HELLFEST 2024 (Day 3)

in Clisson, France, June 29, 2024

Hellfest Open Air Festival, Clisson, France. June 29, 2024.
Photo: Séverine Peraldino

After two days at full speed under the heat and the wind, the third day of 2024 Hellfest did not begin under the most auspicious skies. And yet, for many Metal fans, it was the day that you thought would never come: Metallica and Bruce Dickinson on the same night, with Mass Hysteria and Suicidal Tendencies as other headliners. While Hellfest usually showcases a lot of bands on the more extreme sides of the spectrum, the programme of the day put the spotlight on Classic Heavy Metal, Power Metal, and Melodic Metal more than any other day. For old-school fans, it truly was a treat from morning till night.

Heavy Metal Thunder

Rain was falling with it seems the purpose of ruining your day when Crystal Viper started their set on Mainstage 02. But it would have needed a much bigger storm to deter the band from doing their best to gather metal maniacs of the first hour. Appealing to the scattered crowd, Crystal Viper called in everyone to form the Metal Nation. The energy of the band should hopefully earn them a better spot next time!

Still in the rain, Darken was the first band to inaugurate Metallica’s stage. The Thrash Metal megastars had brought with them their stage extension in the form of a snake pit, highlighted in the bright yellow of 72 Seasons. Unfortunately, what suits Metallica does not always suit other bands. Darken did their best with what was given and delivered a solid set in front of a crowd already won over by their cause. While they played many people also gathered for Eihwar Folk music, so much so that the Temple was once again overflowing.

War Dance!

Luckily, by the time Alien Weaponry started their Haka, the ritualistic war dance of Maoris, the rain had stopped, and they enjoyed a rather good turnout from the audience, perhaps gained from their latest tour with Gojira. Their music has its roots in the traditions of Maoris. The mix with Metal can be strange at first but completely organic. For a better interaction with the audience, perhaps it would have been better suited to have them in the Warzone.

After Eternal’s Champion set, who, like Sumerlands paid tribute to their bass player Brad Raub, Anvil created the surprise by gathering a much larger crowd than expected for this early hour. As announced by the voice of Dave Grohl, there’s no other band as perseverant than Anvil. With a new album just released, their set was true to their reputation: Classic Heavy Metal in its simplest form. The song “Truth is Dying” was a nice addition to their more classic titles such as “Badass Rock N’ Roll.”

Diamonds and Sword

The sun was starting to peer through the clouds when came the time for Power Metal fans to move to the front rows to see Rhapsody Of Fire. Even if their latest albums are not as strong as some of their previous efforts, the band still retains a legendary aura and communicative energy thanks to their frontman Giacomo Voli and his impressive vocal range.

Their set was a moment of good fun, with fans most accustomed to growls and walls of death, suddenly facing tales of magic, dragons and unicorns. But Rhapsody of Fire is nothing if not dreadfully catchy, and so right from the start with “Unholy Warcry.” Even if the crowd enjoyed their newest titles, the classic remained the favourites for many. After “Dawn Of Victory” Voli asked for a wall of death, well aware that it would not beat the record from Slaughter to Prevail earlier, but still, it seemed to exceed expectations, thus depriving the security at the crash barrier of a well-deserved rest.

Black Stone Cherry‘s southern rock was a relaxing Rock N’ Roll moment as many power metal fans had stayed in the front of the other main stage to wait for the next event. The Americans had not graced the Hellfest stage in more than ten years. It was just sunny enough for some festival-goers to spend their set lounging in the grass, which is one fine way to enjoy Black Stone Cherry and keep some strength in this Hellfest marathon.

With a very strong latest album in their sleeves, Stratovarius was a definite high point of the day. Their set was way too short and consisted only of energy-packed hits. From the newest album, the songs “Survive” and “World On Fire” were two good choices. Time flew by, and it was already time for “Hunting High and Low” which is surely one of the greatest Power Metal anthem ever written. A strong album, a strong lineup and solid vocals, Stratovarius will do more than survive, they will strive!

A change of Scenery

While only bigger bands would play the main stages from then on, choices had to be made. So this reviewer headed to visit the Temple again to catch the performance of the most joyful band of Vikings there is. Skàlmöld has a unique way of entwining Folk melodies with their raucous Death Metal Vocals. After their show in Paris in October, the audience was in no mood to sulk. The band responded to their enthusiasm by losing as little time as possible in friendly chit-chat to cram into their set as many songs as possible.

A true highlight of the show was the song “Ullur” from their latest album Ýdalir, during which their drummer stood up to sing a capella before being joined by his bandmates. With their honest and generous manner, Skàlmöld unpretentiously offered one of the best sets of the weekend.

Despite bringing British rain with them, the Folk Metal pioneers of Skyclad were there to follow up with a good mood in total discrepancy with the political disgruntled ranting of their songs. Truth be told, apart from a few die-hard fans probably attending the whole festival just for Skyclad, a good part of the audience did not seem to know the band. However, it proved the good spirit of the crowd of the Temple that day, who joined in the revelry for “The Widdershins jig” and did not hesitated to jump around.

As it was the anniversary of the album A Semblance of Normality, the band picked a few hits from this album with “The Song of No Involvement”, “Anotherdrinkingsong” and the very topical “Parliament of Fools” as the French legislative elections were to happen the next day. Skyclad also crammed into the set the two hits “Penny Dreadful” and “Inequality Street.” All in all, it was an excellent moment spent in the company of a band too rarely seen on this side of the Channel.

Mandrake, Ecstasy and Leather

Bruce Dickinson was the unlucky one of the evening. While rain had held off for most of the afternoon, it poured down for his whole set. And for a while instead of raising their metal horns in the sky, the Hellfest audience raised their middle finger to curse the rain.
The French fans had already caught him live at L’Olympia just a few weeks before and this would be a truncated version of his set there, a very logical choice in these circumstances. Cutting out the ballads from his set, he focused his efforts on the heaviest songs of the album The Mandrake Project, but also on The Chemical Wedding,from which he played both the title track and “The Alchemist.” Despite the rain, Bruce was in much better form than at his show at l’Olympia. He kept jumping around and stirring up the audience in a makeshift French, raising his middle finger at the sky. It was well worth standing in the rain and made you wish for a longer set.

Weatherwise, Metallica was luckier as it stopped raining after “Creeping Death” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” which were also the two opening songs of their concert in Paris last year. Metallica was the main event of this year’s edition and one could wonder if it was the best choice. After all, the French fans of the band had not been disappointed the past two years, as Metallica already headlined Hellfest in 2022 and then played two shows the previous year in Paris. Some other of their choices could also be questioned.

The advertisement for the M72 stadium tour announces that “there’s not a bad seat” from which to see the show. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Hellfest. Instead of simply broadcasting on the screen what is happening on stage (like all the other bands), Metallica divided each screen into smaller windows that would display snippets of the concert, with large bands in between with some animations. Have you ever tried to watch a football match through your neighbour’s window? This would give you a pretty accurate idea of how it was for most of the audience that night.

Regarding the setlist, there were only a few additions compared to their last appearance at the festival, mainly new songs for the 72 Season album. They also launched into an absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary cover of “L’Aventurier” by Indochine (a French pop-rock band.) Any other band would have been booed and have the audience throw things at their faces, but not Metallica. Despite all of these disappointing elements, the audience responded favourably. “Nothing Else Matters” remained an enchanting moment.

“Master Of Puppets” was a fitting, if not original end for their set. The blotched first few notes of the bridge part were ironically representative of this new performance at Hellfest. Metallica is one of the greatest bands of the Metal scene, there’s no doubt about that, but over the years they have become this monster that cannot fit anywhere. If they want to play big festivals, they should stick to the same rules as the other bands and try to adapt a little to the circumstances instead of changing them without considering the audience throughout the day.

Final notes: Angels working in Hell

While some things about Hellfest ought to be questioned and perhaps rethought (the layout of the stages, the saturation of space, the political or commercial choices, and some bands playing the festival…) Hellfest remains in many ways a bubbling cauldron of Metal culture and allows novelty, discovery and bonding over common values, all thanks to the volunteers working there with an indefectible kindness. Like Metallica, Hellfest has become a monster in its proportions, so here’s to hoping it keeps the important values in the balance of its workings.


  • Séverine Peraldino

    Reviewer, interviewer and apprentice photographer for Metal Express Radio, Séverine comes from a small place in the Southern French Alps, near Grenoble. Her taste for classic Heavy Metal is a family heritage and after growing up listening to Iron Maiden, Dio, Metallica and Angra she expanded her horizons with almost every subgenre of Metal, from Power, to Prog, a little bit of Death and Black Metal. She mostly enjoys albums telling stories with originality. When she is not travelling around for concerts and festivals, you can find her reading a good book, or playing board games with friends.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.