Hellfest Open Air – Friday, 20th June 2014

With an estimated 138,000 people passing through the gates this year across the weekend, it’s clear that Hellfest is bigger than ever. Planetmosh took a trip across the pond to get a taste of the ‘ooh-la-laAAARGH’ at France’s biggest rock festival…

With six stages operating a ‘three on, three off’ system from 10:30 – 02:15, it was hard work bouncing about between all of them to see as many bands as possible  – especially when the 30+⁰C heat and lack of rain turned the arena into a giant dustbowl. On the upside, it meant a number of the punters headed for the tents to keep out the way and death metallers Order of Apollyon (8), playing on the Temple Stage,used that to their advantage. The Brits were definitely helped by containing members linked to such outfits as Carcass and Aborted but they gave everything over their half hour set including their cover of Metallica’s ‘Creeping Death’ which went down great. Over in the Valley tent (showcasing slower, doomier and stoner rock and metal), instrumental act Caspian (9) soared to great heights and justified fully why H.I.M took them out on their UK tour last year. They sounded absolutely massive and let the music do the talking for them, earning rapturous applause from all corners.

Over on the two Main Stages, Spaniards Angelus Apatrida (8) did a great job of opening procedures with thirty minutes of all-out thrash that saw number of pits open up. The country’s football team might have flopped in the World Cup this year but their music scene is certainly very healthy if this Crossfaithwas anything to go by. Nightmare (7) didn’t quite hit the same heights but still put on a very solid show for all who witnessed them whilst Crossfaith (9) spent half their set hidden behind a cloud of dust as they upped the ante considerably; continuing where they left off from Download, they showed huge levels of charisma and drive to stamp their authority on proceedings. Powerman 5000 (7) plowed their way through their set with punch and  a rousing Bombshell  and this was continued by M.O.D (7) who played a set comprised of their own material and a number of Stormtroopers of Death songs – Billy Milano was on great form despite looking like he’d just rolled out of bed. Therapy? (8) are never going to have a huge amount of success in Europe – they’ve never really made it big on the continent – but they won over a good number of fans here with a tight set and contained a surprisingly decent cover of Judas Priest’s Breaking The Law. Decent is just about how to describe Trivium (6) though – switched with Death Angel to an afternoon slot for reasons unknown, they sounded a little flat and off key. Matt Heafy is a great frontman but the songs were not delivering their usual power – leaving Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr out of the setlist wasn’t the wisest of moves either.Rob Zombie Rob Zombie (8), so disappointing at Download, was on much better form here, with Dragula and Living Dead Girl particular highlights as well as the comedy of seeing the great man jump around the stage wearing a rubber horse mask. Sepultura (7) are a band forever stuck between a rock and a hard place nowadays – the current lineup is really good at what they do and Derrick Green is a (quite literally) huge presence, but no matter how well they perform people will always want to see Max Cavalera back with them. You can’t mess around with Roots Bloody Roots though, which went down an absolute storm.

It’s pretty much impossible for headliners Iron Maiden (8) to put on a bad show nowadays – their historical tours have been received critical acclaim from all four corners of the globe. What isn’t impossible, however, is the chance of them putting on a show that isn’t quite as good as a previous one. Hellfest is a perfect example of that. You cannot fault their energy for a band who now have a collective age of nearly 350 and the stage show, despite being the same one as their last Maiden England stint from 2012-13, is still ridiculously impressive; the songs are completely timeless and sound brilliant. But they’re weren’t at their absolute best today: Bruce Dickinson lacked a little bit vocally and both Can I Play with Madness and Fear of the Dark got off on the wrong foot with regards to timing. The setlist is almost identical as well – yes, Revelations and Sanctuary are welcome additions but the move to drop Wrathchild after the first few dates means it’s now only two songs replaced instead of three, thus making the set pretty repetitive. Despite this, they’re still good enough to warrant a fantastic spectacle for anyone who hasn’t seen them before and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was utter poetry in sound and vision.

Iron Maiden setlist:Iron Maiden
Can I Play With Madness
The Prisoner
Two Minutes to Midnight
The Trooper
The Number of the Beast
Phantom of the Opera
Run to the Hills
Wasted Years
Seventh Son of a Seventh
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
Aces High
The Evil That Men Do

They’re also a lot better than Slayer (5), who are now more miss than hit on the live circuit it seems. Despite the benefit of playing in the dark, Tom was suffering worse vocally than Bruce and the set just didn’t get off the ground – Disciple in particular was a massive disappointment. To make matters worse for them, SabatonSabaton (8) overcame initial sound problems to take us into Saturday with great aplomb. They’ve got to the point where they can play pretty much anything and the fan will know the songs, so this means they could afford to leave out numbers like Cliffs of Gallipoli and Metal Crue altogether and everyone was still bouncing and singing along. Joakim Broden was in great spirits, getting everyone singing along to the Y.M.C.A and even playing guitar on new song Soldier of 3 Armies. Finishing with a superbPrimo Victoria, Sabaton are looking set for great things by the time 2015 rolls around if this was anything to go by.


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About Elliot Leaver

PlanetMosh's resident Iron Maiden fanboy and Mr. Babymetal. Also appreciates the music of Pink Floyd, Rammstein, Nightwish, Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot and many others. Writing to continue to enjoy life away from the stresses of full-time employment.