HITS – 2006 – Bergen
Mens vi venter på noe godt…
Skrevet på engelsk for Grinder Magazine.
This was the 7th time Hole In The Sky was arranged, but my first visit to the festival. Norway is an expensive country, even for us who live and work here so I have been going steady to the Inferno festival in Oslo but could never afford both festivals before. This year however I had no choice since Morbid Angel, My Dying Bride, Celtic Frost, Necrophagist, Keep of Kalessin, Gojira and I all were going to play at the festival. I would never have been able to forgive myself if I did not go this year!
The festival takes place at two very different venues, Wednesday and Thursday at Garage with a capacity of 350 persons and Friday and Saturday at USF Verftet witch can take 1100 persons. I bought my ticket six months ago, and I am glad I did, because a month later they were as good as sold out and HITS did not give out press/photo passes to webzines for Wednesday and Thursday. If you wanted in, you had to buy a ticket; witch I think is a very good thing. Better to have 350 huge fans there then 300 fans and 50 guys who really don’t care, but are just there to write 5 sentences about the headlining band.
Back to the festival: If you are interested in going next year and want to know more, you can find more info at www.holeinthesky.no
After a walk to Verftet to have a chat with Martin Kvam, the press manager of the HITS I could not wait any longer and headed out to Garage to wait for the festival to kick of. A few hours of anticipation, some beer and lots of good discussions later it was time to head down the stairs to see this years opening act: DEAD TROOPERS. I am glad to see that these guys have been given a chance to play, since their EP Spiritual Funeral has made an impact on me. These youngsters play technical thrash/death with lots of influences from NWOBHM but I am sorry to say that as a live band they completely failed. Out of step, slightly nervous and the songs lost all their edge when performed live.
Next out was OBSCURE, a local band playing stoner rock much like Pentagram and Sleep with some well thought out thrash related melodies. This was the first time I ever heard anything of the band, and I was pleasantly surprised by their music and relaxed attitude on stage, but not enough impressed to make a big deal out of it. I had no expectations, but liked what I heard, but there are many other bands out there…
The band I was looking most forward to this day was Oslo’s SHE SAID DESTROY. A band it is impossible to put a label on. Technical, mid tempo, death, thrash, heavy, some doom… the list goes on forever! They have made their own unique sound witch is worth checking out. This was the farewell concert for their guitarist/singer Snorre who is going to Liverpool, England to study music for three years, and the first thing that struck me when they started up was that they had lost a great aspect since Snorre did a lot of the growling. Now all the vocals were handled by guitarist/vocalist Anders, since the new guy Rodriguez only handled the guitar. This makes SSD a bit flatter than I am used to from earlier concerts and their record, but they are still miles ahead of the competition. A reminder of how great they can be came halfway through the set when Snorre came up on stage and growled his vocal parts on the remaining songs. SSD will blow you away!
Then it was time for the first foreign band at the festival. BURST hails from Gothenburg, Sweden and their music can be described as a mix of Opeth, Tool, Neurosis and a lot of BURST. Progressive, technical metal with great elements from doom. BURST is one of these bands that do a great job live completely without any hype or trying to fit in. No black leather, long hair or pyro. Just a bunch of Swedes with great songs playing them really really well and enjoying themselves while they do it. It was a pleasure to witness these guys having fun on stage and making the public their new fans.
Unfortunately, the night ended in a great disappointment. Last band for the night was the local band AETERNUS and they describe their music as “Dark Metal: Fast, aggressive, intense and brutal, yet calm and beautiful at times.” I tried; I really did, but was unable to find anything beautiful about what they were doing. Chaotic, boring, extreme metal from a band that acted like they were back in the rehearsal room. A band that has been active since 1993 should be able to do a much better job live than this. Lots of errors, no attempt to communicate with the public, they almost looked bored up on stage and the crowd did not exactly go wild. A show best forgotten, fast!
I admit that all I could think of when I woke up on Thursday was that later that night I was going to enjoy Necrophagist and Morbid Angel inside a small club! But the first band out was OBLITERATION from Oslo, these youngsters play old school death/thrash much like Deicide and Cannibal Corpse. Nothing to original but the structure of the songs is well thought out and they really deliver in stage. No fear and a lot of catching riffs made this a perfect start of the evening. OBLITERATION is really brutal and groovy and I can’t wait to hear more from this band.
WAKLEWÖREN is one of these bands that play only for fun. With members from Aura Noir and Red Harvest to mention some, they have over the years proven themselves to be very capable musicians, however when they get together under the banner of WAKLEWÖREN it seems that they just don’t take the task serious. It’s more for their own fun than entertaining the people who show up at the gigs, and the material they have is nothing else than weak, boring and straight forward thrash. I would rather sit in a pub, drink beer and talk to other metalheads when WAKLEWÖREN is playing, so after 2 songs I headed out of the basement and found some likeminded people upstairs to hang with.
Luckily they had installed a big screen at ground floor at Garage and were filming the stage, so it was no problem at all to keep myself updated and find out when it was time to drink up, grab the camera and run downstairs to watch HELHEIM lighten up the festival goers. It was clear that a lot of the people at the front of the stage knew the band and its material beforehand, and the Viking metal group had no problem at all when it came to support. I found them to be a bit boring, but they were very well prepared and put on a show that made a lot of people smile. It is great to see a band try that hard to make the concert an event for those that show up, and I will definitively check out more about this band in the future.
And then it was time for one of my main reasons to be in Bergen this week: NECROPHAGIST. There are few bands out there that can match the quality, intensity and speed of these German men. I am not a huge fan, but I was looking forward to seeing how their material would be transformed onto the stage. The answer: They blew me away! I have not been so hypnotised and bewildered since I saw Nile live in April. Their astonishing musicianship, great songs and powerful live performance were so incredible raw and honest. No hype, no image, just pure quality all the way. To hear Muhammed growl away while punishing his guitar was just beautiful and the band he has right now are tight and it is clear to see that they have been on stage together a lot. NECROPHAGIST live is a kick in the balls, and a great support for Morbid Angel.
It was never a secret that the reason the festival passes for Wednesday and Thursday dissipated so fast was that MORBID ANGEL would be headlining on Thursday. I mean, MORBID ANGEL on an intimate stage in a venue that only has room for 350 fans??? I was a bit sceptical since I met Pete Sandoval 6 hours before they went on stage, and at that point he was so drunk that the crew had to help him from falling. Luckily the rest of the band was in a lot better shape when they entered the stage, but the concert was 30 minutes delayed, because Pete argued about the positioning and sounds on each and every drum. Drunk and angry he yelled and cursed at the stage crew before the rest of the band and the crew finally got him calm enough to play.
To see David Vincent standing one meter away from you, hammering on the bass and singing Maze of Torment can not easily be described. When I saw them last year at the Inferno festival it was easily one of the three best concerts I had witnessed in my life, this year they did not top that, but they came close. Vincent was in a very good mood and took the time to communicate with the fans between songs, and this raised both the heat and intensity to a point where it almost became too much. Eric Rutan has not been back in the band for a long time, but it was easy to hear that he had not forgotten anything in the time he was away, and when Sandoval does a pretty good job on the drums there is never anything to say on the intensity of Trey Azagthoth. MORBID ANGEL have been there for a long time and built a reputation that they truly deserve, and when they play the old stuff from the time before Dave Vincent first left the band there are few bands that can top that. Trey Azagthoth, Eric Rutan, Dave Vincent and Pete Sandoval are as a band very tight and when the sound also is good, there is nothing left to do than lean back and enjoy.
Not everyone who wanted to could get a photo pass, and those who did got divided into two groups. Grinder Magazine is not the worlds biggest metal magazine so I only got a pass to take pictures outside the photo pit. The time I should have used waiting to get into the pit was used walking around looking at the stands at Verftet with a beer in my hand. HITS had done a great job here; you could buy band merchandise, buttons, belts, t-shirts, cheap cds and rare vinyl. A very nicely mix of everything a metalhead need, and of coarse there was a bar there. Well now, back to the stage.
Many bands these days claims to play a mix of death, black and old school heavy metal, and GRIMFIST succeeds to some degree with their attempt, but you could just as easily describe their music as grind metal. Their hooks and riffs will at least stay with you for a long time, and the bass player on this gig had seen more than enough live DVDs of Korn and Rage Against The Machine but this only helps to bring their show to a higher level. If you are to see 24 metal bands in four days you will get tired of seeing long haired guys headbanging on stage, all dressed in black… GRIMFIST did a really good job on stage; a lot of energy and pure fucking brutality. The worst thing was the shitty sound they had during their half hour on stage, but that is unfortunately the norm when you are an opening act. It is great to see that the Norwegian metal scene has some up and coming bands that can keep Norway on the map in the years to come.
I saw WITCHCRAFT at the Inferno festival earlier this year, and they did absolutely nothing at all to impress me then. This time however, I must admit they did a very good job, and I suddenly found myself smiling and enjoying these four groovy Swedes and their seventies Pentagram/Black Sabbath music. They do not try to hide their influences neither in appearance nor in their music, but they still manage to bring enough WITCHCRAFT into the sound to avoid being a rip-of band. They were a welcome rest between all these brutal bands with their “hippie appearance” and totally laid back attitude, and when they played some new material that was even slower and more in the direction of Led Zeppelin they won me over. It is my opinion that WITCHCRAFT has grown a lot these last four months and that their show and performance has improved enough to make them a band to keep an eye on in the future.
GOJIRA is celebrating that they have been playing brutal metal for 10 years now, and are finally starting to get the attention they deserve. This is one of the best, most brutal metal bands ever to come from France and many at the HITS speculated on what quality their live show would be in. The truth: GOJIRA left all other bands lying shaking on the floor! I was not at all prepared for the massive attack that suddenly appeared on stage. I’ve known about the band for quite some time, but have never gotten around to buying any of their cds, but that has changed now. Their sheer force and arrogance on stage mixed with an almost flawless performance and great sound mix made this an awesome event. Jean-Michel Labedies and Christian Andreu must have lost at least five pounds each during the show the way they ran around tireless on stage, and Joe Duplantiers voice came out as clear as it ever could and if you add Mario Duplantiers steady, tornado-like drumming you have all the ingredients you need to make a great metal concert. GOJIRA won a lot of new fans due to their fantastic performance, and it just goes to show that the booking at HITS have once again done a great job finding incredible foreign artist that brings this festival to a higher level.
ATHEIST from Florida had the bad luck of going on stage after the mighty GOJIRA, but ATHEIST as a band has always had bad luck. This is their first, and most likely last, tour since 1993.They are trying one last time to get their music out to the public, since they in their youth never got the recognition of being a great band. The reputation of ATHEIST has been growing for quite some time, and their back-catalogue has been selling so well that their records recently got re-released. And one thing is quite clear this day: ATHEIST is hungry and well prepared. Their blend of extreme metal has not at all been outdated, even thou their material is around 15 years old it sounds as fresh and relevant as if it was written last month. Kelly Shaefer looks like he belongs in a 80`s glam metal band, but he can growl, sing and make the show all by himself. Great material, great performance, great sound and a great experience for the fans to finally after all this time se this band live. Just so sad that this very well might be the last we ever see or hear from the band.
DESTRUCTION always deliver live, and even thou Inventor of Evil is the closest thing they have come to release some quality material since Mad Butcher in `87 they still remain one of the few extremely good thrash metal bands from the eighties still doing their thing, and are therefore worth experiencing live. Their primitive form of thrash and brutal speed makes this three Germans a force to be reckoned with still. The problem with DESTRUCTION is their lack of variation, with only one guitar and straight forward thrash metal it becomes old and monotonous really fast during a live show. If you don’t know any of their material beforehand you might believe that they just play the same three minutes long song over and over. Okay, that was a huge exaggeration, but you get the point. They once helped to tread the path for thrash as a musical form, but now they are stuck in the old form instead of developing the gander furthermore. That said, DESTRUCTION is still one incredible live band. If you ever want to see and hear how metal was in the time before metal core there are few bands more dedicated to their roots than DESTRUCTION, and even fewer with their quality, aggression and talent.
The headliner on Friday was of coarse Norwegian main stream/ black metal act SATYRICON. There are no other metal bands in Norway, except Dimmu Borgir, that come close to their commercial value. They get airtime on national radio, release singles and their videos are shown around the clock on TV. Its all about having a huge, rich record label who can promote the music isn’t it? BMG/SONY can not hide the fact that SATYRICON is closer to pop than they are black metal but with so much promotion you can sell almost everything. Even thou Now, Diabolical are boring and lacks good riffs there is nothing to say on the live performance from Satyr, Frost and their hired mercenaries. They had the most mixed crowd since there was a lot of young non-metal fans there to se them perform and once again their newer songs seem so many times more interesting live than on album. Satyr is still an extremely arrogant front man, but he does it with a lot of style and he is in his full right, after all it is HIS band. He writes all the material and on the albums he leaves the drums to FROST, the rest he does himself. It is strange really, because he is a really good drummer himself. Since this was a festival and not a SATYRICON concert we got a lot of rawer, old material we otherwise would not have gotten, and once again I was impressed with the sheer force they manage to radiate on stage even thou there is no band feeling at all on their shows. SATYRICON was, is and will always be Satyr Wongraven and his hired help. But as a live band they are high up on the list, professional musicians that has played live together for more or less four years and with the bands popularity they do play a lot live together. If you ever get a chance to se SATYRICON live, you should really just do it, it is worth the ticket alone to see and hear FROST pounding away on the drums and if you like their albums you are going to be mighty impressed with the material performed live. You might even get to hear some old Black Sabbath, Bathory, Slayer or Mötley Crüe (Yes, Mötley Crüe!) covers performed.
After three days filled with drinking, junk food and metal I was tired and ready to go home. That was the first thought I had when I woke up, but one look at the line up for the closing day and I was out the door looking for an open pub and a familiar face.
After meeting Martin Kvam I also got admited into the foto pit this day. Unfortunately for me most bands used pyro, witch meant that nobody was allowed into the pit due to the danger.
The evening started hard and raw with KEEP OF KALESSIN. A band I have really come to love this last six months and their album Armada, released in April might just be one of the five best albums when I sum it up at the end of the year. KEEP OF KALESSIN was founded by Obsidian C. witch now also play guitar for Satyricon live, and they mix the frostbitten riffs of Immortal, the haunting atmosphere from early Mayhem and the epic hauls of Emperor and Enslaved. Adding their own twist in the melodies and structure they are really on to something. Naturally the place was starting to fill up at an early time this day, many have heard about the band, and many have bought their cd so USF Verftet was filling up when KEEP OF KALESSIN entered the stage. Unfortunately their pyro didn’t work at all, some problem with the ignition but not many noticed that since they did not know that there was supposed to be pyro. The second problem was the unbelievably shitty mix on the sound they were forced to play with, again the opening act gets nothing for free. Other than that the show went as planed. Obsidian C. impresses me more and more each time I see him live, he stands out from the crowd as a magnificent frontman and incredible musician that knows how to work the crowd. This time around vocalist Thebon started to take over more of the spotlight too and that makes for a complete and secure line up on stage. It’s always a pleasure to see KOK live, and now that Thebon is thawing up I only wonder how great they will be next time around.
Next band up was Bergen’s own SAHG, a band I have not yet managed to understand. They look like they are made of stone and play stoner rock influenced by Pentagram and Black Sabbath much like Witchcraft, but they lack all the originality that makes Witchcraft a good band. I like stoner rock and I like doom, what I don’t like are boring copycats like SAHG. They sound like a cheap 70`s coverband and hardly moves in stage, I was lucky that I had to do an interview with Hamish of My Dying Bride during SAHG`S performance so I could leave after the second song.
1349 came on stage wearing makeup like most old school black metal bands do, and was ready to tear the audience apart. But the funniest thing happened; SAHG had used pyro and had torches on stage while they played, and 1349 had a helmet like the one on the cover of Hellfire witch they torched and all this combined resulted in the fact that the fire alarm went of! Everybody had to leave the arena as a result while the venue was aired out, and people saw this as a great opportunity to have a cigarette and a beer. After about 15 minutes we were allowed inside again, but some of the spark seems to have left the band. Because of the fire alarm the emergency lights was on and the room was very bright witch ruins the visual effect of the band, combined with the fact that many from the festival crowd decided to not come back to see the rest of 1349s gig. I’ll give them credit for trying and for the sound mix witch was incredible primitive, just like their music, all in all it would have been a great performance had it not been for their bad luck with the fire alarm.
I is Abbath from Immortals new project, and he claims that they take up where Immortal left off. This raises a lot of expectation but I does not live up to them at all, they sound like Immortal meets Motörhead witch is not bad at all, but to claim that he is continuing the legacy of Immortal is a huge exaggeration. A lot of rock n roll riffs, some thrash and the rest are old school black, but it did not impress me at all. Maybe when I get to hear their cd I will change my mind, but as a first impression it made me yawn.
There were a lot of people yawning during MY DYING BRIDE opening as well, and they left the room after a few seconds. But who can blame them? This was by far the slowest band to play at HITS this year, and with front man Aaron completely tortured stage performance and with Andrew and Hamish delivering dark, brooding riffs these British masters of doom must have appeared silly on a lot of the hard core black/thrash fans in the crowd. Personally I find MY DYING BRIDE to be one of the best bands there has ever been, and when they started up with Like Gods Of The Sun I was as happy as could be. When I looked around I could see that I was not alone, the place was packed with MDB fans singing along, and it was almost as if the festival had turned into a MDB concert. So many people in the room singing along and cheering prove that MDB is still a band to recon with. It is fun in a really twisted, sadistically way to see Aaron on stage, it must be pure torture on him who is so shy to be up on stage in front of all the people, but he is making a lot more out of it than he used to and even thou he relives his own hell in the personal lyrics he is shearing with us he thaws up during the show and lifts his eyes up from the ground. MDB has an impressive back catalogue and even thou they have to use some amount of synthesizer on stage for violins and such they still sound as real and magnificently pompous as a doom metal band should. The crowd was incredible during MDBs show and it is safe to say that they gave a really good show.
CELTIC FROST had the honour of being the undisputed headliner of HITS 2006. And it was a lot of old school thrash fans who was looking forward to their show with awe-stricken dedication. It is true that without CELTIC FROST extreme metal would not have sounded as it does today, they have had a great influence on a lot of people but their time was back in the eighties. Now they appear only as a shadow of their former self out to cash in on touring some festivals and trying to reinvent themselves on album. I am not saying that CELTIC FROST is a bad band, but their dark, primitive trash sounded a lot more current ten-twenty wears ago than it does today. When Tom Gabriel Warrior finally appears on stage beside Martin Eric Ain in their classic makeup and starts of with Into the Crypts of Rays I realise that I prefer my CF on disc, not live. Their dark thrash is not well performed on stage, the guitar is set way to low and they do not at all seem to be motivated, it’s almost as if they are counting the money they are earning while performing because their heart does not seem to be in the performance. They played a lot of old great material from Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion and some newer material as well, but they are never close to receiving the same response as Satyricon and My Dying Bride did earlier. I am glad that I had the chance to see CF, because of all they have dune for metal, but there is a time and place for everything, but 2006 is not the time for CF.
And then another beautiful week of metal mayhem is over, and only the memory remains…