By Per Ole Hagen, Rock At Night correspondent in Oslo, Norway.
Event: The Inferno Metal Festival, April 12-15, 2017
Every year since 2001 the metal family has gathered in Oslo for a festival with the best metal bands in all styles. Rock at Night attended the Black Easter happening, and here are the highlights from this year’s Inferno Metal Festival.
This year was the 17th edition of the Inferno Metal Festival, and I have attended it every year since 2011, except last year when Easter collided with my yearly SXSW-visit. The festival has had some of the worlds greatest metal bands playing during these 17 years, and I have seen and learned a lot about the different sub-genres in metal. This year’s Inferno was no exception, with black metal bands, death metal, old school black and death metal, sludge, industrial, grind core, trash, blackened death and symphonic metal.
The first day of Inferno is traditionally a club concert day, with bands playing at five different venues in Oslo. I visited three of these and saw seven bands – Dreamarcher, Fight the Fight, Befouled, Vesen, Slegest, Red Harvest and Borknagar. All of these bands are Norwegian, and Red Harvest and Borknagar are the veterans among them. Red Harvest is a trash metal band that started in 1989 and disbanded in 2010, but have come together for a couple of festivals since then. Borknagar has been playing together since 1995 and their style is more melodic than many of the other bands at the festival. Of course, with five venues and parallel concerts, it is impossible to see all, but to me this was a good start to this year’s festival.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, all concerts were held at the Rockefeller/John Dee. This is the main concert venue for rock and related styles in Oslo. A former swimming pool and bath house, it houses a 1300 capacity venue (Rockefeller) and downstairs the John Dee with a capacity of around 450. Then there are two lounges for tattoo stands and merch, plus an open air space on the roof for smokers, and “the apartment”, a small locale with its own bar, DJ and couches where the photographers gather between the concerts. Every night had four bands at the Rockefeller stage back to back with four bands at the John Dee.
Thursday I started out with Helheim, Venom Inc, Destruction and Carcass at the Rockefeller stage, and Azarath at John Dee in between. Of these, Carcass and Venom Inc were the highlights for me, with Destruction and Azarath as runner ups. These bands are mainly old school black and death metal, with Venom Inc the band with the longest history. Originally Venom from England was the band that coined the term “black metal“, from the title of their second album from 1982. The band started as a heavy metal band in 1979 and through different musicians, bassist and vocalist Cronos has kept the rights to the band name. In 2014 three of the other members from the band in the 80’s started up a new version of Venom, calling it Venom Inc. I have seen both versions, and even if Cronos was a founding member, Venom Inc to me is the musically best band. Destruction is from Germany and is one of the “Big 4” on the German trash metal scene. They are also a veteran band, having played together since 1982. Super tight trio, with some frenetic and virtuoso playing by guitarist Mike Sifringer. Carcass is a British death metal band that started in 1985, broke up in 1996 and started up again in 2007. They gave a good show with some super tight playing.
Friday had a more eclectic mix of styles and nationalities – Insidious Disease from Norway, Anaal Nathrakh from England, Samael from Switzerland, Crowbar from USA and Gorgoroth from Norway. Of these, Insidious Disease is the newest band, from 2004, with Silenoz, one of the guitarists from Dimmu Borgir as the most prominent member. My favorites this day were Samael, Crowbar and Gorgoroth. I have never seen Samael live before, but I do like their symphonic sound. What I didn’t like with their performance, was the heavy use of prerecorded drums, bass and keyboard. What I like most about seing metal bands live, is their fantastic virtuoso and tight playing, and the drummer is to me sometimes the most important member of the band. But Samael’s songs and performance both hold a high standard. Crowbar is an old fashioned sludge bar from New Orleans, with front man Kirk Windstein as vocalist and guitarist. Slow, drone like and heavy songs that were a welcome change from the death metal speed by many of the other bands. Gorgoroth belong to the so called “second wave”, the Norwegian black metal bands that came at the start of the 90’s. It coincides with some really bad things like murder and burning of churches, that gave the bands and the metal scene some bad publicity. But these bands, where Gorgoroth was central, were good, and several of them are still active. Gorgoroth are known for some interesting stage props, but at Inferno they were just playing, which is good enough for me.
Saturday was the day for the most spectacular (and also most shocking) stage performance, plus the festival’s only scandal. Slagmaur from Norway started with two public hangings plus one witch burning on an inverted cross on stage, positively the first time as we know that a band has put fire to a person on stage. Both the hangings and the burning were done by stuntmen, so no one were hurt, but the effect was strong and gave me some serious discomfort. The band performs with masks that add to the feeling. Primordial is an Irish band that mixes black metal with Celtic influences, and their singer, Alan Averill, is always fun to photograph. Belphegor was new to me. They are from Austria and play blackened death metal with lyrics about witches, demons and satanism. The band is extremely well played, and the concert was one of my favorites from the festival. The headliner Saturday was Abbath, the band of the former front man from Immortal (another band from the second wave), Abbath Doom Occulta. There had been some rumors that Abbath himself wasn’t in a very good shape, and after half an hour he threw his guitar down, breaking the neck by the head stock, and walked off stage, never coming back. The concert up until then was great, but it is sad if this should be the end of the band Abbath. So far no official statement has come for the reason of the breakdown.
The Inferno Metal Festival 2017 will be remembered for all the good bands, for Slagmaur’s stage show and unfortunately for Abbath’s behavior. I remember all my Inferno festivals for the good music, the great photo motifs and all the friendly people I meet there. They might look fierce, but the metal audience is by far the fans that behave the best at concerts. I have confirmation from the venues, from security, and also from the police that have been on patrol in Oslo when the festival has been held that there are very few problems with the metal fans compared to fans of other styles. The EDM audience is by far considered the worst. Therefore I look forward to next year’s Inferno Metal Festival, and I also plan to attend another metal festival before that, Beyond the Gates in Bergen late August.
The bands I saw at the Inferno Metal Festival 2017:
Fight the Fight
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