August 27-29, 2015
Report by: Omer
Photo credits/thanks to: Jarle Hovda Moe www.jarlehm.com
I don’t think there’s one metalhead, worldwide, who doesn’t regard Norway as one of the metal capitals worldwide. Much of the extreme musics’ history, owes a major debt to the Norwegian scene, that during the years has produced a really big pile of now world-famous names. It’s not a metal history lesson, so I won’t repeat what hundreds of sources wrote before, I’ll just say that it’s obligatory that Norway would at least have one good extreme festival in it.
So guess what? It doesn’t have only one. It has a buckload of ’em, from Inferno festival, through the now deceased Hole In The Sky, to Blastfest , to the recent Midgardsblot fest and, of course, Beyond The Gates. And more, probably.
It has been a good 5 years since I’ve visited Bergen, and I can see not much has changed. Still rainy most of the time (duh), the people are still extra nice, the prices look normal only to a Norwegian, and the Garage bar is still the main place to be, when one is looking for some extreme tunes to listen to. That bar also happens to have a venue downstairs, and that’s where the festival takes place.
The festival began on Thursday evening, with Misthryming from Iceland as openers. The young band got a lot of attention lately with their magnificent debut album, that situated them proudly among names such as Svartidaudi and Sinmara.
You could see the band was excited, but nevertheless, these guys managed to deliver the same deal as with the album itself, and I was pretty happy to realize that their ability to deliver the same atmosphere, from the album to the stage. A lot of band, bigger names included – fail to manage this. The band’s setlist consisted of the few first songs from the debut, and to my surprise – they also did Funeral Mist’s “The God Supreme”, with Arioch himself on vocals. At first, I was a little puzzled, since I never thought I’ll witness some Funeral Mist material done live. But there it was, a brilliant collaboration it all its’ devilish glory, with everyone in the crowd banging their heads.
Up next were the almighty Irish entity that is called Zom. A few of the coolest chaps in the universe (yes.) who decided to play some really filthy Death/Black metal with their own punk-ish influences thrown in as well. I love them on the recorded material, and I love them live. Songs like “Gates To Beyond” and “Tombs Of The Void” ripped the ear drums out of place and made clear who’s not going to give two fucks about any musical trend whatsoever.
Last time I attended a Zom gig was at Killtown festival (may it rest in peace) in Copenhagen, a few years back, so it was a very good example of how a band can develop musically, yet still remain as ferocious as it was.
Continuing the extreme line were One Tail One Head, from Norway (with members from Behexen and Mare), who also got their fair amount of attention lately, with their LP’s rumored to have been sold out in a short while. The band managed to put in some newer songs (which I hope would be released soon enough) and they fit in well with their older material, such as “In The Golden Light”, “One Tail, One Head”, and “The Splendour Of The Trident Tyger”.
OTOH mean business, their music is true to their roots, their performance excels in almost evey aspect, and the music sits tightly. These guys had one of the best performances this weekend.
Once every now and then, one attends a gig of a band that didn’t quite catch on him but after watching them live, decides to give it another shot. That is exactly my case with Ascension, from Germany. I have no idea why, but these guys never managed to keep my mind focused on them, even with their highly regarded “The Dead Of The World” album. I didn’t know any of the songs, but it was enough for me to watch the singer change his own tone with the changing of the riffs, sparked a new interest in me to check them out once more.
The main annoying thing about indoor festivals, is the fact that the place is packed like a box of sardines. Throw in the fact that there isn’t even one fan around, and you get a bunch of sweaty sardines, who gasp for air (as in, leave the venue and goes out to the street) every time a band goes off stage.
The Garage was no different in that sense, and trust me, by the time the almighty Marduk kicked off with “Frontschwein” and “The Blond Beast” right afterwards, we were all boiling already. The veteran band continued on with memorable songs like “Slay The Nazarene” and the one and only “Burn My Coffin”, side by side with “Cloven Hoof” and even “The Black”.
The Swedes encored with, of course, the fastest song in their arsenal, “Panzer Division Marduk”. The sound was crisp, the band loved every second of that gig, and the cooperation from the crowd was very good, for a non-getting-too-wild kind of crowd. As it was, the place as packed until you couldn’t fit a needle in there, and with that, the first day of the festival was over.
One of the best things about the Garage, is that upstairs there’s the bar itself. Which means, that the party continues with sweet songs, ranging from Death and Black metal, to classic NWOBHM and 80’s Heavy, until about 3 AM, then they’ll kick you out.
It’s your chance to drink overpriced (for a non-Norwegian, that is, but more on that later) alcohol and never get shitfaced whatsoever, if you want something to remain in your bank account.
Good morning, Bergen! Oh, it rains. What a surprise. Not.
Surprise number 2 is that you woke up late, with heaps of alcohol still coursing through your veins and a half-empty wallet. Gee, I wonder why.
What do you do in the morning? Yes, after brushing your teeth. That’s right. Coffee. Unfortunately, the coffee in Norway tastes pretty much like crap.
I did find a good cup of coffee at a rather unusual place (for that), the Apolon music shop/bar, situated right near the Garage itself. Do check that place out, since it’s a very cool spot to hang in.
Anyway, enough with the coffee blabbering.
The festival also has a tradition (that I didn’t know about, shame for me!) of a “metal quiz”, every year. This time it was on Friday afternoon. Even though I didn’t take part in it, it’s quite good to see the organizers are trying to insert some nice off-show(s) entertainment.
Besides that, the Polish artist Zbyszek Bielak (you may know him from the cover arts of Watain, Paradise Lost, Behemoth, Ghost, Absu and many many more) held his own exhibition over there, answered questions about his art, and offered his prints for sale.
The opener for the second day were the Swedish-made Morbus Chron (who broke up shortly after the fest), one of the more special groups in recent days’ Death Metal world. They have a few very good albums under their belt, and the one who controlled the setlist for the evening was indeed the Sweven era material. The band excels in going quite psychedelic on stage, the singer in particular, Robert. Screams and yells his way through the songs, all with bodily gestures that has “Jim Morrison” written all over them. Hell yeah.
As a reporter and as an avid metalhead who likes to stay updated with recent releases, I listen to a lot of albums, demos, EPs, etc. In fact, it’s up to the point where I need something to be really, really good, to make my jaw drop.
Bölzer, who came up on stage at 21:00, were exactly that with their 3 releases. Brilliant musicianship, brilliant texts, and tunes which are no less than amazing., and that not being the first Bölzer gig I’ve been to, I knew exactly what to expect. Atmosphere delivered up to the last bit with tracks like “Soul Eclipse”, “Steppes”, the memorable “Entranced By The Wolfshook” and even a new song that I didn’t recognize.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it once again – This Swiss duo are well on their way to become an extreme metal classic, or whatever you’d like to call it. It’s just a matter of time. Their hard work pays off, their music is spectacular, and one can well see that the two are giving a 110% effort during their shows, while the crowd obviously gave the best feedback possible, as the Garage was already totally packed with people, and it was only the second band today.
Up next were Tribulation, also a rising force in the metal scene and easily one of the better musical entities you’ve heard lately. Each of their albums is highly praised (by yours truly, too) and this 4-man piece managed to penetrate a lot of hearts and ears with their live show. The performance was perhaps the best of the evening, with deadly riffs that make songs like “In The Dreams Of The Dead”, “Strange Gateways Beckon” and earlier material, sound even more deadly on stage. I’ve seen several Tribulation shows so far, in different places, and I must say that this was truly one of their best performances that I’ve attended so far, but perhaps that was due to the amazing sound they had during the show, or maybe it was the good company that surrounded me. Go figure.
After these two shows, I was almost totally drained, but still managed to show up to pay my respects to Zemial, the Greek mystical beast. It was a good show, but it kind-of showed on the crowd that they didn’t know who they faced, and so the heavy/thrash tunes went by almost unnoticed and you could see other people going upstairs, which is quite unfortunate for a veteran band such as Zemial. Nevertheless, the few loyal subjects who stayed in front of the stage, had tremendous fun during songs like “Under Scythian Command” and “Eclipse”, but we were all done for it by that time and I went out the moment the last siong ended.
Being hungry at an indoor festival can be tricky. You have no food vendors inside, usually, and the ones who are still opened so late at night are usually crap and/or expensive. Yes, even for Norway.
So, you’re bound to settle for some hotdog or a crappy sandwhich from the Seven Eleven which is situated close by.
Filled with a crappy hotdog and even more filled with the regret of paying for that crappy hotdog, I hastily went back inside to watch the Finnish warmachine that goes by the name of Archgoat. A band you either love, or you hate. You don’t “kind of” like it, it’s all or nothing.
They kicked off with a short intro, and dove right into their fairly new release with “Nuns, Cunts And Darkness”, that immediately turned everyone to a bunch of headbanging robots, and none can blame them (and me), since the ferocious attack commenced without any holdbacks and took no prisoners. The well-known vocals of Angelslayer made the walls of the Garage tremble and the amounts of sweat that each of us produced could easily fill up a little lake, especially when the band continued on to classic material like “Apotheosis Of Lucifer”, “Lord Of The Void” and the perverted “Blessed Vulva”, which is a personal favorite of mine.
The band was superb live, and one could easily see they felt a lot more at home here, enclosed in darkness, sweat and blood (well, alright, beer), than on a big open air festival stage. Unfortunately, at a certain point, the singer’s mic stopped working and it good a very nice amount of time to change it/fix it, after it became defective once more. All in all, the fullhouse in the Garage received it with laughs and giggles, but when the band resumed playing, everyone went crazy again, and that was the end of the evening.
With each festival day beginning only in the evening, the respectful amount of free hours before that are usually spent well into serious time consuming investments, such as sleeping late, hanging around the city with random people you met last night at the Garage, hiking the mountains around it, walking around the old city area, and complaining about silly random overpriced objects that you don’t even intend to buy.
Yes, I know you really wanted to buy those eels at the fish market, but still.
First band up on Saturday, were Dread Sovereign. If you’re not familiar with the name, do check them out, as it contains members from Primordial and the above-mentioned Zom who decided to get together and create some of the most ferocious anti-religious Doom Metal you’ve heard recently. It’s fairly slow, it’s heavy as hell itself, and it packs a brutal Irish punch. Yes, I know that’s how you like it. Ehm, anyway, the band opened their show with “Thirteen Clergy To The Flames” and the first thing that stroke me was seeing Nemtheanga, going wild with his bass. I’m used to watching him dealing solely on vocals, and it’s a nice breeze to gaze upon him while he’s having tremendous fun, exchanging gestures with Bones the guitarist, while the latter cooperates. The trio then continued to other heavy tunes like “Pray To The Devil In Man” and “We Wield The Spear Of Longinus”, but not before saying a big “Fuck You” the most famous Christian celeb ever and continued the set list a little further more. Perhaps the best opener this festival.
Spectral Haze were a band that I didn’t really know before the festival, but I was curious enough to finish up my overpriced drink and go downstairs to see them perform. Oh yeah, and also because I need to review the bands… minor detail.
Their mixture of 70’s psychedelic rock with bone crushing riffs is quite interesting, especially with the usage of a Theremin (!), which was pretty much the first time I ever saw someone using it on stage, let alone in a Metal concert. I’m pretty happy to say that I didn’t know any of the songs, yet the music was interesting and catchy enough to ground me in my position in the crowd. Definitely a band to check out, if you get the chance.
By that time I was kind of drained and needed to gather myself outside the venue, if I were to live through the next shows, and so I have missed the Thrash/Speed spectacle that is Ranger from Finland.
That rest was well placed, since I was just in time to solidify some alcohol in my bloodstream and grab a first row place to behold Grave Pleasures (formerly Beastmilk), who managed to totally take me captive in their music with their debut, that came under their previous name.
The basic layer of music here is their own version for some good post-Punk, but surely the amount of different musical influences are situating them on top of other bands in the genre. Songs from the debut under the new name, such as “Utopian Scream” (which is only a matter of time until it’ll be memorable like the older songs) mingled perfectly with older songs like “Death Reflects Us” and the jumpy “You Are Now Under Our Control” that everyone knew, made clear that the band is hungry for these type of gigs, where each and every one in the venue knows the material, knows the words, and decides to go fucking wild. That was the case throughout the whole setlist, although it was visible that for 5 members, they can’t rip the stage too hard and that’s a shame, because that kind of music screams for aerial kicks and total stage madness.
“New Hip Moon” and “Futureshock”, both new Grave Pleasures songs, caught the crowd without much effort, and the whole performance was marvelous.
I came with a pile of expectations, and couldn’t be happier, it took me a while to lower my adrenaline levels after the band sealed the performance with “Love In A Cold World”.
I was sipping the last drops of a cold Strongbow while all of a sudden I’ve heard the first riff out of “Gorgon”, by no other than the festival’s last headliners, the veterans Angel Witch. I am not the NWOBHM kind of guy, usually, but I couldn’t miss out on them. Familiar songs like “White Witch” and “Confused” ruled supreme, as the package of guitar players packed more energy in them than most younger bands out there, which was nice to see as well. At a certain point I was quite done for it and went to listen with a beer in my hand, from afar. Good songs such as “Baphomet” and of course “Angel Witch” shut the gig down, and that marked the end of this year’s Beyond The Gates.
This was my first time at Beyond The Gates, and to tell you the truth? I’m bloody happy I went over there.
The atmosphere was excellent, people were extremely nice (maybe it’s the weather?), the bands were extremely good and the overall feel the festival projects is one of the best I’ve experienced, quite in the veins of other indoor festivals, like Nuclear War Now, as an example.
If next year’s billing will be even half as good as this year, you can be sure I’ll hop to Bergen once again.