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.

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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

 

Blastfest 2016: Part 1, Live at the Garage, Bergen NO

 

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The third year of Blastfest was to be something of a special one. Where the two first years had been about metal in a global perspective, this edition of the festival was to be one with the sole focus being the Norwegian metal scene. By that was meant that the entire festival consisted solely of bands from Norway. The audience on the other hand hailed from all around, with more than forty countries in attendance.

 The crowd at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

The crowd at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Before moving on to the main venue for the three main festival days, there was a kick-off day. The infamous rock club Garage was were things started off, a 350 capacity club venue closer to the center of town. With such a small total capacity the club makes for a much more intimate experience, and needless to say, it was also sold out a long time in advance. This third year also seemed to be a turning point in that sense, the economical one. Most of the festival tickets had been sold out and in good time before the festival. It actually went so well that the 2017 edition was secured long before the 2016 edition got off the ground, and is currently already being booked.

Hadens were the local youngsters to get the festival off the ground proper, followed by Endezzma, before it really got hot as the third band took the stage, Blodhemn. By that time the venue was pretty crammed, and despite the band not really putting on anything particular in terms of the visual, they were nevertheless fully capable of delivering their message in terms of auditory ferocity. The national romanticism was taken even a step further as Voluspaa took to the stage, not to mention how the small stage got pretty crowded by the sevenpiece. Formed all the way back in 1994, the band has since only delivered one fullength album, 2010’s Åsa. On the other hand, who needs multiple releases if they have one that garners lots of praise? Violinist and all, the band put on a great show of hymns dedicated to the old cultural heritage.

 Mistur at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Mistur at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Svarttjern brought things right back to present day with their black metal onslaught, before Mistur showcased their brand of sognametal, made famous by bands like Windir and Vreid. At first the sound was a bit too dense to really make out any detail, but it broke up a little bit into the show, and needless to say, by now the place was crammed.

 Chrome Division at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Chrome Division at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

All in time for the headliners in Chrome Division, fronted by none other than Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir fame. They performed no less than fourteen of their songs to a Garage filled to the brim with people that were more than eager to have a long weekend of booze, broads, and Beelzebub. If not an evening filled with headliner material, it was indeed a great start to the festival, which at the venue even had their own stand with the 7 Fjell – Blastfest 777 cascadian ale on tap. The safest guess is that the brewery taking its name from the seven mountains surrounding Bergen fused that with the usual 666 gimmick.

 

Local thrashers Inculter have been at it for a couple of years now, but despite honing even more exceptional playing skills than before, they still look straight out of junior high school, making it all the more impressive. It’s good to see that the spirit is still very much alive in the younger generations, that people show up to catch them and show their support, and that these guys actually spend time in the rehearsal room refining something that will surely become a juggernaut of the future. Gravdal are also a local force, and they are to be reckoned with! Since the last time I caught them, they had done some lineup changes, and in was Eld (Aeternus, Taake, Krakow, Gaahl’s Wyrd) on bass and vocals, and Saur (Dominanz) on guitars. On guitar they also had Phobos, who later that same very evening was to be found behind the Gorgoroth drumkit. Their musical expression is none other than the more groove-laden midtempo black metal, and despite not really having found their own niche yet, they excell at what they do.

 Doheimsgard, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Doheimsgard, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Second band out after Kampfar kicked it all off on the mainstage was none other than Dødheimsgard, the legends from the early 90’s black metal scene in Oslo. Never ever stopping to check with what the fans around the world want, and never ever catering to what they desire, this band continues to amaze with their avant-gardism. With a vocalist calling out for a Swedish Astrid Lindgren character during the soundcheck, we expected nothing but the most peculiar of sets, and so it was. Aldrahn ran around in a bright red blazer and red sunglasses drawing invisible patterns in the air. If there was anything keeping this from being of the utmost magnificence, it must have been the somewhat lackluster sound at the very beginning, missing all kick drum and bass, but also how the electronics that are ever-present on the albums fadeed somewhat into the background. Most importantly it was good to see that Dødheimsgard have matured, and that they can now also be enjoyed in a live setting.

 Taake at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

Taake at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe

The extreme metal pride of Bergen these days has to be Enslaved and Taake. The latter took to the stage as the third headliner this evening, and sounded just as professional as one has come to expect of them. First we were presented with five renditions of songs from the Noregs Vaapen album, then a balaclava wearing local musician, Trond Teigland of Tarmer, joined the band for a cover of a GG Allin’s ‘Die When You Die’. After two more songs from their newest album, ‘Stridens Hus’, Hoest and his hellish crew presented us with some older gems in the shape of ‘Umenneske’, and ‘Hordaland pt 1’, closing it all with ‘Nattestid pt 1’. If there was anything to point the finger at it has to be that the show didn’t last longer.

 

Many people had eagerly been awaiting the reunion of underground legends In The Woods …, a band that hadn’t played live in some fifteen years. And the suspense was felt as they appeared from out of the dark corners of the backstage and into the Blastfest spotlight. As much as the band’s discography itself is an eclectic mix of genres, so was their Blastfest set. The old material being atmospheric black metal-ish leaning, and their newer material being more lofty psychedelic progressive rock oriented. An audience given three songs off of The Heart of Ages didn’t seem to mind being presented with this auditory amalgam though, and the reunion seemed to set the stage for what has to be further shows in the future.

 

Headlining this first evening was none other than the legendary and scandal-ridden Gorgoroth. Much has been said and much is to be said about all the things surrounding the band, but they do deliver a spectacular show. Crucified naked women, tons of sheep heads, spikes that can be seen from space …. There’s simply no holds barred, and they have the ferocious old school monotonous black metal to accompany the visual aesthetics as well. With Hoest of Taake taking care of vocal duties, he made his second appearance as main vocalist with a mainstage band in one single evening, and if he was good with his own band, he was just as good and convincing with Gorgoroth, though singing someone else’s lyrics. With a solid selection of albums to choose material from, there wasn’t a boring moment to be had as the band churned out fourteen songs all the way from the very first years to 2015’s Instinctus Bestialis.

 

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WORDS BY PAL LYSTRUP

PHOTOS BY JARL H. MOE