Road to Hellfest 2023: Eight bands you can’t miss during the festival
We are getting ever so closer to returning to a place we hold dear to our hearts. We are, of course, talking about 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.
Last year’s edition was a rather insane endeavour – two whole weekends of nothing but metal is something we only dared to dream up to that point. But Hellfest made it happen. However, that was a rather special occasion for it to occur, as we were celebrating the festival’s 15th Anniversary. Don’t go expecting something so crazy this time around. That doesn’t mean, however, that is won’t be as good. And that’s the thing about Hellfest, it doesn’t really matter how many days or how many bands they fill their line-up with, we will always have fun there. But because bands are indeed the most important part of any festival, we’ll give exactly eight bands that we feel are absolutely worth seeing and that should not be missed by any living soul attending the festival.
Imagine Spinal Tap but with actual substance, character and a wisecracking attitude; that’s Tenacious D in a nutshell. Formed by the hilarious Hollywood superstar Jack Black and the equally amusing comedian Kyle Glass, and named after “tenacious defense”, a phrase used by NBA basketball sportscasters Walt Frazier and Marv Albert, Tenacious D play what is widely-known as comedy rock. While they had their beginnings almost thirty years ago, most people recognize the duo from the feature film The Pick of Destiny, a which despite being a box office bomb, became a cult classic within the comedy film genre. Since their inception, Tenacious D have released four records of comedic heavy metal, featuring such all-time hits as “Kickapoo”, “Tribute”, “Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown)”, “Master Exploder” and “Rize of the Fenix”.
As mentioned previously, Tenacious D are very close to celebrating their 30th Anniversary, so the decision to come to Hellfest was a natural one. Metal-related jokes, good-spirited heavy metal acoustics and maybe an appearance by Satan himself are what awaits the masses of Hellfest when Tenacious D step on the Main Stage.
What happens when you spearhead an entire movement that was spawned from a genre made famous by the likes of John Carpenter and Vangelis? You make it darker, heavier, faster. Drawing a substantial amount of influence from the darkest corners of music and cinema, especially horror film themes – hence its tributary name -, Carpenter Brut is a darksynth project created by Franck Hueso, that mixess the ecletic, voltaic and sometimes ravenous sounds of synthwave with sinister and hypnotic ambiences. The result is a crunching and devastating, albeit colourful sound, that is absolutely extraordinary. Throughtout its now decade-long career, Carpenter Brut has unleashed tremendously good releases such as Trilogy, Leather Teeth and the soundtrack to both Seth Ickerman’s Blood Machines and the videogame Furi, as well as a myriad of single-track releases and much more.
Last year, Carpenter Brut released Leather Terror, a monumental record that includes quite the exquisite list of guest appearances, ranging from Ulver and Sylvaine to The Dillinger Escape Plan’s very own Greg Puciato. Being one of the most bombastic French musical exports, their position at the Main Stage of Hellfest shouldn’t come as a surprise. It is well-deserved, as you will soon see; once Carpenter Brut step on stage, the rave will start and you pray for dear life not to lose your mind in the strobe lights and electric beats.
Almost fifty years of hardcore punk history are about to be celebrated with a very rare appearance by the legendary Black Flag. Founded in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, California, by guitarist, primary songwriter and sole continuous member Greg Ginn, Black Flag released their first record, the absolutely iconic Damaged in 1981, and have never stopped making punk history ever since, all while casting an influence over almost every corner of heavy music and several generations of musicians. Now comprising Greg Ginn on guitar, Mike Vallely on vocals, Joseph Noval on bass and Isaias Gil on drums, Black Flag are still intent on making waves and honour the genre that fights against social injustice, capitalism and conformism.
This will be Black Flag’s first ever appearance at Hellfest and we couldn’t be more excited. They are the complete package when it comes to hardcore punk and a lot of moshing, crowd surfing and maybe some crowd killing are absolutely expected. This is going to be one for the history books.
Sometimes, dreams do come true. Formed in 1993 by bassist Brian Cook, guitarist David Knudson, drummer Tim Latona, and vocalist Dave Verellen, Botch became one of the most ground-breaking and influential bands during a pivotal shift in heavy music. With a final show played in June 15th, 2002, the same day as the release of their final EP, An Anthology of Dead Ends, its members would go on to play in These Arms Are Snakes, Minus the Bear and Russian Circles, among others, with acclaim for the band coming mostly post-breakup and We Are the Romans going on to become one of the most influential records for the genre. And that seemed to be it for Botch if not for the fact that, not too long ago, the band signed a deal with Sargent House to reissue their back catalog. Rumors and speculation spurred on what this signing really meant for the group, and, as luck would have it, Botch did reveal that they would be reuniting for a few shows this year.
As it stands, Hellfest was one of the lucky winners on that “where shall we play” lottery, as Botch will only be performing three shows in Europe this year. It might be only of the only takes you will get to see these absolute mathcore giants perform live, so make sure not to miss this one at the Valley.
The Soft Moon
There is a certain admiration to be had towards one-person projects. Both inside and outside of the alternative music scene, there is no shortage of people that have dedicated their lives to their music in a myriad of ways, from Blood Orange, Bon Iver and King Krule to Author & Punisher, Fågelle and Mare Cognitum. In some cases, this one-person lineup is expanded on a live setting, as performing songs by one’s own hand can prove to be incredibly difficult. Such is the case with The Soft Moon. Originally started as a personal project of multi-instrumentalist Luis Vasquez, The Soft Moon was never meant to be performed live and Vasquez himself never considered anything special would ever happen to the project, until a fortunate message on Myspace changed that in an instant. That moment transformed The Soft Moon and its music quickly evolved, becoming a means for Vasquez to achieve self-discovery and deal with past experiences and traumas which, in turn, brought in an audience of like-minded individuals over the years, that saw their own reflection in Vasquez’s music.
Post-punk, darkwave, krautrock and industrial rock are all incredibly important ingredients in The Soft Moon’s music and, Vasquez himself stated that for their first ever performance at Hellfest, they were preparing a setlist full of heavy-hitters and zero slow songs. So, come on down to the Valley and dance your demons away.
We interrupt the usual broadcast to bring you some exciting news straight from the decadent and perverted streets of New York – the golden mask-clad, avant-garde metal trio Imperial Triumphant will be gracing Hellfest with their gloriously depraved presence. We have talked quite a few times about this band in the past and we never get tired of doing so. Borrowing elements from the neoclassical movement and its aesthetic as well as free jazz, Imperial Triumphant employ an avant-gardist approach to black/death through their complex and oftentimes eccentric composition, as can be heard in records such as Vile Luxury and Alphaville. Last year, they took that rich and chaotic atmosphere that is so ingrained in their sound to unforeseen new heights with Spirit of Ecstasy, which is, without a doubt, their best work yet.
As far as live performances go, the trio adorn themselves with exquisite and elaborately-crafted golden masks and black robes which combine perfectly with the style and overall ambience of the band’s music. There are intricate bass solos, avant-jazz weirdness and even champagne pouring – come join the golden ritual when it descends upon the Temple and witness for yourself the absolute decadence of the roaring 20s.
Full of Hell
The grindcore genre is chock-full of prolific bands that cough up a huge multitude of releases every year. It’s not uncommon to find bands that, with only a few years of existence, have managed to establish themselves within the genre with up to 20 or 30 releases, and Full of Hell are one such band. Founded in 2009, Full of Hell are distinctive to many others in the grind scene in that they aren’t afraid to experiment with their own sound, constantly finding creative ways to add new dimensions to their incredibly hellish soundscape. Each of their records and collaborative releases are testaments and living proof of the tremendous ability of each of the band’s members, from guitarist Specer Hazard and bassist Sam DiGristine to vocalist and noisemaker Dylan Walker and drummer Dave Bland.
Full of Hell’s latest record, Garden of Burning Apparitions, is a continuation of that genre-bending onslaught of hardcore, grind, noise rock and death metal that expands upon the very elements that have propelled the band to the forefront of extreme music over the last decade. The same can be said of their live performances; extreme noise sonorities, obliterating riffs and ravaging howls that will crush you to your fucking core await all that dare come to the Altar when Full of Hell arrives.
Until all is 45. That is the motto of Doodseskader, the new brand of sonic terror formed by Tim de Gieter (Amenra) and Sigfried Burroughs (The K.), who are owners of an utterly punishing blend of sludge metal and hip hop. Definitely not a combination for the faint of heart, Doodseskader have so far released two records, Year Zero and Year One, which stand as victorious testaments of tackling life’s obstacles head first. Fighting one’s surroundings, defeating one’s devils and sometimes life itself are all themes intrinsic to their music.
As one would expect from a band formed during the pandemic, their live performances so far have been quite sporadic, but from what we’ve been able to verify, they sound just as brutal, intense and suffocating as they do in the studio. Dare yourself to come down to the Valley and witness the coming of a pitch-black musical future. Until all is 45.
Words by Filipe Silva