Report: Hellfest 2023

Report: Hellfest 2023

- in Reviews

My last Hellfest was four years ago, in 2019. The last year of calm and measured life. In 2020 COVID-19 will lock up people in their houses and later the war came into the life of my family and my friends. But here it is and here I am, diving into the celebration of heavy and extreme music, meeting some new people and trying to disconnect from the outside (a little bit vainly but thanks for that).

I can’t say that my talented friend Eugene, the photographer and I experienced the festival fully, no. We didn’t live in camping, we haven’t drink until the middle of the night and we didn’t overcome all the festival’s adversities from the lack of usual comfort or severe weather – from the extreme heat on the first day to the heavy rain on the last one. However, we had a great justification: we came here to “work”. Take photos, make some interviews and write the report, which I’m doing right now. And here I want to thank to Hellfest and its organizers: I clearly understand that I need them much more than they need me, so I am really grateful for all the opportunities and wear the “media” bracelet with a king of honor.

Festival is always an adventure. And it’s always about overcoming, while you choose the level of it. The reward may vary: from the complete delight and overflowing emotions to complete disappointment. You have plenty of it at all festivals and Hellfest 2023 isn’t the exception. However, I must say that there is less “overcoming” as is with years: it is much easier to come there (lots of shuttles from the different places and parking lot shuttle indeed comes every five minutes), food courts are diverse, lots of points with water and places in the shadow. Every year comes more and more visitors (240000 stated this year) but there weren’t some incidents. I saw a couple of people at first aid but that’s exactly why they are there. So again I can say kudos to the Hellfest team.

But I want to start from my personal pain: Pantera. After their set Eugene and me were arguing for a long time, was it really that bad? Ok, four good musicians want to play some old songs, why not? But do you really need to call yourselves Pantera, especially when you are nothing more than a tribute band? Do you really need to idolize passed Dimebag and Vinnie Paul that much, iconizing them (yes, I’m talking about you, Zakk Wylde and your “St. Dime” patches) and bowing your head in pity with “Cemetery Gates” intro with the mentioned Dimebag on a screen (sorrow in public called “posturing”, Phil Anselmo, don’t you know about that?) On the other hand they gave a chance to hear some favorite Pantera songs or at least some famous hits like waks (323M on Spotify and 258M on Youtube.) However, Mr. Anselmo knows about it and talked about it. Geez, it was better if I’d go warzone to see Rise Of The Northstar who played with Pantera at the same time.

This time I wasn’t so lucky, buy the way: many bands I wanted to hear overlapped and I needed to choose. Slipknot or Testament? Within Temptation or Voivod? Or Black Flag? Municipal Waste or Meshuggah? Gogol Bordello or Sum 41? Sometimes the choice was really hard for me but it is impossible to grasp everything. And we missed Evil Invaders – we simply couldn’t get there in time.

It was also a little bit painful to watch Motley Crew. Well, let me explain: impressive intro, great decorations, two seductively dancing girls, everything is great. And then we see Nikki Sixx, fat Vince Neil and Tommy Lee, who just seems old. Don’t get me wrong, I know how old they are and I realize that they used more drugs in their life than I ate chocolate. But, hey! It’s not only they look worse than I feel right now, they are trying to act like it’s 1984, they are on Sunset Strip and they will have a lot of alcohol, women and Dr. Feelgood. Tommy Lee, man! He was married with Pamela Anderson!

And we used to see Machine Gun Kelly set while we were waiting for Motley Crew. Well, you know how this can happen when you wait for some headliner. Anyway, this kid was a rapper, made some indistinct, inarticulate rap and then he decided that he wants to play pop punk. So he worked with Travis Barker from Blink-182 and in the end we have the same indistinct pop punk. It was expectedly bad: the “I am a rock star and I can do what I want” attitude with joint smoking on a stage, lots of musicians (too much for this kind of music, to be honest), some samples and going off the stage with some rap track got the “Booooo” from the crowd. Well, the good news is there is some long-legged blonde in shorts and fishnet stockings, who tried to play guitar. This girl has good body plasticity.

Anyway, let’s get to the good, which was incomparably more, of course.

Finally my dream came true and I saw Iron Maiden. In contrast with the mentioned Motley Crew the members act according to their age. Maybe they play not as fast as they used to and don’t run so much on a stage but still they are doing great. The same thing with their stage outfit, which came straight from the 80s and never changed. However it’s not about Bruce Dickinson: he still runs, jumps, sings greatly and wears some Ridley Scott cyberpunk outfit. Hellfest show was in the middle of their “The Future Past Tour” and “Blade Runner” cyberpunk (the show opened with Vangelis composition from the movie) and overall “Back To The Future” vibe (a panel from Delorean was shown on some decoration.) Of course, Eddie appeared on stage, twice: one time as a cyborg from Somewhere In Time cover and got into laser shootout with Bruce and as a samurai from the last album Sehjutsu. The set list, by the way, was made mostly from these two albums, so I missed some bangers like “Aces High”. Nevertheless, new songs like “Death Of The Celts” and “Hell On Earth” sound great live too. And in the end they played “Fear Of The Dark” and “The Trooper.” Thank you, grandpas, for the show and for the concert. Live long.

Talking about shows: one of the most impressive was the show from Behemoth, who closed the first day at the same time as Kiss on Main Stage (these guys will be like Scorpions soon – it is something like fifth or sixth year when they play their farewell shows but don’t leave the stage.) Anyway, Behemoth show was gorgeous: scrupulously scheduled up to a second with lots of pyro and shadow play in the beginning. Black metal splendor in all its best: the lights, the sound, decorations and stage costumes. But the most important is the band’s impact, and it was great. Despite the late night, people wanted to see the band and turned up already with intro sounds.

Hypocrisy were no less impressive for me and actually made my day. There were some alien decorations, light works, some pyramid with drummer on top and shimmering word “worship” (the band’s last album) while in front of all this were three brutal long haired men, who played metal and did it great. There wasn’t much interaction with the crowd but it was so much energy that it seemed you could touch it.

Something similar happened at Skid Row set. Not that I’m a big fan, no. Just remember a couple of hits like “18 And Life”, “Youth Gone Wild” etc. so I came more because of my curiosity. But this band turned people on from the first chord and their set was really mighty. Especially I want to highlight the young vocalist Eric Grönwall, who recorded the band’s last album The Gang’s All Here. Vocally he reminds Sebastian Bach, of course with some Axl Rose’s things but the energy he provides and power of his voice are impressive indeed. I think this is a really good acquisition for the band. Skid Row will hardly get “a second youth” (thought the new album is pretty good, so I wouldn’t he so sure about it) but their new songs and old bangers sounds pretty good.

If many bands’ shows are thoughtful and scheduled up to a second act, Gogol Bordello is a total eight people chaos on a stage; that’s how they made their career. And, yeah, that was just fun. I agree that their music is just technically punk, but when 10000 people dancing and singing “Wanderlust King” or “Kolomyiky” (Ukrainian folk comedic verses), is it really important what genre it is? Gogol Bordello provide smiles and joy. Oh, they were also one of the very few bands, who spread the word of Ukraine and it was very important for me.

Smiles and joy were also given to the crowd by Beast In Black. I really love this band and wasn’t disappointed not in the slightest: Yannis provides the same vocals live as on the record while running the stage, other members play awesome while people in front of the stage create constant crowdserfing flow (I swear, my hands were hurt after this set line after some good workout.)

However, the quintessence of humor and parody were Tenacious D, of course: the greatest band in the world. Period. Jack Black and Kyle Gass got old, obviously but they are awesome on the stage and they gave the crowd everything they needed (and even more.) “The Pick Of Destiny” songs, lots of sketches, interaction with people, pyro (gosh, you need to see this), laugh, smiles and excellent mood. Even the weather got better and the sun came out after rain. Wonderful.

Suddenly, I was pleased with Papa Roach: I had zero expectations and I went there to pay homage to my youth, sing “Last Resort” and then say that this band should be disbanded a long time ago, in 2001 after Infest release. But finding myself in the center of mosh pit after 10 minutes (it wasn’t my choice) and listening to the live performance I must admit that they were good. The show, pyro and visuals added some good impressions with some covers on The Prodigy and Ramones. However, “freestyle” with introducing the band’s members was unnecessary and I’m sure that this “freestyle” was prepared at home but summing things up: I listened to what I wanted and was happy with it.

I was pleasantly surprised by Imperial Triumphant with their genres’ fusion and golden masks, which look awesome on stage. Mighty Greeks Nightfall played a potent show with some theatrical things; it was easy to see how they missed live gigs and crowd, while their new line-up provided a good, heavy sound. And the supergroup Elegant Weapons just came and gave some hard rock. Or heavy metal. Or hard’n’heavy. Anyway, those respectable gentlemen are professionals and do their job good. I was also pleased with the fact that there were a lot of young fans of classic heavy metal like Judas Priest, in battle wests with right patches and other proper stuff. Nice. Oh, almost forgot about Saor: one man’s project was transferred greatly to the live performance with six musicians and beautiful violinist and bagpiper. It was powerful but at the same time the original beauty of folk melodies was kept.

Slipknot ended the festival. I can’t say that I’m a big fan of the band; however like every child of 90-00s I know some biggest hits. But only at this gig I understood what this band is about: Slipknot is that one teenage rebellion against all – parents, school, forced authorities and all that stuff, wrapped in musical form. That one ” – How do you think? – I think not like you!” on a maximum level. And it’s great that they become commercially successful with it. Expectedly but still cool. Again, their show was awesome, the sound was perfect, Corey interacts with crowd greatly and the band gives people all that they wanted, when people gives them energy back fully. You can say what you want: they aren’t “true”, it’s commercial project, they are not develop (or develop their music wrong) – I agree, it’s true. But they give thousands of people what they want to hear and people love them. Other is secondary.

Then there were fireworks. As I passed by people, who watched the sky with beautiful fires with absolutely childish delight and some classic rock played on a background, I finally understood how to make a several tens of thousands people happy. Take them from this world to some remote location, make them emotional roller coaster with overcoming, adrenaline and euphoria and then put some AC/DC, Van Halen and launch the fireworks. They… Not “they”, we! We will be happy. Because our inner children will be happy. That’s why we are here, that’s why the number of visitors grows from year to year. And yes, our inner children are beautiful. When they smile, we become beautiful too. Beautiful and happy. Thank you, Hellfest and see you again!

P.S. the 2024 four-day tickets sale will start on June, 27 at 1 pm at

Photos by Eugene Sokolenko (Zhes Photo)






If you really would like to support Antichrist, you can just Share our article.
You can also support Antichrist by sending a couple bucks to cover some webhosting expenses.
=>> PayPal