Hellfest @ Clisson, France, 18-20 June 2010 – Day One: The Afternoon
This is part 2 of Noise Road’s review of Hellfest. Click here for part 1.
Day One of Hellfest had so many bands of interest that I’ve had to break up the review into two posts. So either settle in for the ride… or consume this post in a few sittings… or leave when you get bored. Up to you, buddy. No guns to the head here. This is partially because of the strict gun laws in the UK, where I am writing this post from. Now if I was in Arizona… Did you know that you don’t need a licence to carry a concealed weapon in Arizona?
Last week, I met a salesman for gatling guns, who proudly told me how great it was in Arizona. “If they don’t know if you have a gun or not, they ain’t gonna rob you now are they?” I said “But that means that any crazy can carry a gun and shoot me. Do I need a gun just to feel safe from crazy people?” He told me that I was missing the point. I agreed.
Wow. This post is already unfocused, and burning words. Hop to it, man…
Magrudergrind were the first band that I caught for the festival. I dug their last album, cleverly titled, Magrudergrind. I can see how its mix of serious and tongue in check samples may not please all listeners. But the samples do set the scene of Washington DC and its problems. More importantly for me, the samples break up the record. They create space between the intense grinding.
There weren’t any samples at their show, but the tracks do slow down long enough to give meaning to the intense bursts. And man, was it intense. The vocalist matched the crowd intensity with his jumping scissor kicks. In order to contain the atmosphere, this show was held in the smallest tent at Hellfest. Grind isn’t meant to be performed on big festival stages. It belongs in clubs where you can touch opposite walls at the same time.
Magrudergrind are a band well worth seeing. The only issue I had was with the set length. I don’t think they cracked the 20 minute barrier. I know that grind is about short bursts of aggression (most of the tracks on Magrudergrind’s last album are around the minute mark or less), and I know you can’t listen to 4 hours of this stuff straight, but I would hope that their headlining shows are slightly longer.
Next up on today’s itinerary was Crowbar, with Kirk Windstein on lead beard. It was as big a contrast as you’ll get at a pure metal festival. Where Magrudergrind were half minute bursts of fury, Crowbar slowed it the feck down. It was doomy and it was sludgy. I’ve only seen Kirk play in Down previously, where he takes a pretty low key role… and wouldn’t you if you had the mouthy Phil Anselmo fronting your band? But Kirk is a charismatic frontman in his own right.
The performance was tight. Live those songs come alive. But the most noticeable thing was how much fun the band was having, and how much they seemed to enjoy playing with each other. After each song they would knock fists with each other, in celebration of another great performance. Enthusiasm is infectious… Its hard to not enjoy something when the band is enjoying it so much.
The set included one of my favourites, Conquering, and concluded with the classic, All I Had (I Gave).
Necrophagist / Finntroll / Deftones
The next act for the day that I was really looking forward to was Ihsahn. Before his set, I had time to walk around, sampling different acts and the atmosphere of the festival.
The sun was out on day one of Hellfest – and so was the skin. And not all of it should have been out there. I’m not sure if lack of body image issues is a metal thing or a euro thing, but there was some pale, chubby flesh on display.
Also no wonder your northern hemisphere types get burnt when they come to Australia. At home, we’ve got a healthy fear of the sun. If you left pale white skin out in the sun for 16 hours in Australia you would be hospitalised. It only takes 15 minutes to burn under our ozone layer hole.
First on the sampling plate for the afternoon was Necrophagist. Like many technical death metal bands, Necrophagist are walking a fine line between technicality and w@nk. Going in, I thought that they would land on the w@nk side. I only caught a couple of songs and it was alright in moderation. It was different to what I had just heard in Magrduergrind and Crowbar. The riffs were off kilter. The guitar work was super technical, but they still retained heaviness. A couple of songs was cool, but I didn’t feel like I needed a whole set of it.…
Finntroll brought a combination of Scandinavian folk and metal to the festival. It’s not my thing, but it was fun to see all the pagan metal fans dancing jigs, while they tried not to spill the beer in their traditional drinking horns.
I don’t like writing reviews that are too negative, but Walls of Jericho are worthy of some venom. And even though I’d never heard of them, they seemed popular enough that no words from me could ever do them any damage. In short, Walls of Jericho are seven different kinds of shyte. They are just one fashionable cliche after another – hollow passages between generic breakdowns, teen lyrics about “f_ck the american dream”, a “f_ck” chant. Stay well clear!
I would have liked the opportunity to catch more of the big rock of the Deftones, but I had to head over to the side tent for Ihsahn.
Ihsahn’s latest album, After, is one of my favourites of the year. There is so much variety on that album. The scope and ambition is one thing – but that he was able to pull it off and successfully integrate saxophone into a metal album is monumental!
Ihsahn has an interesting black metal back story. I believe that he is still a “you-are-your-own-god” style of satanist. His former band Emperor was one of the founding Norwegian black metal bands. And back in the day, a former bandmate was even jailed over the church burnings. While there are traces of black metal in the music, his solo albums are far closer to progressive metal.
With all this hype, how was it, Moods?… It was great!
It was great – except for the two tall d!cks in front of me, who talked throughout the set complaining about the missing saxophone parts. Get over it, dude. Ihsahn didn’t bring a saxophonist out on tour. If you want an exact replica of the album, stay out home and listen to the god d@mn record.
Ihsahn opened up with the first two tracks off After. They were amazing compositions, played flawlessly. I will never tire of intricate music performed with energy. Ihsahn’s songs aren’t complicated for complicated’s sake. He writes songs that convey emotion, and when he’s yelling on the mic, you can see that he is feeling it.
The previous two solo records, featuring quite Pink Floyd-y moments, were also well represented. Although his albums are solo works, Ihsahn’s backing band, Leprous, were allowed to shine throughout. The keyboardist even handled lead vocal duties on a track taken from the first record.
Frozen Lakes on Mars, seamlessly flowing between hammering verses and prog rock choruses, brought the set to a close all too soon. I can’t wait to catch Ihsahn at Wacken.
After Ihsahn’s awesome set, I decided to rest the legs a bit. I cracked my first Kronenbourg for the day, and parked my @rse in front of the main stage for Infectious Grooves….
Who remembers Infectious Grooves? Not many of you?
Infectious Grooves’ claims to fame are
1. They are Mike Muir’s (from Suicidal Tendencies) funk metal band
2. They are Robert Trujillo’s (currently Metallica’s bassist) previous band
3. They were the band that played at the school dance, at the end of the Pauly Shore movie, Encino Man. They don’t make movies like Encino Man anymore.
Ohhh… how sweet…
But on to a youtube vid worth watching…
You don’t remember Suicidal Tendencies either? You’ve never heard of Suicidal Tendencies? Man, you need to watch the 3:54 of pure awesome below. It features Bobcat Goldthwait driving to work on a lawnmower, a surly Barney the Dinosaur, an awesome hardcore punk track and one of the funniest second verses ever. All I wanted was a pepsi, just one pepsi… Watch it! Now!
Those old enough (like me), will remember the golden days of funk metal, the early nineties. Remember those early Red Hot Chilli Pepper records, Faith No More’s Real Thing album, the first Mr Bungle album and… Infectious Grooves. Funk metal may be dated – but you can’t deny its sense of fun. Infectious Grooves were especially having fun tonight, celebrating the LA Lakers win in their Lakers singlets.
Mike Muir is the clearly the band leader, but he assembled a more than interesting supporting cast. The bass player had serious funk chops. Who needs Metallica’s Robert Trujillo?… and the drummer has got to be competing with Fear Factory’s Gene Hoglan as the fattest drummer in rock today. The dude was a tank. I liked how he couldn’t bring himself to hit a cymbal without twirling his sticks. Showmanship was on display tonight.
The Suicidal Tendencies guitarist joined the lads on stage for a funked out version of Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song, and to close the set, the Suicidal classic, Pledge Your Allegiance. Muir demanded a stage invasion. And a stage invasion he got. I’ve never seen so many people on one stage. Take that, Polyphonic Spree!
Woo!!! And I thought Infectious Grooves was going to be my rest up time. Thankfully I was able to chill out more for Sick of it All’s set. You know what you’re going to get with New York Hardcore – punk beats, sing along choruses and shyteloads of energy.
I was now rested and good to go for the evening session…
Click here for words on sets from Sepultura, Godflesh and Fear Factory.