Inferno Festival - Oslo, Norway With Photo Gallery

By A Headbanger, Do You Bang Head?
Friday, April 25, 2008 @ 1:43 PM

Black Metal Easter 2008

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Reviewed by Holly Lucian.

First, some Inferno ’08 slang to know…

  • Inferno Festival: Oslo’s annual metal festival featuring three days of primarily Scandinavian Black Metal bands, with a few Death, Thrash and Doom foreigners scattered in. This year, there is an added Club day- featuring acts at numerous venues throughout the city.
  • Me: Holly-an overzealous NYC metal fan who traveled to Norway for my first Inferno Festival.
  • BM: For the sake of my review, BM will stand for Black Metal (not bowel movements).
  • Niklas Kvarforth: BM’s new ‘it’ boy, and member of half the bands at Inferno, most notably the extreme Shining.
  • Gaahl:The singer of one of Inferno’s headlining acts this year, Gorgoroth, as well as key member in Trelldom, and Gaahlskagg. He’s intimidating, and kind of a big deal. (sidenote: I almost crapped myself when I first met him.)
The festival began within hours of stepping off of my plane to Oslo. Half the shops were closed for Easter (which is apparently a weeklong event in Norway), it’s cold as hell, and a cheap beer costs 10 bucks. I hurried over to one of the metal pubs, where I met up with some friends and bought expensive drinks. I noticed Gaahl and King of Gorgoroth, sipping drinks at the other end of the bar. This was the moment when I realized Inferno Festival was about to begin.

Wednesday, March 19:

The Club day is the festival's kickoff and included 14 bands, at 6 different venues, essentially all playing at the same time. Basically, Oslo was sprinkled with crazies dressed in all black, running around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to see different bands all playing at the same time. Because of this, I had to choose carefully. The first band up was Cor Scorpii, who, like Vreid, formed from the remains of seminal folk BM band, Windir. Having only released a demo (that kicked ass), Cor Scorpiiis was highly anticipated, and the crowd didn’t seem to know exactly what to expect. The show was packed, and although frontman Thomas S. Øvstedal seemed to have some stumbling moments, the band was tight, and seemed highly reminiscent of Windir.

The next band up, Sagh, featured King of Gorgoroth and Thomas of Audrey Horne. My high expectations were easily met. They opened with “Ascent to Decadence” and quickly got the crowds enthusiasm behind them. The crowd was not as packed as I would have expected for any band featuring the mighty King ov Hell, but those who were there sang along and seemed to know every word. Vocalist, Olav, sounded nearly identical to the albums, and was almost reminiscent of Ozzy's early solo albums. Unfortunately, I could not see their last songs because I had to literally run across Oslo to catch the last bit of Gallhammer at another venue. When I did finally arrive, they were well into their set, and the audience was jam packed and absolutely loving it. The five foot nothing female Japanese trio played straight doom, creating loud droning sounds and shockingly booming vocals. It was by far the most packed show I saw on the club night; the merch table was sold out by the last song.

The last band I got to catch for the night was Urgehal, who gave me the first true taste of what old-school Norwegian BM is like live. The sound, the corpse paint, the stage props and costumes all fell in line with what you might expect at an old Mayhem gig. It was a very exciting set, playing a mix between older and newer material, all getting an equally great response. This was also the first show of the festival featuring Shining front man and psycho extremist, Niklas Kvarforth. Kvarforth stepped in for a song covered in what looked like a monks cloak and black face paint, and instantly the crowd went apeshit. Certainly not a show to miss.

Thursday, March 20:

Ahh, the first official day of the festival - you could literally taste steel and smell blood. The first band I got to catch was Goat the Head. These guys make Manowar look like they are dressed to go to the mall, and sound like Deicide if they wanted to be funny. The ridiculous caveman attire and musical subject matter was a ton of fun. Lots of people laughing in the crowd, and just as many cheering. I wouldn’t suggest buying their album, but I would highly suggest going to one of their shows.

Next up, Skitliv, featuring Maniac (ex-Mayhem) on vocals, and once again bringing Niklas Kvarforth on stage, this time on guitar. For this show, Tore Moren (Arcturus and Jorn) joined the team of three guitarists, bringing the total guitar count up to four. Skitliv’s sound is doomy, slow and dark on the album, and that is only amplified when heard live. Despite bringing the largest draw of any opening main stage act at the festival, I felt the live show was sporadic, and a bit confusing. Lots of improv going on, as bassist, Spacebrain, played using a bottle of booze, and Kvarforth feigned oral sex on Moren during guitar parts. At one point Kvarforth seemed to break into Shining riffs, while the rest continued to do their own thing. It was certainly interesting to watch, but I kept wondering what I was listening to. The set ended with only Spacebrain on stage blasting out bizarre, yet strangely interesting bass noises.

After that interesting set was Dead To This World, who played their first ever live gig at Inferno. Headed by Iscariah(ex-Immortal), the band was a mix of speed and BM. With only one album out, the crowd seemed to know every song. If I didn’t know this was their first gig ever, there would have been no way for me to be able to tell. They sounded and looked like old pros.

The act to follow was Behemoth, who proved to be one of the festival’s highlights, not only for me, but for many of the other fans I talked to as well. This Polish act looks and sounds the part of classic black turned death metal, perfecting their live show. The speed alone at which they play could send a headbanger into whiplash. The encore of Turbonegro’s “I Got Erection” was faster than I’ve ever heard it before. Well done.

Then headlining the night was the terrifying, epic black metellers Gorgoroth. Hailed as one of the only modern Norwegian BM bands who still practice what they preach, there was a huge international draw to see them. Having played only one show in the US back in 2001, I was very excited to see this terrifying act live. Even before the music began, the crowd knew they were getting in for some epic BM, as the stage had four life size crucifixes on them. From each hung a naked body (2 male, 2 female) with bags tied over their heads. What made this even more brilliant to gawk at was the fact that the pyrotechnics were set up what seemed to be directly underneath the naked people. When Gaahl, King, Teloch, Ice Dale(Enslaved/Sahg), and Nick Barker(ex-Dimmu Borgir) hit the stage, there was no time for chit chat, as they sped through one song to the next. Most of the hour plus set consisted of the last three albums. After the show I was lucky enough to get to chat with Gaahl, who proved to be not only willing to talk to fans, but polite to boot. He modestly said his vocals were not up to par for the show, and is trying to get a tour in the US, where he hopes he can show us an even better live performance than the one we saw tonight. I certainly look forward to that.

Friday, March 21:

Day three of Inferno, and already you could see people coming in later from the previous nights shows and exhausting parties afterwards. The first notable band of the evening was Den Saakaldte, which started as Sykelig’s one man show, then got Inferno’s ‘it kid’ Niklas Kvarforth on vocals. I didn’t know what to expect but man, I was thoroughly impressed. One of the surprise great bands of the festival, I will be certain to pick up the album as soon as it comes out. The sound is BM, but bizarre and heavily ambient. Kvarforth was in top form, spitting on crowd members who were practically lapping it up, and then staring at himself in a mirror. Of course the mirror eventually got broken, and the crowd got what they wanted, which was Kvarforth making large gashes into his arms that poured blood all over the shattered glass. At one point he looked like he was going to throw the glass into the crowd, but thankfully for those of us in front, he decided to make himself the victim yet again, and go to town on his arms. It was a bloody, beautiful mess to watch, and it perfectly matched the strange dark metal that was blaring out from the stage.

The follow-up to that freak show was Tulus. It’s an honor to see these guys live, as they hardly ever play (I was told this was the second live performance ever in all their years together; I had no idea, I thought they were just another one of those non US-touring bands). What Tulus managed to successfully do was follow up Den Sakaaldte’s visual freak show with an aural one. Holding nothing back, they tore through their 45-minute set, which included a violinist and cellist on the later songs, sounding nothing short of progressive BM at its wacky finest.

The night’s headliner was of course the all mighty Satyricon. Despite pissing many people off, through the forbiddance of flash photography and non-professional cameras, the crowd was squashed in like grapes, and everyone was screaming with excitement to see them hit the stage. They opened the set with two new tracks off of “Now, Diabolical”, which got an incredible response, despite the fact that nearly everyone I talked to in the crowd claimed to ‘really only like the first two albums’. Yes, the early albums are the greats, but there is no denying the bands ability to stay relevant in a scene that’s largely made for underground success.

Everything looked and sounded just as I expected, and when the classics were played, I have to give my credit to the crowd, who knew and wailed out every last word. Satyricon may have become a bit rock diva-ish, they still got it when it comes to a live show. The encore included ’Mother North’ and ’Hvite Krists Død’, classics till the end.

Saturday, March 22:

Everyone looked worn out and hung over, so it took a little longer for the full headbanging debauchery to begin. But it’s the final day of the festival, so in the end, nothing is held back for the true fan. First band I bore witness to was the Australian thrashers, Mortal Sin. Hardly anyone was in the crowd, as they were the openers on the last day of the festival. Fun set, nothing too exciting. Best song they played was “I am Immortal”, which got a decent sized response from the crowd.

Next up, the long awaited 1349. I had been very excited to see them, because although they played a full tour of the USA with Celtic Frost and Sahg, I never got to catch them live. It seemed like I was one of the few big fans in the audience who hadn’t seen them before; these guys are no strangers to touring. Often characterized as a brutal blend of black and death metal, I definitely see them more as a BM act, and the live show backed me up. Before a note was even played, Frost (Satyricon) spewed fire from his mouth, which left me completely soaked in what smelled like motor oil for the rest of the evening. Trust me, I am not complaining, it was awesome to see. They opened with ‘Legion’, and played fast and hard the whole way through– taking no breaks in between. Archaon on guitar sounded fast and clear- something hard to do in a live setting. The incredible set was made even better when Celtic Frost’s Tom G. Fischer came out and sang ‘Usurper’ with the boys. Next time they are in town, I’ll be sure not to miss it.

The next notable band on the bill, was America’s favorite thrashers, Overkill. Seeing as this was the only band I was very familiar with seeing live, I kept tooting their horns for them, and encouraging people to watch the set. They obviously didn’t need my support, as the crowd completely adored them. Bobby Blitz ran around the stage like the mad man we love him to be. In a scene filled with lots of doom and harsh faces, it was awesome to see everyone headbanging and having such a great time. They opened with ‘Devils in the Mist’ and continued through the favorites. ‘Thanks For Nothing’ got a not-so-shockingly anthemic response, and the encore, which included ‘Fuck You’ did the same. Lots of chatter after the set from serious doom and gloom fans that were surprised at how much they enjoyed the thrash set. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the last bit, as a massive line was forming to get into the smaller stage to see the hyped up, Shining(featuring our boy, Nik Kvarforth).

As I made my way to the smaller stage to see Shining, I noticed the venue was so packed that I missed the first few songs while I had to wait for people to clear out of the venue and make room. Yes, Shining was one of the most talked about bands of the festival, but as for being a Kvarforth fan, I’d have to agree with the masses and say his performance in Den Saakaldte was better than that of his own band, Shining. Now, this is not to say that Shining’s set wasn’t good- because it was. Some highlights were the slew of songs off of ‘Halmsted’ that the band played to a T. Kvarforth was a little in and out of vocals, but that was excused by the fact that he was forcefully cutting the living crap out of his arms. Blood was running everywhere, and he felt no shame in rubbing on his face and torso. It was a site to behold. Towards the end, an unrecognized guy without his shirt and an attractive dominatrix came out. The dominatrix whipped the shirtless guy until visible welts could be seen from my spot a little ways back in the crowd. Kvarforth also took a razor blade to the nameless guy’s chest, and added to the blood bath. Half the crowd left begging for more, and the other half left confused.

The final band of the festival was German’s own thrash band, Destruction. This three piece played an insanely fast and fun set, but after seeing Overkill it was a little hard to compete with. The crowd was a bit on the empty side, and it was easy to make your way up to the front where a pit with the only 10 sober metalheads left in the joint moshed around. However, despite a few sound problems and the sleepy crowd, there was nothing stopping them from giving it their all. Vocalist Schmier bounced around the stage between numerous mic stands, and drummer, Marcus Reign, pounded through flawlessly. The set ended over an hour and a half later with the remaining dedicated fans chanting for more. Highlight of the set was ’Eternal Ban’, which sounded freakin’ great.

Some other notable bands I didn’t get to mention included Keep of Kalessin and Unleashed, who both sounded fantastic. Conversely, Tristania and Burst offered me time to go to the bathroom, and check out the merch tables. And that right there concludes the festival. On my way out, I was pleasantly greeted by Gaahl, who shook my hand goodbye, and thanked me for coming. It doesn’t get much better than that. So in all, despite sleeping about 12 hours in 5 days and spending more money in beer than I normally do for a month’s rent, I was left feeling completely satisfied. A great festival and meeting ground for metalheads. I look forward to seeing some familiar faces next year.

Click on the thumbnail shots for the full-size pictures.

Photos by Holly Lucian

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