Hellfest 2018 was one of the festival’s biggest years yet. With headliners Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Avenged Sevenfold, plus over 150 bands spread over six stages, Hellfest proved once again that it is one of the biggest and best heavy metal festivals around.
Hellfest has a very unique layout for stages. There are the two large side by side stages for the main acts, along with several side stages that cater to more genres driven metal bands. The valley hosts more of the stoner rock, sludge metal, and psychedelic rock and roll bands such as Neurosis, Eyehategod, Crowbar, Bongzilla, Church of Misery, Kadavar, and Lucifer. The Altar has more of the death metal and grindcore bands like At The Gates, The Lurking Fear (Thomas Lindberg pulling double duty) Amorphis, Rotten Sound, Suffocation, and Exodus. While that stage rotates with The Temple, which hosted sets from black metal and folk inspired metal. Such as Dimmu Bogir, Watain, Satyricon, Enslaved, Tombs, and Children of Bodom, and many more. Then on the far side of the grounds is the Warzone which is where the punk rock and hardcore dominates, which featured sets from Turbonegro, Rise Against, Cro-Mags, Bad Religion, and Hatebreed. Along with all of these stages the grounds are filled with all the rustic buildings and pryo & bonfires around the grounds. Enough to make you feel as if you are watching a metal show in the Mad Max Thunderdome.
Friday’s main stage featured sets from Converge, Joan Jett, Messuggah, Hollywood Vampires, Stone Sour and the almighty Judas Priest. As part of their Firepower world tour, Priest had a hit-filled set but had to cut out a few songs from their regular set to fit in the time slot available. And while Priest went over by a few minutes, A Perfect Circle followed up and appeared to play their set slightly faster than intended, if to fit in their entire set before the 2 am festival curfew. However, they gave one of the strongest sets of the day and even played an unlikely cover of AC/DC’s Dog Eat Dog. Maynard thanked the crowd for their patience having not been in Europe for 14 years, as well as eagerly expressing excitement for their upcoming Paris show.
Saturday’s main stage line up featured bands like Bullet For My Valentine, Body Count, Powerflo, and L7. Jonathan Davis of KoRn played a great solo set early in the day, but with the dark and depressing gothic tone to his music, a set that early in the day while the sun was still up just felt out of place. Deftones gave one of the best sets of the weekend. Chino spent a majority of the set face to face with the fans. Screaming with the fans and standing on the barricades. And on their final song, Sen-Dog (Powerflo/Cypress hill) came out to join the band for a mash up of How I Could Just Kill a Man. While Limp Bizkit might have looked like the odd band out on the line up, they easily brought in one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. They opened their set with “Chocolate Starfish” and “Rollin’” then closied it with “Break Stuff” as Fred Durst stood on the barricade and Wes Borland jumped in the pit with his guitar. While the crowd might have showed up for more nostalgia purposes, the nu-metal legends were one of the most surprisingly enjoyable sets of the weekend.
On Saturday morning, news broke about the passing of Vinnie Paul. Throughout the rest of the weekend there were several bands giving shout outs and dedicating their sets to the drumming legend of Pantera and in between the bands sets, the video screens paid tribute. Even a sound man tested the mics with “Check, Check, Vinnie Paul, 1,2,3, Vinnie Paul…”
One of the most unique sets from this heaviest of metal festivals came as an acoustic performance. Early Sunday Baroness’ drummer had to fly back to the states due to a family emergency. But instead of cancelling, Baroness decided that the show must go on and performed acoustically. Fans eagerly rushed to the barricade and sang along as they rehearsed on stage within their sound check prior to the set time. John Baizley continually expressed love and gratitude throughout the set and said that several of the songs preformed had never been played acoustically and they had re arranged the songs and had practicing since earlier in the afternoon. Being the only band that was booked last year as well as this year, be it electric or acoustic, Baroness show their true talent and creativity.
The festival closed out Sunday night with an amazing set from Alice in Chains, who dedicated “Nutshell” to Vinnie Paul. They were followed by Iron Maiden as part of their European leg of the Legacy of the Beast tour. Opening their set with “Aces High and a large WWII style fighter jet above the stage, Iron Maiden played a set filled with all the must-hear hits. Bruce Dickinson addressed the crowd in fluent French between songs. The only downside was that they were scheduled as the same time as At The Gates as they headlined the Altar stage.
After Maiden finished their set, Hellfest played a video announcing the first five acts for 2019’s festival, including Slayer’s final French appearance along with The Dropkick Murphys, Carcass, Mass Hysteria, and Manowar. Then Eric Adams appeared on stage to inform the crowd about their upcoming performance and then reminded the crowd how they “cracked the earth” the last time they played.
Sadly, the festival closed on a sour note due to yet another sloppy and awkward performance from Marilyn Manson. From the moment that Manson took the stage, it was clearly apparent that his voice was hoarse and it appeared that he didn’t even want to be performing. As he struggled to complete his set he also tried to distract the audience from a rather weak performance by bringing topless girls on stage. But after a short moment, they girls looked as if they didn’t even know why they were still on stage and started to play with their phones and awkwardly sing off key.
Hellfest 2019 will take place June 21-23 in Clission France.
Hellfest Open Air 2018: