Report: Hellfest 2013 June 21st – 23rd (Clisson, France)
Well, the hangovers have worn off, the body has stopped aching and the cure has been had. Hellfest 2013 is over and despite it only being two days since Tickets There’s triumphant return, it seems like a hell of a lot longer since I (yes I, too late for the split personality bullsh*t) was passed out on the street outside the terminal building in Nantes. Four nights and three days of heavy metal (and drink) fuelled mayhem in Clisson and already 2014 beckons. Before that though, we need to look back on some of this year’s highlights as witnessed between boozing sessions in the metal corner.
Friday was a packed day with Saxon, Testament, Twisted Sister, Hellyeah, Helloween, Six Feet Under, Whitesnake and headliners Def Leppard all putting on excellent shows. Despite my thrill at seeing Saxon for the first time, my surprise at how amazing Helloween are and my sheer love for David Coverdale and co, the night was ruled by two bands – Twisted Sister and Def Leppard.
Dee Snider and co put on a show that can only be described as perfect entertainment. In between jokes about the multiple DS wigs floating amongst the attendees and mass sing-alongs – the band rocked out hit after hit of cock rock excellence. The only thing that topped them was the highly anticipated performance from main stage closers an’ Sheffield’s finest, Def Leppard.
Leppard’s slot at the festival was special for two reasons. Number 1, Leppard were performing their Hysteria album in full for the first time ever in Europe. Second, guitarist Vivian Campbell was making his debut after announcing earlier this month that he has been receiving treatment for Cancer. In an unprecedented move, Leppard took the stage playing the tail end of The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, before lashing into their own set. Hellfesters from all genres were there to greet them and see one of the biggest bands in Rock. They kicked off with fan favourites, hits and rarely played cuts from their earlier albums including ‘Wasted’, ‘Good Morning Freedom’, ‘Foolin’, ‘Bringing On The Heartbreak’ without the usual acoustic intro, ‘Action’, ‘Lets Get Rocked’ and the iconic duelling guitar solo ‘Switch 625’. The band were on fire and the opening tunes served as the perfect intro for the most perfectly overly produced album of all time.
Little can be said about Hysteria that hasn’t been written it before, but after 21 years of being a devoted Leppard fan I can honestly say the live show was one of the greatest moments of my gig going life. ‘Armageddon it’, ‘Gods of War’, ‘Don’t Shoot Shot Gun’, ‘Excitable’, ‘Love and Affection’ were all outstanding, but the king of their set was the incredible ‘Run Riot’, a song I have never heard live and one that has been a long standing champion on my favourite DL songs of all time list. After a brief interlude, the band returned and finished the night with the awesome ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Photograph‘. A phenomenal set from a band that just cannot be held back. Review? Nah – this is a fan’s tale.
By Saturday, things were starting to get a little hairy. Less acts were seen, more booze was had and the general festivities were getting bigger and bigger. ZZ Top, My Dying Bride, Red Fang, Down and KoRn were all witnessed and all (yes, Korn included) put on top performances. ZZ Top especially stood out with their southern blues rock n roll charm. Only one band could dethrone them, along with most bands playing this festival; the almighty KISS.
KISS are no strangers to Hellfest and previously headlined in 2010. As the familiar ‘Alright Clisson’ intro blared out over the PA, screams, arms and pints shot up and the band launched their Monster tour with ‘Psycho Circus’, the lead single from their 1998 comeback album of the same name. Greeting the crowd, Paul Stanley mocked that the band wouldn’t be growling – hellfest or no hellfest, because that’s ‘just not [their] style’. Knowing this was the final night of the band’s European summer tour, all the stops were expected to be pulled out and KISS didn’t disappoint. They delivered a hard paced set packed with their hits, tricks and sher awesomeness. ‘Shout It Out Loud’ had the crowd united in singing while ‘I Love It Loud’ bellowed through the audience with unmistakable force.
New single, ‘Hell or Hallelujah’, was enjoyed by all; including those who didn’t’ know it before ‘War Machine’ from 2009’s Sonic Boom and the classic ‘Deuce‘ bombarded their way in. After this it was time for Tommy and Eric to shine as Tommy took over the mic for the classic ‘Shock Me’ with Eric following with ‘Outta This World’. Gene took over again on ‘God of Thunder’ (not sang from the top of the lighting rig for sone reason) before ‘Lick It Up’, ‘Love Gun’ and ‘Rock and Roll All Night’ finished things off in classic over the top, fireworks fashion. As with any KISS show, there was so much happening it became hard to keep track off but with every song came the flying over the crowd, lifts, risers, smoke, explosions, fire breathing, confetti..etc, etc. it never gets old, it just gets better.
The band returned for an encore consisting of ‘Detroit Rock City’ and ‘Black Diamond’, much to the crowds approval. KISS came, KISS saw, KISS destroyed Hellfest. Like Def Leppard on Friday, no matter what type of metal you were there to see – KISS blew you away. If they didn’t, you’re a sad sap who needs to leave your bedroom more often. Day 02 over – another resounding success.
Finally Day 3 came along and it felt just right. The sun was shining, the ‘Metal Corner’ was quiet – a good day for whiskey and rock ‘n’ roll; and what better way to start things off than Down playing a special set instead of the previously announced Clutch?. After that the likes of Lordi, Ghost (who suck live just as much as they did on their last album), Hypocrisy and Cradle of Filth, Danzig and Napalm Death fill out an evening of heavy, light and strange metal…well, light is a little misleading.
Sunday was a day of surprises for TT. First of all, Danzig wasn’t just playing Danzig. On closer inspection of the t-shirt it turned out they were playing a surprise Misfits set with Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein joining them. Realizing this moments before they were due to take the stage was better than most birthday/Christmas presents can ever be. Danzig, Doyle and the guys sounded great and the pogo/mosh filled rendition of ‘Die, Die, Die My Darling’ was one of the true gems of Hellfest 2013.
Cradle of Filth provided the second surprise. Having not seen them since they played the Temple bar Music Centre way back in 2001, I wasn’t expecting the group to have seasoned too well. I was wrong as Dani Filth’s voice shredded through the Temple PA as crisp and powerful as ever. Indeed the entire band sounded amazing and even with the oddly out of place ‘Anywho’ comment from Dani, the band put on one of the best shows I managed to catch. The pentagram lighting rig above the stage only added to the atmosphere.
Finally, Napalm Death – a band I have read about, heard about and known for nearly 15 years, but strangely one I have never, ever tried to listen to expect for forced spins of ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’. What a show and what have I been doing all these years? They were incredible! One of the strongest, most bare fisted brutal acts of the entire weekend. I managed to get up good and close (my first and only attempt over the whole festival) and they were beyond reproach. Definitely the band I will be checking out more in the coming weeks and one I will never forgive myself for ignoring. Napalm Death – thank you!
I’m avoiding calling this a review because I just didn’t make the effort to see enough, record enough or stay sober enough for my opinion to carry any weight. However, that’s just how I wanted it. Hellfest blew me away and made me a life time attendee all in the one weekend. With it getting bigger and badder than ever every year – you can count me in as Johnny come lately but I ain’t never leaving. Bring on 2014, long live Hellfest and thank you to everyone who made it the best heavy metal experience of my life.