INFERNO FESTIVAL 2017 – Club day #1 – Blå & Vulkan
17 years of extreme easter celebration in Oslo at the Inferno Festival have started, as usual with the club days concerts on Wednesday. While the rest of Oslo is rather empty and dead with everyone have had started their holidays already from the last weekend, the metalheads are gathering in the city center and attend the loud and ‘unorthodox’ concerts. One of the main differences this year is that the headquarters of the festival have been moved from the very central Christiania hotel which is being rebuilt. So the official hotel became Scandic hotel at St Olav’s plass. And for the club evening, all events were moved around the Vulkan Area, making it somehow easier to actually go between all venues if desired. I personally stayed within the Blå (Dark Essence Records label scene) and Vulkan/Pokalen (Great Northern Distribution Stage).
Evening started with a pleasant dose of technical, blackened death metal under the signature of Bergen’s band Sulphur who has released, in February 2016, "Omens of Doom", an album with another fantastic cover art by maestro Costin Chioreanu and with a good dose of pleasant melodies and solos. There is a lot of atmospheric changes into their seound, from calm moments up to aggressive mixture of growls and fast riffing and sick drumming. A lot of musicianship is displayed in the band members instrumental performance but at times it feels that the songs could have maybe used a little trimming to avoid losing track of where you’re at. Probably a part of the confusion was played by the fact that the light guy was rather fond of strong white lights and strobes and I had to leave my good spot before the concert ended to avoid a headache. I went and bought the album and will surely digest it some more after the enjoyable live performance.
One good thing about Inferno festival and the fact that it attracts people from all over, is that you constantly bump into familiar faces and there’s always an occasion for a hug, a smile and a chat. The downside of this is that it makes you miss concerts, in my case the one of Vesen at Vulkan. Instead, I went to see Whip and damn, was that intense and very much fitting for their own description of the band’s sound "violent, death-loving black-thrash". Whip has a history that goes all the way back to 98 and is rather known in the underground circles for their ferocious gigs and I guess the one from Wednesday can only be of the same fame as previous ones. The blood smearing on the heads and face adds to the brutal image, but the mad riffing and overall stage fury is what stands out the most in their rancid and mean death trash.
Back to Dark Essence stage at Blå for a dose of Slegest, a Norwegian act that seems to have started with the intention to create Black Sabbath inspired music with harsh vocals, but which surely developed in many other directions. The initial thought is still obvious throughout the melodic line of the songs, but there’s surely a lot more to them. There are some well inspired riffs in the compositions which combined with the sawlike and savage vocal parts give a strong personality to the songs and the live performance. There is a lot of charisma displayed by Ese, ex Vreid’s guitarist and the main brain behind Slegest. He knows how to handle the crowd and how to add tension to the whole live performance, making Slegest a really enjoyable live act to watch. But then again, Dark Essence records does have a talent in working with quality live acts, so it’s always a pleasure to attend their shows.
A run back to Vulkan arena in order to catch Red Harvest and enjoy their massive show without a camera in my hands. What a good idea that was. I wrote to a friend during the show that I expect the roof to fall down at any moment…it was that intense. And loud, but with a very good sound from where I stood. Red Harvest stopped their activity back in 2010, then came back with two shows last year and this one at Inferno was their first Oslo performance since they split. Hence, a long awaited one for many fans and I doubt they left with any disappointment. The heavy industrial tunes were performed with good mood and energy and it was easy to forget that due some technical issues the concert had some delays. Red Harvest hasn’t yet come up with a new release but there is a promise for an upcoming one sometime this year, according to an interview that you find here, on Eternal Terror. But the latest you can buy from them is a re-issue of Hybreed CD with 8 bonus live tracks from the concert at Blastfest 2016, where one might get an idea of how massive they sound live. And even if there’s not big chances for extensive touring, I surely hope to catch them live several more times.
Down at Pokalen bar I stopped by to watch Tangorodrim, a band from Israel who was performing their first European show (and second altogether – fact that attracted many fans). Their name means ‘Mountains of opression’ which pretty much suits their oldschool sound full of hate and lacking any signs of polished effects. Probably due lack of live shows, the vocalist was constantly reading the lyrics from papersheets. Yet he sang with intense brutality. Before they started playing, I was surely expecting some heavy metal sounds, judging by their appearance, but it was surely far from that, teaching me once more to not create expectations from looks. Definitely a band for fans of old school black metal that doesn’t dwell much in modern aspects of making music but tries to stay within the boundaries of ‘back in the days’ sound and mood.
BORKNAGAR live @ Inferno Festival 2017
(Photo: Stig Pallesen)
Evening’s headliner at Vulkan are apparently the band where one of the founding fathers of Inferno festival plays – Borknagar (whose Jens Ryland started Inferno together with Radar booking back in 2001). The band has just returned from a South American tour where they set some ‘first ever Norwegain band to play here or there’ records and hopefully they opened the doors for many other bands to visit those places. The 2016 release, Winter Thrice, has been very well received and brought the band a lot of shows in various parts of the world but also a new vocalist for the live shows – Athera, ex Susperia singer. A band with 20 years of history surely has a very natural stage presence which makes it seem rather easy to deliver on stage each experimental aspect of their songs, whether old or new. Athera does a good job in his vocal parts, but I must admit I enjoy the most the nice and melodic singing of Vortex and/or keyboardist Lars Nedland but when all 3 vocalists sing together it is quite a joy to listen to the mix of voices. With a drum machine called Baard Kolstad there is no time to rest and time simply just flew by faster than expected.
When I decided to leave in order to catch the last band at Pokalen stage, Furze, it was either that I misread the timeplan or Furze decided to start earlier than announced. I sneaked myself to the side of the stage and started noticing the fact that the guitar player was performing sitting down on a bench with inverted crosses sculpted into it. After a long instrumental intro which explained rather well the name used for their musical style – Black Psych Metal – the vocalist showed up wearing a black goat head with long horns and performing like that for a couple of songs. Afterwards, the curtains were drawn and allowed the band to prepare for the second act of the performance, where the goat head disappeared, yet the music just continued to build up more intensity and evilness. Unfortunately, the crown in front was also at an expected level of intoxication, making it a big danger for beer to flow freely on your clothes or punches to meet your face on the way up to becoming horns in the air. So I left my good spot, listened some more to the dark sounds (being quite surprised on how good the soundguy managed) but eventually left since the show was no longer the same without visuals. I hope it offered even more entertainment, as it was announced as a long concert and I expect it had at least one more act after I left.