So, we’re the Ghost Cult, and they’re a cvlt festival in Bergen ‘The Cradle Of Black Metal’, Norway. It’s a match made in heaven. It’s a solid swipe to the right, and it brings the promise of a romantic walk down that left hand path. OK, enough now. I mean, according to a pilot study conducted by famous Vilayanur Ramachandran there’s potential readers out there suffering from what is known as ‘metaphor blindness’. Keeping it simple: we found ourselves at one of Norway’s hottest underground metal festivals at the very last weekend of August, for four days of a full à la carte metal menu.
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)