One of the saddest parts about Akercocke going on hiatus all those years ago was the fact that after Words That Go Unspoken… and Antichrist (Earache) there was a tangible feeling that they were on course to release something truly ground-breaking. Whilst their recent release Renaissance in Extremis (Peaceville) was very welcome indeed, I couldn’t help but feel that the return to an earlier sound left that potential untapped. Continue reading
Oh no, there weren’t just two days of metal mayhem to be had this year at Inferno festival. The first two days were only half of this very professional and modern gathering of global metal fans. What follows is a brief summary of some of what took place during the two last days of the festival, what took place on stage, mind you.
At the Quart festival in 2004 you could witness Enslaved open up for My Dying Bride during a slight drizzle, and with a gentle and warm summer breeze ushering in the salty smell of the sea right next to Odderøya outside Kristiansand. The very same year you could also catch My Dying Bride for the very first time gracing the Inferno mainstage. Fast forward to 2015, and it’s My Dying Bride opening for Enslaved, and this time at Inferno. It feels somewhat full circle-ish. This time, as in 2004, the Brits performed with a somewhat minimal stage show, for the most part letting the music speak for itself. The difference this time around was in the very setlist the band performed . It was comprised mainly of vintage material, and there was even room for an entirety of three songs off of ‘Turn Loose The Swans’: ‘The Songless Bird’, ‘Your River’, and the very title track. In addition they played two classics long out of their setlist, ‘The Thrash Of Naked Limbs’, and ‘The Cry Of Mankind’, which I’m sure many of us remember from the heavy rotation it had on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball back in the day. The biggest surprise, speaking of old school material, was probably that they for the first time ever performed ‘God Is Alone’ from their first EP, Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium. ‘When can My Dying Bride be seen again?’ is the question that arose in the wake of this year’s performance at Inferno. The sound was good, Calvin Robertshaw from the original lineup was back on guitar, and although Dan Mullins doesn’t play the china-fills in ‘She Is The Dark’ as recorded by Shaun Taylor-Steels, they still please a dedicated fan. I wonder who I’m speaking of, right? [You’re a dork, lay off the china symbols]
At present there’s hardly a safer hand to play than the one with Enslaved in it. They just recently released a solid new album, they are really tight live, they have a long and well-crafted back catalogue to pick songs from, and they have so much stage experience by now that their performances are usually somewhat seamlessly executed. But I guess that isn’t the biggest news for those of you that have already caught them live on. Still, then you know just how enjoyable it is to be swept away by the norse quintet. The first part of their set was devoted to more recent material, including two songs from the fresh offering In Times (Nuclear Blast). Further into the set we were served nicety nice from most of their career. I mean, they have some thirteen albums under their belts, so an inclusion of material from all of them was a certain impossibility. But no need to complain when one gets ‘Convoys To Nothingness’, ‘Fenris’, and ‘As Fire Swept Clean The Earth’ flawlessly executed. Arve “Ice Dale” Isdahl was as usual shirtless and doing his entire repertoire of guitar hero poses. Ivar Bjørnson assumed his usual stoic stance, all covered by hair, resembling a mixture of his very own Family Guy tattoo and Cousin Itt from The Addams Family. center stage Grutle Kjellson took on full command, also as usual, being almost more at home on stage than anywhere else. The audience seemed more than happy with the state of affairs, and the atmosphere didn’t exactly die down as ‘ISA’ was played as the final song of the night. I’m assuming there were more people than just me who had their fingers crossed for more of the same, yet sadly to no avail.
The last day of the festival showcased a lot of promising acts, although it was all taken to a new level by Kampfar. From the very start of their show, kicking off with ‘Mylder’, there was no doubt of who was in command, as vocalist Dolk, encircled by pyrotechnics on the stage, went into a proper ‘Helvete!’ (translates: hell). If the band completely laid Karmøygeddon 2014 into ruins, this was somewhat raising a phoenix from those ashes, proving even further that Kampfar are a live force to be reckoned with. One could almost feel the after-party from the night before seep out through every pore of the body in the mixture of heat from the flames on stage and musical rapture. Seeing the band in Bergen already later this fall, during Blekkmetal (ten Norwegian bands from the 90’s, and a bunch of tattoo artists celebrating the black metal scene of yore), will surely be something to look forward to.
Up next was Dødheimsgard, and we were not sure what to anticipate from these avantgarde freaks of the black metal scene. Honestly I had never seen them do a single good live performance the times I’ve caught them since my first show seeing them, then as an opening act for Dimmu Borgir back in 1999, actually also at the Rockefeller venue. That show stood out as a great disappointment, especially since they at the time had just released what still stands as one of the best and most innovative black metal records, the mighty 666 International, failing to live up to the expectation set by that album. This time around the band took to the stage with an even more avantgarde, eclectic and chaotic puzzle fresh in their belts, the newly released opus dubbed A Umbra Omega. Did they manage to pull it off? The answer to that is nothing less than a roaring yes, and then some! The returned presence of vocalist Aldrahn together with the somewhat recent addition of drum virtuoso Sekaran, seems to have improved upon the band’s abilities in a live setting. With maestro and primus motor Vicotnik at the helm, the band churned out beautifully executed versions of ‘The Snuff Dreams Are Made Of’, ‘Ion Storm’ from the aforementioned 666 International, and a grand finale in the shape of ‘Traces Of Reality’. For the first time ever Dødheimsgard proved as good on stage as on album. “Touch the devilish one!” does indeed seem fitting, touched by the devilish ones, so to speak.
The highlight of the festival was surely the last band on the mainstage though, the mighty Bloodbath. An all-star band comprised of members from Katatonia, Opeth, and Paradise Lost, but a band that shares very little in common with them in musical expression. It was also Bloodbath’s very first time in Norway, and the very first time showcasing Nick Holmes as their vocalist. Old Nick, as they call him, has been facing up to a lot of criticism from fans for not being on par with the previous vocalists, Mike Åkerfeldt (Opeth) and Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain). Surely the critics have not been actively listening to Grand Morbid Funeral (Peaceville), an album honing old school death metal supreme. His deep growls are perfect for that particular kind of doomy old school death metal, and if one complains about how he sounds on the old songs from the band’s discography: well, what the fuck do you really expect? He’s a different vocalist. He did actually address this himself from the stage, asking the audience if there were anyone out there willing to complain now? That would have to be a really narrow-minded fan in the back, because the band were ripping everyone there a new one, delivering intense versions of classics like ‘Breeding Death’, ‘Cry My Name’, and the internet phenomenon ‘Eaten’. Not to mention that they left no head unbanged with their new pummeling masterpieces ‘Unite In Pain’ and ‘Mental Abortion’, the latter containing one of the most addictive guitar riffs of … Well, I guess it was released in 2014, but let’s just pretend it was this year. It sure as hell still kicks ass all over the place anyways, even if it’s sooo 2014.. The only thing close to an elegy that could be sung after witnessing this death metal onslaught, finally, after waiting for the chance to do so since 2000, would surely be: “I would do anything to be … Eaten! My one desire, my only wish is to be … Eaten!”
See you next year Inferno, you did great! A+, and some nice stickers in the marrow.
WORDS PÅL TEIGLAND LYSTRUP
PHOTOS BY KENNETH BALUBA SPORSHEIM (METAL HAMMER NORWAY)
Established back in 2001 as a one-off event, Inferno festival has since proven itself to attract extreme metal fans from all over the globe on an annual basis. 2015 marked their 15th anniversary, and as you’ll read, they really pulled off an exemplary festival this year. Maybe even one that ran more smoothly than in the early years that I attended, which now counts something like 8. Ghost Cult was also fortunate to have Kenneth Baluba Sporsheim of Metal Hammer Norway on hand to shoot the festivals many acts for us.
The first day of the four-day long festival has in recent years become a sort of label showcase. Spread out between various small club venues, the festival crowd gets a chance to taste a varied selection of different sub-genres and labels. Dark Essence records had four bands playing at Blå, Indie Recordings had three of their own at John Dee, Nidrosian black metal label Terratur Possession showcased three of their Icelandic signings at Pokalen, and so on.
We chose to start the evening checking out the latter trinity. Except for Svartidaudi claiming some attention with their Deathspell Omega-esque black metal, it was all more of a “The emperor’s new clothes” affair. Then again, it takes something special to draw attention to black metal after so many years of it. The emulators simply don’t manage to engage musically, and thus don’t really entertain on a level beyond being a backdrop for socializing and picking up with friends from near and afar.
Taake is something else completely. They demand your and everyone else’s attention.
Although the first songs of their set were spent queuing up outside of Blå, the band completely grabbed my attention when I was finally inside the venue. All of the classics were effortlessly and seamlessly offered to the audience who were packed in the club tight like sardines. ‘Umenneske’, ‘Hordalands Doedskvad 1’, ‘Nordbundet’, ‘Fra Vadested Til Vaandesmed’ … were all part of the performance, and as usual topped by frontman Hoest’s extraordinary stage presence and dark charisma. If you’re able to catch them on their first ever tour of the US this coming June, you’re surely in for a treat.
Thursday ushered in the first day of postponing hangovers. That didn’t keep me from catching Execration, the first band out on the main stage. Fantastic sound production made this 2015 Norwegian Grammy-winning death metal band stand out as one of the festivals better performances. It was actually pretty impressive just how good they sounded and how tight they were playing. Not to mention that those old school death metal riffs beckon for headbanging extravaganza.
After catching the grand and somewhat pompous entity of Septicflesh pleasing all their fans with a stellar performance at the mainstage, the course was set for a smaller neighbouring venue where Virus and Vulture Industries were doing a special performance. The venue, Kulturhuset, was a hipster-ish meeting place more akin to something out of Brooklyn. Then again, Virus is probably one of those bands that could be embraced by connoisseur and hipsters alike. Their avant-garde and eclectic musical output is difficult to pigeonhole, but it builds on what the members once started with Ved Buens Ende in the outer spheres of the 90’s black metal scene. An intimate venue suited the band perfectly, but there wasn’t really a proper stage show put on until Vulture Industries were on. Then it all turned full-on theatrical, as they had collaborated with Romanian artist Costin Chioreanu, and the stage was somewhat turned into a scene from their ‘Lost Among Liars’ video. The band managed the feat of making the audience somewhat a part of an interactive experience too, with frontman Bjørnar at some point during the show running around in the room with lots of people in a line behind him. Although it was hard catching a glimpse of their drummer from where we were situated in the room, a mention of Vulture Industries’s skin thrasher seems relevant and in its place. He has become a solid and skilled backbone of the band.
Back at Rockefeller the stage was set for supersonic black metal in the shape of 1349. They played a set with all the classics, and the pyrotechnics were amazing. Although probably a bit more than planned for, since guesting guitarist Destructhor’s (Myrkskog/Morbid Angel) gear almost was lit aflame by all the explosions and flames.
To finish off the night: Behemoth. And Behemoth is surely a fitting name for the Polish ensemble. As much as their show almost seems periodically well choreographed to be an extreme metal show, it works really well. The move with the two lateral Behemoth logos, and some stairs leading up to them, made for the illusion that when bass player Orion and guitarist Seth ascended said stairs they seemed to have wings on their backs. The set was a tour de force of the bands discography with an emphasis on the albums from 1999’s ‘Satanica’ and onwards. They actually included two songs from said ‘Satanica’, in my personal opinion one of their best albums, if not the best. Further, classics like ‘Christians To The Lions’, ‘As Above So Below’, ‘Demigod’, and ‘Slaves Shall Serve’ were all thrown at the lions in the audience. As an encore the band produced nothing less than an epic in the shape of ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’, triumphantly marking an end to their performance, probably also leaving the crowd hungry for even more from the well-oiled Polish machine that is Behemoth in 2015.
WORDS PÅL TEIGLAND LYSTRUP
PHOTOS BY KENNETH BALUBA SPORSHEIM (METAL HAMMER NORWAY)
Let’s get it on the table – Godless Arrogance (Hammerheart) is well played and excellently produced with a good energy. Frontman J. Kruitwagen unleashes powerful, feral howls, and Koos Bos shines with a 36 minute holocaust from behind the kit. This is a decent black metal release with very obvious Gorgoroth and Immortal reference points.
However, for all its competency, like so many faceless corpse-painted albums before it, Godless Arrogance is pointless. It has no personality, no individuality and serves no real purpose. Not every album should, or can be boundary pushing, but sticking rigidly to a style and formula that has been stuck rigidly to for nigh on twenty years by countless others leaves them in the middle of an unspectacular and very large pack.
Black Metal is intrinsically a scene of contradiction – claiming rebellion and anarchy while entrenched in blatant retrospection and reverence to a select few hallowed reference points. But these days it’s a blunted rebellion, stunted by a refusal to move beyond a formula that was first laid down 25 years ago by Bathory and then refined and defined by Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem, Emperor et al.
Staring out the window wistfully, a half-grin plays on the lips as fond memories tickle the brain of a time when black metal was exciting and boasted creativity and diversity, when acts mutated and pushed boundaries. Sadly Godless Arrogance, for all its’ sonic strength and no matter how well played it is, lacks any desire to be anything other than just another black metal album. If they were alone in their Gorgoroth/Immortal worship, then I might think more kindly, but it’s over 20 years since Pure Holocaust (Osmose) and 19 since Antichrist (Malicious). The repetition of sound and style by Sammath and others is well beyond boring now.
The Inferno Metal Festival Norway 2015 has released the daily schedules, happening April 1-4, 2015 at Rockefeller, John Dee in Oslo, Norway. Band were previously released and now a breakdown of when everyone is playing has been unveiled.
My Dying Bride
Secrets Of The Moon
“Due To Popular demand” long-running black metal occultists Kampfar have been added to the alreadyed loaded lineup up of the 15th Annual Inferno Festival in Norway. The black and death metal heavy lineup already boasts a tremendous bill with the likes of Behemoth, Enslaved, Bloodbath, My Dying Bride, Septicflesh, 1349, Mortuary Drape, Antichrist, Slagmaur, Dødsengel, Skeletonwitch, Svartidauði, Ensiferum, Sinmara, Misþyrming, Secrets Of The Moon, Execration, Arcturus, Naglfar, Solbrud and Goatwhore.
Ghost Cult will be bringing you more news an announcements about the fest as it draws closer:
Official Press Release
KAMPFAR TO INFERNO METAL FESTIVAL 2015
Due to popular demand Norwegian black metallers Kampfar will return to Inferno Metal Festival
in 2015! After a overcrowded amazing gig at our club day in 2014, the band will in 2015 enter the
big stage at Rockefeller! We are proud to have Kampfar back in our line-up and we are sure they
will be delivering the goods again!