Four things Classic Rock learned at Hellfest

Forget the clouds of dust, the 30 degree heat and the endless pitchers of beer.

Hellfest 2014 should be remembered for one thing: booking bloody everyone. From the big shots like Maiden and Sabbath to underground favourites Carcass and Watain to classic rockers Status Quo and Deep Purple, not to mention Slayer, Buckcherry and loads more, Hellfest caters for pretty much every rock and metal genre, spread over six stages in three days. It’s been an impressive, if not the most impressive festival line-up we’ve ever seen. Here’s what Classic Rock learned at Hellfest.

Metalheads love the golden oldies.

With a line-up that includes many leaders of extremity like Godflesh and Behemoth, Hellfest certainly attracts the uber metal. The clientele are mainly sporting necro patch jackets and long hair, yet they arrive in their droves to check out the classics. Status Quo, decked out in crisp white shirts and giving it their all on the Mainstage on the sunny Saturday evening, draw in a humongous crowd ready to boogie to hits like Caroline. Likewise, Deep Purple, who play later that day as the sun begins to set, have everyone shaking those long locks to hits like Smoke On The Water.

The extra touches make Hellfest.

Most music festivals don’t bother much with fancy decorations; Hellfest, on the other hand, specialises in dressing up. In the main arena, the merch stands and bars are lit up by flames at night, and beside them stands the Hellfest tree – a large, looming sculpture that spells ‘Hellfest’ out in its branches. Then there is the Metal Market, made up to look like a post-apocalyptic village made of brightly coloured ‘buildings’, while the entrance to VIP has a huge skull and chains towering above it. It all gives Hellfest a unique charm – and makes it great for photo opportunities.

There are some seriously stellar frontmen – and frontwomen – on show this weekend.

From Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler swaddled in scarves and prancing down a runway to Ozzy Osbourne donning a sparkly black top and encouraging the audience to jump, to Bruce Dickinson’s as enthusiastic as ever stage presence, the big characters are out in full force this year. But there are killer band leaders beyond the headliners; Clutch’s Neil Fallon belts out numbers from their latest album Earth Rocker to rapturous response, as their set in the Valley has audience members streaming far outside the tent, while Unida’s John Garcia’s voice is a force to be reckoned with. But that’s not to say the lads lead the charge: Blues Pills’ Edin Larsson and Royal Thunder’s Mlny Parsonz both boast seriously powerful, bluesy vocals that blow away their audiences.

The headliners don’t hinder the smaller bands.

With so many fans in the field this weekend, when the bigwigs play the Mainstage, the other stages are still packed out. When Iron Maiden headline on Friday night, plenty of black metal folk pack out the Temple stage to watch Watain. When extreme metal legends Emperor play their long-awaited spectacle, Icelandic cowboys Solstafir still bring in a mammoth crowd. While Black Sabbath close the Mainstage on the final night, plenty take to the Valley to watch Unida groove into the late hours. Yet another sign that Hellfest has set the bar high for festivals to come. We’ll see you next year!

Hannah May Kilroy

Hannah May Kilroy has been writing about music professionally for over a decade, covering everything from extreme metal to country. She was deputy editor at Prog magazine for over five years, and previously worked on the editorial teams at Terrorizer and Kerrang!. She currently works as the production editor for The Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Guardian, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer.