So, we’re the Ghost Cult, and they’re a cvlt festival in Bergen ‘The Cradle Of Black Metal’, Norway. It’s a match made in heaven. It’s a solid swipe to the right, and it brings the promise of a romantic walk down that left hand path. OK, enough now. I mean, according to a pilot study conducted by famous Vilayanur Ramachandran there’s potential readers out there suffering from what is known as ‘metaphor blindness’. Keeping it simple: we found ourselves at one of Norway’s hottest underground metal festivals at the very last weekend of August, for four days of a full à la carte metal menu.
Beyond The Gates is the festival that took over where Hole In The Sky had left off in 2011, after twelve years of arranging an annual metal festival in Bergen. Somewhat downscaled and held at the club venue of Garage, Beyond The Gates was birthed, and it was somewhat a direct continuation of the Hole in the Sky festival, mainman Torgrim Øyre at the wheel and all.
This year’s edition was the fifth so far, and headlining the event were the old giants of Venom Inc, and bands such as Deströyer 666 and Gaahl’s Wyrd, the latter seeing Mr. Gaahl (of Gorgoroth fame) performing an entire set devoted to his original band Trelldom.
The first day of the festival was somewhat typical for a festival that starts on a Wednesday. The venue was never fully packed, and at some point people have to catch the last bus home, or get back home to babies and mothers, and some have school and job obligations the next day. Wednesday will never be a full-on-party day. Except for the usual crowd of professional festivalgoers who free up an entire week so that they can marinate in ethanol for four days straight. Thank god for those people! Down in the basement of famous venue Garage rock club, the lights were dim and all set for local black metal crew Gravdal to absolutely kill it. The members have already established themselves through names such as Taake, Gorgoroth, Krakow, and Aeternus, but Gravdal is not just a side project, which they proved by kicking off BTG with ferocious energy. Next on stage was Nettlecarrier, yet another band made up of well-known black metal musicians from the Norwegian scene. As we know, qualified musicians are nothing without the material to match their talents, and such was the impression given from Nettlecarrier. Something else is to be said about local death metal newcomers Reptilian. These youngsters know the old school as if they were from those days themselves, and not formed as recently as 2012. Newcomers Ritual Death from the Nidrosian black metal scene put on a decent show before the evening’s headliners, Infernal War were to end the first night of the festival to what had then become something like a handful of people in the venue. It did not go down as a show to remember. The sound production was crappy, and the band almost in shock at how few people were present, and then … The lights literally went out for five minutes or so. Thankfully the Polish band will have another go at it during next year’s Inferno festival, to a hopefully bigger audience.
Thursday started out even better than the day before with Canadians Sortilegia. The raw black metal duo managed to completely captivate the audience with their sonic assault accompanied by no light show except for some candlelight flickering in the wind from the venue’s ventilation system. It was almost parodoxial, yet it was as black metal as you can get in terms of mood. The hypnotic music in utter darkness, and eventually the smell. What was that smell? Some speculated in old sportswear, some in banana peels, yet it had the unmistaken stench of an overly matured cheese. If it was part of the show, it was a great addition, if not, I must say it still kinda scares me to think about what it was and where it came from. The next band, hailing from ‘Murica, were not as pitch black although they sport ‘black’ as part of their band name. We’re talking Black Anvil. What strikes me about the band is that they don’t really seem to figure out if they are black metal, thrash, or if they are a hardcore band judging from the strange mix of music and scene personas. It almost looked as if a hardcore band was playing extreme metal at some points. But indeed, they did put on a solid show despite the musical identity disturbance. The contrast was clear to the next band on stage, Urfaust. The droney, doomey, black metal flirting Dutchmen had what must have been the biggest crowd of the festival as they performed their ritual. Clearly some of the audience members had gone to get some fresh air after Urfaust, but sadly some of them then seemed to miss out on another festival highlight, Secrets Of The Moon. The Germans presented a quite diverse material, ranging from the new and sometimes daringly slow “Man Behind The Sun” to old right-in-the-face classics like their last song of the set, “Lucifer Speaks”. Except for some minor difficulties with the sound production being a bit murky, Secrets Of The Moon was yet again impressive live. Post-festival I have also taken the time to check out their latest effort, and I must say they have matured a lot over the years.
The man they had all been waiting for came on stage to perform an entire set of Trelldom songs. We are of course talking about wine-glass-swinging satan-flirting Gaahl himself. Flanked by an all-star band, his Gaahl’s Wyrd took command from the beginning, and guided us through the material from the three releases put out by Trelldom over the years. Needless to say it was quite the experience to hear some of the old songs live, and maybe especially so the songs from the sophomore effort “Til et annet…”.
Maybe the most impressive performance of the entire festival was that of Black Magic. Their take on the heavy/speed metal sound was simply stunning! Members hailing from bands such as Obliteration, Aura Noir, Mabuse, Condor and High Priest of Saturn backing up main man Jon on vocals and guitars, a guy with a quite evident passion for his own music. The sound was good, the material was killer, and the musicianship was amazing. It’s simply about ‘when will I catch them again?’
After The Spirit Cabinet, Willem from Urfaust’s other band had played some quite uninspiring heavy metal, Malthusian, the Irish death metal horde lay Garage in total ruin. Seeing Deströyer 666 later the same evening as headliner it all seemed a bit dull compared to these earlier billed acts. Mr Warslut has also managed to make himself into more of a laughing-stock than anything else, and judging from the stories traveling around amongst other bands he might very well be digging his own grave careerwise by his behavior. But well, we were there to catch the good old music, and Deströyer 666 definitively have some fine tunes on offer. Sadly the performance seemed as just another day in the office, and was far away from the incredible performance the band put on at Blastfest here in Bergen in 2014. That particular gig was one for the history books. This show wasn’t.
The last day is the deepest, or something like that. Well, after three days of festival-going you start to feel your feet in your neck, and some of us realize that we’re not twenty years anymore. Thus we managed to miss out on the fact that the bands went on earlier this day to make logistics work for those that wanted to attend the Wardruna gig at the other side of town. But we made it to the venue just in time to see a sleep-inducing performance by Saturnalia Temple. Stoner doom is simply not cognitively stimulating enough on day four of a festival. At 9PM Beyond The Gates had people gather in the upstairs bar for a surprise event. And indeed, surprising it was. The festival has decided to expand and go back to the old format of Hole In The Sky. This means that, like Blastfest already do, they will be using USF Verftet as their main venue next August. We got a taste of what is to come in terms of bands as well, with the festival announcing Ruins of Beverast, MGLA, Vemod, Cult of Fire, Dark Sonority, Negative Plane, and Mayhem performing the entire De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album. In addition they have later revealed that Enslaved will be performing Vikingligr Veldi in its entirety, in what will probably be the first time ever as well as the last time ever that they honour their début album in such a way.
Needless to say, it was a quite cheerful crowd that gathered for the continuation of the evenings concerts in the basement. Swedish band Gehennah churned out alcohol infused tunes to a Saturday audience needing no excuses to drink with both hands. Then Oslo thrashers Nekromantheon tore the venue a new one, before the crowning took place as Venom Inc took us all back to the roots of black metal with classics such as ‘Witching Hour’, ‘Black Metal’, and ‘Countess Bathory’. The fear that the veterans wouldn’t be up to par was thankfully proven wrong. They actually put on a show worthy of a headliner, which sadly many old giants in the game aren’t really able to anymore. At least not consistently.
Beyond The Gates was once again a great success, and if anything, we think next year’s event will be even better now that the festival has expanded and set the bar even higher. Already the lineup seems to outdo this year’s edition, so … See you in Bergen next August!
REVIEW BY JULIA TUOMINEN & PÅL TEIGLAND LYSTRUP
PHOTOS BY CHRISTIAN MISJE