What We Learned At Hellfest 2014

No less than a week after Download kicked the face off Donington, we packed up our gear and headed out to France for another three-day rock and metal bender in at Hellfest. Famed for its fire, metallic sculptures and general carnage, we didn't know what to expect...


We don’t recall decent weather at a UK festival since Download 2006, and even then it pissed it down on the Monday. We don’t care what anyone says, a dry punter is a much happier one and the weather at Hellfest this weekend was absolutely spectacular. Viva la France!


The French get a bad rep from us Brits but everyone we met at Hellfest – from the security to the caterers and punters – was lovely. We thought not speaking the language might hinder our experience, but everyone was really accommodating and we won’t hear a bad word said.


The whole site felt like the set of Tank Girl or Mad Max. There’s Hell City, which resembles a post-apocalyptic Camden High Street, whilst the hospitality area was done up like some fucked up hick town with derelict Cadillacs and a deserted gas station to match. C’est trés cool!


When it comes to booze, the French don’t do things by halves. Well they do, but they also do it right. Beers at Hellfest come in two sizes: half a pint (for wimps) or a pitcher. Needless to say many pitchers were drank, and for a festival they were reasonably priced too (€15 or £12ish).


Usually at festivals you have to go traipsing around to find the food you want, and when you do eventually find something it’s overpriced and tastes like dry cow poo. Hellfest solves that problem by sticking all its food outlets in one village – where you can get anything from Hungarian goulash to vegan or Thai – and not only is the food tasty it’s also not extortionate.


One of the least funny and interesting things about festivals are those idiots in onesies carrying free hugs signs. We’re not saying there weren’t any of those people at Hellfest, but if there was we didn’t see any. We saw costumes like the knights of Camelot, Papa Emeritus from Ghost and even Bully from Bullseye – all of which are perfectly acceptable. Go home with your free hugs.


At the risk of sounding like less glam Steel Panther, we saw more beautiful girls at Hellfest than we’ve ever seen in one place. And there were more than enough buff dudes with beards to match. If you’re a single metalhead looking for a festival romance then Hellfest truly is the one. We fell in love every five minutes (this took up a lot of time).


One of our favourite sights of the weekend was a middle-aged geezer covered in black metal patches losing his mind to Brutality Will Prevail. That image summed up Helfest. There were no age or genre divides – everyone was there to rock out to everything from Deep Purple to The Black Dahlia Murder. As they should!


Hellfest claims to be “the most eclectic and specialised extreme festival in the world”, and when you go from Status Quo to Hatebreed one day and Behemoth to Soundgarden the next, with Maiden, Aerosmith and Sabbath as your headliners, not to mention the motherload of punk, rock and metal bands across six stages over the course of three days, it’s impossible to argue with them.


No, Hellfest didn’t give us worms. But it has given us the bug to do more European festivals, now we know how accessible, affordable and absolutely awesome they are. Wacken. Polish Woodstock. Resurrection Festival – there’s a whole world of fun to be had, and thanks to Hellfest for opening that can of worms.

Matt Stocks

DJ, presenter, writer, photographer and podcaster Matt Stocks was a presenter on Kerrang! Radio before a year’s stint on the breakfast show at Team Rock Radio, where he also hosted a punk show and a talk show called Soundtrack Apocalypse. He then moved over to television, presenting on the Sony-owned UK channel Scuzz TV for three years, whilst writing regular features and reviews for Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazine. He also wrote, produced and directed a feature-length documentary on Australian hard rock band Airbourne called It’s All For Rock ‘N’ Roll, and in 2017 launched his own podcast: Life in the Stocks. His first book, also called Life In The Stocks, was published in 2020. A second volume was published in April 2022.