Rockefeller, Oslo, 18-21 April 2019
Words and pictures by Wouter
Easter weekend is not something to be spent with family. Rather, it is something you should spend with your extended family. Those you call brothers, sisters, cousins and hell, even mothers or fathers. The extended family of heavy metal is of course of what I speak. Honouring that tradition, I found myself in Oslo this time, to enjoy the Inferno Festival. The Valhalla of indoor festivals, so to speak. Indeed, the old Gods favoured us with nice weather, expensive beers, the world’s best breakfast, a monstrously good line up and some of the best shows I’ve seen yet.
The weekend started off with the warm-up party organized by Indie Recordings at Vaterland, a metal pub close to the Rockefeller and Kniven locations. Accessible for all-weekend visitors, barring the small glitch of not allowing (likewise all weekend) press, for not yet having the wrist bands. As the small venue was quickly packed, not all people could join the (well played) shows of Posthum, Diabolical and The New Death Cult. A short detour to Kniven after the bands was of course part of the last minute plan, to have a beer in one of Oslo’s nicest metal pubs.
The next and first official festival day brought a bit of sightseeing around Akershus Festning (the old castle of Oslo), before we made our way to Rockefeller. A three story venue, with the final stairway leading to a roof terrace. On this terras, beers and (vegan) hamburgers could be obtained, under the warming Oslo spring sun. John Dee, the small venue was located in the crypts of the basement, the place for underground bands to play.
Alas, just time for one quick beer, as Svarttjern (No) was about to hit the stage. A band wielding a lot of local respect, with their solid bass sound. Their mid-tempo paced delivery of black metal hatred, featuring some of the better technical drumming around, was a quality warm up to Inferno – Hell yeah, we have arrived home!
The Black Dahlia Murder (USA) presented themselves as the moshing band of the day. Their infective US-style death metal and extremely lively front man made for such a nice show that I actually forgot my reservations I have with respect to their style of music (which isn’t completely mine). If anything, I’d be more into it after seeing them, what a show! I am sure that dedicating a song dealing with clowns to all the ‘vampire chicks out there’ was appreciated widely, even by said creatures of the night.
While Aura Noir (NO) played, I took the time to enjoy a hamburger on the roof and enjoy socializing over a beer. And for the red light in Satan’s own eyes, I cannot fathom why other indoor festivals don’t have a roof terrace :)
Swedish Witchcraft was up next, was a bit of an odd duck in the lot, but no less good in terms of musical performance. Their doom/psychedelic rock was solid, swinging and – even though this a bit weird – very tightly played. The vocalist also gets a tip of the head for his talented and wide range voice. Perhaps better programmed at festivals like Prophecy Fest or Roadburn, the band did lend diversity to endless stream of fast riffing and blast beats otherwise emanating from the stage.
Closer and headliner of day one was Norway’s famous Dimmu Borgir. Visually and choreographically speaking, their show was rock solid. Musically speaking, their new songs shone, but the older ones were a bit lack luster. Dimmu has been a band that got me (and probably many) into (black) metal. They used to be a personal favorite for seeing live in the days up until Puritanical Euforic Misanthrophia. Alas, their current play just didn’t live up to that expectation anymore, perhaps also due to their new songs being closer to Nightwish than to actual black metal. Personal reveries aside, the audience was very enthusiastic for seeing their idols live, who by right do deserve credit for exporting black metal ouside the borders of Norway.
A final beer to end the day in the hotel bar (I’m running out of organs to sell to pay for this hobby), a mild amount of sleep and I was ready for day two!
Happy crucifixion day! And what better band to celebrate the eternal rise, fall and circle of time than Ragarok? Well almost. First, I made time to enjoy some of Norway’s rich fish cuisine on Aker Brygge with a (non-Macks) beer. A tradition among friends to celebrate crucifixion day, to which I had the privilege of being invited to. Thanks for that, you awesome crazy bastards (you know who you are) !
Back to the venue, back to: Holy high hell! The pyro shot forth the flames of Hel, and Ragnarok (NO) played an unrelenting storm of infective black metal. Their live performance was never dull and with Hoest performing on “Blackdoor Miracle” addtional spectacle was added. Maybe not the machine gun fire that their neighbouring Swedes of Marduk are, but assuredly as aggressive and powerful. Compared to the somewhat lack luster last show of day one, this first band got my head banging.
Speaking of Swedes: next up was Tribulation (SE). One of the highlights in terms of (occult) gothic metal/rock currently on offer in the heavy metal universe, they proved their worth on Inferno. An swinging, dark, melodic show with guitar solo upon solo, while the dark growls of Johannes Andersson and his bass marched through the set like a daemon from the Swedish marches. The dancing guitarist Jonathan Hulten brings a unique element to their show, besides his sheer talent on the guitar.
Whilst talking to a friend, I was recommended to go see Vomitory (SE) and eat another time. Well, was I positively greeted with perhaps one of the better brutal death metal acts on currently on offer! Everything one needs: a tight guitar sound, a fucking grand voice, only quality classic blast beats and brutal riffing. My second day at Inferno just kept getting better and better!
Polish nihilistic/existential black metal act Mgla is by no means an underground act anymore and deserve the attention they get. Both from playing super tight shows and standing above many other bands when it comes to lyrical content. This time was no different – Mgla played a tight set as ever. Perhaps the vocals were a tiny bit off on “Exercises in Futility II”, but this could also have been me mishearing. It tends to show, with a band that plays so close to studio perfection.
Time to run to The Ruins of Beverast, playing in a packed John Dee. A band that ever has drawn me into their doomish, floating atmospheric sound. Always on loud side and therefore soundwise sometimes a hit and miss, this time the sound was just perfect. Their latest, bordering on the psychedelic, album title track Exuvia opened the play, setting the dark and swaying atmosphere. Not often heard live was God’s Ensanguined Bestiaries. To my personal delight, Daemon also made it to set list. And man, those vocals…Another show for the books, making going to Inferno a special place, even for bands that I’ve seen many times before.
On bands that I’ve seen before, and with me many: Hypocrisy (SE)! Their alien infested, melodic death metal (with at time even a bit cheesy synths) have made many a fan, yours truly included. And man, they ruled! Peter Tägtren showed that, although being around for quite a while, he still has a voice that beats many if not most. Their axe wielding guitar sound also stood high and mighty. A non-stop session of banging my head, screaming my lungs out – from “Fractured Millenium”, all the way up to “The Final Chapter” and encore “Roswell 47”. Nothing but goose bumps, especially when “Fire in the Sky” hit stage. A gigantic day closer, restoring my somewhat lost faith in older bands.
Day three began with another (yes) majestic play of a band that I’ve seen more times than my hands have fingers. Der Weg Einer Freiheit (DE) had the honour of opening the day. The emotional tapestry of atmospheric and melodic black metal these guys from Wurzburg put down remains one of the best of its kind. But nothing prepared me for the magnificent show they gave at Inferno. Beside playing spot on, somehow the atmosphere they put down was more present, thicker and above that, more blasting than usual.
The goat mongers of Impaled Nazarene (FI) I let slip in favor of a burger on the roof – which was brilliant. Kuddos to the vegan food stall there, although I am not, the food was great!
Something or rather someone awaited by many: Gaahl’s Wyrd (NO). The man channels a profound art through his voice and music. With an upcoming album (GastiR – Ghosts Invited, release 31st of May 2019), Gaahl and his musicians had something to show for. Those latter gave a show to impress, what an energy radiating from the stage. Besides knownGW songs (“From the Spear”), they gave a small peak into the new album, by playing “Through and Past and Past”. Likewise, old Gorgoroth songs like “Sign of an Open Eye” made the stage. With such an incredible screaming, grunting and singing voice, this name is one to remember.
More Norwegian infamous talent hit the stage with Taake. This is and will always be a pleasure to watch, for as long as Hoest is on stage to kick around mic stands, air and dust. The music, on local West Norwegian myth and darkness old and new, is an infective, swinging type of happy black metal that never bores. A nice twist was the guest performance of Vrangsinn (Carpathian Forest), singing “Cold” by The Cure. The song was introduced by Hoest as: “A little cover song now. Of Mr. Talib Kweli. The song is called ‘Fuck You, Nazi Lover’”. The song (as it turned out) was in response to being called ‘Fuck you, Nazi Lover’ many times by afore mentioned Kweli. The latter canceled his own concert at Rockefeller, knowing that Taake was also booked there.
Taking a small portion of revenge on myself for having missed one of the not so many occasions Cor Scorpii played live, your truly swiftly went down to witness them in a soon crowded John Dee. A play that I can only describe as mesmerizing for its guitar work and keeping the sound of Sognametal alive. No small significance was also granted to the fact that their original drummer (Ole Nordsve) is still alive and kicking (the drums) on one of their songs, even though he’s is battling sickness and having a replacement lung. Aside from that: holy high hell, I wished the show never ended…. the never ending lines of guitar poetry, desperate agerssive growls and of course, somewhere, the spirit of Windir.
Having seen Bloodbath a couple of times, I decided to this time watch from above. But again I was surprised that even these seasoned specialists gave another high above the grade show. By now, I guess I can dub it the Inferno Virus. And having one of the fans from the audience perform part of “Eaten” was a cherry to the meat pie that made it a truly memorable show.
The marathon of good plays continued on day four with opener Cult of Fire (Cz). Two tables set with candles, relics, incense smoke screen and art parafenalia made for real orthodox inspired ritual. The hooded band members, not very lively or active on stage, compensated with a mesmerizing, hypnotizing play. Very fitting to the ritual they represent and what a play of guitars. I may not understand anything of the lyrics, but the music is addictive and transcending.
Carach Angren (NL), a band that I might have dubbed the Dutch carnival of staccato black metal one day, ruled the stage play. I hereby also would like to add they are insanely good, tight and professional performers and said clownery is only part of the full-fledged, graveyard horror show. Their frontman (Dennis Droomers) stamps, parades and marches up and down the stage while shouting and screaming the horrific tales the songs tell Around him, his fellow musician rise (or the rest of the worlds sinks) on platforms high above the stage. I might miss the days when he also wielded the guitar, giving a bit more depth to the music, but that did nothing to diminish the quality of the current guitar work. Even if the rising platforms were a bit much, this show was some awesome theater!
Absolute killer show of the day was 1349 (No). More pyro than any other plays thusfar, they rules all of Rockefeller and then some, with their traditional black metal. Compared to a not so impressive set at NDF 2018, this show killed any doubt I might have had. The raw rocking sounds versus the relentless blast beats and killer riffs (“Slaves”, “Cauldron“) , its just majestic. Indeed, the audience was thinking just that, going crazy, even on the balcony.
Time for some Icelandic black metal. Straight from depths of the sulfuric geysers of hatred, Misthyrming came and conquered the John Dee stage. The fast, melodic and pummelling songs are entirely sung in Icelandic – adding to the mystery and otherworldliness of the music. And man, what a show of aggression and conviction. Their frontman D.G. almost stamped his feet through the stage boards, while masterfully screaming and riffing his arse off. The setlist contained existing (Söngvar elds og óreiðu; Songs of Fire and Chaos) material as well as material from the upcoming full length Algleymi (release 24th of May 2019), highly recommended if you like Sinmara, Nadra, Zhrine or Audn.
Last but not least… Opeth came as closing act. Running for four days around bands, beer and a photo pit made me decide to watch this from the balcony. Like Hypocrisy, they played a ‘best-off’ show, with 9 songs from 9 different albums, Including “Demon of the Fall”, to the delight of many attending. Personally, I was happy to hear “Deliverance”. Besides a rock solid performance (as always), the humor of Mikeal Åkerfeldt could be enjoyed, albeit in Swedish this time.
With this last play, Inferno finished and the flames have died down. I can only count down the days until the next edition. This festival somehow brings out the best in bands, something that (besides all the socializing, merry making and beer drinking) is why we come all this way. So, see you in 2020!