A Farewell To Hell: Hellfest 2022 – Day Four (Weekend Two)
We felt really sad waking up on the last day of the festival. After so many days of pure debauchery, it was all coming to an end. Well, we will always have next year, but waiting that long a time is painful. However, crying over it would do us no good and so, we started packing our stuff back into the car, as we were planning a quick exit out of the festival grounds as soon as the last firework hit the sky in order to not catch as much traffic as we would, had we left the morning after. That was a grueling task in and of itself, and at this point, our bodies were starting to give up, crying out for eternal rest, but we persevered and pushed ourselves beyond limits, as it was not yet over and we still had a full day of metal goodness to enjoy.
We started proceedings with a lackluster performance by Year Of No Light. Ironically enough, they did play with a lot of light, which doesn’t help bands such as them who thrive in a closed-door environment. But you know what really shines in the sun? A good dosage of hardcore punk provided by both Judiciary and Incendiary. Yeah, the Warzone was totally lit during both of these ferocious bands that pulled from different spectrums of the hardcore genre. Judiciary are more muscular and have fattier riffs, while Incendiary are all about that quick and repeated punch in the gut. Both are fucking awesome in their own right and we enjoyed some moshing during their sets. Smack dabbed right in the middle of both of these outstanding sets was the magnanimous cosmic riffage of Blood Incantation. While they did release an ambient record earlier this year, they were much more inclined to play their heavier, more backbreaking material. The only downside was the short time they had to play; we were left hungering for more, but getting to hear “Starspawn”, “The Giza Power Plant”, “Inner Paths (to Outer Space”, “Awakening From the Dream of Existence to the Multidimensional Nature of Our Reality (Mirror of the Soul)” and “Hovering Lifeless” was a treat.
We made our way to the Valley for the penultimate time to catch Ufomammut dish out sludgy psychedelia in the form of a set entirely dedicated to their latest record, Fenice. Returning back to the Temple, as it had been a while, we witnessed a scenario unlike anything we had ever seen. Before us stood a stage adorned with giant snake chairs and an altar meticulously decorated with a variety of incenses and Hindu imagery. It was clear that the owners of such an impressive display of esotericism weren’t here to fool around and so, Cult of Fire stepped on stage and gave us one of the most ethereal and elegant black metal performances we will ever have the pleasure of witnessing, highly focused on their Moksha, Nirvana and Triumvirát records. We were left in complete awe, stunned by the magnificence we were experiencing. Rituals abounded during their entire performance, carried out by a cloaked frontman, whose body was entirely covered in vests and veils embellished with horns and a crown of skulls, while the masked guitarists sat at the serpent chairs distilling tantric riffs and sonorous mantras. An otherworldly ordeal that we need to re-experience fast.
After having our souls cleansed by the epic black metal of Cult of Fire, we felt that our bodies needed some purification as well. And who better to do such a thing than Thou, the Baton Rouge sludge doomsters that have been refining their craft for close to twenty years now. Their performances are always an exercise on precision and density, and you can always see a glimmer of joy in the eyes of the audience whenever Thou are present on a stage. And while most of the band was inconspicuous during their entire performance, demonstrating smiles and signs of affections towards each other on occasion, frontman Bryan Funck stood in front of the audience in an almost apathetic and catatonic state, screaming his lungs out with seemingly no effort, while staring deeply into the eyes of everyone present as a fairly sedated lunatic would. The set itself was a sort of voyage through the band’s discography, playing older cuts such as “Fucking Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean”, “Rats and Mice and Swarms of Lice” and “By Endurance We Conquer”, to more recent musical endeavours such as “Into The Marshlands”, “The Changeling Prince” and “Lonely Vigil”. May they not take ten years to return to Hellfest again, they deserve to be there every single edition going forward. After such an intense purification, we decided to lay down for a bit, but not before catching the crazed sludge belchers Eyehategod. Nothing to write home about, but it was still nice to see them still alive and kicking.
If Alice Cooper is the master of shock, King Diamond is definitely the master of horror and the occult. A self-proclaimed satanist – a big and scary word some four decades ago -, King Diamond has a keen eye for fear-inducing visuals and supernatural aesthetics. And if ever there was any doubt about that statement, one simply needs to look out for the dress code the King employs every night he performs, whether solo or with Mercyful Fate. The latter was recently reformed by King, and counts on their ranks the original lineup of Hank Sherman and Mike Wead on guitars and Bjarne T Holm on drums, as well as Joey Vera filling in for Timi Hansen on bass. With a setlist prepared to take us all to the Sabbath and a stage that could have been taken straight out of any satanic congregation in the eighties, the band enters the stage with a huge glee on their faces, as King himself descends the massive marble stairs, with a huge inverted cross hanging behind him. Holy shit, does he still have an insane voice! And to think that the guy is already 66 years old; he truly his taking care of himself after that whole medical scare a decade ago. The setlist itself was pretty iconic and chock-full of the classics on would expect from a performance of this caliber. “The Oath”, “Black Funeral”, “Evil”, “Come To The Sabbath”, all of them made a well-received appearance, and there was even time for a brand-new song, the almost ten-minute-long “The Jackal of Salzburg”. Hopefully this means a new Mercyful Fate record is coming soon, rather than later. After “Satan’s Fall”, we are saluted by the band and then by King himself, who demonstrates is eternal gratitude to the audience that responds with an enthusiastic ovation. Afterwards, we made one last stop at the Altar to catch a glimpse of Carcass grinding away the rotting corpses that weren’t watching Metallica on the Main Stage, and then, we made our way back to the Temple for Triptykon, who played a much-appreciated, Celtic Frost-centric set. And we say this because we finally had the chance to listen to classics such as “Usurper” and “Necromantical Screams” on a live setting. Oh, but don’t think Uncle Tom forgot about Triptykon – “Goetia”, “Altar of Deceit” and “Abyss Within My Soul” were intertwined with other Celtic Frost classics. This was the perfect way to end an amazingly brutal and decadent edition of Hellfest, a double-weekend of pleasure, paradise and metal. The perfect finale for what is surely Hellfest’s grandest edition – the Woodstock of our generation.
Words by Filipe Silva
Photos by Alexandra Ramos