As the familiar strains that launch Noktvrn harken back to a theme from predecessor Finisterre (both Season of Mist), it is a fitting acknowledgement of an integral part in the ascension of Der Weg einer Freiheit that was played with the release of their 2017 masterpiece in establishing the band as a serious artist of note. It also serves to guide us into the slow-building and considered unveiling of first track proper ‘Monument’, preparing us for the fact that we are taking part in a procession, a conscious movement from one state in an evolution to another.
Brutal Assault has added a plethora of new bands for 2020! Among the new bands playing the festival include Cattle Decapitation, Fever333, Katatonia, Life of Agony, Shadow of Intent, Fueled By Fire, Katatonia, Psykup, Mysticum, and Imperial Triumphant. The twenty-fifth edition of Brutal Assault Festival takes place August 5 – 8th at historic Fortress Josefov, in Czech Republic and will feature 130+ bands on five stages over four days. Watch a new trailer for the fest right now!Continue reading
Brutal Assault has added twenty more bands for their 25th anniversary in 2020. Now joining the bill (in alphabetical order) are 1914, Arcturus, Author & Punisher, Beyond Creation, Cradle Of Filth, Draconis Infernum, Frontierer, Havok, Kvelertak, Mass Infection, Me And That Man, Necrophobic, Ottone Pesante, Pensées Nocturnes, Ring Of Saturn, Sigh, Static–X, Toxic Holocaust, Vader, and While She Sleeps. Brutal Assault 25 takes place August 5-8, 2020at the legendary Fortress Josefov and boasts 140+ bands on four days over five stages. Tickets and full band list below. Continue reading
Treading a different path to many of the bands playing their part in Norway’s Black Metal scene, Bergen’s Vulture Industries (known previously as Dead Rose Garden) have produced their own particular, peculiar brand of Avant-garde/Progressive/post-Black Metal since 2003. Continue reading
Day three of Blastfest saw a lot of people starting to look slightly more tired, which made sense knowing that some of the many foreigners started partying 3-4 days earlier upon arrival in Bergen, and some of them brought enormous amounts of duty free liquids.
What was more fitting than starting the auditory pleasures with Funeral? They were originally one of the very first funeral doom bands around, and by Norwegian standards they are a somewhat strange occurrence seeing as Norway isn’t exactly renowned for its abundance of doom metal acts. Unlike some of the most extreme bands, Funeral seemed to fit the intimate Studio stage perfectly, in terms of how the room seem to resonate well with the slow doomy bands, just as it has done before with Swallow The Sun and last year with Saturnus. The set flowed seamlessly through songs like ‘This barren Skin’, ‘Vagrant God’, and ‘The Will To Die’. Strangely enough, considering the gloomy atmosphere of both music and lyrics, the band really seemed to enjoy themselves. Although they only got to perform a quite short set due to the time limitations, they managed to put on one of the best performances of the festival.
Djevel delivered a slab of straight-forward bleak black metal. Sadly, as with some of the other bands playing the Studio stage, the sound production sounded a bit off. Although with such an unbalanced and harsh production it ironically fitted both the approach the band has to black metal and their stage performance. As much as the band has a few scene stalwarts in their ranks, it might very well be Erlend Hjelvik of Kvelertak that makes the strongest impression. It’s not just that he delivers a good vocal performance, but just as much the fact that he is usually seen on far bigger stages fronting Kvelertak, making this all the more exotic.
I remember seeing Arcturus twice about ten years back, and I wrote them off as a live ensemble. It was just chaotic, and the songs that sounded amazing on record were lost in second-rate live performances, a lot of theatrics, and awful sound productions. Seeing them live from Maryland Deathfest was an eye-opener. Could they actually pull it off these days? Well, the answer, as given at Blastfest, was a clear and resounding yes!. Except ICS Vortex sitting while performing vocals on some of the tracks it was a band showcasing their musicianship fully, and playing a selection of songs spanning their entire career. All the way from ‘To Thou Who Dwellest In The Night’, via Master of Disguise, to ‘Arcturian Sign’ this was a remarkably good performance from the all-star cast.
1349 has been drummer Frost’s more extreme black metal outlet, and despite some later albums not living up to the standards set by their 2005 release Hellfire, the band continues to be relentless in a live setting. And so they were at Blastfest. Set opener was none other than ‘I Am Abomination’, and it was succeeded by none other than the brilliant two songs ‘Nathicana’, and ‘Sculptor of Flesh’, all off of the aforementioned Hellfire album. Until the very closing number ‘Cauldron’ the band were simply amazing, providing the proper Norwegian black metal alibi of the evening.
Ihsahn seems like somewhat strange headliner material. Or, at least if you consider the fact that he was part of Emperor, but that his solo project seems somewhat in that band’s very shadow. Not that there are that many similarities except both bands being extreme metal and with Ihsahn’s characteristic voice spearheading them. As far as musicianship goes it’s stellar stuff, but in terms of musical expression. Well, it seemed like half the audience really enjoyed, me probably being amongst those who think it best to let prog be prog and metal be metal, being more fond of the 70s when it comes to the progressive side of things.
Einherjer are purveyors of the craft known as viking metal. Unlike most folk-/viking metal acts of latter years they are not overly jolly, and neither are they sporting costumes more fit for role play. They are about the music, and the viking image is mostly channeled through the lyrics and artwork, not through helmets and horns – noting that viking helmets didn’t actually historically have any horns. With last year’s well-crafted ‘Av Oss, For Oss’ in their belts they delivered a stunning set of just as many old songs as new ones. Einherjer is also one of the bands that have recorded in the now defunct yet infamous Grieghallen studio, and introduced their song ‘Dragons Of The North”\’ by mentioning that very fact.
Sahg never ceases to amaze. What an incredible live band! And not just are they an incredible live band, but their song material is of the kind that leaves whoever lends them an ear with a newfound favourite. The Sardinen stage downstairs main venue was pretty packed for this show, and as mentioned, it’s easy to see why considering their performance.
The contrast was huge to what was going on as Red Harvest took to the main stage for a reunion show. The industrial extreme metallers … Well, where black metal has this little hopeful spark to it, Red Harvest is a descent into a hopeless dark abyss. There’s no light, there’s no hope, it’s mechanistic, it’s industrial. It’s truly as their song ‘Cold Dark Matter’. Except some small things to complain about in terms of sound production, their set was one that made me simply want to catch them again as soon as possible.
Green Carnation disbanded at some point in 2007, leaving Tchort as the band’s sole member. Their return as a unified whole would be marked by their appearance at Blastfest 2016, and what a grand return it was. Ancient has been around since the early 90’s, but hasn’t played in their hometown of Bergen for something like 20 years. This time around mainman Aphazel, now residing in Southern Europe, brought none other than Nicholas Barker of Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir fame on drums. Little did that help the fact that their sound was way too loud, and so dense that it was difficult to hear those good riffs. As for the guitar solos, they completely drowned in all the rest that was going on. A wall of guitar noise, drums, and vocals, an unpenetrable wall. Sadly this ruined what could have been a most memorable experience. For their closing act they invited local sticksman Kjetil Grønvigh to play “Lilith’s Embrace” together with them, as he was the original drummer on the 1996 recording nothing seemed more fitting as a celebration of that very era, the one when Ancient was most relevant in the scene.
Abbath shouldn’t be in need of much of an introduction, not after fronting Immortal for two decades. However, this was his first show on home turf where he flew under the new moniker. With his larger-than-life on-stage persona he and his minions presented us with a set covering most of his career. There was some Immortal songs, some songs from the I record, and of course songs from the newly released Abbath album. The audience seemed ecstatic, and especially so as the band played the hits from Immortal’s Sons Of Northern Darkness; ‘Tyrants’ and ‘One By One’. With a show like this comes the usual theatrics, and if there’s one thing Abbath knows it’s how to keep an audience engaged throughout a concert. There’s never a dull moment. So once again he delivered a great show, with good sound, a great performance, and he and his comrades put a worthy end to four days of metal bliss in the lovely and scenic Bergen. And as this is being written the bands for the 2017 edition are already being booked. See you all next year!
WORDS BY PAL LYSTRUP
Part two of the Ghost Cult Magazine countdown to our Album of 2015.
And now the end is near, and so we face 2015’s final curtain, and once more the Ghost Cult army got together to vote for their favourites. The results? Over 20 writers pitched and voted on over 220 albums ranging from indie pop to the most horrific savage tentacle laden death metal showing the depth and breadth of the official Ghost Cult Album of the Year for 2015.
The countdown (to extinction) continues…
“Once again every track has its own theme and spirit – the “carnivalesque” sound that has been part of their image since LMI is still present… but in terms of musical excellence and thematic power it matches or even exceeds that classic album. Whether or not you’ve ever engaged with Arcturus before, do so now.”
“Throw (it) on at the end of a long day and just let fuzz consume your mind…The Night Creeper is an album worthy of a place in your doom collection. It’s got all of the darkness and foreboding of regular doom but without putting you (me) to sleep.”
A swirling, enchanting brew of post-rock with touches of blackened metal and psychedelic swirls, as melancholia most vivid is wrapped in progressive motions and dreamy epics and delivered to the sub-conscious in swathes.
“Qliphoth is a snapshot of a ferociously dedicated and hardworking band continuing to carve out their own unique sense of what Grindcore can be. Cloud Rat have offered something both rare and interesting, and have made themselves genuinely the best new Grindcore band in years in the process.”
A cocktail of stoner, progressive and doom metal, unafraid to stretch it’s mighty wings to allow an epic to pound and unfold, and proud to worship at the altar of The Riff.
“If ‘Ethnic Metal’ is a poor fit for Melechesh’s music, Black Metal is almost as inappropriate. The snarled vocals and trebly guitars put it superficially in that style, but the song-writing owes more to classic Thrash and Heavy Metal, filtered through the ever-present Mediterranean voice.”
Album of the Month – November “Puscifer delivers money shot after money shot in the form of aural enjoyment. So, instead of pounding away at your keyboard on social media bitching about the next Tool album, maybe you should hit up YouTube and try out Puscifer.”
“Produced by Kurt Ballou, the album crawls, kicks, stamps, and screams abuse into your face, pulverizing you in a variety of different ways; never dull with the slower parts merely serving to accentuate the chaotic flurries of speed and aggression when they do arrive.”
“Hammer Of The Witches is a competent enough album by a band who know exactly what they’re doing, and fans of their most recent material will find something worth listening to here, but those still waiting for a return to former glories may need to decide whether we’re happy to settle for the next best thing”
“Nightwish, the rulers of symphonic metal have returned and are ready to take over the world with their new album Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Trying to pick out highlights from this album is like trying to pick needles out of a stack of predominantly needles – there is not a strand of hay in sight.”
Crowd shot, by Hillarie Jason Photography Twilight of the Gods, by Hillarie Jason Photography
The next morning was upon us, which meant more breakfast food from the diner down the street. While we mapped our days out, I determined that I would spend most of my day at Edison once again (not that this was a problem). Prior to heading out, my roommate and I gathered cheap beer, ice, and turned our bathtub into our own little fridge. Happy with our work, we applied sunscreen, threw on our denim vests, and headed out to Edison. By the time we got to the lot and got inside, Twilight of the Gods was a little over half way through their set. Personally, the entire day revolved around Triptykon, so naturally I had a lot of built up adrenaline and found myself walking around and meeting new people. To release some more energy (after buying more patches of course) I slammed in the pit for most of Blood Red Throne. As if I was rewarded for my efforts, one of the guitarists threw me a Blood Red Throne lighter! After a set by Einherjer, I took a quick bio break, filled up my water bottle, and ran straight for the barricade where Triptykon guitar and drum techs were hard at work. Fortunately, I was still able to watch Bulldozer from a distance, but was just too anxious for Tom G. Warrior to hit the stage. The time did finally arrive as I fought off crowd surfers while screaming lyrics to old Celtic Frost songs with security. Yes, security. Specifically two of them right in the middle were headbanging and screaming lyrics with all of us crazies in the front row. During ‘Circle of Tyrants’ the two security guys even jumped the barricade and crowd surfed! I spent the next set drinking water and grabbing dinner as I really gassed myself. After my quick break, I met up with my roommate for the week to watch Arcturus play a great set and then join the mass exodus over to the headliners for the day, Razor. The Canadian thrashers brought forward an amazing set (first US set since 1992 according to many) which left fans begging for more. Some of the biggest pits all weekend were during Razor’s performance which made my inner thrash fan oh so happy. Even with Edison Lot closing for the night, there was still a set to be a part of over at the Soundstage. However, a few of us took a detour to the hotel to pre-game so we could avoid the bar lines. After a brisk walk across town, we were inside Soundstage and awaiting the first ever live appearance of Massachusetts’s own grindcore legends, Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Song after song after song flew by, as did an inflatable phallus, which brought fans to hysterics and joy at the same time. Unfortunately with the shortness in song lengths, as well as the shock of seeing Anb live, I had a hard time following along all of the songs being played. If I had to guess, we may have received around 30 songs. This was probably the largest crowd of the entire festival and it seemed more than reasonable that it was for this set. After stumbling back to the hotel, sing-a-longs, shot gunning beers, and other hilarities ensued in the hotel room to close out one of the best days of the festival.Triptykon, by Hillarie Jason Photography
WORDS BY TIM LEDIN
Legendary Norwegian metallers Arcturus is streaming “Game Over” off of their new studio album in a decade Arcturian on May 26, 2015 via Prophecy Productions.
01: The Arcturian Sign
05: Game Over
08: The Journey
I think that how excited you’re prepared to be about a new Arcturus album depends on what stage you were at in 1997 when they released La Masquerade Infernale (Music For Nations) in a burst of masks, frilly shirts and knowingly ludicrous poses. Though neither their first album nor universally the most popular, it was LMI that made them seem, no matter how briefly, so ferociously IMPORTANT. At a time when the Norwegian Black Metal scene was rapidly torn between fragmenting and shrinking into insular irrelevance, Arcturus were at the very forefront of the bands shining a torch into entirely new vistas.
Bold, dramatic, frequently funny and entirely possessed of itself, the combination of Hellhammer’s thundering drums, Garm’s gleefully pompous vocals and Sverd’s densely intricate instrumentation created something that Black Metal fans had genuinely never heard before. It cast a long shadow over the “avant garde” side of Black Metal (to the extent that they could truly be called that anymore) for years afterwards – even suffering that most 90’s of indulgences, the Remix Album – to the extent that though many fans preferred 2002’s more “progressive” The Sham Mirrors (Ad Astra Enterprises), it seemed to others like a futile attempt to recapture their brief majesty.
An odd choice to spend so long talking about an old album in a review of the new one, perhaps, but in this case the context is essential – because Arcturion (Prophecy) sees the also-ran, half-hearted entity that Arcturus have been over the last two albums shut the door behind them and let LMI Arcturus back into the room. Everything that made that late 90’s classic so… well… CLASSIC is back in full force here, but they’ve also brought some new tricks learned over the last twenty years.
Once again every track has its own theme and spirit – the “carnivalesque” sound that has been part of their image since LMI is still present on tracks like ‘Bane’, but they’re no longer pounding it with repetitive monotony as they did on Sideshow Symphonies (Season Of Mist). Elsewhere ‘Ad Astra’s meditative cosmic vibe returns on ‘Warp’, ‘The Arcturion Sign’ conjures up found memories of ‘Master Of Disguise’ and ‘Angst’ even sees them recapturing some of their Black Metal fury far more successfully than they did on Sham Mirrors.
Which is all rather lovely, but makes it sound as though they’ve simply gone back to a twenty year old album and tried to recapture the formula. Fortunately, that’s not the case at all. Firstly, they’ve broadened their palette noticeably – the driving, contemplative Rock of ‘Game Over’ and ‘Demon’s sleazy electronic Pop aren’t quite like anything they’ve recorded before, yet manage to retain the feel and character of both the band and the album. Secondly, and even more importantly, though is the undeniable feel that this band has grown up. Maturity, such a difficult concept to pin down but easy one to recognise, shines in every second of Arcturion. They’re every bit as arrogant and forceful as they were on LMI, but precocious youth has now been replaced by the confidence of age. In Garm’s absence ICS Vortex (who sang LMI’s standout ‘The Chaos Path’) brings a range and depth that exceeds his predecessor’s bold but often limited operatics.
Arcturion is not likely to blow any modern listeners away in quite the shocking fashion that La Masquerade Infernale managed in 1997 – both the Metal scene and the way we engage with music have changed dramatically since those days – but in terms of musical excellence and thematic power it matches or even exceeds that classic album.
Whether or not you’ve ever engaged with Arcturus before, do so now.
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)