Hellfest and Knotfest France 2019 Photos and Recap
Enjoy our coverage of Knotfest and Hellfest France 2019, and check out our gallery of 450+ shots, following the recap.
Hellfest is a wonderful assault on every sense, a marathon of live music, a celebration of international metal, a brotherhood and sisterhood of heavy music fans, and a Mecca for headbangers who make the journey from across the world. The 2019 edition of Hellfest which was the 14th run of the festival, amplified the insanity even further by bring Knotfest over to Europe for the first time, to add an additional day of mayhem on top of the usual three days of mind-bending chaos.
A standout performance of Knotfest on the first day, Al Jourgensen of Ministry surveys a massive crowd
And so the weekend saw massive hordes of dozens of thousands of headbangers descend on the tranquil village of Clisson France, to consume countless beers, watch impressive pyrotechnics set the night sky aflame and check out a sample of the 160+ bands that would perform over the four days. The schedule is so insane that there are often three bands playing simultaneously across the six massive stages, and where bands start at 10:30am and the music stops after 2am… sleep is a luxury many people can’t afford, personally I caught just 12.5 hours of rest in four nights.
It really is much more than a typical festival you might find elsewhere; months are spent preparing the festival grounds, constructing massive sculptures, buildings and stages. With all the food vendors, the jaw dropping art installations, bonfires and artists, a jazz fan would probably have an incredible time here so long as they bring ear plugs.
The masterwork art & design of Hellfest, massive metal themed sculptures and fluming pyro everywhere
Day one was a delicious appetizer, as the impressive Knotfest lineup took to the two main stages and threw down a USA versus Europe showcase. Mainstage 1 saw US acts Sick of It All, Rob Zombie, Slipknot and the particularly impressive Ministry beat the crap out of that stage. As they’ve been typically doing on this festival run, Papa Roach took a moment to pay homage to the late Prodigy front man Keith Flint asking for a moment of screaming instead of a moment of silence before jumping into a cool cover of Firestarter. It was also my first opportunity to see Corey Taylor’s new mask in action and… I’m not entirely sold on it personally.
Mainstage 2 featured European outfits Amaranthe, Behemoth, Powerwolf, Amon Amarth and Sabaton. If this competition was based solely on pyro, then Team Europe were the clear winners. Both stages though provided wall-to-wall impressive performances.
Friday was the first day of the Hellfest line-up and when the Hell Gates opened that morning, that's when the festival really got into full swing. The day showcased a fuck ton of heavy French bands that drew in a massive national crowd as the Mainstage 2 was entirely dominated by bands from France included performances from No One Is Innocent, Dagoba, Ultra Vomit, impressive glam rockers BlackRain, Gojira and many more. French acts piled onto the other stages as well, including one of my favorite performances on the day, a grueling death set by Sublime Cadaveric Decomposition.
Other extremely impressive performances on Friday came from the likes of Pestilence, Carcass, and Hellhammer performed by Tom Warrior’s Triumph of Death, and a fucking amazing set from Portland’s Uada.
The headliner on Friday was supposed to be Manowar, but under some pretty suspect circumstances, they decided to pull out of the festival at the last minute. While best known in North America for their hilariously tacky album covers, apparently they are still huge in Europe, and many fans that day were sorely disappointed and angry. Many fans that go to Hellfest are “Hellfest for life” myself included, and everyone speaks very highly of the festival organizers who have an amazing reputation with the fans and the bands. So this Manowar debacle, the vast majority of fans put this at the fault of the band themselves, with rumors that they were being bitches about the stage set up, possibly even wanting to play both main stages at the same time. Either way it was likely a very poorly thought out decision by the band, as they alienated and disappointed tens of thousands of fans on hand to see them perform that day, and it was a talking point that pervaded the rest of the weekend.
Patrick Mameli and Pestilence destroying the Altar Stage on Friday
Manowar was replaced by Sabaton who had already played the night previously, turned their convoy around and miraculously managed to make it back in time to set up and perform for the second time in two nights. They delivered one of those magical sets that can sometimes only occur under unique circumstances. The crowd was 1000% into this one, the band fed off that and it amplified. Sabaton provided an amazing performance that included a few jabs at Manowar.
Saturday was yet another incredible day of music, where the theme of the day seemed to be industrial metal versus hard rock icons. While the main stages were piled with household names including Def Leppard, ZZ Top, KISS and Whitesnake, other stages featured incredible industrial performances from the likes of Shaarghot, Punish Yourself, Eisbrecher and an incredible performance by Combichrist.
Some other notably killer performances on the day came from Carach Angen (oh that poor mannequin), Sisters of Mercy, Candlemass and a mind bending set by dark rock outfit DOOL, one of my very favorite acts of the entire festival.
Canada’s technical death outfit Archspire also put on an amazing performance, and took plenty of shots at Manowar in the process. As they first took the stage, they declared “We didn’t get a sound check, so we’re gonna bail. Just kidding, we’re not Manowar!” Afterwards they started a “FUCK MANOWAR!” chant that had a couple thousand fans howling along in unison. Sadly Myrkur had to cancel her set on Saturday, many fans, myself included were really looking forward to that one.
Sunday was jammed with so much metal goodness, it felt like heart wrenching conflict after conflict as many awesome bands performed at the same time. In the sweltering heat, this was by far the hottest day of the festival, fans sought shelter in the shade between sets from the likes of Testament, Death Angel, Municipal Waste, Trivium, Revocation, Anthrax, Clutch, Stone Temple Pilots, Lamb of God provided the most massive circle pit I’ve ever seen, Slash and Myles Kennedy, Tool, and the ALMIGHTY Slayer performing a blistering set, their last ever in France.
Willie Adler and Lamb of God lay the Mainstage 2 at Hellfest to waste. Enormous circle pit alert…
The front half of the day showcased some incredible performances by bands integrating national influences into their music. With New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry incorporating didgeridoo and local language (Te Reo Māori) into their music. Mexico’s Cemican integrates tribal pre-Hispanic instruments and costumes into their impressive set, thrashing about in body paint, performing rituals and playing a multitude of different instruments and pipes. I got to spend the morning with Cemican, documenting their preparation and make up rituals before heading to the stage.
Some of my favorite performances on Sunday came from Immolation, Vomitory, Deicide and Skald who also flexed the folk metal and amazing old instruments to deliver an astonishingly incredible set. I’m not a huge folk fan usually, but they are one of those bands you might catch live and be mesmerized by the wonder and the intensity of the performance. I was entranced by this incredible set.
Hellfest is a festival that puts near impossible amounts of TLC into every aspect and every detail – sculptures and art, cuisine, stages and most importantly always curating a jaw dropping ensemble of incredible bands. This year was certainly among the very best editions, of the planet’s best metal festival.
It’s impossible to catch everything, tell us what we missed! Were you at Hellfest this year? If so drop some of your favorite bands and moments into the comment section below. \m/
Crowd and Ambiance
Eagles of Death Metal