(Written by me and published on June 25, 2015 on the now-defunct London24.com. Photo copyright: Hellfest)

Just a few hours from London, more than 150,000 fans of heavy metal gathered for an event featuring 15 hours of music a day with more than 130 bands in the scorching sunshine.

Hellfest in Clisson is France’s premier festival for those who like their rock at the harder end of the spectrum.

Among the big name acts on the bill were headliners Slipknot, Judas Priest, Faith No More, as well as Marilyn Manson, In Flames and Motorhead.

But if you hadn’t read up on who the official headliners were, you could be forgiven for not being able to tell. On the Friday night, Slipknot didn’t appear until 12.45am on Main Stage 2, while Marilyn Manson, in virtually the same slot on the Saturday wasn’t even billed as one of the top three acts playing that day.

But that perhaps sums up Hellfest. The star of the show really wasn’t any individual band but, as demonstrated by the most popular t-shirt of choice, the event itself.

Celebrating its 10th edition, the festival started off small and has rapidly grown. As its on screen story before one of the biggest and most impressive firework displays to surely have hit any festival, anywhere, told, it was started by the fans, for the fans, and retains its independent spirit.

Drafting in an army of visual artists to ensure the esthétique really lived up to the festival’s name – there was meticulous detail given to making things such as: big screens featuring giant squid hanging off, an arena entrance that looked like an ornate-yet-demonic cathedral, automated fire displays, bins which were giant skulls and even a urinal in a “crypt”.

With booze and food considerably cheaper than at any major English festival and at around £130 for a ticket, the organisers haven’t cashed in on their popularity as much as they might have – aside from via a non-refundable cashcard system for drink and very little food which inevitably meant most paying more than they would actually spend.

The site does also feel overcrowded at times – with late arriving campers having to fight for space in some unusual and un-designated areas, while walking route to the punk stage feeling a bit dangerous when busy.

But those didn’t detract from a knockout event too much, and standout performances from the likes of At the Gates, Finntroll and Cradle of Filth more than made up for it.

Here’s to the next ten editions.

Bravo.
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