Festival Report: Hellfest 2011

It has been nearly two weeks since returning home from Hellfest and I am still trying to wrap my mind around everything I experienced in just a few short days. Such an amazing whirlwind of music,places and most importantly, all the fantastic people we met from all over the globe! The combination of all these things made for a trip that we will never forget. For the majority of the planet, taking a seven hour plane ride, fifteen hour bus ride and venturing into a completely foreign world, where you speak absolutely zilch of the spoken language, may seem like a disaster in the making,but when you are crammed on said bus with fifty other stark-raving mad metal maniacs, it didn’t seem nearly as preposterous! Add to that the thoughts of the endless streams of the glorious music that awaited us in the remote town of Clisson, France and all in attendance were giggling like goons.

by Tim McLaws

Hellfest may be one of the newer festivals to emerge from the great list of renowned spectacles that are held each year all throughout Europe, but in just a few short years, they have made a name for themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Combine a first class team of individuals that work their asses off all year to put this together, a utterly amazing security staff (US venues could learn a thing or two from these guys!) and most importantly, a three-day lineup of some of the most diverse and well regarded bands from all over the planet and it is pretty easy to see why this has sold out the last three years and has quickly climbed the list of “MUST SEE” festivals by many a metalhead. I can not say enough great things about what a first rate organization the entire Hellfest family is. Absolutely ZERO problems obtaining passes and every single person I came across throughout the weekend was friendly and willing to help out anyway they could. Hell, even security went out of their way to make sure all the photographers were taken care of, while a crazed crowd of 25,000 lost their minds during their favorite band’s acts.

At first glance, the three-day itinerary can be a bit overwhelming.I mean, you are talking about nearly forty bands each day! With a starting time of 9 a.m. and the last band exiting the stage around 3 a.m., there is some serious music watching going on. We quickly found that you need to just cut the schedule down day-by-day. If you try to plan your entire weekend, your head would simply explode. Even using this tactic, I still crammed twenty two bands into the first day. With two ‘main-stages’, the Terrorizer tent, and the Rock Hard tent, there was sure to be something for everyone nearly every second of the day. Here is what I set as my schedule for the first day:

11:00am-Valient Thorr
11:40-Suicide Silence
12:15-Malevolent Creation/In Solitude
4:20-Maximum The Hormone
6:10 The Exploited
9:05-Belphegor/Iggy and the Stooges
10:10-Morbid Angel/Clutch
1:10-Mayhem/In Flames

Yeah, as you can see, Hellfest isn’t afraid to mix it up! That is one of the reasons I was so drawn to this festival. Nobody is presenting anything quite like what these crazy Frenchmen are putting together. Highlights of the first day had to include finally seeing Possessed! Been a fan since I picked up a cassette copy of Beyond The Gates at a Fred Meyers out in Roseburg, Oregon when I was a teenager and have loved them every since! Granted Jeff Becerra is the only original member, they still delivered a incredible set. Belphegor also put on a very entertaining collection of only the blackest of black metal, that had the Rock Hard tent frothing for more. Much talk has been made ofthe new Morbid Angel record, but on this night they did smoking versions of “Chapel Of Ghouls”, “Rapture”and “Angel Of Disease” and aside from “I AM Morbid” and “Existo Vulgore”, didn’t even attempt to break any of the more experimental material. All-in-all, the first night was a amazing, if not compeltely overwhelming day/night of music and much was learned on what to do and not-do for the following day.

Arrived back at the hotel around 3:30, got up at 7, ate a massive breakfast of delicious French pasteries, fruits,cheeses and coffee… lots and lots of coffee! Loaded on to the bus at 9 and arrived at the festival at 9:30. One of the most important things learned from day 1: PACE YOURSELF! My legs were two wobbly logs of jello by the end of the night! After observing the tendencies of the crowd, there is nothing wrong with just kicking back, find a nice shaded area to enjoy the show. The weather was picture perfect. ’60s everyday and the location provided ample shaded areas and a massive food court, with a abundant amount of benches. I took more time to meet and visit with fellow concert-goers and met many friends that I hope to remain in contact with. It only took a day to realize this was much more than a concert. It was more like a gigantic family reunion, with 115 of the best house bands you could ever imagine! Much more drinking, eating and socializing made the second day more relaxed and I found my pace to help make the following two days that much more enjoyalbe.

Schedule for Day 2:
11:10-Total Fucking Destruction
12:20-Angel Witch/Severe Torture
1:00-Mekong Delta
2:00-Hammerfall/Hail Of Bullets
4:15-Municipal Waste
5:05-Thin Lizzy/Skyforger
9:00Septic Flesh/D.R.I.
11:15-Bolt Thrower
1:00-Coroner/Bad Brains

YES!! This was what it was all about! Thrash, Thrash and more Thrash! Nothing beats the glorious sounds of German thrash and on this day, thrash reigned supreme! I could narrow it down for highlights, but c’mon! LOOK AT THAT LINEUP! This day was absolutely perfect from start to finish. Along with that amazing Stage 2 lineup of WhiplashMekong DeltaDestruction, Sodom, Kreator and Coroner, I was also introduced to Total Fucking Destruction (Brutal Truth drummer, Richard Hoek handles drums and vocals) totally floored me with their energetic brand of grind and finally getting to see death metal legends, Bolt Thrower demolished the Rock Hard tent during their bombastic assault of your senses was a fitting set-up for Coroner! What a night. I have a hard time believing I will ever be able to top this night. The only thing that could have made this over-the-top magical, would have been if Tankard would have been somewhere on the bill, but I will more than happily take this lineup!

Back to the hotel by 4, up at 7 and out the door by 9, a loaded crepe in one hand and a steaming cup of java in the other: Day 3, here we come!Day 3 began as a rather light day on the schedule, turned out to be a final day filled with a ton of pleasent surprises.

Schedule for Day 3:
10:55-Zuul FX/ Impureza
2:30-Orpahend Land
5:Cavalera Conspiracy/Grave
6:20-Grand Magus
9:00Judas Priest/Korpiklaani
10:10-Electric Wizard
11:25-Dark Tranquility/Hawkwind
1:00-Opeth/Kyuss Lives!

What started out to be a day to hit the ‘Extreme Market’ (anything and everything metal-related, they had it!), ended up being a memorable conclusion to a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Impureza set the tone for the day, with their blend of Mexican flamenco/death metal(?), really enjoyed their set. Arkona was another band I had discovered while checking out bands that were going to be appearing at Hellfest and instantly fell in love with their epic blend of Russian pagan metal. Fronted by Masha Scream, the crowd was already well aware of these guys, because they went batshit nuts as soon as their intro music began! Amazing show, hopefully some day they will make it to the States. Ghost was the hot new band of the day and they delivered like veteran pros. A nice blend of eery theatrics and mid-paced chug-a-luggery, they brought the spirit of Mercyful Fate out loud and aroud. Well worth all the hype they are getting. Grand Magus, Doro, Morgoth and Priest all were at the top of their games and the crowds didn’t heitate to roar their approval. Once again, this was a lineup that just left your jaw dragging on the floor.

It will be fun to see what the masterminds of this memorable festival have in store for us next year, but I am sure they will not disappoint! In the meantime, I have a full year to polish up on my French! CHEERS!!



  1. Commented by: Jon

    Hellfest is great, was really bummed I couldn’t make it there this year. Glad to hear the organization of it has improved, a few years ago it was awful. Several bands each day played to an empty arena because security wouldn’t let anyone inside the arena, creating miles and miles of queues. Where did you travel from out of interest?

  2. Commented by: Ken Valdez

    Fantastic report, Tim it echos my feelings of this fantastic event. Great photos as well!

  3. Commented by: Tim

    Hey Jon, I flew out of Kansas City,MO. Had a surprisingly decent flight on American.

    Thanks Ken! I had a hard time narrowing it down to just the festival, there was so much more to the whole journey that make it as memorable as it was.

  4. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    someday, I’ll see Electric Wizard.

  5. Commented by: Jon

    Wow that’s a hell of a journey, glad you had a great time and it was worth the trip. In my experience many who come to Europe from the US for a festival head for Wacken because of the name value but I truly believe Hellfest will overtake it in popularity and prestige soon, especially if they keep drawing the line-ups that they do.

  6. Commented by: Tim

    Wacken was the festival I always dreamed of going to, but after seeing the lineup and hearing all the horror stories about the HUGE crowds, we opted for Hellfest. I think you are right about them overtaking alot of other festivals. Seems they resolved all the problems that had plagued them from previous years and put together a lineup that people will talk about for decades! Can’t wait to see what they put together for next year.

  7. Commented by: Victoria

    Hellfest this year did not disappoint. I had a wonderful time and the mix of bands chosen was well played by the organisers. Only a couple of clashes this year. Priest was definatly a highlight!
    Was wondering if anyone knows of the photographers from the Ghost set. I am eager to see photographs taken.

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