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)