Michael Schenker Fest, Sortilège, Soen, Trollfest, Grave Digger, and More Booked for 70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise

The tenth annual 70000 Tons of Metal Cruise has been dropping some incredible bookings for the 2020 cruise this January. Recently added bands are Michael Schenker Fest, Sortilège, Soen, Trollfest, Grave Digger, and more have been added to the cruise lineup! Schenker’s appearance makes the Official 50th Recording Anniversary for him as an artist. For the cruise he will be joined by a very special compliment of musicians: Continue reading

Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse Turns 25

Truth is stranger than fiction when it comes to the entire Norwegian Black Metal scene, its founding epoch, and its legacy. A lot of text has been written about how terrible certain characters in the scene were. Every band at the time seemed to revel in being befouled by the stain of their actions. Emperor is no different and was a vital part of that scene. Having made amends to whatever level they can mea culpa their mistakes as kids, their names no less ruined than their peers. Musically, however, they have few equals in terms of what they put down. Their full-length debut album In The Nightside Eclipse (Candlelight Records) is still one of the gold-standard Black Metal albums ever made, and worthy of deep analysis on the silver- anniversary of its release. Continue reading

Einherjer – Norrøne Spor

The first time I crossed swords (!) with Norse warriors Einherjer was shortly after the release of the stellar blackened Viking Metal opus Odin Owns Ye All (Century Media) when they impressed on a bill that included Cradle of Filth and the underrated Old Man’s Child. The next stages of their career, however, were not so kind on the band, as they struggled to establish themselves, or really kick on. Continue reading

EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: Einherjer – “Kill The Flame”

Viking metal pioneers Einherjer, are releasing their new album, Norrøne Spor, via Indie Recordings this November 9th. The band has recorded their first track in English in 15 years, ‘Kill The Flame’, and Ghost Cult is proud to bring you the exclusive stream to jam out to right now! Continue reading

King Of Asgard – :taudr:

Sitting somewhere between an EP and a full-length album, :taudr: (Trollmusic) is the newest release by Swedish Viking enthusiasts King of Asgard. Featuring five tracks focusing mainly on death and the afterlife, this latest record follows on from their 2014 release, Karg (Metal Blade) and continues, rather unsurprisingly, in the same Nordic/Black/Folk Metal vein as before. Continue reading

Blastfest 2016: Part 2, Live at the Garage, Bergen NO

blastfest2016-flyer ghostcultmag

 

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.

blastfest 2016 Jarle H. Moe JHM_7864-XL

Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

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.

 Djevil, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Djevil, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

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 Blastfest 2016 ghostcultmag JHM_3321-M

1349, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

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, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Ihsahn, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

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, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Einherjer, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

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, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Green Carnation, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

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, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Abbath, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

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!

 Abbath, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Abbath, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

 Abbath, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Abbath, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

BLASTFEST 2016 REVIEW PART I

 

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WORDS BY PAL LYSTRUP

PHOTOS BY JARL H. MOE

 

Tuska Festival 2015 Part II: Suvilahti, Helsinki FI

tuska festival 2015 poster

Tuska is so centrally located in Helsinki that there’s no room for parking unless you’re looking to leave your bike in the bicycle park. Still, already by 1:45PM on Saturday when Bloodbath was starting their set, the festival area was getting quickly filled with an unusually high concentration of corpse paint wearing festivalgoers, most staying in the nearby hotels since the festival doesn’t offer a camping area either.

Abbath, photo by Aku Axel Muukka

And not really just for Bloodbath, but Abbath’s world premier show under his own namesake must explain the unusually high spike in face paint sales in Helsinki this week. For more info and full video of Abbath’s show, follow this link:

A clear oddbird for the day was Atomirotta, a Finnish act that would be best described as a mixture of rap, jazz and funk. Not exactly what you’d expect on the second main stage between Abbath and Einherjer. The booking, apparently result of a lost bet, was a testimony of the quirky & fun attitude of the team behind the festival that consistently shows through how the festival keeps being organized year after year. Very professional, yet always tongue-in-cheek.

The small club stage in the Kellohalli hall has always been notorious for its challenging acoustics. This year at least Sotajumala (Finnish for “War God”), which on paper seems like a very difficult band to mix with their speed limit defying death metal, managed to come crystal clear and produce a fantastic sound and a highly energetic show.

In Flames, Aku Axel Muukka

In Flames, Aku Axel Muukka

Saturday closed with In Flames, who had tuned their set not to just push their new album, but to really get the crowd going, opening with ‘Only for the Weak’. Singer Anders Friden made a joke how he’s been in Finland for already several hours, and hasn’t yet had a Lonkero, a popular local long drink mixed out of gin and grapefruit juice. Miraculously, despite all alcohol consumption strictly being prohibited to designated bar areas, an unopened Lonkero was thrown on stage somewhere from the depths of the crowd just seconds later.

Whispered, a melodic metal band with Japanese influences, took the stage at On The Rocks just an hour later. Opening with ‘Hold the Sword’, the band relies on a lot of backing tracks due to their symphonic sound, but also their mad skills with their instruments. Another highlight by this underrated band’s set was ‘Sakura Omen’, their newest piece that takes the band’s music to even further depths into a mystical soundworld.

Fans at Tuska Festival,

Fans at Tuska Festival,

Fast forward to Virgin Oil – another club just a few blocks away – where Amoral was kicking off their first show as a six piece, since the band’s longtime singer Niko Kalliojärvi returned the band doubling the vocal count of the band. Ari, the band’s more recent singer, and Niko would take turns taking stabs at older and newer Amoral material. Perhaps it was Niko’s more active stage presence, but this time old school seemed to have the upper hand on the new school.

To close the night at Virgin, Euge Valovirta’s (Shining SWE) All-Stars band came on playing cover songs with various singers joining them on stage, some more dressed than the others, which went perfectly well with the post 1AM showtime of a long and hazy weekend.

 

WORDS BY LH

PHOTOS COURTESY OF TUSKA FESTIVAL/Timo Asoaho/Aku Axel Muukka