Road to Hellfest 2022: The Altar – Weekend One
The return to the normalcy of everyday life appears to be going in full swing and so is the return of live shows and festivals in full force. One such festival that will very soon take place is Hellfest, the biggest rock and metal festival in the world that has featured some of the most absolutely brilliant lineups ever since its inception back in 2006. Originated from the ashes of Fury Fest, Hellfest has grown exponentially over the years and now features six different stages, each offering unique facets and subgenres of rock and metal, a complete tasting platter for every palate. From hard rock, heavy metal and folk to black metal, death metal and hardcore punk, there is something for everyone at Hellfest.
For its 15th Anniversary, the lineup got even crazier with the addition of a second weekend. This is, without a doubt, the biggest festival lineup the world has ever seen, and to help you figure out what bands you should definitely keep an eye out for, we have been unleashing this Road to Hellfest 2022 article series. In it, we will speak about seven bands from each stage, from each weekend, that we feel are absolutely worth seeing and that should not be missed by any living soul attending the festival. This time around, we shift our focus to the Altar, the stage for avid lovers of all things death, grind, thrash and technical. We present you seven bands that will perform on this stage during the first weekend of Hellfest.
Death To All
One thing that most, if not all, metalheads have in common is their knowledge and appreciation of the seminal work done by Death, specifically that of Chuck Schuldiner. As one of the progenitors of the death metal genre, both Schuldiner and Death are often cited as being a major influence to musicians and bands from all walks of life and extreme music genres to this day, thanks to the raw, cutthroat and innovative sound that was ever-present in illustrious records such as Scream Bloody Gore, Leprosy and Spiritual Healing, and that evoked visions of horror, carnage and decay. Later records such as Symbolic and The Sound of Perseverance would feature a shift towards a more progressive and technical sound, something that was born of Schuldiner’s desire to continuously improve and evolve the sound of Death. The aforementioned The Sound of Perseverance would end up being the last record the band put out due to Schuldiner’s untimely death in 2001, but his immeasurable contributions to the genre are still held in high regard, as they should forever be.
Fast forward to 2012, a benefit tour under the title of Death To All was announced as a way to honour Chuck Schuldiner’s legacy and to provide support for the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund. This would join many musicians that had previously worked in Death such as drummer Gene Hoglan, bassist Steve DiGiorgio and guitarist Bobby Koelble, with vocalist and guitarist Max Phelps filling in for the late Chuck Schuldiner. A few shows and tours in North America and Europe followed, which included a stop at Hellfest in 2014. The legacy group will now return once again to the grandest rock and metal festival of them all, to headline the Altar stage on the very first day of the festivities. Get ready for a showcase of death metal classics that you will never forget.
While some bands thrive in the reinvention of death metal, others prefer to persist in the gruesome and ruthless side of things. Such is the case of Grave, a Swedish group founded in 1988 by Ola Lindgren. Considered to be one of the big four of Swedish death metal, Grave possess a sound that immediately grabs you by the throat and bombards you with cavernous riffs, incessant blast beats and gravelly vocals that spew the virtues of bloodshed, nihilism and anti-christianity. Having a penchant for slasher films, as is usual for bands in the genre, Grave crafted incredible records that have aged like fine wine, such as Into The Grave, You’ll Never See, Hating Life and As Rapture Comes, and the group is currently in the process of breathing life into the follow-up to 2015s Out of Respect for the Dead, so naturally, we are beyond excited to bleed our ears with more rotten and twisted Swedish death metal.
Despite being such a dominant force in the genre, Grave have only performed once at Hellfest, back in 2011. That means we will have a lot of catching up to do. Prepare for the circle pits, ladies and gentleman; when the riffs start playing, bodies will start flying. Such is the inevitability of a Grave show.
This next act is as brutal as they come. Hailing from Maryland and formed in 1991, Dying Fetus are a group well-known for the insane and skull-crushing blast beats, intricate and razor-sharp riffing, smashing breakdowns and merciless vocals that make up their soundscape. Their lyrics, as opposed to other bands in the genre, are much more grounded on reality, touching on current socio-political themes, violence and despotism. Their eighth and latest release to date, Wrong One To Fuck With, is perhaps the best showcase of how savage, precise and well-oiled the Dying Fetus machine still is after thirty years of existence, their technical prowess and ardor showing no signs of wear nor tear.
Dying Fetus have performed three times before at Hellfest, the last one being seven years ago, so they are quite familiar with the ravenous hunger of the festival’s fervent audience. But that also holds true the other way around. Once Dying Fetus step on stage to unleash their cacophony of vicious sonorities, you should make ready in order to receive some very nasty surgical punches to your innards.
Hour of Penance
It is not a common sight to see a band strive despite not having any of its original founding members and Hour of Penance have over the years demonstrated all too well why they are an exquisite exception to that rule. Hailing from the Eternal City of Rome, this fine quartet of gents have been punishing minds, bodies and souls alike with their ferociously tempered death metal sound. Mixing in the precision of technical metal with the ragefulness of brutal death, Hour of Penance create a soundtrack to your worst nightmares with each release they throw out of their womb. Their latest one to date, Misotheism, is filled to the brim with head-splitting blast beats, furious vocals, blasphemous lyrics and some of the nastiest riffs you have ever experienced in your short lifespan. Long story short, one can see why the excitement abounds with this one.
It has been quite a while since Hour of Penance last partook in raising absolute hell at Hellfest – in fact, it was an entire decade ago when the Italian brutalizers last left their indelible mark at the festival. Their return heralds the slamming dark times that will soon settle upon the Altar stage, lest you be afraid to witness their coming.
If there is one band that is stoking the fires of death metal and keeping them incredibly alive and burning, that band is Gatecreeper. Since their inception back in 2013, the Arizonian quintet have been spitting release after release from a seemingly endless pool of creativity. From their debut eponymous EP and the absolutely destructive An Unexpected Reality to their myriad of split releases, without forgetting their two full-length records, Sonoran Depravation and Deserted, Gatecreeper have demonstrated their willingness to innovate the genre they so adore, fusing death metal with hardcore elements to fantastic results. There is barely any downtime when you listen to their music, as a constant barrage of chainsaw-like riffs, pummeling drums and aggressive vocals devastate every inch of your body; a lesson they learned well from death metal masters such as Entombed, Dismember and Bolt Thrower.
This Summer, Gatecreeper will return to Europe for an extensive run of dates and their debut at Hellfest is a part of the trek. Urging one to catch live a band like Gatecreeper isn’t enough; if you are in the vicinity of the Altar at the right time, let yourself be drawn in by the violent mosh pits that take shape every time they play. You won’t regret it.
Ever-rising to the top of the death metal food chain, Ingested have been honing their craft alongside their contemporaries, developing and constantly refining a sound that utilizes the best and most savage aspects of the genre. Records such as The Surreption, The Level Above Human and their latest Where Only Gods May Tread are perfect examples of the terrorizing and hellish soundscape the band forges so effortlessly, stuff that is quite definitely not for the faint of heart. Relentless riffs, colossal drums and bestial vocals are the name of the game here and one would find it difficult not to be awed by the band’s songwriting mastery.
This year’s edition of Hellfest is shockful of bands that will be performing at the festival for the very first time and Ingested are no different. If by the third day of the first weekend you haven’t had your fill of deadly treats, do yourself a favour and visit the Altar stage during Ingested’s performance. The finest in UK death metal will welcome you with bloodied open arms.
Disgusting names are a huge part of the grindcore tradition and Rectal Smegma were more than happy to oblige when they came to existence; not even their previous name Carnal Rancidity was exempt from this treatment. With lyrical content that revolves around porn, gore, scatology and other equally alluring themes, one can already see what is the creative driving force of the Dutch quartet. But if any doubts remain, one need only look into the cover artwork of records such as Licking a Leper, Keep on Smiling or Become the Bitch to have a clearer picture. Aside from the innuendos and displays of entrails, the sound of Rectal Smegma is marked by an absurd amount of groove and gurgling vocals, as well as the usage of both hilarious and horrific samples in some songs’ intros.
Like some other bands in this year’s expansive lineup, this will be Rectal Smegma’s firest ever performance at Hellfest and they will be coming with close to 20 years of brutal goregrind in their luggage. There never is a dull moment when these guys take to the stage, so if you are in the mood for some partying while being slammed down by heavy riffs, come to the Altar and get freaky.