Welcome to Hell

We arrived a few days earlier to Nakntes, which is located only a few kilometers away from Clisson (the site where Hellfest festival was going to take place for three days). Consequently, we had some time to visit a little, and do a few touristic things. Actually, we were living quite far from the center (all the cheap hotels in the area were already rented out!) so we only visited two things; the Ducs de Bretagne castle, as well as the huge central cathedral. The castle itself was nicely built in a renaissance style (I think?), but like usual – we didn’t visit the inside because it was too expensive. I still prefer old ruined medieval castles though, they have seen much more action, hehe

The outside of the Ducs de Bretagne castle. I love how they still kept the water around it!

Architecture of the castle

The cathedral itself is really huge, and was partially rebuilt a few decades ago due to a big fire destroying a big chunk of it. Luckily, its most interesting part remained… the tomb of François II, the last duke of Brittany, which features some alchemical symbols and carvings. France is cool for that, you can find symbolism hidden in many large cathedrals – including Notre Dame de Paris…

The tomb of François II

We then walked around a little… all there was really, in the center, were shops and restaurants. I did eat a really nice raspberry flavoured meringue and was tempted by another kouing amann (see previous post!) but that’s it!

The streets of Nantes

On Friday, we went straight to our guesthouse (ran by two lovely people) and then to the festival site. Our hosts were really friendly, and made a killer filling breakfast everyday!

A nice filling breakfast before a day of metal is very appreciated hehe

So anyway, our arrival at the site was pretty crazy. I’ve never experienced such a HUGE festival (112 000 people in three days) and there were metal fans and “metal cars” everywhere. Cars with band logos and graffitis, empty beers everywhere. We even spotted a guy that was completely dead drunk, and that was on the first day – at about 3PM!!!

The entrance to the site! You don’t see it very well, but the middle pillar said “Welcome to Hell” hehe

A dead drunk guy in a very lethargic pose, right in the middle of the afternoon

Right when I stepped in the festival site, I met my friend Seb – who was at our Marseille gig a few weeks earlier. He brought me a copy of SCANDANAVIAN METAL ATTACK 1 compilation, which I’ve been looking for, for a long time! He also gave me some cool old magazines as well as an ENFER mag patch!!! Killer!

Myself and Seb with my new score! Thank you Seb!

Hellfest also had a GIANT metal market, which had two really killer stalls selling cheap second hand vinyl… I went a bit crazy there, and bought almost an entire section of really good and hard to find 80’s French metal LP’s – as well as some other goodies haha

OK, half of these are not that rare, but it is still a really killer haul I think! I just wish I could listen to them arghh

Other Hellfest goodies! I even found Dying Embrace (India)’s 7″!!

First band I saw was Discharge, who I saw from the distance and didn’t pay that much attention sadly, because I was talking to a few friends from Canada that I haven’t seen in a long time. All I remember hearing was “It’s No TV Sketch” and “Society’s Victim”. Ahh well. Next band I saw was GBH, which were really fucking great!!! I never realized that much before, but hearing them live – I couldn’t believe how much VOÏVOD took influence from them for their early material!!! I was really excited when they played “City Baby Attacked By Rats”… I was even able to take a few photos from up close:

Colin Abrahall, GBH vocalist

I then saw Bill from AMULET hanging out, and took a photo of him. Don’t know what he was doing haha… check out his insane KING DIAMOND shirt!!

Bill of Amulet

In the evening, the site of Hellfest really took life. All the structures were randomly spitting fire, and there were cool light effects everywhere…

A part of the Hellfest site. The black containers you see on the right were Hellfest merchandise booths… I never saw so much merch for an event. They were selling everything from belts to glasses! Weird! (And yeah, it was raining pretty bad all day)

We even spotted Obélix!

In the evening, we went to see MEGADETH. It was the second time that I got to see them, and I didn’t really get into their show this time… really, I was just getting warmed up for the day’s ultimate band… KING DIAMOND!!!!!

Megadeth! Check out those amps! Most likely all empty inside hehe

Seeing KING DIAMOND was one hell of an event. He was only playing two gigs – Hellfest and Sweden Rock, so we were incredibly lucky to be able to see this one. It was truly incredible – everything from the stage decorations, to the acting and light effects were perfect. And what can I say about King’s voice… it was absolutely perfect. He quit smoking a few years ago, and he even surprised himself on how well he could sing apparently, haha!

At first, the stage had a big black gate, which eventually opened. At the far right is a girl who was doing really evil harmonies with King Diamond!!

It was raining quite a long during the set, but it just added more to the atmosphere… and it rinsed off the nasty sweat off of our hair hahaha

The rain during King’s set

They played some well known material, but also some very obscure stuff! They only did one MERCYFUL FATE song, “Come to the Sabbat”, but that’s alright. Some of the songs played were “The Family Ghost”, “Sleepless Nights”, “The Candle”, and “Black Horsemen” (as the encore!!)

KING! Isn’t that the coolest and most impressive stage decoration you’ve ever seen???

Hell yes!

We got home at about 4AM that night… all the taxis were taken so we ended up hitchhiking our way back to the village and then walking 3 kilometres to our guesthouse, in pitch black darkness. It felt like a zombie movie or something. I can just assure you that we slept like babies (baby zombies?) hahaha

The following day, we arrived just in time at the site to see one of my favourite recent bands, NECROS CHRISTOS, who right away put me in a trance (and sometimes in a headbanging frenzy!)…

Necros Christos! Check out that huge cross on the ceiling!!

Their set started with some Indian inspired music, which set the mood for the ritual. The sound wasn’t the best (the bass was quite loud from where I was standing) but I still recognized the songs very well. They played “Doom of Kali Ma”, “Impure Burials Prevail” and “Black Mass Desecration” among many others, and cut the set in two with an invigorating oriental-style piece. Really a killer band – I would love to see them in a small stage!

The crowd

Necros Christos, again

Total change of atmosphere… the next band was none other than URIAH HEEP. We were quite excited for them, and they played classics after classics! “Sunrise”, “Gypsy” and “Easy Livin'” were played – as well as newer stuff. In fact, they played a song called “Into the Wild” from their last album – which truly surprised me… it had one hell of a catchy riff in it. It’s so rare that old bands like this are still able to write good songs! I will pick up their record in the future.

Uriah Heep! At first we were very close, but the sound was muddy so we went further away (and it was much better hehe)

After this was a long wait until the next band we wanted to see (Saint Vitus!). I think we had like four hours to kill or something! We were standing beside one of the big stages when out of nowhere, we saw a shitload of people with doom metal shirts. I was wondering what was going on, until somebody told me there was a Saint Vitus signature session. It’s cool to see so many French doomsters, actually, it’s nice to see people with good taste in such a huge crowd! I quickly took a photo of the band:

Saint Vitus signature session. Didn’t get any signature, I’m not too much into that stuff anymore!

After that, we went to take a nap in a forest-y part of the site, where everyone goes to sit down. We met up with a Canadian friend and we talked a little, and then doze off. When we woke up, we were hungry – so we had some shitty “Mexican” food at one of the stalls. It was basically canned beans mixed with canned tomatoes and minced beef, shoved in a flour tortilla. Not good, but at least it filled us up! They had nicer stuff though, but we wanted to keep our money for beer and records haha

The forest-y part of the site

The two main stages with the crowd

Food stalls

Grilling meat… it was like 8 euros for a sandwich with that in it. Too much!

An hour before SAINT VITUS started playing, we parked ourselves in front of the stage with some beer, and waited. François and myself were right in front, and around us were a bunch of other fanatics – it was a really nice atmosphere! Actually, we were surrounded by the guys of FORSAKEN, as well as Charlène, a friend from Rennes (we met her when we played a gig there). Collectively, we sung each word and got shivers during Dave Chandler’s mighty solos… it was the second time I’ve seen them, and they were just as good – if not better (!!!) than last time. I think they were the second best band of the fest for me. They played “Clear Windowpane” (fuck I love that song), “Dying Inside”, “Mystic Lady”, two songs from their last album, and of course “Born Too Late”. Last time I saw the, in 2008, they played “Saint Vitus” and “Burial at Sea” – and I wish they would have played them again, but that’s what you get when you don’t have that much time. I wish they could have played 5 hours!

Wino and Mark

Dave Chandler!

Near the end, Dave jumped into the crowd and kept on playing his possessed solos… really intense guy

About an hour later was a small dilemma… I had to choose between watching ENTOMBED and THE DEVIL’S BLOOD. I chose to see both! Already the tent where ENTOMBED was playing was completely full, and I had to watch them from a distance. There was a strange guy that was probably on ecstasy, dancing weirdly at their songs. I should have filmed him, it was ridiculous! I tried to go past him to take a few photos, and I wasn’t able to go very far as the crowd was thick as hell…

Furious ENTOMBED fans!

Entombed! I wish I could also see them in a smaller, more intimate stage.

I could only catch a few songs, and the only one I recognized was “Revel in Flesh”. The sound was shit and I was tired of that dancing guy, so I went to the valley (the smallest tent on the site), where the Devil’s Blood were playing.

As I wasn’t freezing like at Muskelrock, I was able to concentrate more on the music. I felt they were very good, better than at Muskelrock. Perhaps also because I was getting more familiar with the songs (I am not a big fan of material after Come, Reap)! They played a magical set, full of songs that possessed the crowd… they did “The Time of No Time Evermore”, “Fire Burning” and of course “Christ or Cocaine”!

The Devil’s Blood

Selim Lemouchi, founding member of the cult!

The mouth!

Another view of the band…

The next day (best day of the festival), we arrived early to the festival to see one of my favorite NWOBHM bands… GIRLSCHOOL! And the best thing about it was that they were celebrating their record Hit and Run (I think they re-recorded it or something?) so they played tons of songs from there!!! They started with “Demolition”, and then went on to “C’mon Let’s Go”, “The Hunter” (my favorite GIRLSCHOOL song ever, arghhh I was so excited!!!!!), “Hit and Run”, “Watch your Step”, “Yeah Right”, “Run with the Devil” and finished with “Emergency”. They did a newer song dedicated to Dio, but 98% of the set was pure classics. I was beyond stoked!!!!


During the set, I spotted one of the coolest patch vests around – an 80’s French metal maniac vest with original patches! Check out that Sortilège back patch – and that beautiful Blasphème one on top of it… wow!!!

Can’t forget the Trust backpatch too! And what the fuck were those cows doing there??

After GIRLSCHOOL, we saw BLUE OYSTER CULT – who I actually don’t like very much…!!! Perhaps I need to spend more time with their records, but for some reason I never got into them. I still watched a few songs, but then I got some beer and went to the front of another stage to wait for PENTAGRAM.

Blue Oyster Cult!

Turns out it was an excellent idea to arrive early at the PENTAGRAM stage. Moments later, it filled up and became almost unbearably tight in there! I was really excited, because althought I’ve seen PENTAGRAM before (in 2008), I’ve never seen them with their mighty guitarist, Victor Griffin. It was beautiful to see them play together, and they played a really killer set. Not as energetic as the last time though (holy fuck was Bobby on fire that time!) but still really excellent. They played “Death Row”, “All Your Sings”, “When the Scream Come”, “Sign of the Wolf”, “Relentless” and some songs from the last album. I was expecting them to play “8” (the best track off the last record) but finally they didn’t do it. Ahh well, great set anyway! Oh yeah, they did their encore with “Wartime”, which was really a good surprise!

PENTAGRAM frontman Bobby Liebling!

Black figures on stage…

The crowd. There was even crowd surfing in there… who the hell crowd surfs at a doom metal gig??

Bobby and Victor!

Playing next was THE band I wanted to see in this festival… THE OBSESSED!

Wino and Bobby chatting a little before THE OBSESSED went on…

THE OBSESSED are not too well known nowadays, but who those that don’t know, Wino was in that band before he joined SAINT VITUS. Although I love Wino-era SAINT VITUS, I think THE OBSESSED was the best band he was in (and he played guitar too!). Their music is absolutely spiritual, and seeing them was a near-religious experience! It was really HUGE!


The line-up was exactly the same as on The Church Within, and of course they played songs from that album (“Streetside”, “Neatz Brigade”) – but also from Lunar Womb (“Brother Blue Steel”, “Kachina”, “Hiding Mask”, “Endless Circles”… and even from the S/T!! (“The Way she Fly”, “River of Soul”) I could had stayed there and watched them play their whole discography. It was that good… and I was really, really, really deeply excited for them! I had some tears for a few songs. The only other time it happened was when I saw …Saint Vitus for the first time! (Black Magic, White Magic)…

Guy, what a great bassist!

Wino and Guy….


After they played, my London friend Alastair (Age of Taurus, session bass for Orange Goblin, etc..) came to see me, and we chatted a little. That guy has the greatest stories, it’s always a laugh to hear him talk. He also has the greatest man hair I’ve seen… check it out!

Alastair’s hair haha

The last band of the festival was a complete joke. Originally, we had booked the tickets because BLACK SABBATH (the one and only!!) were supposed to play. Tony Iommi got cancer so they cancelled most of their dates… including this one. So now, it was OZZY AND FRIENDS instead. The “friends” were actually Geezer Butler (at least I got to see him!!!) and ….Slash and Zakk Wylde. The two guitarists I loathe the most. At the beginning, Ozzy played a bunch of solo stuff, and then went on to play BLACK SABBATH covers… it was atrocious! He kept on singing “ooohhhhhhhh” on top of riffs (you know, those annoying sing-a-long ohhhh’s that big bands always do), the “friends” weren’t even able to do proper Iommi solos. Ozzy had a voice extinction. And on top of it, it was pouring rain! Everything felt like it was rushed together at the last minute, but they had had 6 months to organize themselves!!! As a big band, KING DIAMOND was a trillion times better. At least Geezer was there and was rocking out, but still…

Ozzy and “friends”

At the end of the concert, it was really raining strongly. We were trying to hide under tents, but we kept on getting kicked out. Finally, we took a taxi home to our guesthouse, and fell into a nice, deep, rewarding slumber…

Show’s over!!

Overall, I think the festival was well organized; it had a beautiful site, lots of toilets (so important when you are drinking so much beer!) and of course… some really great bands!!! The only problem for me was that it was way too big… I’m a huge fan of small gigs – where everything is much more intimate. Here, there are people that don’t even care for metal. It was really weird to see all these people in costumes (cows, superman, mummies, etc…) I barely knew anybody and since we were only there to see a handful of bands, the waiting time was very long. We only saw a dozen bands out of more than 150!!! I don’t think I’d come back next year… I’d rather put my money aside and organize gigs closer to home hehe

Anyway, the next day, we hitchhiked our way back to Paris (we got so lucky we got to listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd, King Diamond and Yob in the car!) and stayed two nights at my friend Paulin’s place. Then, we flew to where we are now… ROMANIA! More news soon!!!


4 responses to “Welcome to Hell

  • Aaron

    Can’t wait for the Romania entry. I visited Bucharest and Brasov in 2010. Best overseas experience I’ve ever had.

  • Darquos

    Salut ! Sur la photo que tu as sous titré “The Crown”, tu as pris en premier plan un pote qui se nomme “Vomitch”, ça faisait longtemps que je ne l’avais pas vu ah ah ! Quel hasard ! Pour le type habillé en vache que dire de plus à part que … c’est la Hellfest ! Un cirque humain géant !! ah ah !

  • Seance

    Really cool to read about Hellfest I been on my way there when KISS played there and this year to see King Diamond but other things got in the way. Have you ever been to Sweden Rock Festival? You will find pix for SRF 2000-2012 on my blog.

  • marsineraTOR

    hey, I know alaister! hehehehe…he’s a goofy bastard!
    jealous you got to see necros christos 😛
    im with you though, not too huge on big fests -RIP OFFs they are….I’m gonna be in Italy from the 31st of july until august 7th! Also will hit up Slovenia for a day or two…any chance we can meet???

    it would be rad :))

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