoxical about watching such dark, dense music in the afternoon sun, and even the bassist's mental antics during "Flying Whales" near the beginning of the set aren't enough to mark this as a standout performance. A real shame, considering the setting and the potential it offers. [7] AP

Wintersun @ 18:35-19:30 on Altar

It requires but a turn of the head once Korpiklaani are done to find their countrymen in Wintersun gearing up for their set of epic symphonic metal on the Altar stage. Their songs are really, really epic and packed with insane riffs, with especially "Winter Madness" leaving a strong impression on me after first listen, no small thanks to an insane duelling solo combo between their two guitarists, that has the crowd roaring in awe afterwards. The new songs are even more epic and take more time to warm up, but the melodies are truly unique within this genre, so this isn't where the band falters today. No, it's in their static and boring stage show that doesn't even include very much headbanging compared to many of the bands. That means when they're playing their best songs they are still awesome, but as soon as they step outside of the big ones, they're pretty boring to watch. [6½] PP

Down

Down @ 19:35-20:35 on The Valley

You may have noticed that I already reviewed Down's performance at Hellfest '13 in this series of articles, but still your eyes do not deceive you; Clutch were forced to cancel their appearance at the festival due to vocalist Neil Fallon's father passing away a few days prior, and rather than leave their slot lusting for a show, the organisers were able to convince Down to remain another day and deliver an improvised concert in Clutch's stead. And so, with no rehearsal, Down cast themselves headfirst into an impromptu set of rarities and covers after Phil Anselmo has proclaimed a "moment of fucking noise!" in Fallon's father's honour. Needless to say, this is a unique, one-off opportunity for the band's most devout followers to experience Down from a different angle, and it is hardly a surprise then that they've drawn an immense crowd that stretches well beyond the canopy of the smallest stage at the festival for it.

But if you were expecting to hear a miasma of Down B-sides, you must have felt a little disappointed, as the first two tracks "Rehab" and "Swan Song", as well as the third last song "Pretty Maroon" are the only original tracks included in the setlist (why the former is not a live staple beats me though). For the remainder of the set, the stage transforms into a flurry of switch-aroos as members of Down mix with guest musicians such as Jason Newsted, Phil Anselmo's girlfriend Kate Richardson and one of Down's guitar technicians, and alternate between the various instruments for virtually every song to play cover versions of Eyehategod's "Sisterfucker (Part I)" and "Blank"; Crowbar's "High Rate Extinction" and "Conquering"; and Corrosion of Conformity's excellent "Clean My Wounds" and "Albatross".

There are plenty of glitches and mishaps in each of these songs, however, as even such experienced musicians as these cannot seem to remember them (Newsted, for instance, needs to fill in for Patricks Bruders on the bass halfway through "Clean My Wounds" as Bruders struggles with it), but even so the show does not suffer. It's like watching a celebrity jam session, and when the cover of Robin Trower's "Bridge of Sighs" segues into, you guessed it, Pantera's "Walk", the Valley tent erupts in euphoria. What a fantastic performance this is; and knowing it will likely never be repeated makes it all the more electrifying! [9] AP

Stone Sour

Stone Sour @ 20:45-22:00 on Main Stage 1

There's a bit of a costume mismatch on stage as one Stone Sour guitarist is wearing a tuxedo with a bright, sparkling red guitar, and the other one goes for the classic grungy look with a leather jacket. They last played here three years ago, and draw an enormous crowd this time along as well. Knowing how to appear on big stages, vocalist Corey Taylor holds his hands up high baiting for crowd attention as the roar gets louder and louder. Later on, he instigates a sea of fists, and has the crowd singing along loudly to "Mission Statement". Later on a song is dedicated to the Carlsberg container to the back right, where half-naked chicks have started dancing in a cool promotion of some sort. This is all fine and well, but is Stone Sour better than standard hard rock in reality? They have decent songs, but compared to KISS or Def Leppard headlining the other days, this late slot isn't really justified musically in my opinion, even if "True Glass" has plenty of people singing along. A decent, but kind of bland and forgettable set for a headlining band. [7½] PP

Marduk

Marduk @ 21:45-22:45 on Temple

Marduk. The band most likely to eat one of the other bands alive at this festival. Their set lives up to their reputation of some of the most evil black metal known to man, with insane tremolo riffs meeting shredding riffage that sounds like the gates of hell are being torn open as we speak. Mortuus hangs his head way down low headbanging while sending satanic shrieks and screams our way, looking like the devil himself on stage at times. There's no bullshit here, just an immersive black metal soundscape that surrounds the whole tent, while the band members can only be seen as murk, dark silhouettes of members due to a purposefully nonexistent stage lighting. This is how black metal sounds at its best live. [8½] PP

Lordi @ 22:05-23:05 on Main Stage 2

Onto some more light-hearted stuff: Lordi, the 2006 Eurovision winners, and the torchbearers of 'monster metal'. Only GWAR looks more retarded on stage than these guys with their latex costumes and other props, and in general, Lordi's set is more of a joke than actual musicianship on display. "Who's Your Daddy", for instance, has the cameras panning on four scantily dressed blondes on the side of the stage, whose only purpose is to dance in sexy maneuvers and to come out to shoot handheld smoke guns in the air. Lordi himself walks around the stage tossing confetti from a small bag, while holding a stick with a (presumably) human skull attached to it. There's a drum solo where the bass drums start spinning. A shredder is brought on stage; big sparks are flying everywhere as they shred stuff on stage. Lordi awards himself an Oscar, as well as the Mr. Universe title, before the four ladies return to blow fire off their mouths. There's so much gimmick going on - not to mention fireworks and stuff - that you can't be bored during this set, so entertainment-wise it scores top dollar. Musically, however, it's even more superfluous than GWAR, but those guys go even more over the top to compensate and it's all obviously a big joke to them. The whole moral message ("Don't let anybody tell you that you aren't the best bla bla bla") and the choruses in many of the songs suggest that Lordi is attempting to be good music simultaneously, which makes it kind of awful considering how stupid this stuff is in reality. But again, the show is crazy, so the score is solely for that. [6½] PP

Volbeat

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

A Danish band closing a European metal festival is pretty cool I guess, so as a Danish magazine we're obviously obligated to review the show. The main stage is totally packed, but unfortunately Volbeat's show falls way, way short of what you'd normally expect from the biggest band of the day on the main stage. The band are mostly standing still, forming the odd triple formation here and there, but it's a telling story that we have to wait until a guest appearance from Barney of Napalm Death on "Evelyn" before there's any sort of reaction from the crowd. People are mostly just watching, so I have to ask here: is this a headline worthy show? Where's the flamboyant nature of a headlining set? There are some catchy songs, sure, but come on, this is in no way comparable to KISS, Leppard or even Lordi who played just before them on the other main stage. Volbeat on autopilot, that's what this set was all about. [6½] PP

Cradle of Filth

Cradle Of Filth @ 23:55-00:55 on Temple

Day 3, one of the last bands of the day, and they suffer from terrible sound meant I only watched about 15 minutes of the Cradle Of Filth set. Or at least I hope it was bad sound, because I have no idea how anyone can enjoy those high-pitched howls for any longer than that, especially when the band just stand in their positions while she calmly walks across the stage back and forth. The synths and symphonic elements are the highlight here, everything else was 'meh' at least tonight. [6½] PP


CLOSING REMARKS

All three of us - myself, our Editor-in-Chief Petteri 'PP' Pertola and photographer Rasmus Ejlersen agreed that musically, very few festivals in Europe can match the program of Hellfest in terms of diversity and the strength of the bands in each genre - and this goes for festivals in general, not just metal festivals. However, having existed just 7 years, the event still seems to suffer from a number of major hick-ups that need to be rectified to truly mark it as a great European festival.

Most of these were mentioned in our Day 1 article, but it basically boils down to this: more of everything.

* More ATMs. 2 ATMs is just not enough for 30,000 people a day.

* More toilets. The Green Day show that PP attended for 6,000 people had more toilets than Hellfest in total (slight exaggeration, but you get the point)

* More frequent cleaning of the toilets (pissoirs overflowing)

* Token system for food. Or remove tokens for drinks. Mixing the two does not make any sense. Groezrock has one type of token for both food and drinks, it's a great system that just works.

* Option to buy pint-sized beers. 0.25L is too small, 1.5L is too big.

* More sitting areas (benches, hang out places, etc). It's a long festival.

* More facilities at camping area (camping shop, mobile phone recharge, toilets, etc).

Otherwise, the festival has great potential and with a lineup like that, all the potential to grow and expand in the future.

All photos by Rasmus Ejlersen

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