Beyond the Gates 2018
August 23 – 25, 2018
Words and pictures by Omer.
Usually, there’s no real need for words when speaking about Norway and it’s vast ties to Extreme Metal. It’s no secret that it has been home to some of the best name in the genre and it still is. Bergen (and it’s area), the country’s second largest city after Oslo, is home to one of the most active scenes in Norway and the city has seen countless festivals over the years, big and small, successful and less successful. One of these festivals goes by the name Beyond The Gates. 2018 has been the year that I’ve visited this amazing festival for the third time and I was happy to discover that even though the fest now took place in a different, bigger spot, it still managed to maintain the same spirit it had while giving the crowd an overall better experience.
The city of Bergen usually greets it’s tourists with one thing, even if all else is not apparent – Rain. Most of the time. It doesn’t have to be heavy rain, it can be a cute, little, innocent rain – but still rain and so, the little ascending part on the way to USF Verftet (try to say it 3 times fast, I dare you) made me huff and puff. Well, not really, but you get the point.
Doors were opened on point at 18:00, and first were Deus Mortem from Poland to give the people a first taste of what’s to come in this evil-filled weekend, as they played material from ‘Emanations Of The Black Light’ album, and with aggressive presence on stage, managed to wake up the people who may have just landed in the cold country. The band’s brand of Black Metal isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but it is indeed guaranteed to make you bang your head on several occasions.
Malokarpatan, however, are a different story. The group of Slovakians play a somewhat odd (yet nice) mixture between traditional Heavy Metal and Black Metal, while spraying it with folklore stories from their Slovakian culture. It may sound like an odd addition to a rooster like that of Beyond The Gates, but it works in its own way and even though the band was mostly unknown to most attendees of the fest, you could see a support from end to end.
First real treat of the fest, however, came on stage at around 21:00 O’clock in the shape of no other than one of the most prominent names in Black Metal or recent years, Sinmara. Hailing from the beautiful and mysterious Iceland, these guys have taken a huge chunk of whatever cake Black Metal is the world, and managed, basically with one mighty full length and another shorter EP, to gain the loyal fanbase that many other bands have tried and failed. That loyal following have also followed into the big wooden hall of the Verftet, to witness one of the strongest performances of this year’s festival. Material from ‘Aphotic Womb’ has never sounded so tight as it did there, and deathly tunes from ‘Within The Weaves Of Infinity’ also did not disappoint.
In between performances, one could waste some his hard-earned money in one of the few bar areas, where a selection of beverages, ranging from light beers to wine, can be purchased in order to wet one’s throat and freshen up. That freshening up doesn’t last too long, however, because by 22:00, the venue has already had its foundations shaking, as Norwegian veterans 1349 came up on stage and began bombarding the supporting crowd with a crosshatch of old and new material, spanning from ‘Massive Cauldron Of Chaos’ to ‘Demonoir’ and the imppecable ‘Liberation’. The group from Oslo have created quite a name for themselves over the years, and whether you like them or not, you can’t deny the strong show these guys are giving when on stage.
Thursday’s headliner was no other than Mysticum. Mysticum are an odd band for me, crossing back and forth and lines between Black Metal, Industrial and as someone who never actually liked Industrial too much, there usually was only a certain amount of Mysticum I could listen to. However, watching a performance by these guys was like dropping acid without actually doing it. The lights, the harsh vocals and the effects in the background made one have fun, while yelling on the inside and feeling his chest almost bursting open with the hard bass. Now, if you’re an epilepsy patient, it’s most probably best for you not to attend, since the amount of flashes, harsh contrasts and other video and light elements have been made to shock the viewer a bit, while managing to get him more into the music itself. It’s a bit of a shame that a good portion of the crowd went away before the band have finished their setlist to go see Mare’s gig at a different venue, but can’t have it all I guess!
Those who awoke early on in the day, managed to travel a bit in Bergen. It may be not very big, but has some very nice attractions to see. From the mountains around it that beg a hike, to pedestrian streets and the old area of Bryggen. It’s all pretty fascinating and if one didn’t find himself to hammered after yesterday night, it could be a very nice addition to the trip.
Unfortunately due to several reasons, I missed out on the mysterious Trom who opened Friday at The Garage and held their ancient musical ceremony there, but by 19:00 in the evening, back at the Verftet, the almighty Blood Incantation went up on stage. Now, honestly, I think that during 2017 and 2018 I’ve seen these guys for at least a handful, and not only that I truly love their music, it seems like they’re getting better and better with every show I attend. Not only that, but by now their debut album, ‘Starspawn’, has received such glorious reviews from end to end, that’s these American group is now hard to ignore, even if one seeks to. I will be a bit brutally honest here, these guys are a part of what the Death Metal world has needed for the past few years. A band that would shake things up a bit, kick the border of it, and show others how it’s properly done, while still having a ton of fun on stage, and so it was also in this year’s BTG – Heavy as hell songs like “Starspawn“, “The Vth Tablet“, and “Chaoplasm” made the crowd go pretty much insane, and on stage sounded tighter than a toilet after a meal at an all you can eat Asian spot. Yes, that’s a good thing, shut up.
One Tail, One Head shook the entire place with their violent blend of Black Metal. With a brand new album coming out this October, these guys have returned to the BTG stages with a fury that not a lot of bands have. Luctus, being a man of several special projects, is seems most comfortable on stage, being angry about literally everything and everyone, and successfully projecting it onto the crowd. I think one could see a head flying somewhere, from too-intensive headbanging, as songs like “Arrival, Yet Again”, “The Splendor Of The Trident Tyger” or the newly written “Worlds Open, Worlds Collide” have smashed people’s ears and eyes in one of the best shows during this Norwegian festival.
I was sad that the OTOH’s performance ended pretty fast, or at least it felt like it, so at least I had the infamous Bölzer going up at 21:00 and giving everyone a taste of their deadly duo, with memorable tunes like “Hero”, “Steppes”, “The Archer” and “Entranced By The Wolfshook”. The Swiss duo prove once again, that in order to create some of the most brilliant music out there, you don’t need a whole lot of people, you just need two, and a whole lot of thought and passion for the music. It has been a year or two since the last time I watched Bölzer, and it was a pleasure as always. I am sure, that with all the crowd roars of acceptance, that everyone around me felt exactly the same.
As it is, some bands in this year’s rooster have already made an appearance in a past BTG. One of them was Grave Pleasures, that closed a circle that began in their performance here 3 years ago. This one, however, surpassed the previous one in almost any way possible. From musicianship, to material, and in everything else. Although these guys are mostly known for their works in Dreamcrash and Climax, their latest Motherblood was no stranger to anyone who followed this band and attended the Verftet at 22:00 o’clock. A Post-Punk/Rock band may seem a little out of place in this kind of festival, but as I said, it all felt like one big closure and frankly, it’s just good music, plain and simple.
One of the reasons I wanted to attend this year’s edition was a special gig by Taake. The Bergen-born band has been around since the mid 90’s and as such, is not a name that needs to be introduced. Love them or hate them, one cannot the deny the grasp their music has on a large chunk of people and their influence on the Extreme Metal world. The thing about this performance was that ‘Nattestid Ser Porten Vid’, the band’s debut full length from 1999, was going to play in it’s entirety. Hoest, easily one of the more energized and well-known figures in the Black Metal scene, has stormed the stage as a wild beast, screaming and kicking his way through the renowned album, making the microphone stand his slave and the crowd, his loyal base.
Satyricon has been Friday’s headliner, and as such were welcomed with opened arms by the crowds who made them what they are. Even though their latest dew albums have had mixed opinions written on them, one can’t deny the might each and every new album held and so, the band began with material from ‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’, ‘Satyricon’ (from 2013) and from there, the band went back and forth between newer material and older stuff, massive tunes like “Walk The Path Of Sorrow” have been intertwined with “Mother North” that pretty much everyone knows, and even “Du Som Hater Gud” was present, before heading back to more present-time material. Satyr, the man of the hour, managing to control every little situation on stage and shows exactly why and how this band has managed to run for so long.
Beyond The Gates have always hosted interesting stuff for it’s guests, and this year’s edition is no different – On Saturday, at noon, there was a Metal quiz in the Garage bar, a few hours before beginning with the gigs, if one would want to test his knowledge. I, unfortunately, woke up a tiny bit too late and missed it.
However, I paved my way back to the Verftet in the evening to catch Portrait but alas, I have just missed the Heavy Metallers from neighboring Sweden. A bit sad to not witness the wonder, I have sunken my sorrow in a beer and waited, until the mysterious Hällas would get onto the stage at 20:00. I’ve never seen them live, but I had two very good reasons to attend. The first being that I’ve really liked the whole re-surfacing of 70’s-ish style Rock bands popping around and I think it is generally a cool genre that has a lot to offer. Second was, well, the amount of praise this group got from people I appreciate their opinion, was through the roof. What can I say? They did not disappoint. Even though I didn’t know most of the songs by heart since I only listened to the band’s “Excerpts From A Future Past” once, the whole stargazing experience kept me tuned. The band itself looks the part, too, with make-up lines across the eyes, glittery capes and silver shoes. It may sound a little over the top, but it does fit and makes everything fall into place to create a substantial experience.
From the biggest 70’s influenced band in the rooster, to the manliest band in the rooster. It’s time for Eternal Champion! These bunch of Texans have gotten the worldwide attention with ‘The Armor Of Ire’ some two years back, and since then they’re a name that is situated with some of the best epic moments in recent Heavy Metal history, and they sure have carved a path for themselves that goes through all kinds of die-hards and touches a lot of people. It was also a kind of nice coincidence to see the vocalist come up with a Warlord shirt, when these dudes are basically a modern, heavier form of Warlord. The level of crowd enticing has surpassed many others in this festival, and I think it’s a bit hard not to enjoy in this kind of show.
The heavy and raw line continues, when Attic, straight from Germany, went up on the candle-lit stage to give their Horror filled ceremony to the thirsty crowd, who in return drank every little drop of it, with brilliant memorable songs from both ‘Sanctimonious’ that came out last year, and from the glorious debut that went by the name of ‘The Invocation’. A lot of words have been written about Attic’s ability to maintain a very Mercyful Fate-ish performance and songs and even though it is partially true, these Northrhein-Westphalia lads have shown everyone that attended the Verftet at that time, that they managed to go over and beyond any assumptions such as those, gloriously. Tremendous show, tremendous songs, vocalist that can break through glass with his high pitch, and scary aggressions on stage. What more do I need to ask?
Now, personally I never thought I’d catch Tormentor live, but luckily the good guys over at BTG decided to book them. Attila and his boys made swift work of giving a fine example of how old school, proper Black Metal should sound like. Without tunes like “Elizabeth Bathory”, “Damned Grave”, “In Gates Of Hell” and basically the whole of ‘Anno Domini album’, being the classic that it is, a lot of the other names that has been performing in this festival (and in general) would probably sound differently, or… not at all. The amount of spikes and metal stubs on stage would’ve probably enough to build a giant man-eating robot. I have no idea if I’ll ever get to see Tormentor live, but they managed to answer each and every expectation people around had.
The last and final performance of the festival was of no others than local Enslaved, with a special set list, in the shape of playing the legendary ‘Frost’ in it’s entirety. It was pretty much a mesmerizing performance to watch, as ‘Frost’ had a major part in making the beast of Enslaved to what it is today. Now, aside from the fact that sometimes the mostly-Norwegian crowd didn’t know what comes after what in terms of song order (Go back and listen to the album one more time!) and my yells weren’t loud enough, watching tunes like “Svarte Vidder”, “Gylfaginning” and of course the mighty “Wotan” have been nothing short of a sweet delight that I’ve waited the entire festival to witness. It also seems that the band had heaps of fun on stage, in front of the constant cheering crowd. Added to the effect, was manmade “Snow” that began falling on everything, and two Ivar and Grutle looking like two snow-covered figures. I wouldn’t be able to think of a better ending to such a brilliant show, or a better ending to such a fun festival. We shall be back!