Waking up on Sunday after two amazing days and knowing this was the last day of Hellfest was a really bittersweet feeling. After a recharging breakfast, we were on our way to catch up the set of legendary French heavy metal band Nightmare.
Nightmare was not only presenting their new lineup which included their new vocalist Maggy Luyten but also they had special guest Kelly Sundown (Darkology, Adagio) for their new song Serpentine. I had never seen Nightmare before, I was only familiar with their early works, but after catching their set all I can say is that Maggy brings a new style of singing to the band that refreshes their sound, and live they are just an incredible energetic band.
Next up was Municipal Waste, and wow what an amazing band to start off a big day! I personally think this is the most influential modern thrash band, and they were by far one of my favorite bands the whole festival! Beyond the fact that this band has more stage energy than most bands, they’re extremely hilarious! They played on Main stage 1, where the Descent into hell (zip liners crossing above the crowd from one side to the other of the two main stages) was happening. They responded with, “there are people flying in the sky!” Now I was expecting them to play material from the Hazardous Mutation album, which is my favorite from these guys. But when they saw an inflatable shark in the crowd and vocalist Tony Foresta said: “you’ll need that for this song!” I thought I had a feeling what song they were going to play next, but I didn’t want to jinx myself. But then Tony said, “this is ‘Terror Shark!’” I lost it! That’s my favorite song by this band! But yes, I was more than satisfied by Municipal Waste!
Following Municipal Waste amazing set was one of the main reasons we were at Hellfest 2016. A band that their very message of harmony and peace has shaken the middle eastern region for almost 25 years. Orphaned Land is the living proof that Jews and Muslims can coexist and work together peacefully towards a common goal, bringing amazing oriental folk/progressive metal to the masses. From the moment they kick off the show with Ocean Land (The Revelation), the crowd went mental. They show was short, but included songs like All Is One, The Simple Man, Barakah, The Kiss of Babylon (The Sins), Olat Ha’tamid, Sapari, In Thy Never Ending Way (Epilogue), Norra El Norra (Entering The Ark), and they closed with Ornaments of Gold. Orphaned Land was amazing live and seeing live some of their classic stuff made this trip totally worth it.
The next band I saw was Fallujah. These guys are some of my best friends in the world! I’ve seen them live several times. I have a joke saying I could see them in a warehouse with broken amps and they would still find a way to be incredible! Hell, I would even argue they get better every time I see them! But yes, Hellfest was Fallujah’s first major European festival and I couldn’t be happier than to share that experience with them. They played my favorite songs off of their new album Dreamless like “Scar Queen” and “The Void Alone” but they also played other older songs such as “Carved from Stone.” And for playing early in the day, they got a massive crowd! Everyone was moving and moshing, really enjoying their set. I was really happy for them! I heard of this band when they released The Harvest Womb and have followed them ever since. They’re a young band but they’re going to become legendary one day!
As we had a couple of hours full of interviews, the next set we were able to catch was Tarja. Her show was a combination of her symphonic material and a small preview of her upcoming album The Shadow Self. It was my first time seeing Tarja, and I thought how successful she had become since she left ‘the band’ her set was crowded and people responded to her music quite nicely.
After her show, she did a short press conference where we got the chance to talk to her about working with Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) on her new album, the live guest appearance that she did with Within Temptation the day before, and her thoughts on an US tour.
Tarja Press Conference
Now in my day I’ve been to a lot of shows and have seen a lot of crowds. I’ve also seen a lot of huge crowds. But never any as big as Gojira’s crowd. Now I should have expected it; they did play Hellfest, the biggest French festival, in their home country of France. But I literally couldn’t even walk through that massive crowd. I was really excited to hear their new material live, I was especially happy to hear them play “Stranded.” But what really thrilled me was hearing material from my favorite album, From Mars to Sirius. I flipped when I heard “Backbone,” “Flying Whales” and “Where Dragons Dwell.” But my only complaint was they never played “Yama’s Messengers” which was the first song I ever heard from this band. But I was happy my first live Gojira experience was in France. Now I’m looking forward to seeing them in Florida even more!
One of the bands I was most excited to see at the festival was Ghost. But while I was in the press area, I noticed they scheduled a press conference for Ghost. Of course, I had to attend. So I did some quick researching and prepared a few questions. The press conference went well; one of the Nameless Ghouls attended and everyone asked him good questions. I focused on the covers EP they’re expecting to release, as well as their general writing styles and their various influences.
I was also briefly able to see Megadeth. This is a band I always appreciated, but couldn’t get fully into. I never disliked their music, but was very nit-picky about what songs I liked and which ones I didn’t. But I wanted to see them live, especially with this new line-up. And they really impressed me. They had a ton of energy, and their material sounds way better live than it does in the recording. We interviewed bassist Dave Ellefson at NAMM this past year, and he was one of the nicest people we interviewed. Watching Ellefson and guitarist Kiko Loureiro was my favorite part of the performance. Their chemistry and energy were amazing throughout the whole set. It was also interesting seeing Soilwork’s drummer Dirk Verbeuren playing with them. And of course watching Dave Mustaine himself right in front of me! I will definitely say I have a new appreciation for them.
One of the most interesting bands to watch live at Hellfest was the Swedish riff maestros Grand Magus who dropped their new album Sword Songs last May. Their show as expected was full of great heavy metal style songs. It was interesting to see how guitarist/vocalist J.B could deliver so well crafted heavy metal anthems before a crowd literally in awe.
Finally, the time came for me to watch Ghost. But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to watch their full set because I had to shoot Enslaved. But I caught them playing “Cirice” and that was an amazing experience! I will honestly say I prefer Papa Emeritus I and II over the newest one; even though they sound very similar (I wouldn’t be surprised if the rumors were true, and they were all the same person), the more eccentric presences of the first two top the third one. And it was surprising seeing them perform “Monstrance Clock” with an all-child choir!
Next up was Enslaved. I shot my one song and stayed after to watch the first half of their set. They’re by far one of the unique bands in black metal, truly able to incorporate Viking influences without taking away from the rawness of classic black metal. So watching such a legendary band surely was an honor. So, of course, they delivered an incredible live set! Lots of energy and a great crowd reaction. But I left for no other than Black Sabbath!
So Black Sabbath was one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing most. And it should be obvious why! They were absolutely incredible. Being able to watch classic songs such as “Into the Void” was mind-blowing. The music I grew up with was being played live in front of me! I regret to this day not watching their full set; I had to leave to shoot Deicide. Who knows if I’ll be able to see them again. But words couldn’t describe the experience I had watching them.
After watching Black Sabbath in their last show in France was a unique experience, but I wanted to see another British band at the Altar stage. I am talking about of Paradise Lost who delivered an amazing show. I saw them last February at 70000 Tons of Metal, but the idea of seeing them in Europe in front of a much different crowd was really seductive. They play everything they could from Gothic to Eternal to Silence and new stuff like No Hope In Sight. Definitely, one of me most brilliant sets I witnessed at Hellfest.
So I walked back to take pictures of Deicide, they were the very first death metal band I ever heard. And they were by far the most intense band I ever heard at the time. So they always struck a chord with me. Being from Tampa, of course, I’ve seen Deicide live, and they’re absolutely amazing. That’s why I only photographed my one song and then I left to watch the final act of Hellfest: King Diamond!
What better way to end the fest than with the King himself? It was my first time seeing him. I knew of all the theatrics, but I didn’t realize how captivating it truly was..Everything, from the music to the actors, was breathtaking. And hearing all of my favorite songs over the performance was what truly iced the cake. I loved hearing “A Mansion in Darkness” and “Abigail” off of the Abigail album. But what really stole it for me was when they played “Melissa.” I’m the biggest fan of King’s Mercyful Fate days, so I started screaming when I heard that intro riff! As you can tell, I left Hellfest a very happy metalhead!
And, like that in the blink of an eye, it was over. Three days of amazing music among a sea of people. This was not only the biggest but also the most organized festival we have ever been. From the entrance all the way to press facilities and to the most dedicated team that took care of over 700 media outlets from around the world in the span of three days. It was indeed a great experience, an experience that we recommend anyone to invest.
Until next time…
Thank you Hellfest, Thank you Clisson, Thank you France.