Hellfest 2013, Day 2
Again, our bleary focus is forced into action in the mid morning. The increasing lack of interest for us in the Main Stage headliners (the likes of Def Leppard and Whitesnake last night, Kiss tonight, all totally avoided even seeing in passing) is converse to the wealth of quality bands in the various other tents and stages around the arena. That said, after the pretty relentless onslaught of yesterday we were anticipating a somewhat quieter day today, although that has its own inherent dangers. Thank god the absinthe was finished.
So our link 2 Wales was the presence of Skindred to get everyone through a 10.30am bouncing workout. I was distracted at the entrance queues in though by last minute addition Regarde Les Hommes Tomber at the adjacent Valley stage, sounding right up my boulevard with their driving post metal reminding me of Kruger, so I checked a few songs of theirs first. Joining the party down at main stage 2 there was a really impressive turnout and as ever Benji is a consummate front-man, whipping the crowd up with their raga metal, ending with everyone taking off via “Newport Helicopters” at the end. Think they will have been a positive surprise to the uninitiated there, could have easily played later to even greater effect. Another pointless mission around the Extreme Market to try and find batteries for my camera (deja for last year) meant I saw just a bit of T.A.N.K. who were better than the little I’d checked out in advance, modern death metal with a clearer cut to it, and some good shifts in structure. This lead us on to an early double header of two bands who were must sees for me, first The Secret on the Altar stage. Again, a little trawl of Youtube when all the bands were announced suggested that the Italians would deliver an element of crust hardcore that largely absent from this years line up, and they did in spades. Mixed with a blistering grind intensity, but also some atmospheric samples and breakdowns that gave them a blackened aspect to justify their presence at the Temple, I loved it, though my shrunken brain did rattle somewhat when banging away to it. No relief though as opposite next on the Altar were the Greek ultra heavy deathsters Dead Congregation. I’d had their “Grave of the Archangels” album for some time, and had been itching to see them so yet again Hellfest comes up with the goods with a relatively rare live appearance. Once their sound was sorted it was eminently crushing, combining the speed with a filthy gutturalness. Yum. Nothing to do with our reduced mental capacities but the stage times had been rejigged and we had many versions of the days timetable, so when we thought we were going to see Uncle Acid and the Dead Beats at the valley it turned out to be Procession. I recognised them from being at the side of the stage singing and thrashing along to Asphyx yesterday, and they stated that they played “death metal”, but this was with a very stonery doom flavour appropriate to this stage. Clearer vocals but some real heavy riffs, just showed the potential crossover of all these niche genres available here. We had no problem identifying The Casualties over at the Warzone. Proper old school NY (“lower Eastside to be precise”) street punk, very much in a rough and ready sing along Exploited fashion. The guitarist had some problems keeping his strap on which led to an impromptu version of “Run to the Hills”, great stuff. We had time for more of a mooch in the market which inevitably led to vinyl blowout plus more coming and going to the campsite, such a relatively short walk away and enabling easy refills of the official jugs, saving a fortune in the place itself.
The next big draw for me was back at the Altar with veteran Dutch death metal act Sinister (pic above above), and they were spot on. they may only have the one original member, the drummer now singing, but he has an excellent line in gurns and an infectious enthusiasm like frank from Suffocation. There’s a real insistent vibe to the delivery of their churning, dirty riffs, good stuff. I saw a bit of Down on the mainstage while on a merch mission down the side, but the sound was noticeably wavery from a distance which detracted from the sludgy vibes. It was certainly massively packed for them though. We’re still in a state of confusion over a the Valley, with another two-piece guitar and drums that may well be a stripped down Karma to Burn. Fair play, they still get a good instrumental southern stoner vibe going , aided by throwing a bottle of JD into the crowd to pass around. I checked Amorphis back at the Altar as despite walking away from them at Bloodstock previously when all that was coming across was twiddly keyboards and sung vocals I’d since heard a couple of much heavier melodic death tracks. they elected not play these and so I walked away again! Red Fang may or may not have played at this point, missed them anyway and headed up for the first proper time for the main stage for ZZ Top (pic above). Yes, no shame there, you know you love the classics. And while to some the old men may seem pedestrian if not zimmerian I loved it, they were splendid entertainment in a laid back blues rock way. Little subtleties of synchronised movements, breaking out the fluffy guitars (no spinning though), and some nice dry humour, all stemming from years at the game. you don’t have the perspective when you are in there but the stage cameras and screen show one hell of a sea of people enjoying them too. And (brace yourself) Mr Beard had a beard too! Forsaking the Hwntws we make sure we are nowhere near Bullet For My Valentine and head for NOFX over at the Warmzone as they christen it, as well as querying why it wasn’t called Hell-ofest to be far more welcoming. The old time pop punkers are in full on pisstake mode, same as they were when last here, claiming they don’t fit in with this metal festival in the face of a great reception. Fat(ish) Mike spends more time bantering than he does playing but collectively they fly through a good mixed up set that you can’t help but enjoy with a smile.
I have a sharply contrasting interlude over at the Valley with the headliners there, Cult of Luna (above), a religion I have found again after my early worship strayed but now reaffirmed with their excellent last release “Vertikal. Silhouettes bathed in smoke and light, drawn out semi acoustic builds to colossal riff breakdowns, and repeat, and vice versa, its another sea of aural ecstasy to drift in. Enjoy them at Damnation in Leeds soon if you have the chance. But the finish for the night for me is back to the punks with the effortless legends of Bad Religion (below). Recently seen them celebrating their 30th year of L.A. punk and they seem stronger than ever, Professor Graffin’s nonchalant delivery while pacing around is a joy. They are in good humour too, and set that includes some of my favourites like “Anasthesia” and “I want to conquer the world” sees my voice heading hoarse. But as they craftily slip in a slight alteration as they head past the 2am curfew, to sum up another day and night of joy for me “F**k Armageddon, This Is Hell (fest)”.