Here We Go Again: Hellfest 2022 – Day One (Weekend Two)
So, here are again. After three days of sightseeing in Nantes, it was finally time to come back to the unholy grounds of Hellfest, as the second weekend was about to commence. After the usual preliminaries that consist of mounting tents and getting a fresh new batch of merch, we heard about the storms that hit the campsite during our time away and realized we made a fantastic decision in getting a place to stay elsewhere. We kicked off the second weekend with a visit to the Temple, as we were very curious to see Lili Refrain play live and we were not disappointed. She stood alone on the stage, with only her instruments and a powerful, enchanting voice that channeled ancestral magic. It was a really nice presage to two performances within the same genre that would come later at night. We moved our bodies to the Altar for a rather tame performance by Crown, who we had high hopes for but fell a tad short, and the same could be said of The Ruins of Beverast, who played right after at the Temple. The lack of a nightly cloak does hurt some of the more mystical and endarkened performances. The real power sets began with Slomosa, a fantastic quartet from Norway that assaulted the Valley with their chilling variant of stoner rock that made us dream of horses and icy deserts. They are definitely one of those bands to watch out for in the future, as in our minds, they are destined to be huge. The fabled virtuoso Steve Vai followed suit with a great performance at the Main Stage 2, which only faltered for not including his new insane Hydra guitar. Oh well, maybe next time? We remained close by to catch Whitesnake on a show that was part of their Farewell tour. All things considered, and despite their old age, the Brits gave a nice show to the audience that came to see them, playing classic upon classic such as “Slide It In”, “Love Ain’t no Stranger”, “Here I Go Again” and the love-inducing, body-seducing “Is This Love”. Oh, and Steve Vai himself showed up to play “Still Of The Night”, which was a fantastic moment. Dave Coverdale did have some vocal issues throughout the performance and we latter found out that it was due to a sinus and trachea infection, which contributed to the band cancelling the remainder of their tour.
We wish him a speedy recovery and return in full force. After a much-needed break, we returned to the Altar for an impressive and fiery performance by Septicflesh, the Greek masters of symphonic death metal. Ever enthusiastic about playing live, the band performed as a quintet, since Sotiris Vayenas was present this time around – a rare occurrence but a much appreciated one, as his brilliant voice gives Septicflesh’s music a whole new dimension and depth. Between that and frontman Seth Siro Anton’s constant shouting for the audience to raise their devil horns, this was a highly entertaining performance that counted with magnificent songs such as “Pyramid God”, “Portrait of a Headless Man”, “The Vampire From Nazareth”, “Communion” and “Anubis” on the setlist. Now, remember the presaged performances we mentioned earlier? Well, the first of those was Heilung at the Temple. This band always struck us as being very distinctive from the rest of the folk and neo-folk groups that are out there. Employing elements of ethnic music, Heilung don’t just play their music, they give the audience a show of viking proportions. And while that is all fun and good, we get this feeling that perhaps the band is more focused on the theatrics and showmanship of thos that accompany the band, with the music serving more as a backdrop, a soundtrack of sorts to a theatre piece. The presence of a lot of viking weaboos in the audience doesn’t help it either, these people take some things way too seriously.
A much better performance by a long shot was Wardruna. The main difference between them and Heilung is the latter are way too focused on a past that doesn’t seem to make sense being brought into the present, while the former respect the past and use it as a learning experience towards a better future. And we suppose that is a much better message to be delivered, especially nowadays, right? That being said, Wardruna’s live performances are in tandem with their studio offerings – both stand as being very minimalist and we mean that in the best possible of ways. There are no grand theatrics, there is only the timelessness and compassion of their sound, a warm blanket that calms body and mind. Towards the end, frontman Kvitravn echoed these sentiments in a really emotional speech, where he spoke of how we should honour the past and those that came before us, while keeping our eyes focused on building a better tomorrow. Wardruna was never and will never be about romanticizing about the past, it’s about taking something old that still carries meaning and relevancy, and create something new with it. “The old songs are gone, so let’s make new ones”, is perhaps the best phrase Kvitravn could have used to describe these sentiments, and we held those words close to our heart, holding back tears as the band finished an incredible performance that will forever be one of the highlights of our short lives.
Words by Filipe Silva
Photos by Alexandra Ramos