As this dreadful virus wages a massive toll on the global economy, on people’s jobs and on so many lives, the music industry is reeling from the impact as well. Live events seem like faint echoes from the past as fans of heavy music have watched the inevitable yet painful cancellation of so many beloved tours and music festivals – from Wacken to Sonic Temple to Download Festival to everything in-between.
Bands that were looking forward to pivoting off the smaller club circuits and hitting some bigger stages this summer, sadly for them and for their livelihood, that is all on hiatus for now. For us fans that work our asses off throughout the year and look forward to the escape and community of these magical festivals, we will need to wait for brighter days. For the crews at these festivals, who put an unbelievable amount of painstaking work, planning, financial investment and love into making festival dreams a reality, we can only imagine what they must be going through.
The iconic Hellfest in France is not only my favorite festival but also one of the things I look forward to the very most during the course of the year. I checked in with a number of artists, alumni of Hellfest and those that were looking forward to playing the 15th edition this year for their reflections on Hellfest. Amid these crazy times I’d like to thank all of the artists who took the time to contribute and to all the people who helped make this happen, in particular to Amy, Kevin and Claire for the amazing support.
Michael Starr of Steel Panther
"I want to send my condolences, from me and the rest of the guys of Steel Panther for the cancellation and we also want to voice our support for the festival team in France… Let’s all stick together through this crisis and remember one thing – heavy metal rules!"
Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy
"Arch Enemy have always looked forward to playing Hellfest, we always have very memorable shows there and a relationship with France as a whole… I cannot wait to see how live music thrives in the new world now that we all really feel how desolate life is without it."
Brian Baker of Bad Religion
"Hellfest will be loud once again in 2021 and for many years to follow because Hellfest is the best metal festival on the face of the Earth. I am very fortunate to have played Hellfest many times over the years and I cannot wait to get back and see everybody there again, as soon as possible."
Kémar Gulbenkian of No One Is Innocent
"We’re very sad that this year’s edition won’t happen. Be sure that next year’s Hellfest will be crazier than ever! From No One Is Innocent to the wonderful Hellfest team and every metal head, we love you and we’ll see you soon."
James LaBrie of Dream Theater
“Hellfest has always been a highlight for Dream Theater when we’re out on a festival tour… it just makes for a very powerful and spirited day, it‘s extremely memorable. A big shout out has to go out to the festival team in France. These are the unsung heroes who make this incredible festival happen each and every time.”
“I just want to express how much Hellfest means to me since some of my best memories as a touring musician are at that festival. My condolences to each and every one of you who are on the team that put on such an amazing event, I just want you to know that I’m sending you my best, all my love.”
Lou Koller of Sick Of It All
"Sick Of It All and Hellfest got a long history together, we go way back even before it was called Hellfest, it’s one of our favorite big festivals that we play… it’s the festival that I love to get out and walk around the festival grounds because the grounds are so damn cool. I want to thank the Hellfest staff and crew who bust their ass all year long, putting their heart and soul into Hellfest, it definitely shows and it’s more than appreciated."
Francesco Paoli of Fleshgod Apocalypse
“France has a special place in our hearts, it is one the countries that came to us at the very beginning. French fans are fantastic… we recall our performance at Hellfest as an absolute highlight of our career. I am sending all of the positive vibes possible to the organization and promoters and all of the people involved.”
“Hellfest is one of those great festivals that will go down in history as one of the best shows on Earth and we can’t wait for it to kick back up and we can all get back out there and celebrate together and be together.”
Swan Hellion of BlackRain
“For French people this festival is really important, it’s the most important in the country, it became a kind of national pride through the years, it’s really a goal for every French band to end up playing on-stage at Hellfest.“
Noodles of The Offspring
“We are so bummed that we’re not going to be able to be with you this summer. Hellfest is always just one of the funnest festivals, the artistic aspect of it, all the displays, all the installations, it really just takes you off the planet for a little while… we can’t wait to be back.”
Watch & listen as 20+ artists share love and support for Hellfest
My first Hellfest came in 2015 when I traveled from Canada to check out the festival with friends. Determining logistics and translating FAQs from French, I learned that most anyone can bring photo equipment onto this site so long as none of the bands had restrictions, so I borrowed an entry level camera from a friend and brought it along with me. I would gather in front of stages long before sets began, to get on the rail and catch a glimpse of and to try and photograph some of my very favorite bands including Arch Enemy, High on Fire and Cradle of Filth. Not only did I manage to not get crushed but I fell head over heels in love with the challenge of live music photography while the art, flames and ambiance of Hellfest felt like a wonderland to inspire any photographer. Staggering out of the festival after my first day, wild eyed and awestruck, I vowed I would never miss an edition until they put me in the ground. A promise that I managed to keep until this bloody virus came along.
One of my favorite Hellfest memories is from editions where they will pause the band performances for a while and launch into this massive, bewildering fireworks display. Imagine enough fireworks for a national celebration, but instead of drawing them out over the course of an hour, instead they pummel the skies mercilessly for a short period of time. True metal head mentality, exploding everything as fast they can, it's a jaw dropping thing to witness.
Since 2016 I've been fortunate enough to have covered every edition of Hellfest for Metal Injection and have had the opportunity to forge so many new friendships there and to gather so many incredible memories. From Thomas and his security team that keep raining bodies off us at the main stages, to Roger and Olivier who oversee the media, to the gentle security giant Jean Marie (my favorite person in France) who lets media into the site each day and to all of my colleagues in the media I will miss you all very much this summer.
A staggering amount of planning, work and love goes into Hellfest each year, from curating such an incredible line-up to all of the art and engineering that makes Hellfest such a jaw dropping experience. To every member of the Hellfest crew thank you for the wonderful things that you do, I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you again next year.
Hellfest and ARTE Concert have droves of pro-shot performances from previous editions on their YouTube channels. Check out performances by Arch Enemy, Steel Panther, BlackRain, Dark Funeral, Ministry, Sick Of It All, and Within Temptation.
Speaking of Ministry the new track Alert Level is amaze balls, I can't wait to hear the entire album.
The three best live streams I've seen since this crisis started have been the Code Orange beat down, the Dropkick Murphy's St Paddy's Day performance and this killer session from Myles Kennedy.
Immolation's Atonement was my favorite album of 2017 and it's a perfect soundtrack to the apocalypse. Check out the video for Distorting Light.
Alan Averill of Primordial is keeping busy with his new podcast series, check it out here.
Looking for new plague themed tunes to bang to? Check out our Global Pandemix Extreme Metal Edition.