Hellfest - 2012 Festival review
'An uncompromising victory on new soil'
Gavin McInally - 19 June 2012
They were forced onto "a new battleground", the official posters depicted undead soldiers ready for conflict and even
the French elements appeared to be on the opposite side of the divide as the battle of Clisson took place... but when the
war was over, there was no argument about the scale of Hellfest's uncompromising victory on new soil.
Last year's main arena is a new housing construction site, with cranes hampering the rural landscape, and the fine summer weather takes a hissy fit every now and then with short downpours turning the green, green grass of Hellfest into a hardened brown blanket, but the six-stage beast of a metal maiden overcomes the challenges - which would have left lesser events in disarray - with meticulous production and a polished professionalism.
So much so, in fact, that even the usually dissenting troops of Guns n' Roses (6/10) appear on stage, bang on time.
The stunning depth and diversity of Hellfest's line-ups over the years is well recorded on fading posters but with the two additional tents allowing for dozens more of the world's finest doom, black, death, crust and sludge bands to join the bill, the daily offerings between 10.30am and 2am are simply obscene.
Following an early Friday morning kick in the teeth courtesy of Thou (8/10) in The Valley, a crusty combo of Victims (7/10) and Discharge (8/10) in The Warzone sandwich a slower paced The Bronx (6/10) main stage appearance.
English stoner rockers Orange Goblin (8/10) and reformed grind stalwarts Nasum (7/10) fill their respective tents to beyond capacity while wannabe Irish punks Dropkick Murphys (8/10) are the perfect fit for a joyous jig.
A no frills offering by American thrash titans Megadeth (7/10) and an added thrills theatrical King Diamond (8/10) performance wrap up a corker of a first day.
Saturday delivers a series of riffs so heavy that a morning and afternoon in The Valley for Amenra (9/10), Big Business (8/10), Ufomammut (6/10), Yob (8/10), and Unsane (8/10) becomes more about endurance than enjoyment as the foam ear plugs, PA system and tent pegs stabilising the canvas venue are punished for seven straight hours.
Meanwhile in the great outdoors Within Temptation (6/10) add a touch of glamour to proceedings and Machine Head (8/10) prove once again that when it comes to chest pumping, fist clenching metal, few do it better on the live scene.
Guns n' Roses surprise everyone by arriving on time but their hit-and-miss set, which is punctuated by dull guitar and drum solos, is merely a distraction until the finest hour of Hellfest 2012 starts.
Refused (10/10) have been universally praised for their performances since they reformed for a final fling, but it's hard to think of a more suitable live setting than a packed tent of pissed-up hardcore kids at 1am, and the Swedes do the stage justice with a beautifully devastating 60 minutes of cult anthems.
Less than nine hours later the fight reaches its third and final round with the bleary-eyed army seeking solace in the shape of fellow countrymen Year of no Light (8/10) and the majestic Alcest (8/10) to cure a hangover.
While Monkey 3 (7/10) sound massive, Black Label Society's (4/10) set suffers from a guitar solo which seems to never end. Walls of Jericho (8/10) and Hatebreed (6/10) have the hardcore crowds sand dancing for a couple of hours and Anaal Nathrakh (8/10) are in suitably hateful form in their half of the wonderfully planned out Altar/Temple V-shaped tent, followed by an equally extreme Lock-Up (8/10) grind masterclass.
Motley Crüe (5/10) do little to keep the crowd interested as they wait for a shockingly understated and banal Ozzy and Friends (5/10) which is a million miles from the brilliant Black Sabbath headline slot Download was treated to just seven days earlier.
Leaving it to battle hardened hardcore veterans Madball (9/10) to deliver the final and killer blow for Hellfest 2012's flawless victory.
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