I was pretty excited when I got asked to review Høstsabbat because there were some bands in the line-up that I had not listened to and I do enjoy a lot the process of finding out what they play. But more than anything it is the fact that I enjoy downtuned music so much—all from slow to fast tempo in a rather wide spectrum of genres and subgenres— the main reason that dragged me down to the crypt to see the first band.

I had an overall idea of what kind of sounds I was coming to be delighted to listen to before entering the church. Stoner rock, Sludge, Funks fusions, Doom. A surplus of delightfully downtuned instruments. I had that in my mind when I entered the church gates and it struck me that this was going to be a pretty special experience.

HÄLLAS live@Høstsabbat 2018
Photo by Andrea Chirulescu

The church being all immersed in red light made an impression on me in the beginning. I think churches, acoustically, are perfect venues for concerts. I would love to see more festivals taking place in churches. Just below the stairs lies the crypt of the church. I had pretty high expectations about the crypt, but well it looks more like a basement. I’ve been to crypts around Europe underneath cathedrals—some of them being far better than the cathedrals themselves architectonically. But well the venue being a lutheran church you can’t really expect mausoleums, the tombs of rich families, macabre poetry, all kinds of art and tons of silver and marmor. It’s a basement stripped off any adornments pretty much.

The crypt is quite a challenge acoustically. I think I spent considerable time moving around and kinda got a mental picture of how the sound waves traveled out from Säver’s instruments. I did experienced how the huge soils affect the sound. It was pretty crowded and if you do not get there on time, like I did, you can’t really see the band. So I opted to stand right beside the sound guy. But I must say that at times the crypt and its soils seemed to help enhance the sound of heavy sound of Sâver. The huge reverb the soils created an interesting sound effect. Their sound varied in intensity from the dense more Doom riffs to songs with fast tempos and perhaps more sludge like.

Then it was Hällas turn up in the church. They are Swedish and they are awesome. I had seen them at Beyond the Gates in Bergen the previous time and liked them a lot. Their show is pretty theatrical. They have really cool stage clothing, but well it’s their music what makes them worth seeing. I really like the vocals-they are just completely right for the genre. It was here in Oslo that I could fully appreciate the whole. Both the venue and the sound I think enhanced my experience. Now Hällas is a band that is pretty easy to like because pretty much every metalhead will feel the heavy metal moments ala Iron Maiden and react somehow. Those ingenious heavy metal moments are built in the right places. Hällas is pretty Black Sabbath as well so yeah is like a tour back to the roots of metal. I loved this time that I was able to see the scales the guitarists kept playing. Since the band became even better now so I’m really looking forward to see them a third time.

SPURV live@Høstsabbat 2018
Photo by Andrea Chirulescu
The highight of the first day was without a doubt Eagle Twin. Two musicians from Utah who play stoner/sludge/doom, a pretty dense mix. The drumming especially had lot of strength. It was pretty enjoyable because it was simple but yet pretty powerful. I think density, depth and power is what I will remember about this festival with its variety of sounds and the many faceted bands that played. I loved the bass sound in Soul Transmitter. The evening was crowned byToner Low from the Netherlands that was like the name says so downtuned as humanly possible and so enjoyable. It was just the perfect climax for us that love to keep the sound heavy and low. It was great to see how after an already downtuned song, they would just further downtune it a but more for the next. And it can be slow but I liked it a lot because of the density of it. It is addictive! You don’t want it to stop really. I think the acoustics in the church played a role in giving the concert a special sound as well. Toner Low create an musical atmosphere without using anything else than the instruments and distortions. It may be slow but is pretty pummeling. As venues churches are really awesome for seeing concerts. I think wish more churches were used for music festivals.

The second day brought bands that I’d checked out previous the festivals and wanted to see live. Taiga Woods guitar sound is something that I find pretty appealing. Low tuned but yet rhythmical.
I loved the bass sound in the song Epic that’s pretty prominent. The song has it’s stoner and psychedelic undertones. But my favorite is perhaps Soul Burning that is pretty catchy. They do master catchy riffs- at least the kind of catchy you wish for.

Elephant Tree was a band that many wanted to see. The sound is pretty slow and heavy. A blues influenced psychedelic doom. Lots of people enjoyed it but I must confess it is a tad too slow for me so the highlights for me that day were Dwaal which is a norwegian sludge band that kept me headbanging.

ELEPHANT TREE live@Høstsabbat 2018
Photo by Andrea Chirulescu
I do love sludge so I’m completely biased, but damn they made an impression. They are a fairly young band with their latest EP made out of two pretty long songs. It has the atmosphere ambience and melody that we all Cult of Luna fans love. All drench in heavy guitars and the casual hardcore like heartfelt vocals. The desperation and melancholy of the hardcore like vocals adds tons of feeling.

Dwaal was one of the best experiences out of the festival. Later on the swedes The Moth Gatherer entered to my favorite list sharing the first place with Dwaal. Both have in common the subtle velvety melody, the heartfelt vocals and awesome dense doom guitars. It has for the most part a mid to slow tempo but it has lots of building up. The drumming tones are pretty interesting and has lots of technique. It has the pretty subtle drumming that reminds me of jazz. The Moth Gatherer is pretty rhythmical in its own style. Some arrangements remind me of Katatonia, and goddamn I love Katatonia but yeah TMG’s sound being underground is at another uncompromising level so the comparison stops there. It’s just perfect to relax and bot boring by any means.

AMENRA live@Høstsabbat 2018
Photo by Andrea Chirulescu

I must confess I skipped Electric Moon altogether because it was not my thing at all. I do not understand it and it sounded monotonous. I did give it a try. But I concluded my lack of knowledge about that particular subgenre is to blame for me to digest it as a wall of noise. I’m sure many of the most extreme bands I hold dear may sound as a wall of noise to onlookers. This time I got to really feel like an outsider. I came back to the church to see Amenra and the longest backdrop I have seen so far excluding insanely big venues. So what can I say? It is good, but my problem with them is that the beginning of many of the songs takes a tad to long time to evolve into the coolest riffs.. So it feels like a long wait every time until it just explodes. It is a good band tho just not my highlight in spite of being headliners.

So this was a pretty positive experience and I loved the venue, the atmosphere it gave to the whole musical experience. I enjoyed it a lot and it was refreshing to come in contact with genres and subgenres that I listen to relax mostly after rounds of extreme insanely fast music. I have always loved both extremes in metal and I’m glad I got to listen to so many new bands that make a great addition to my playlist. I’m pretty much looking forward to the next edition of the festival.