Hellfest 2011 review

Hellfest proves 'Sold Out' doesn't have to mean selling out

Hellfest 2011 review: Rob Zombie.

Rob Zombie.

Photographer: Brendan DochertyGavin McInally on 21 June 2011

In the early hours of Sunday morning watching The Haunted (6/10) playing a campsite tent - usually reserved for novelty strip shows and cover acts - it's impossible not to be impressed by the levels this ever-expanding metal pitbull of a festival will reach to succeed.

Even those not impressed by the Swedish thrashers' offerings, or revellers who hadn't noticed that they fail to appear on site in time for their Main Stage 2 early afternoon Saturday slot, the abject Terror of ‘99 Knives’ and ‘Bury Your Dead’ blasting out live at 2.35am, merely yards from pitched up campers is nothing short of comedy-level devotion to the cause.

With the 'Sold Out' signs proudly hanging around the remote French village of Clisson, which plays host to around 30,000 invading fans this year, the ability to attract genuine bill toppers like Ozzy Osbourne (7/10), Scorpions (7/10) and Iggy and The Stooges (8/10) and the masses already snapping up 2012 briefs, it's hard to imagine why anyone at Hellfest HQ put Down their Champagne and cigar to bother accommodating The Haunted at all, but it's just one of dozens of genuine touches over the weekend which proves France's premier metal event is ready to stand proudly among the cash-cow milking big boys of the European scene with a hardcore punk snarl of defiance.

Glossy stage times are handed out free on arrival with giant billboards displaying the daily running orders, the hard plastic cups - from Jager shot size through to beer pitchers - are all branded so well they become souvenirs rather than spineless 20p refundable, tramp fishing tools the UK visitors are accustom to and for the lucky beggars who are band guests, or VIPs, there's a land of luxury by Main Stage 1 featuring Hellfest hammocks, artwork, sunloungers and Jack Daniel's drenched strippers.

However, it's all a flattering sideshow to Hellfest's greatest star, the line-up. Four stages rammed top to bottom with the cream of the world's punk, thrash, hardcore, power, death, post, black and doom metal with the two identical main stages running in such perfect synch there must be a frustrated Swiss watch maker taking notes in the crowd.

A toned Down stage production for Rob Zombie (8/10) can’t stop the industrial/gothic flavoured horrorshow from stamping over Clisson like a demented circus act on Friday night while stoner titans Down (8/10), Scottish punks The Exploited (8/10), German thrash kings Kreator (9/10) and American death stalwarts Morbid Angel (9/10) all cement their places in Hellfest history with blinding and varied outings.

Within the more homely feeling Rock Hard and Terrorizer Tents a rare sighting of Bradford’s extreme metal godfather’s Bolt Thrower (6/10) doesn’t live up to the hype with a pedestrian, two dimensional set while Irish folk metal flag bearers Primordial (5/10) also fail in their duties.

Backed with an unexpected showing of softcore porn, Dorset’s Electric Wizard (9/10) level the smallest venue on the site with doom riffs so heavy they feel like an hour long massage while The Ocean's (9/10) ambitious post-metal set wraps up a world spanning 59-date tour from the Europeans which shows not a sign of jetlag.

Relatively unknown Kruger (9/10) are exceptional, Terror (8/10) are frighteningly violent, Ghost (7/10) innovative, KyussLives! (6/10) shockingly dull and only the most God awful selection of "food" stalls can trump a poor Bad Brains (3/10) show in which madcap singer  'H.R.' appears shocked to be holding a guitar.

Next year Hellfest will move site and posters declare a "New Begininng" in 2012... 30,000 fans pray its not the end of an era.

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