August 24-27, 2016
Photographs by the talented Jarle Hovda Moe
There are festivals we try to be consistent about traveling to and attending. These festivals are the ones that are organized in the best of manners, usually has great billings and overall atmosphere suits us. Heck, in certain events, even the crowd is to our liking.
Beyond The Gates is a massive example of being just that. Being the reincarnation of the legendary Hole In The Sky festival, it grew to become a whole different entity and what do ya know, 5 years and 5 editions have passed and this years’ edition has also been prolonged, 4 days instead of 3.
Beyond The Gates has pretty much everything I look for in a festival, and so, once more I found myself changing aircrafts (Damn you, Finnair!) that were late, on my way to the wet and rain-filled soil of Bergen, second largest city in Norway and a personal favourite. Read our report of Beyond the Gates 2015 here!
The weather in Bergen is really, really diverse. Not. Those of you who don’t know, the famous Norwegian city is mainly occupied by rain. I don’t have exact numbers, but out of 365 days a year, it’s raining in about a shitload of them. Wednesday, first day of the 4-day festival was no different, as the drops poured from above, wetting the rooftop of the infamous Garage bar in the city center.
First up, opening the grand celebrations of the fest, were homeboys Gravdal, which immediately kicked off with “Sadist” from the album that bears the same name, delivering their devilish tunes on to the gathering crowd, that slowly filled up the bottom floor of the Garage. Tracks such as “Hydrestund I Helvete” and “Torturmantra” soon followed, as the crowd began to show their love and support for the now-veteran band. Gravdal only has two full lengths in their belt, but once Eld (Bass, Vocals) rips everyone’s ears with his throat scratching vocals while singing “Eg E Ditt Helvete“, it’s clear enough that these guys aren’t messing around while they’re on stage.
As I was reading the situation and the first performance came to a brutal closure, I thought about heading up to the street for some fresh air, which is a motif that would repeat itself numerous times, but to my surprise, the Bergen-dwellers decided to cover the one and only “Orgasmatron“, by the almighty Mötorhead, which sent any calm head, flying in different directions.
Every minute you spend in the underground venue of the Garage, is another minute you lose about half a liter of fluids. Why? Because no one ever heard about fans in Bergen and why it’s needed in places that are crammed with people, but that’s fine, since nobody expects otherwise in a fest anyway. You just drench yourself in other liquids, preferably alcoholic ones, and you’ll be just fine. I hope.
The Black Metal attack isn’t stopping, as next up are NettleCarrier, an Oslo-based group that had their second full length album released last year. Ever since their formation, these guys have formed themselves quite the crowd and you could well indeed see it, as the venue has been filling nicely by the time the band finished their quick sound check, and opened the gig with the skin-cutting “Bloodmoon“, which was quickly followed by “The Boiling Blood”, straight out of their debut, or straight out of hell, take your pick. The band went wild, and succeeded in transforming the subtle atmospheric moments that album had, onto the small stage. Same went for “The Dawn Grew Pale With Our Poisons” and “Cup Of Lethe“, as the band mixed and matched older with newer songs, much to the enjoyment of the crowd who roared in appreciation in between the songs. Hell, when someone tells you Black Metal after 1994 sucks, just point them at these guys.
Recovery between gigs is for the weak (albeit necessary), and even though I didn’t have high expectations from Reptilian, they did manage to surprise me with their aggressive oldschool sounding Death Metal. The riffs are heavy enough, and the drums were a whole lot more when dictating the song structure, whereas vocalist Cato was more than happy to delivers his aggressive chants.
A few weeks back, renowned label Terratur Possesions announced an EP by some band called Ritual Death, A 3-man piece, comprised by members of Dark Sonority, One Tail One Head, Behexen and a bunch of other names in their resume. It was spoken highly of it yet I did not heed the call at first, but what do you know, the bands’ first ever performance was going to happen at Beyond The Gates.
I didn’t exactly know what to expect, but boy oh boy, this was one of the best treats of the festival. Singer Luctus went up on stage without any identifying marks, just a huge cape covering everything, and half a skull for a face. Yes, half a skull for a face. Singing his lungs into his hidden mic somewhere below his mouth (which was totally unseen, very contributing to the whole effect), the crowd was totally mesmerized, their (and mine!) faces stuck in front of the horrid yet astonishing sight they were looking at. The bands’ only material comes from their recently released EP, which almost no one in the crowd knew, yet everyone were going pretty much wild with each track, from “Goat, Altar, Sacrifice“, through the fast as fuck “Satanic Omen“, and even with “Ceremonial Crypt Desecration” I cramped a neck muscle from banging too hard. Needless to say, none of the EPs on the merch stand even survived, according to what I saw. Best gig of the day? Yep.
Don’t get me wrong, Infernal War are one of the best Polish bands out there, delivering some of the more aggressive Black/Death mixtures there is, but even some of their best songs from their best albums, couldn’t surpass what I witnessed right before them, and so, I succumbed to my body heat and had to walk outside for some air.
The festival is known for the party it holds every night in the bar above the venue, and the current edition is no different and so, I found myself prancing around with yet another alcoholic beverage in my hand, once in a while trying to have a conversation between the high decibels, all to the sounds of some of the best metal tunes this world has known, works of loyal DJs.
The fact that Beyond The Gates isn’t some huge open air festival, lets it act accordingly. The days are usually laid back, and one can easily find oneself waking up late, hopefully not too hungover from the party yesterday and so, the gigs won’t even begin before the evening, which would let non-Bergen…ians, scour the city and see what it has to offer. Trust us, it’s pretty and there’s a nice amount of stuff to see, from any of the mountains surrounding it, to watching living creatures inside tanks, in the notorious fish market. I couldn’t waste the larger part of my time and act like a silly tourist for too long, tho, since at 17:00, the festival organizers arranged a treat, like they do every year with an arranged Non-Live program before, in between and after the gigs.
Today, it was a listening session to the new Djevel album, which stimulated my senses (no, not like that, you perv), like a musical preview should do. Time flies when you’re having fun around Norway’s second largest city, and so before long, I found myself finding my way inside the Garage’s bottom area (Tee hee), probably towards the bar.
Sortilegia opened the night of gigs, and boy, that was hell of an opener. Literally, with an almost pitch black stage where the two musicians are only barely visible, the vibes were chilling. The two Canadians had a very nice push in these past two years, as their Arcane Death Ritual album came out and struck a standard that managed to drop more than one jaw, worldwide. Filthy-sounding (in a good way) songs such as “Ingrediemur Nocte Noctis“, “Per Atrum Ignem” and “Lux Frigoris” easily sent tingling through everyones’ spines, as the floating face in a black hoodie, screamed the evil lyrics into her microphone.
Another band from the other side of the world at that day, was Black Anvil, who came all the way from New York to play their violent blend of Black/Thrash metal. I did not know them prior to this performance, and I have to say that even though I did not like specific, small and insignificant parts, the overall music was very much to my liking, all the while the energies on stage were tremendous. A vocalist that doesn’t rest for one second, a guitarist that moves like he has a never ending battery, and a ferocious drummer – does it.
For one (out of two) of the gems of the evening, the Netherlands’s very own Urfaust came on stage. On a more personal note, I’ve been listening to these guys for I-have-no-idea amount of time. Yes, that means a lot of time. I never managed to catch them live, so this particular performance has been pretty much important for me.
I was not disappointed. No gimmicks, no fancy outfits, no nothing that implicates that these guys are some of the pioneers and corner stones of a subgenre that nowdays is spread among a pile of other bands.
As newer material was mixed with the older, more rough material, one could definitely see the harmony between IX (Vocals, guitar) and VRDRBR (Drums) and how tight the playing is between them. Both of them, were totally mesmerized, totally consumed by the atmosphere of their own making, and I don’t know if it was the music or not, but both of them almost seemed on the verge of collapsing, before continuing on to the next song and playing that one, too, in the best way possible. I’ve heard some voices in the crowd, saying that such a band doesn’t “fit in” with the other, more upbeat bands in the billing, and I call bullshit. Urfaust has been, currently are, and always will be a prominent force in the Extreme music scene, and rightfully so.
Communication with the crowd was almost nonexistent, just the way I like it, aside for some gestures the drummer had implemented during the show. This was exactly how I imagined the band on stage, transforming the 40-something minutes of a performance into a pure, dark and magical experience.
Second day headliners were non-others than Gaahl’s Wyrd, a quite recently formed band by the man of a thousand talents, Gaahl. His new band brings forth a culmination of his different musical ideas, and this night’s performance has been solely dedicated to the works of Trelldom, a band that Gaahl has been a founder of, some years ago. Coming up with their attire and corpse paint fixed for the occasion, the band kicked off with “Steg” and “Til Minne“, straight out of Trelldom’s last album and to my surprise, it really showcased the whole bands’ abilities to play a whole show based on material that isn’t always in their usual comfort zone.
I could only guess that the decision to go on with Trelldom’s songs wouldn’t have been an easy one, as some of these tunes haven’t been played on stage for a long, long time, but it it was worth it, as both band and crowd got pretty wild and the musical effect was prominent, even with some harder to digest songs, such as “Slave til en kommende Natt“. Enthusiasm levels have been high for the whole duration, as the name Trelldom suggests an experience that no one in the crowd thought they’ll have ever again, and even those who didn’t know some of tracks being played in front of them, like “Fra Mitt Gamle” or “Høyt Opp I Dypet” (that sealed the performance), stood in awe while Gaahl preached his creation.
As suitable as possible for a day filled with Extreme music, after the last show, Svensk (One Tail One Head) has been put in charge of charging the masses with DJing upstairs in the bar, which unlike yesterday, has been cramped with about a million people, half starving and walking around to the nearest 7-Eleven to get a crappy hotdog, while the half thirsty for some 8-Euro-worth of beer. Apparently the law in Norway forbids bars to serve alcohol after 2:30 AM, and so we found ourselves quickly without any alcohol and our hand, dragging ourselves to random hotel rooms, to drin… I mean, sleep. Ehm.
“Do I have any money left?”, I asked myself. “No, you drank too much of stuff that costs way too much in Norway”, I answered the figure in the mirror. Even though, I need to scrape some coins in order to visit the little merchant stand the fest held. Beyond The Gates doesn’t have an official “Market” like many other festivals do (aside from the merch area that sells stuff by the bands each day), where merchants can open up a table or two and sell their records and merch to the attendees. That’s the reason this time, between 13:00 and 17:00, the festival organized a small area to be operated by Edged Circle Productions. It’s not big, but for what it is and for some gems one can find in the crates – it’s more than enough.
This review isn’t complete without my ranting about coffee in Norway, and specifically in Bergen. Yes, I’m a coffee snob (after being a Barista for 3 years), and the most decent coffee I had in Bergen, was in neighboring Apollon, a cool place that has a variety of drinks and an even bigger variety of music, so if one wants a recess from the Garage, one only needs to walk 10 meters away.
Ending my “morning” coffee there at about 16:30, I hopped back to the Garage, just in time to witness Sahg‘s new album preview, and although they’re not really my glass of beer, it’s quite clear the organizers are well aware of the non-local crowd that keeps returning every year from abroad (ehm, ehm), and makes quite the effort to keep them entertained during the day, even before the shows begin. Kudos for that, seriously!
The place also held a premiere listening session to Urfaust’s new album, first place in the world to play their new tunes, and trust me, we’re in for a treat.
At 20:00, Black Magic came up on stage, giving away their niche sound of old, mixing some traditional Heavy Metal sound with a bit of 70s vibe thrown into it, and to my surprise, it really caught up with the crowd, who seemed to like these guys quite much, judging from the amount of support they received.
The Spirit Cabinet, a group comprised of members from Urfaust, Hooded Priest and Cirith Gorgor, made it possible for tunes to sound as if one took some of the above mentioned bands, and glued them together with some more traditional Heavy Metal. The result is pretty cool, and songs from their (one and only, so far) debut album opened up more than one eye in curiosity about the Doomish/Heavy foursome on stage. One of the bands’ main feature and perhaps the strongest while on stage, was of course Snake, the vocalist from Urfaust. He just makes everything much more dominant, and with some throat abilities, the music and tuens we’ve all heard numerous times in the past, got to a another level.
First real treat of the evening, though, were definitely Malthusian. The Irish bunch, which had some of the best releases I’ve heard in recent years (even if these are a demo and an EP), came up on stage without wasting any time, had a quick sound check, and burst out with “Hallucinogen“, from their MMXIII demo. At that specific moment, the mass of people rushing down the stairs of the Garage venue doubled itself, pretty much. That’s how it is, when the songs are built brilliantly, and the transformation from a recording goes in the best way possible. Continuing on with their second release, the band moved on to “The Gasless Billows“, that showcases the band’s latest EP quite good, as it’s obscure and it is interesting, and just when one thinks it’s going to be repetitive, it isn’t. Alternating between older and newer songs was must for such a band, playing outside their usual turf, as the two releases are distinctly different. All in all, if you weren’t there to see them, you missed one massive show.
Population above the venue, up on the street, grew tremendously by the time the Irishmen finished, since everyone were heading for some much desired oxygen, in between the overpriced alcohol the loss of body fluids. That’s the spot where you can actually have a nice little half-drunk conversation with someone. You don’t even have to know him/her. It can range from imaginary political conspiracy theories, to rants about copper prices (yes, I was puzzled just as you who are reading this).
Fortunately, after all the blabbering, I wasn’t late for Degial‘s gig. Uppsala’s own evil doers have been around for 10 years already, with two full length under their belt and some pretty good shows in their resume, so I had high expectations out of this bunch. I was not disappointed even one bit. The corpse-painted bunch began with “Deathsiege” and “Savage Mutiny“, two fast as fuck songs out of their latest album. The crowd slowly went more and more crazy, in comparison to most of the days where the usually-relaxed Norwegian crowd stands almost stiff. A shout out to the band that although H.Death (Vocals, Guitar) had an injury and had to use canes, they still played that night and didn’t choose to cancel. Personally, I feared the band wouldn’t play anything from their flesh-cutting debut, but then older songs like “Swarming” and “Perpetual Fire” saved the day for me.
Tonight’s headliners were the one and only Deströyer 666. No, I won’t address the latest crap that was thrown around by some other so-called “magazine” because I don’t think it’s important and it doesn’t have anything to do with music. On to the music!
From the beginning, the angry Aussies managed to incite the crowd into screaming, going wild and basically doing what needs to be done during a Deströyer gig. Kicking off with tremendous songs like “Rise of The Predator” from Phoenix Rising, Keith and the rest of his gang showed the entire city of Bergen (and by that I mean whoever attended the festival, heh) who’s in charge of delivering some of deadliest Thrash/Black out there. If you’ve ever been to any of the bands’ gigs, you know these guys are one of those names that even the most passive crowd of them all, would respond to. Hell, I’m pretty sure I saw some detaching heads when tracks like “Wildfire“, “I am The Wargod” and “Satanic Speed Metal” were played.
Mister K.K Warlust likes the communication with the crowd in between songs, keeping things lightweight and humorous, and it’s quite obvious the band is having fun themselves, when watching such support from the headbangers in front of them. Some of the bands’ musical roots and attitude can be traced to almighty Mötorhead, and so, what better way is it to commemorate late Lemmy, if not by covering “Iron First“? A bit faster than the original and a bit more aggressive than the original, this was all Mötorhead in the most Deströyer-istic possible way, and it was a brilliant move, before moving on.
The last day of the festival had started slowly, for everyone around, it seems. Me, personally, I walked over to the Garage afternoon, to catch some nice DJing by Terratur Possession‘s own Ole, and basically just take my time. It seems to me that by the beginning of the fourth day, a whole lot of people were already thinking about their departure time the next day (or even that same night), and so one didn’t see a whole lot of faces around.
A lot of the attendees also visited some sights in Bergen and the nearby area, as I did, and thus I missed out on Magister Templi and even Saturnalia Temple that I love, mainly because of unexpected public transportation troubles. Sorry about this, guys.
Pissed off that I missed one of the heaviest bands out there, at least I managed to attend the cool 5-year anniversary that was held in the Garage bar, above the venue. There, a big piece of art decorated the place, and some lighting play gave a fiery effect. The organizers declared that next edition (that would be called Bjørgvin Black Mass), would take place in the USF in Bergen, a much larger venue than the Garage and a welcomed change. All the while, some pre-early bird tickets to next years’ edition were sold, and quite a few managed to grab their entry a year earlier.
Up next were Gehennah. If you don’t know these Swedish drunks, just stop here, go put on something by them, then come back. I mean, alcohol, violence and sex all rolled into a huge Thrash wrap that delivers itself with aggressive riffs and a Rock n Roll attitude that isn’t as common these days. Gehennah were made in the underground, they reigned there, and they still do. Song like “Hardrocker“, “Bitch With A Bullet Belt“, “Bulldozer” and the other tracks that were played, some even from their new album, proves that this veteran group isn’t going anywhere, and that they don’t need or mean to change even one bit. And we love them for that.
Continuing the hard Thrashy line, Nekromantheon were up next. A personal favorite of mine, I’ve never seen them live and I was curious to see how one of the best names that came out of Norway in recent years, held up on stage. The amount of energy that burst open the Garage that moment was tremendous, as tunes like “Cast Down To The Void” or “Embrace The Oracle” sent heads flying and I could swore I tore a neck muscle while banging too hard. The band didn’t let go of the gas pedal, and the flesh-cutting riffs of “The Usurper Command” just kept everyone in a constant state of madness, while “Rise, Vulcan Specter” finished everyone off, and if you were there, you probably also wasted yourself in front of the Norwegian band.
Main headliners of the festival, kept until the very last hours, were Venom Inc. Everyone knows Venom, everyone loves Venom, but somewhere along the way Cronos took off on his own, leaving his older comrades. In response, Mantas, Demolition Man and Abbadon, the three horses of the Apocalypse (who cares there are seven? It’s these three, I tell you!) formed Venom Inc. I’ll first say that after seeing these guys in action, it eats the other Venom, alive. There is no comparing. The superb musicianship, the harmony (I mean, evil kind of harmony) between the guys on stage. It was just better than any Venom gig I’ve ever seen, and I’m not saying this lightly.
Counting all of their songs would be too big of a list, but you can imagine all the classics were there, from “Welcome To Hell“, through “Don’t Burn The Witch“, “Raise The Dead” and “Witching Hour“, and a whole lot of others. Seeing Mantas run around the small stage, simply having fun playing what he created, was tremendous fun, and watching how all the three of them come together as one crushing fist, made this the best performance in the festival.
That’s how it’s done, period. All those 30-something guys and gals out there, watch and learn. There is no Venom (Inc) gig without “Black Metal“, and so, the first encore was that, while the second one was no other than “Countess Bathory“, the infamous Hungarian ruler who supposedly bathed in blood, and while she bathed in blood, we the crowd bathed in our sweat, as perhaps the best performance of the festival came to and end.
And so, another edition of Beyond The Gates has come to a halt, and with it, strengthening of the thought that for a festival to be successful and function properly, one doesn’t need a huge area, thousands of people, nor any gimmicks like some of the big brothers in the festival season. It only needs the right people, with the right passion.
See you next year!