Inferno 2019 Review – by Karina Noctum

Months ago when I first heard that Vomitory was going to play at this year’s Inferno Festival I was ecstatic. Then as the line-up was unveiled, little by little, I started to notice it contained more and more major Swedish acts like Bloodbath, Hypocrisy, Vomitory and Opeth and my happiness was complete since I’m a big fan of Death Metal and to have major Norwegian and Swedish acts in one place is always the best since I love both scenes.

So first and foremost Inferno became a great opportunity to see Hypocrisy, which is one of my favorite bands, on a stage that is not so big as to feel the band is way too far away from you and not precisely a small stage where you have them pretty close, but the sound and lights are not too impressive. I traveled to Copenhagen to see Hypocrisy and Kataklysm and had a blast with the band playing up-close. So I was naturally looking forward for my second Hypocrisy show in Oslo with everything properly set: lights, lifts, props and all that. I think that you get the best of both worlds in medium-sized festivals like Inferno. After Inferno, I got to see Hypocrisy in Sweden at Gamrocken, and yet again I got a different experience. I think it is pretty interesting to see the same band in different places. But by far Inferno was the best of all the shows so far. There are other bands that I really wanted to see at Rockefeller as well, like Der Weg Einer Freiheit, for example. A German band I had seen on a small stage in Bergen first and impressed me with their massive sound then and then later I saw them at Hellfest and got a different experience. Since then the band have become even more professional and their show in Oslo was flawless.


1349 live@Inferno Festival 2019
photo by Storm D-Live Photography


1349‘s show was the most impressive one visually. I mean the music is enough and with or without flames the band delivers every time, but I must admit the amount of fire added a lot to it. The pictures that resulted from that show are a proof of what I’m saying. It was a pretty special and really cool show. Other band I enjoyed a lot this time was Bloodbath because I feel the band have found their mojo. I absolutely loved the songs from the last album specially Bloodicidewhich I’ve been listening to relentlessly for a long timeso to see them playing it live was pure happiness. Bloodbath’s latest album The Arrow of Satan is Drawn shows the band cohesiveness more than ever. Every piece fits together. The perfect groove is there. I think they have conceived yet another great example of excellent Swedish DM. So yeah added to all this excellence you get Vomitory! Which is to me an institution in what we can call the brutal side of the Swedish scene. A side that is not as popular as the more melodious one, but nonetheless pretty cherished by all of us who enjoy that DM style. I always think it’s a luxury to see any brutal bands on main stages as it is not so common, specially in festivals with such a variety of bands, so it was really awesome to be able to experience it.

In addition to the Death Metal bonanza, I think this year’s line-up brought some pretty wide variety of styles within Black Metal. I mean there was probably enough to cover all Black Metal tastes out there. I got to witness really solid, aggressive and evil sounding acts like Ragnarok, Archgoat and Svarttjern. More melodic acts like Cor Scorpii which is a band that released their latest album in 2018 called Ruin through Dark Essence records.


Opeth live@Inferno Festival 2019
photo by Storm D-Live Photography


There were some technical acts like Der Weg Einer Freiheit and Black Dahlia Murder. BDM are a pretty good live band. I always enjoy it live, but I do not listen to them much at home. They have pretty good songs and know how to move an audience. I mean they created a dust tornado at one Hellfest once and actually succeeded to move the quiet norwegian audience. They made a huge contrast with their american way of doing things and their modern sound. Their show was pretty professional as they actually know how to present themselves like the experienced seasoned musicians they are. They have toured relentlessly for years with major metal acts and it shows. Another band standing out was Opeth, who I recalled played just a couple of old songs like Demon of the Fall and Ghost of Perdition and that was it. After that the set became pretty varied as their recent albums are and I was wanting more of the old stuff and the feeling just never went away. It happens with Opeth and has happened at a Devin Townsend show as all I could think then is that I really wanted to see him perform songs from SYL. But in spite of everything I got my good dose of blast beats, growling and such both during and even before Inferno.

Other major Black Metal acts playing this year were Taake and Dimmu Borgir. I truly enjoyed the Dimmu Borgir show because pretty much all the hits I knew from before were played so it sounded pretty familiar. Songs like Mourning Palace (with Tjodalv doing a special performance) , Puritania, The Blazing Monoliths of Defiance, Kings of Carnival Creation and Progenies of the Great Apocalypse are songs that even someone who does not listen to the band frequently like me know and it feels awesome to just headbang along stuff that you recognize.They are yet another super professional band who know how to entertain as they are always pretty impressive visually. Another cool and pretty dramatic show was the one from Carach Angren, it was perhaps the most elaborated when it comes to theatrical features of the whole festival. I think the frontman succeeds in bringing other art disciplines into the mix and makes the show pretty interesting. It is not just another Black Metal band. It is a band that has something on their own. Their show has become a more conceptual one and it is tied with the themes from their latest album. There has been given much thought about what kind of visual message they want to express. They have succeeded in creating something unique in my opinion.


TAAKE live@Inferno Festival 2019
photo by Storm D-Live Photography


When it comes to Taake which is another band I do not listen often to, I remember vividly the weird guest performance by Vrangsinn. It was pure self-irony with a The Cure cover called Fuck you Nazi Lover. An old phone was used as some sort of microphone. I saw a hat and apart from that I didn’t really enjoy the tone of the voice, so it was just creepy, a bit painful and weird as it tends to be with anything coming from Carpathian Forest. I mean that’s the way it should be. So it was good that Taake fans got to see their beloved band and good for them. Because when it comes to this boycott matter that the metal scene is enduring I totally understand and relate to the feeling of helplessness, frustration and perhaps sadness when you can’t see bands you love even though you have made considerable efforts to go and see them. So what the fans need now more than ever are strong festival managers that know how to balance everything and make rational decisions.

In the same manner I’m happy I got to see Mgla as there have been attempts to stop them from playing. We need some rational balance in this matter as previously mentioned. I have always been a fan of Deus Mortem, Azarath, Anima Damnata, Lost Soul (which are all non NSBM acts) which have/have had musicians that have come now under scrutiny. But as it is the case within any metal scene lots of different musicians end up cooperating together at different levels at one point in time. I think that bringing one band down and attempting to harm other bands based on connections to third bands that happen to be controversial may end up bringing a part of a whole scene down together. This is pretty scary! I think the average fan is not interested in doing nerdy background checks and shouldn’t really need to do so in order to enjoy music. The activists are harming an innocent fanbase and lots of musicians who may or may not be even aware of any controversial third connections. I think it is extra evil to attack underground and upcoming bands as well since going on tour, record an album and getting somewhere in metal is extremely difficult. Again we should all agree that all kinds of politics should stay out of everything metal because that is the true evil of this world and corrode everything.


MGLA live@Inferno Festival 2019
photo by Storm D-Live Photography


When it comes to Mgla, I had seen them a long time ago in the woods outside Berlin and I absolutely love the drumming then. I think it is pretty dynamic and super interesting so I finally got to see the band properly from the second floor at Rockefeller. I’m glad they got to play and they are another band that must go to my list of bands that I can’t take for granted, unfortunately. I’m glad they made it and I’m looking forward to the release of their album which has not an exact date set yet, nor a name . But I expect the level of complexity and musicianship to be taken further to a next level as it tend to be with polish bands. They just know how to impress and deliver in their very polish way. I’m a huge fan of many polish bands so I actually would like to see them playing more in Scandinavia.

Another important show was the one from Gaahls Wyrd. The shaping of the band has been a quite interesting thing to witness in the course of these years. The band is slowly taking shape. The thoughts behind it became pretty clear after the interview with Gaahl at the festival’s hotel. I got to understand a bit more how this project took shape. The process of moving a bit away from the shadow of Gorgoroth. The more I see the band, the more is becoming something on its own which is pretty cool. I have always thought Gaahl’s vocals to be excellent live. Now his vocals have a pretty atmospheric background which actually fit him best. Gaahls Wyrd doesn’t necessarily sound raw, but it is rough nonetheless because it is pretty dark. It gives me some dark Mayhem vibes at times, of course it reminds me of Gorgoroth still it canæt be denied, or else it has many folk and elements that are more commonly found in post BM acts now these days.


GAAHL’S WYRD live@Inferno Festival 2019
photo by Storm D-Live Photography


In addition to being able to hear the particularities behind Gaahls’ artistic expression and the making of Gastir Ghosts Invited. the Inferno Music Conference this year brought a guitar clinic by Fredrik Åkesson from Opeth and a drum clinic with Dirk Verbeuren from Megadeth, but I must confess I did not attend any of them because I preferred the more “necro” shows at Kniven stage (a bar located approx. 5 mn walking from Rockefeller) with Nekromantheon, Sepulcher and Psychopath that ended up taking place at the same time. One of my Inferno highlights ended up being Nekromantheon, Sepulcher and Inculter which all play old school style. I think the sound they have is pretty heartfelt, energetic and it feels like real metal. The sound is a mix of great metal moments. I mean these musicians infuse themselves with great metal riffs that withstand time and translate them into songs that have a norwegian tinge to it. You can’t go wrong with that! The sound is from a time when genres did not matter much. A mix of Heavy, Death, Thrash and probably some rock vibes and anything that really works. So I think they just bring in to their composition everything they love and put their heart into it and you can’t help but enjoy it as much as they do.

It’s the kind of music that is hard to label, or actually it may be pointless to do so. No flames, no props, no nothing just metal on intravenous. They give the right feeling at the right time and that’s all that matters regardless of stage size or anything really.

Sepulcher are an upcoming band from a little town in western Norway called Fusa. Inculter come also from Fusa and they just make a little but awesome scene. Inculter have a new album worth checking out called Fatal Visions. Both bands are signed on a small norwegian label with a pretty interesting roster called Edged Circle Productions. Nekromantheon, on the other hand, are pretty well established and have been around for a while, but they aren’t too prolific. Nekromantheon counts with musicians from Obliteration. But upon inquiry I found out that many foreign visitors didn’t know much about any of these bands and weren’t checking the shows outside the main stages, which is a pity because I think the norwegian old school sound bands were really one of the best when it comes to feeling and rawness. So any visitors in the future should definitely pay more attention to bands outside the main Inferno stages because there are jewels to be found in the underground. Those kind of bands are definitely something I would like to see on bigger stages in the future though. But yeah when it comes to this heartfelt metal style so I must mention Mork’s show as well. It was really one of the best ones from John Dee. Even though the show was pretty crowded I enjoyed the dark grooviness of it. Anyone who appreciates Darkthrone’s groove and rawness should check Mork as well.

I must mention here the Nordjevel and Necrophobic show that took place two days before Inferno. Nordjevel was pure relentless excellence and Necrophobic was so enjoyable. I’m really loving to have Dominator and Destructhor playing a lot together lately because those two are just metal machines. I have seen them with Nordjevel, Odium and Myrkskog and it’s just perfect. Nordjevel just released an excellent black metal album with a folkish tinge to it called Necrogenesis via the high quality label Osmose Productions from France. The album is absolutely worth checking out. Other honorable mention of bands that weren’t a part of the main Inferno stages is Diabolical from Sweden a band that headlined the Indie Recordings Night show and released their new album called Eclipse back in february. They play Death Metal but have unique elements. I have always thought of it as a pretty elegant combination of lots of feeling, ambience, orchestral elements and the more rhythmical and catchy sound of the swedish DM scene that is so delightful. Previous the Oslo show they were touring with Septicflesh and Krisiun. I think a band with the trajectory of Diabolical deserves to play at a bigger stage and be a part of the festival on either John Dee or Rockefeller itself.


Aura Noir live@Inferno Festival 2019
photo by Storm D-Live Photography


The only downside I can remember from the fest was the Aura Noir Show. I had some mixed feelings about it because Apollyon is not playing anymore. It was a bit sad actually. I think there was a certain feeling to his drumming that I miss and hopefully we will get to see again in the future. Not that I do not like the live drummer whose name is Øyvind Myrvoll and who happens to play in a band I really like called Nidingr. But well not two drummers are the same and there is a subtle difference that I will eventually get accustomed to.

So I’m already looking forward to next year’s edition which promises to be great with Myrkskog playing Deathmachine in its entirety. Kampfar will also play and I liked a lot their latest album Ofidians Manifest so I’m looking forward to see some new songs live. The pretty special Ved Buens Ende will play as well and I know many in the avantgarde scene worship them and will try to make it for their show, because it will be an interesting concert to witness.

Another cool announcement is super awesome Valkyrja from Sweden which I have not been able to see at Inferno yetin spite of them having been booked twice so far if I’m not mistaken. So I really hope next year that show will actually take place as I just saw them in Sweden and would love to see them again and again. I have seen them in Bergen and now I wish for them to play main stage in Oslo which would be probably best, but only time will tell.