Hellfest 2010: Rated!
Clisson, France - 18-20 June
Gavin McInally - 29 June 2010
Overall - 8.5/10
Arguably Europe’s finest metal gathering, with a consistently stunning line-up, which appeals to as many extreme elitists as it does cheesy glam rock fans.
Since its first instalment in 2006, Hellfest has continued to grow year-on-year attracting bigger names, bolstering its four remarkable stages with additional talent and ultimately, this year, enticing more than 20,000 riff hungry fans to a remote field in Clisson, before proudly hanging the ‘Sold Out’ sign on the gates of hell.
Getting there and back - 4/10
Perhaps, if you’re one of the dozen families who actually live in the cul-de-sac dubbed Clisson, the stroll along the road would be a breeze but for the rest of France, and Europe, it’s a headache.
Fly into Paris and negotiate a five-hour drive and some ridiculously priced tolls or head to Nantes a cram into any spare train cabin and taxi seat heading in your direction.
Either way, it’s just the first hurdle before arriving at your destination, which has a never-ending rural road as a car park, a round-about and guys in bright yellow jackets directing you to each other.
The site - 10/10
In stark contrast to the mayhem getting into Hellfest, the site itself is a joy to behold; two fantastic main stages side by side, a cavernous tent which hosts the third stage only a stone’s throw away and a final, circus-style tent sheltering the purest form of metal.
At points over the weekend - when the band clashes make open-minded fans want to curl up in their tents and sob - it’s entirely possible to catch some Immortal, Agnostic Front and My Dying Bride with very little leg work.
Urinals are readily available for the gents and the queues for the ladies are never worse than what you’d expect in a London pub on a Saturday night. Alcohol is literally on tap and for the wine and ale snobs, specialist bars are open which charge a mere token more for their good service.
The atmosphere - 8/10
Hellfest has been dogged with problems for years - largely due to its moniker - by bible bashing groups claiming the event attracts the worst form of humanity to the peaceful French countryside.
The situation has spiralled out-of-control and there’s reports the organisers may be forced to move out of Clisson or lose the minimal funding they receive from tourism chiefs.
Sitting among the 19,999 other happy campers it’s hard to imagine the event would be are more joyful place dubbed Heavenfest and there’s not one incident of violence, verbal or physical witnesses all weekend.
Some fans do suffer the heartache of having their wallets and bags dipped by thieves but that is becoming as regularly as clapping at festivals these days and often tends to have nothing to do with the actual fans any given event is aiming to attract.
Music - 9/10
There is no other metal focussed event on the planet which pulls off the jaw-dropping diversity, depth and range of bands the organisers of Hellfest achieve each year; Download, and all the Sonispheres are too commercial, Wacken Open Air sold its soul for Iron Maiden years ago, Graspop doesn’t have the elitist nose and Metal Camp doesn’t have enough stages.
All the extreme events which trump Hellfest in underground savagery; Brutal Assault, Obscene Extreme, Maryland Deathfest… well, they don’t have KISS, Alice Cooper and Twisted Sister.
Slayer, Nile and The Dillinger Escape Plan have no right to be clashing at any festival, ever again.
Deftones - 9/10
After their show-stealing performance at Download only seven days earlier a slim-line and sober Chino Moreno and his Sacramento chums plough through another ‘Diamond Eyes’ and classics filled set, albeit at an annoying early time for a headline band.
Garcia Plays Kyuss - 9/10
As Nick Oliveri throws the bass guitar strap over his head and Brant Bjork takes his place on the drum stool to temporarily reform three quarters of the legendary Kyuss line-up with John Garcia, the Terrorizer Tent plays host to an instant ’I was there’ moment.
The Dillinger Escape Plan - 9/10
Bat shit insanity for 60 minutes as the frenzied Stateside math core quintet join fans in destroying all before them in an advert for health and safety gone tragically wrong.
My Dying Bride - 8/10
The English gothic doom titans submerge the sizeable Rock Hard tent in abject misery during their perfectly billed Saturday night slot and being depressed never felt so good.
KISS - 8/10
With a stage production so ridiculously large the bands playing before them have to fight for amp space, KISS make sure they wrap up Hellfest in dramatic style, with lashings of good wholesome fun.
Big sing-along numbers, zip-slide antics and a firework display that would scare the shit out of Guy Fawkes. Fantastic.
Behemoth - 5/10
With a proud reputation as one of extreme metal’s finest live acts, the Polish blackened death outfit are an eagerly awaited prospect on Main Stage 02 on Sunday afternoon.
But with a relatively quiet sound, the sun baking the corpse paint from fans’ faces and a vicious mix of dirt and sand being kicked up from the crowd, the set never gets out of second gear. Big dark room required in future.
Godflesh - 7/10
What should have been a blinding European exclusive set from the reformed English industrial flag bearers turns out to be a technical nightmare with sound problems punctuating the punishing aural efforts from the stage. Sound man required in future.
Fear Factory - 5/10
Filling the headliner shoes for Deftones who played earlier in the opening day, the American metal veterans went through the motions in a lacklustre performance, which became background music for conversation for large sections of the back of the crowd. Permanent spilt required in future.
Beat the bouncers…
The burly security at the three biggest stages collect crowd surfers like they do world over yet on the fourth stage they do absolutely everything in their power to prevent fans crossing the metal battle line.
Their inexplicable actions (obviously) lead to an almighty effort by plucky fans to get one over their oppressors and as men, women and children are literally catapulted OVER the stewards the roars of victory are deafening.