The third year of Blastfest was to be something of a special one. Where the two first years had been about metal in a global perspective, this edition of the festival was to be one with the sole focus being the Norwegian metal scene. By that was meant that the entire festival consisted solely of bands from Norway. The audience on the other hand hailed from all around, with more than forty countries in attendance.
Before moving on to the main venue for the three main festival days, there was a kick-off day. The infamous rock club Garage was were things started off, a 350 capacity club venue closer to the center of town. With such a small total capacity the club makes for a much more intimate experience, and needless to say, it was also sold out a long time in advance. This third year also seemed to be a turning point in that sense, the economical one. Most of the festival tickets had been sold out and in good time before the festival. It actually went so well that the 2017 edition was secured long before the 2016 edition got off the ground, and is currently already being booked.
Hadens were the local youngsters to get the festival off the ground proper, followed by Endezzma, before it really got hot as the third band took the stage, Blodhemn. By that time the venue was pretty crammed, and despite the band not really putting on anything particular in terms of the visual, they were nevertheless fully capable of delivering their message in terms of auditory ferocity. The national romanticism was taken even a step further as Voluspaa took to the stage, not to mention how the small stage got pretty crowded by the sevenpiece. Formed all the way back in 1994, the band has since only delivered one fullength album, 2010’s Åsa. On the other hand, who needs multiple releases if they have one that garners lots of praise? Violinist and all, the band put on a great show of hymns dedicated to the old cultural heritage.
Svarttjern brought things right back to present day with their black metal onslaught, before Mistur showcased their brand of sognametal, made famous by bands like Windir and Vreid. At first the sound was a bit too dense to really make out any detail, but it broke up a little bit into the show, and needless to say, by now the place was crammed.
All in time for the headliners in Chrome Division, fronted by none other than Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir fame. They performed no less than fourteen of their songs to a Garage filled to the brim with people that were more than eager to have a long weekend of booze, broads, and Beelzebub. If not an evening filled with headliner material, it was indeed a great start to the festival, which at the venue even had their own stand with the 7 Fjell – Blastfest 777 cascadian ale on tap. The safest guess is that the brewery taking its name from the seven mountains surrounding Bergen fused that with the usual 666 gimmick.
Local thrashers Inculter have been at it for a couple of years now, but despite honing even more exceptional playing skills than before, they still look straight out of junior high school, making it all the more impressive. It’s good to see that the spirit is still very much alive in the younger generations, that people show up to catch them and show their support, and that these guys actually spend time in the rehearsal room refining something that will surely become a juggernaut of the future. Gravdal are also a local force, and they are to be reckoned with! Since the last time I caught them, they had done some lineup changes, and in was Eld (Aeternus, Taake, Krakow, Gaahl’s Wyrd) on bass and vocals, and Saur (Dominanz) on guitars. On guitar they also had Phobos, who later that same very evening was to be found behind the Gorgoroth drumkit. Their musical expression is none other than the more groove-laden midtempo black metal, and despite not really having found their own niche yet, they excell at what they do.
Second band out after Kampfar kicked it all off on the mainstage was none other than Dødheimsgard, the legends from the early 90’s black metal scene in Oslo. Never ever stopping to check with what the fans around the world want, and never ever catering to what they desire, this band continues to amaze with their avant-gardism. With a vocalist calling out for a Swedish Astrid Lindgren character during the soundcheck, we expected nothing but the most peculiar of sets, and so it was. Aldrahn ran around in a bright red blazer and red sunglasses drawing invisible patterns in the air. If there was anything keeping this from being of the utmost magnificence, it must have been the somewhat lackluster sound at the very beginning, missing all kick drum and bass, but also how the electronics that are ever-present on the albums fadeed somewhat into the background. Most importantly it was good to see that Dødheimsgard have matured, and that they can now also be enjoyed in a live setting.
The extreme metal pride of Bergen these days has to be Enslaved and Taake. The latter took to the stage as the third headliner this evening, and sounded just as professional as one has come to expect of them. First we were presented with five renditions of songs from the Noregs Vaapen album, then a balaclava wearing local musician, Trond Teigland of Tarmer, joined the band for a cover of a GG Allin’s ‘Die When You Die’. After two more songs from their newest album, ‘Stridens Hus’, Hoest and his hellish crew presented us with some older gems in the shape of ‘Umenneske’, and ‘Hordaland pt 1’, closing it all with ‘Nattestid pt 1’. If there was anything to point the finger at it has to be that the show didn’t last longer.
Many people had eagerly been awaiting the reunion of underground legends In The Woods …, a band that hadn’t played live in some fifteen years. And the suspense was felt as they appeared from out of the dark corners of the backstage and into the Blastfest spotlight. As much as the band’s discography itself is an eclectic mix of genres, so was their Blastfest set. The old material being atmospheric black metal-ish leaning, and their newer material being more lofty psychedelic progressive rock oriented. An audience given three songs off of The Heart of Ages didn’t seem to mind being presented with this auditory amalgam though, and the reunion seemed to set the stage for what has to be further shows in the future.
Headlining this first evening was none other than the legendary and scandal-ridden Gorgoroth. Much has been said and much is to be said about all the things surrounding the band, but they do deliver a spectacular show. Crucified naked women, tons of sheep heads, spikes that can be seen from space …. There’s simply no holds barred, and they have the ferocious old school monotonous black metal to accompany the visual aesthetics as well. With Hoest of Taake taking care of vocal duties, he made his second appearance as main vocalist with a mainstage band in one single evening, and if he was good with his own band, he was just as good and convincing with Gorgoroth, though singing someone else’s lyrics. With a solid selection of albums to choose material from, there wasn’t a boring moment to be had as the band churned out fourteen songs all the way from the very first years to 2015’s Instinctus Bestialis.
WORDS BY PAL LYSTRUP