Hellfest made a glorious return this summer to the otherwise quaint village of Clisson in France. While a typical edition of the beloved fest is a jaw dropping ensemble of sites and sounds, this year’s compilation was epic to the next level. The 2022 fest drew on the angst and dismay of two years of cancelled editions during the pandemic, and an overall absence of large-scale live music during that time. Instead of a typical 3-day affair, this juggernaut was strewn across 7 days and nights over consecutive weekends and boasted over 350 killer bands.
On most days music started at 10:30 in the morning and ran until 2am the next morning. In the severe heat on the opening weekend or the muddier, cooler weather that the second weekend brought, close to 100 thousand people a day jammed into the sprawling festival ground, galloping around impressive stages and art installations to take in their favorite bands.
Two of my favorite days of the festival showcased a considerably larger number of female artists. The first Sunday boasted Jinjer, Lacuna Coil, Doro, Twin Temple and an epic, standout performance by Battle Beast. The second Saturday featured Nightmare, Eluveitie, Draconian, Epica, Myrkur and Nightwish.
At Hellfest each stage tends to be home to specific set of genres for avid fans to glom onto and crash out for naps. The legendary Warzone is the go-to spot for punk and hardcore acts and featured such acts as Suicidal Tendencies, Bad Religion, Cro-Mags, Anti-Flag, Social Distortion, Sick of it All, Millencolin, Rise Against, GBH, The Exploited and Agnostic Front. While the stage is the least accessible to get back and forth to through the thick, lumbering crowds, thousands of fans have made it a tradition to just stay at that one stage for most of the weekend.
The Valley stage hosts the stoner metal and psychedelic rock and similar things, and this edition it boasted killer bands like High on Fire, Baroness, Electric Wizard, Godflesh, Red Fang, Orange Goblin, Ufomammut, and Eyehategod. It’s truly remarkable the number of people who get blackout drunk and stoned and sleep on the grass directly in front of this stage without getting stepped on by the thousands of people or waking up from the noise.
The Temple stage hosts much of the black metal and folk metal and was jammed this year with an incredible cast including acts like Mayhem, Rotting Christ, Borknagar, Heilung, Seth, Twin Temple, Moonspell, Marduk, Enslaved, Abbath, Myrkur, Igorrrr, and Mercyful Fate.
The Altar Stage is the home of all the death and thrash you could ever ask for, and thousands of swirling fans moshed to bands like, Carcass, Sepultura, Dying Fetus, Coroner, Insomnium, Septicflesh, Therion, Decapitated, Fleshgod Apocalypse, and Napalm Death.
And then of course there are the two towering mainstages that hosted a massive number of big-ticket acts like Epica, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, The Offspring, Sabaton, Deftones, Alice Cooper, Opeth, Ghost, Steel Panther, Airbourne, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Steve Vai, Myles Kennedy, and Korn.
While many true-metal fans make fun of the mainstage headliners, I can only say that the smaller stages were noticeably “roomier” while bands like Guns N’ Roses and Metallica were performing.
The sheer number of bands brought some cosmic and interesting matchups like Nightwish versus Nightmare, Conjurer versus Sorcerer, Cadaver versus Kadavar, Gatecreeper versus At the Gates, Schenker brother versus Schenker brother, and Moonspell versus Moonsorrow. Must be a cosmic coincidence, right?
Many bands went out of their way to convey how incredible it is to have live festivals and Hellfest back, sharing support for the festival and all of their staff who work tirelessly throughout the year to set up such an amazing experience. Another important topic for many bands was the Russian invasion of Ukraine where numerous bands flexed for their loved of the country and their people. Ukrainian outfit Jinjer not only threw down an incredible performance, but also took a brief, appropriate moment to address the situation back in their home saying, "Our beautiful country is being torn apart by war, but we're all very grateful for the support from around the world. Fuck the war!" in what clearly was an emotional moment.
While the festival had for many years a statue to commemorate the legend that was Lemmy Kilmister, this year it was replaced by a masterpiece of a towering new statue that is so bad ass, it looks like an impressive sketch converted into 3D. A very serious and respectful piece of art, the new statue was part of a memorialization of Lemmy, having his former bandmates Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee on hand to take part in the ceremony.
No festival coverage would be complete without recapping some favorite performances! While nobody can see every band at Hellfest, I did take in an awful lot so wanted to mention the seven most bend bending performances that were my personal favorites, because it is exactly these seven that leap out from the rest of the pack, as each band had one of those very special days. So huge shout out to Ministry, Battlebeast, Kreator, Baroness, Twin Temple and Red Fang, and to the most mind blowing of them all, the incredibly mystic and astonishingly heavy Heilung!
Hellfest 2022 Gargantuan Edition was truly a celebration of the return of heavy music on a massive scale. Personally it was my sixth time soaking in all that that gooey, delicious Hellfest experience, and never have I seen such elated fans, smiling bands, and upbeat festival staff.
Were you at Hellfest this year? If so, what were some of your favorite moments? If you had to stay at one stage the entire festival, which one would it be? Ever pass out at the feet of Matt Pike while High on Fire was performing? Let us know in the comments section below!