Festival season – for a lot of metal fans, this is the best time of year. Hanging out with your friends in the Sun, drinking beers and watching all your favourite bands.
Meeting new people.
Getting the shits from that dodgy burger van and having to take a shit in a shit smeared portaloo (why, why do people do this?)
Ending up slightly sunburned.
But seriously, metal festivals are awesome and I’ve had a LOT of fun at them over the years.
Bonus: Check out The Heavy Metal Survival Guide – everything you need to know to have an awesome time at a metal festival.
Here are a few of my favourites:
Hellfest – Clisson, France
Hellfest is just downright awesome. They always have a great lineup, the campsite is pretty well organised and you don’t have to walk too far to get anywhere.
I’ve been 3 (maybe 4?) times with friends. The first two times, there were two cars of us. One group of us met at a friends place in Horsham, and the other group in Reading. We met at the ferry (I think it was Dover?) and drove in convoy from wherever the hell we landed in France to Clisson.
It was probably my favourite festival experience ever. There are a few hilarious stories from that I’ll post another day.
What I Love About Hellfest
The Lineup This was always great. They have a mixture of classic rock / metal and more modern bans, spanning most of the sub genres of metal. There are 2 mainstages and a few smaller stages, so you get to see bands of every level too.
The Fire Buckets These are just cool. Three giant steel hanging baskets, and every night they fill them with wood and set fire to them. Perfect to stand around when it gets cooler at night.
The Weather Every time I’ve been, the weather has been pretty good. Nice and sunny.
The Layout You can walk everywhere in a few minutes. Getting from your campsite to the main arena doesn’t take too long (if you get a good camping spot).
The Campsite The campsite is divided into colour coded zones, so you can find your way there. Large paths are roped off. There are plenty of urinals. There are mini breakfast stands in the morning you can get some food, coffee and juice at.
The campsite is very close to a decent supermarket (follow the constant stream of people out of the campsite and over the bridge). There you can get food and beer… although you will have to carry it all back to the campsite. The supermarket also has a nice and regularly cleaned toilet.
You can get onto the campsite a day or two early, which is awesome. You can get a good spot, get some beers and have some laughs with your friends.
Parking You can park on the main road reasonably close to the campsite which is pretty cool.
Access The town has a train station that has a direct train to Nante (the nearest major airport), and a shuttle bus from the train station to the festival. You either get to the festival by driving, or by flying to Nante and getting the train.
The Forest Inside the main arena at Hellfest, there is a big forest. Perfect for sheltering from the hot sun with a beer, the forest also contains weird and cool metal sculptures. I think they have a statue of Lemmy in there too. Towards the back of the forest, you can find the infamous piss-swamp.
Metal Town Every metal festival has a metal-market of some kind and the one at Hellfest is huge. There is a large indoor market with all sorts of band merch, jewelery and metal “stuff”. There are demo tents for a few musical companies where you can show off how you finally learned to sweep pick to all the other guys that finally learned to sweep pick, and a big almost Wild West themed village that gets built, with bigger companies like New Rock, Doc Marten and EMP having pop-up stores there.
What Sucks About Hellfest
The Weather The last two times I went, the heat was absolutely punishing. If you’re British, you’re going to need a decent hat. There was a problem with dust one year. The earth had been relentlessly scorched, turning the ground into dust, and with all the people walking to and from the main arena, huge clouds of dust were kicked up into the air.
Thieves I woke up one night to find some prick ferreting around by my feet in my tent. Son of a bitch. Festivals are easy pickings for thieves, so keep all your vital belongings (phone, wallet, passport) under your head.
Queing for the Shower Being British, you might think I love a good que, but I can’t stand them. Go early in the mornings to avoid the ques… or risk it with a group shower.
Price of Beer This sucks at every festival. Beer tokens. Beer fucking tokens.
Some dude took a shit on my friends tent What is it with festivals and poo…? Maybe this should be in the “What I love about Hellfest” section, because we laughed our asses off for the rest of the festival about this. I’ve been to Hellfest three times and this has only happened once.
He didn’t take his tent home.
If you like being close to the bands but don’t like sweaty drunk metalheads rubbing you up and down in the crush, goto the far left of MainStage 01. There is usually plenty of space there.
To Hellfest, Or Not To Hellfest?
Hellfest is my favourite big festival, and I love going (probably aided by the last two times I went, I got to go VIP… which is way more fun), so I would definitely recommend going.
Bloodstock – Derby, UK
Bloodstock was the first metal festival I ever went to. Most of my friends go there most years. Bloodstock (Bloodstock Open Air, or BOA) is great, and has won several awards, winning the Kerrang! award for best metal festival in 2016. Being in the UK, it was always easy to get to, being a couple of hours drive from most places.
Starting off as an indoor festival in around 2005, BOA steadily grew. For a few years, Bloodstock Indoors and Bloodstock Open Air both ran each year; and eventually Bloodstock Indoors ceased and the organisers focussed on BOA.
What I Love About Bloodstock
The Size BOA isn’t the size of Hellfest or Wacken, so you can walk everywhere in about 15 minutes, which is awesome.
The Fairground That’s right. Bloodstock has a fairground. A favourite was the bumper cars. It was a genius idea by the festival organisers! Drink some beers, watch some bands and go on the bumper cars. A perfect day out for every metalhead.
DeliKate Developing a cult following over the years, DeliKate always provided the best, healthiest and highest attention-to-hygiene-standard-food of any festival. The food was so good, there would regularly by a que of 50 people who were happy to wait in line to get fed. DeliKate has since stopped trading and will be sorely missed! I worked there a couple of times to make some money while attending the festival.
The Bloodstock Arms This is a giant outside, covered beer garden, serving the greatest beer the world has ever known: Hobgoblin by Wychwood. The beer is reasonably priced, served fast and slightly chilled. Now, normally, when it comes to a good quality ale, you want it at room temperature, of just slightly below. But, when it’s a hot festival, having your the temperature of your beer taken down a few degrees is pretty nice.
The Atmosphere BOA is a really friendly place. Talking to people is pretty easy. Everyone is reasonably respectful. They have a ‘quiet’ campsite you can camp in, if you don’t want to be surrounded by drunk people screaming all night.
The Lineup Usually pretty good. There are always a few bands I want to see.
What I Don’t Love About Bloodstock
Trying to Sleep This can be tricky at any festival, but there is something about British people being drunk in a field that makes them crazy noisy.
Food Hygiene 50% of the time going to Bloodstock, something I’ve eaten gives me the shits.
Car Parking As you can imagine, they need parking for a LOT of cars… and it’s quite a walk to the festival.
To Bloodstock, Or Not To Bloodstock?
If I have the time and money, I always goto Bloodstock. It’s a great festival. The organisers do a stellar job with it every year. I’ve heard the VIP is awesome and highly recommended.
Wacken Open Air
I’ve only been once to Wacken, in 2008. It was pretty awesome, Iron Maiden and Avantasia were headlining and played awesome shows (I actually appeared on the Avantasia Live DVD in the audience for an entire 5 seconds). It was the first “big” festival I ever went to, and met some of my closest friends there.
Based in Germany, and named after the village it is next to, Wacken Open Air has become one of the most legendary European Heavy Metal festivals and is known around the world.
This year (or maybe next year) they are actually building a beer pipeline, from the local brewery to the festival. That is how much beer gets drunk at Wacken Open Air.
Here’s my lowdown on WOA:
What I love About Wacken Open Air
The Lineup Being one of the biggest metal festivals in Europe, they have a few Euros to spend, and can draw the biggest bands, every year. I think their tickets now sell out crazy fast.
The Beer The beer was pretty good. German beer is always tasty.
What Sucks About Wacken Open Air
Walking The place is huge. Walking every where takes forever. Walking into the town to get food and takes so long, you have to check out your pension when you get back to the campsite. Walking (admittedly while quite drunk) to the main arena can take 40 minutes.
Drunk Germans The Germans can be super fun, and I met some awesome German guys at Hellfest one year, but at Wacken, some dude pissed on my tent and that irritated the shit out of me. Douchebag.
Weather It can rain pretty bad at Wacken, so you’ll want a decent coat.
To Wacken, Or Not To Wacken?
It was pretty fun to go once, but I think of Wacken like living in halls at university – once is enough. It was just too big for my liking. But… I’d love to play there one day.
If you enjoy huge festivals, you’ll have a great time at Wacken.
This was an awesome little indoor black metal festival somewhere (Mulheim) in Germany. It’s since been renamed to DarkTroll Festival.
It was in an indoor sports arena when I went, which was kinda cool. You could stand on the main “pitch” to watch the bands, or go up into the stands and sit (on the crappy plastic chairs) to watch. The back of the arena had food and merch stalls, all of which were pretty good.
BlackTroll (well, DarkTroll now) is more of a black metal festival, so I only wanted to see a few bands when I went. I had hella fun watching Immortal though. I mainly went to do something fun with my friends (and watch Immortal).
Here’s the verdict on BlackTroll:
What I Love About BlackTroll
Size I really love the small festivals. It’s not crowded, the ques aren’t outrageous and you can get everywhere you want to go and back again in 5 minutes.
Prices Being a smaller festival, merch, food and beer prices were all reasonable.
Food and Beer Super tasty. I could have spent all day eating hot dogs and drinking beer.
What Sucks About BlackTroll
Location Not great, it was 20 minutes or so by taxi to our hotel. The festival was only a couple of days long so this wasn’t too bad.
To BlackTroll, Or Not To BlackTroll?
When it comes down to it, if you like your metal dark and extreme, you’ll have an awesome time at BlackTroll. I’m not a huge fan of black metal and I would consider going back again.
Download Festival, Madrid
I went to Download, Madrid with my girlfriend in the summer. The festival was pretty cool, but (completely unrelated) some asshole at the AirBnB we stayed at stole €100 from my wallet… and I didn’t realise (like a chump) until we had driven to Alicante.
The festival itself was ok. If you go, you want to book accommodation early. There is no camping, and given the size of the festival, cheap hotels and AirBnB in the surrounding regions get booked out pretty fast.
Location wise it is easy to get to, it is a 10 minute walk or so from the nearest metro station.
What I Love About Download Madrid
Line Up They had some awesome bands playing. Guns N Roses put on a great show. There was a variety of bands and styles, from GunsNRoses, to Carcass. I loved seeing Judas Priest play.
Calemocho This is a Spanish partying drink, made by mixing red wine and coke. Pretty fun.
Arena The arena is well organised. You can get everywhere pretty quickly. They have a few stages
What Sucked About Download Madrid
The Smell The entire place was next to a sewage processing plant… and it stank of shit. I mean… pretty badly. Several times every hour a disgusting smell of a shit would wash over the entire arena. Eurgh.
Beer The beer itself tasted good, but the prices were expensive and the tokens were in confusing denominations.
To Download, Or Not To Download?
I’d never go there again as a fan.
BroFest takes place in the North of the UK, in the dark depths of Newcastle. Brofest is spectacularly unique, in that they find the most obscure new wave of british heavy metal bands from time gone by and have them, in some cases reform, just to play at the festival.
Anyone who likes their metal old school will enjoy Brofest. You can turn up and know what to expect on the bill, all the bands will be pretty good.
It’s held at a university (at least, it was the year that I attended)
What I Love About BroFest
The Bros Brofest has the best atmosphere of any festival I have ever attended. It’s awesome. Given it’s small size, people fly in from all over the world to attend – even from South America. There are some real die hard heavy metal fans that come out for this.
The Venue The venue was pretty good. There was a good size crowd but also a bit of space
Ale The venue had a few decent ales on tap which was awesome
What Sucks About Brofest
Nothing sucks about Brofest.
You should goto Brofest.
Damnation Festival, Leeds
This was another festival that I went to with my friends, mainly to hang out with my friends, than to see the bands. Damnation festival is a more extreme festival held in Leeds in the North of the UK.
There were a few good bands that played, notably 40 Watt Sun, but most of them weren’t really my thing.
There was a pretty cool pub nearby (I think it is called ‘The Library’) that played classic rock and had an air hockey table.
If you’re into that more extreme side of metal, you’ll have a great time at Damnation.
That’s All Folks
So that’s it – my roundup of my favourite European Metal Festivals. But… there are many more I’m yet to attend!
Which have you been to? Are there any festivals I should check out?? Comment below and let me know