"You have made us good," greeted the leader of the Californian quartet James Hetfield, addressing the public (60,000 people Sunday evening, the majority of whom came for Metallica).

After a grandiose finale with "Master of Puppets", one of the must-sees, the singer and guitarist came on stage, all smiles, to watch the fireworks punctuating the show and an exceptional 15th edition of Hellfest with more than a title.

Firstly because the Clisson festival – a small town in the middle of the vineyards in the west of France, not far from Nantes – took place this year over two extended weekends.

That is seven days in total, 350 scheduled groups, 420,000 spectators in all, to make people forget two white seasons due to the health crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A new format that will not be renewed, assures the boss of the event Ben Barbaud.

Then, because it's the first time that the Metallica juggernaut has performed at Hellfest.

And that the group - more than forty years of existence, members almost sixties - showed that it was still above the fray.

The show by veterans Guns N'Roses, who played the day before at Hellfest, seemed disjointed by comparison.

"So this is hell?"

Contrary to Axl Rose, leader of Guns N'Roses, stingy with words with the public, Hetfield, charismatic, maintains the link with the audience.

Thus, after the third song, "Enter Sandman", jewel of the "Black Album" of 1991 passed in posterity, the singer launches amused: "Well, we played all our most famous songs, what we will do?"

But Metallica then rolls out other classics, such as the ballad "Nothing Else Matters", taken up in chorus by the public, the only calm piece, occurring halfway through a two-hour show.

And Hetfield to ask, "Who's seeing Metallica for the first time?".

Faced with the clamor in response, he bounces: "So welcome to the family, I hope you have done your homework and know the old albums".

Guitarist James Hetfield of the American group Metallica, at the Hellfest festival in Clisson (western France) on June 26, 2022 Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS AFP

The chorus sung by the audience to "Seek & Destroy", taken from the debut album "Kill'em all" (1983), proves that Metallica songs stand the test of time.

"So this is hell?" Asks Hetfield again at the microphone, referring to the name of the festival ("Hellfest", "Festival of hell" in English).

And to add: "Nothing to do with hell in there", pointing his index finger at his temple.

The artist has never hidden his inner torments nor the sessions on the couch of the shrink.

Soundtrack by Ennio Morricone

The show of the Americans turns out to be intense but with a welcome scenic sobriety with regard to the group which preceded them: the Swedes of Sabaton had for decoration a tank surrounded by sandbags.

Metallica does not sink into one-upmanship and remains on its basics: the art of the solo and the black nails of guitarist Kirk Hammett, the crouching playing of bassist Robert Trujillo or Lars Ulrich, drummer who gets up after a hit, like a boxer after a KO inflicted with his heavy strike.

And, before the musicians arrive on stage, the show always begins with images from the film "The good, the bad and the ugly" against the backdrop of its soundtrack composed by Ennio Morricone.

In the documentary "Ennio" (released in cinemas on July 6), signed Giuseppe Tornatore ("Cinema Paradiso") and dedicated to this genius Italian composer, Hetfield explains that Morricone is a source of inspiration.

Proof that Metallica has always seen beyond metal.

Drummer Lars Ulrich, of the American group Metallica, at the Hellfest festival in Clisson (western France) on June 26, 2022 Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS AFP

This soundtrack extract is preceded by an AC/DC title, chosen and broadcast by the group: "It's a Long Way to the Top".

"It's a long way to the top": But Metallica is well established there.

© 2022 AFP