“In Norway metal lives and metal rules”, says, from the beginning, Runar Pettersen (Inferno festival organizer), in the brochure presentation of this year's festival.
To those who are just hearing for the first time the name "Inferno" we should mention this is the oldest extreme metal festival in Norway. And, most probably, even in Europe.
Exclusively devoted to black / death / thrash, Inferno Festival reached in 2016 the 16th edition. And as long as Romania has direct flights Bucharest-Oslo for decent prices, Inferno can become a good choice for a "spring holiday".
Why spring?! Because the festival is scheduled (on purpose!) each year during Easter. The Black Beast demands its tribute, black metal pays...
From an organizational point of view it is superior to all similar events in Romania. Inferno means respect for those paying the ticket: 1800 NOK (200 euro) for the whole 4 days, 600 NOK (65 euro) for a one day ticket - a lesson of civilization that Romanian festival organizers who force you to buy all days passes, should learn. Without "early bird" cheaper tickets and expensive ones on the day of the concert, without Golden Circle and Diamond Circle, without Meet and Greet tickets at more expensive prices (at Inferno anyone can take autographs from artists without restrictions and without extra charge). Only metal, normality and civilization. And a generous market of shirts, CDs and vinyls, where there's room for everyone (without stupid exclusivities, proving that Norway is a country where the spirit of competition is higly encouraged).
Yes, the festival is expensive, Oslo is expensive, Norway is expensive... but it's damn seductive! But the pleasure to see the Norwegian bands in their own home is huge and worth every single penny! And this makes Inferno festival different.
This year Inferno took place between 23rd and 26th of March, its structure being as follows: first day - concerts in six clubs in the city, while the other three days - concerts in the main hall (Rockefeller) and in a secondary one located in the basement of the building (John Dee). Plus a number of extra activities that took place at Hotel Royal Christiania, official partner of the festival and conferences host, but we will talk about these later.
In total this year edition gathered 4,000 spectators from around the world, in the city that brings daily tribute to Lemmy (did you know the Town Hall bells play Motorhead every evening?). Or the city that witnessed the infamous murder in August 1993. The well known city which has the oldest underground extreme metal shop, which today has still the same charm (Helvete, now renamed Neseblod). Or the city made famous by its Holmenkollen church, burned down as well in those "glorious years".
First day (23rd of March): first rituals
In a select atmosphere, aound noon media representatives are invited to the official opening party of the festival. The ceremony is elegant maintained by a string ensemble, 4 female musicians wearing strident black metal makeup, playing various classical fragments on violins, cello and double bass. The friendly atmosphere is maintained for one hour, after which journalists are invited to enjoy the surprise of the evening: the movie "Blackhearts", a delicious story of an Iranian artist, a Greek band and a Colombian one, three adventures on a common target: playing at Inferno. An amazing recommended movie that will have a projection in Romania as well, this summer.
First evening was divided into two small clubs. Festival opener at John Dee, in front of a pretty generous crowd for a Wednesday night, was Vredehammer. Organic black metal, good communication in English with the audience (although the band is from Norway! Many local bands decided to maintain dialogue with the public in English, which was so appreciated!). Speed, toughness on the stage. Short show but pleasant, with great sound, good start for the festival which began with a band that is not so famous (yet).
For this first night, John Dee is the host for bands from the Indie Recordings label, the next on stage being Sagh. A very original genre, violent and occasionally heavy doomish stoner rock. Sagh came with a cursive show, high quality, balanced and exciting. The Norwegians do their job and manage to keep the highly analytical audience on their side.
At almost the same time in Club Bla the madness begins with another prestigious label presenting its jewels: Dark Essence Records. Lucifer's Child is the spoiled child of George Emmanuel (Rotting Christ) and Stathis Ridis (bass player in Nightfall).
In the fragrant scent of incense burning on stage, Lucifer's Child comes with a bold blend of old school 80's-90's metal with a very depressive perfume. Having recorded one album only, the band managed to make a very pleasant impression to those who have remained loyal, although in other clubs the big names had already begun to gather a crowd (Exodus, Gorguts, Beneath).
The 3rd Attempt was perhaps the most aggressive band of the first night. Very careful to details, the Norwegians came up with a full arsenal - black metal makeup, stage monitors in barbed wire, totally antichristian. A primitive black metal, for the first time at Inferno, elegantly led by former guitarist and bassist of Blood Red Throne and Carpathian Forest: Tchort.
An interesting end of the evening in a melodic viking metal mood: Mistur.
Norwegian too, the band already has a certain reputation in their area. An irreverent show with a very good rhythm section, balanced by the keyboards section, a remarkable equilibrium between speed and melody. Self-labeled "Sogna metal", the band consists of former or current members of the Norwegian elite hordes such as Windir, Kamfar, Vreid.
2nd day (24th of March): eclectic evening
Inferno has many interesting activities, collateral to the festival, which make it so different, such as: beer tasting, photo exhibitions, photo workshops (with Kenneth Sporsheim of Metal Hammer!), tattoo areas. But the most pleasant surprise was going to happen in the preamble of this day: a public auction with various death-black itmes from collectors. A first time for the festival (and maybe even international) rare products were auctioned, such as: first Burzum VHS, a rare Dimmu Borgir 7", a Possessed guitar pick, an original Emperor shirt from the 90's, Fenriz recording guitar, an old Funeral shirt (older than 20 years), Burzum and Death posters from the early 90's, sold-out vinyls of Abbath and Mayhem, Hellhammer cymbals used to record "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas"... and many more! Starting price and purchase prices? According to their value, of course! Some products were auctioned for 10 NOK (5 €) and others had to be sold for even 1100 NOK (125 €).
Deathcode Society played first on the small stage - the French band was born six years ago and they are eager to execute an apocalyptic death black metal. The show leans heavily towards an avantgarde black metal direction, cut into a form of unspeakable sonic violence. A kind of awful, sinister, but delicious appetizer for the big Friday.
ICS Vortex is the first important artist on the big Rockefeller stage (a generous club, with two rows of balconies, which already celebrates 30 years of existence). Former Dimmu Borgir bassist presented a unique show, quite complicated and difficult to follow. Long songs, blackened progressive metal with many rock'n roll accents, the band ICS Vortex is far from Dimmu Borgir but not very far from those where Vortex himself sings now: Arcturus and Borknagar.
Shores of Null comes from Italy and we found them quite fresh, both in reputation and as a stylistic approach: a stunning balance of melodic black metal with doom metal, all executed at maximum intensity. A heavy band on stage, with only one album so far, plus a new song too added to the live set. A unique blend of three singers, a band that I'm sure you'll enjoy if you resonate with bands like Katatonia, Dissection or Ulver (first years).
Useless to describe the music of one of the oldest brutal death bands: Vader. It is a devastating typhoon, a first class slaughter! Polish guys had a very good evening, thier short but comprehensive show included songs from almost all their albums: "Come and See My Sacrifice", "Triumph of Death", "Dark Age" and a lovely "God Is Dead".
Marduk rose at the same time as the black metal scene and you can feel this at Inferno, the perfect place for a meeting with the Swedish beast! An eruption, the satanic beast unleashed on stage, a typical Marduk concert always means anger, speed, aggression. From "Slay the Nazarene" up to "Serpent Sermon" and "Burn My Coffin" Marduk is pure blasphemy!
After nine years, Cattle Decapitation returned to Inferno, a festival where they fit like a glove! John Dee was full this time (yes, sometimes big bands have shows in small venues!). The Americans bring a porcine death metal, morbid, cavernous, fast, guttural. Another extremely appreciated band on the stage of Inferno!
The headliner of the evening was to be Mysticum, a band who haven't played in Norway for over 20 years. The band was to be the example of originality of the evening, their industrial black metal being long enjoyed by the audience. A complete show on a stage flooded in simple but very effective lights, with screenings, Mysticum was the huge surprise and, without question, one of the revelations of the festival. An incandescent show in Rockefeller, a veritable nuclear cataclysm!
Third day (25th of March): can we have more death metal, please?
Two events captured my attention on Friday afternoon. First, the drum-clinic demonstration of Frost (Satyricon), a very relaxed artist who never hesitated to answer all questions and who exemplified his live tricks but sometimes complicated ones to those interested. And the second one was the press conference related to the future of metal worldwide - who will headline the festivals in 2026? Guests: 4 important festival organizers in Northern Europe.
In opposition to what was to happen on the main stage later in the night, the evening started directly and sharply with the only British band at this edition of the festival. Stahlsarg started the madness on the John Dee stage with a show of extreme violence.
Stahlsarg is a band born three years ago, founded by Krieg and Destruction, after their departure from the better known to Romanian audiences Eastern Front. The English horde moved quickly and have already released a debut CD, one with many good reviews in magazines around Europe. Stahlsarg keeps the military black metal direction we were accustomed by Eastern Front, but in a more fresh way, more dynamic and more direct for today's sound. It's a band that deserves all the attention and that with a little luck and courage can reach the extreme metal elites in a few years!
Blood Red Throne is one of the exceptions of Norway. Anchored in old school death metal, the band presented a show of extreme brutality. With a new album almost ready to be released, Blood Red Throne delighted the audience with three songs played live for the first time ever: "Flesh and Union of Machine", "Proselyte Virus" and "Martyrized". Crazy final show with a guitar shattered to pieces.
Abyssion is a Finnish band that blends psychedelic black metal with a highly original doom rock. With a stage permanently covered in red lights and with apocalyptic electro black metal shades, they were the delight of the crowd. The two-man band sounds harsh, actually very harsh, frightening and was probably the most original band of the festival.
Back to the main stage where the heavyweight bands began to unfold. German thrash metal machinery Sodom is the first to make the atypical Norwegian audience move a little bit. We witnessed the first moshpit of this year's festival, the first unleashing of energy, beer. An "Iron Fist" cover and a bitter end with "Blasphemer" which the band recognized they haven't sung in a while.
Wormlust is a glacial cavernous, oppressive, miserable black metal band. Hard sounds, but typically for the north of Europe (Wormlust being from Iceland). Tortured guitars, stage chaos, a nightmare for those not prepared to such sounds.
Suffocation is a volcano of brutality, technicality and dynamics. The Americans give their best on the stage, their death metal being so old but so original, it always had a huge influence in their nearly 30 years of activity, as evidenced by the setlist they prepared for Inferno, in which they didn't miss "Pierced from Within", "Abomination Reborn" and "Infecting the Crypts".
Playing live shows from 2014 only, Craft still remains a hard to see band. Having a morbid stage appearance, the band from Sweden highlighed its favorite themes: chaos, nihilism, hate. Made up of former members of Watain, Shining and Urgehal, Craft is a demonic lesson. The show included songs like "Xenophobia", "Earth Raging Blaze" and "Total Soul Rape" and was ended with the introduction of the new drummer: Trish, from Djevelkult.
Nile is a band that has grown very nicely. Headliners on the most brutal night of the festival, Nile did its job. Basically, a heavy metal festival without Nile would have no charm. With an impressive discography, the Americans played for the first time at Inferno. A simple ethnic death metal show, clean, crossing the entire discography: "Hittite Dung Incantation", "Call to Destruction", "In the Name of Amun", "Ithyphallic" "The Howling of the Jinn" and an insane farewell with two album title songs - "What Should not Be Unearthed" and "Black Seeds of Vengeance".
Last day (26th of March): on your knees in front of the beast
Smart guys the Norwegians, they left the craziest bands for the last day of Inferno.
Rockefeller opened its doors with Order. Recently formed by Mannheim (drums) and Messiah (vocals) - both ex Mayhem members - Order can be translated as a complicated balance between several areas of extreme metal. An evil show, both for the interpretation and staging (like Messiah's obsessive idea to browse through an old book the whole show), with a special stoner flavor.
Judging by the multitude of shirts worn by the public Mork was expected to come up with a solid fanbase at Inferno. Which actually happened, the Norwegians playing a delicious pure, balanced, straight to the soul, black metal. Although the candles animated the stage, the Mork show is cold and dark. Perfect to introduce some songs from the new released material.
Nifelheim awakened in me the nostalgia from the days of Lord Belial, a great band who haven't had the good fortune of their country mates. Nifelheim is serving ugly black metal, paying a tribute on behalf of the snake and wickedness. Nifelheim is a band full of artistic rage, subject to a cynical black metal, with slight thrash additions. 25 years have passed since their first releases and the Swedes do not deny those times back then: "Sacrifice to the Lord of Darkness", "Storm Of The Reaper", but also "Satanic Sacrifice" plus "Storm of Satan's Fire" from the first album were performed.
Last minute confirmation to Inferno, Moonsorrow proved to be a spectacular band without being commonplace. The show began abruptly with "Jumalten Aika" (first song from the album with the same name, which in the meantime has been already released). For the first time on stage at Inferno, the Finns are a nice band in the folk / pagan / black metal area. With a very dynamic music style, Moonsorrow is in opposition to traditional pagan-folk bands (Korpiklaani, Eluveitie).
Månegarm are from Sweden and were undoubtedly a natural continuation to the Moonsorrow show. The last band at John Dee, Månegarm are unfairly underrated. An excellent, liberating, flowing band with a perfect communication with their loyal audience. For The Vikings it was their first show in Norway, the Swedes being proud of their bushy discography of 8 releases!
At 12 AM sharp a band well known to audiences in Norway, but "true cult" at the same time, had to close the last sacrifice brought to Satan. Eight inverted crosses. Disincarnated flesh. 4 torches. Pig heads on the stage. With what may Mayhem impress to be totally different from their previous Norwegian shows?!
The headliner quickly unveiled the surprise. For nearly an hour and a half the microphone was taken one by one by Maniac, Attila and Messiah. Hellhammer and Manheim took turns on drums. Total madness! The legendary band reveals its entire history!
They began with "A Bloodsword and a Colder Sun" from "Grand Declaration of War", then quickly moved on to "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas". Torches give the impression that the old Nidaros cathedral is set on fire. A sick visual illusion of great effect. "Eternal Life" and "The Freezing Moon". "Chainsaw Gutsfuck" with Manheim on drums. Messiah sings on "Carnage" and a final with the title song from "Pure Fucking Armageddon". Authentic heads of pigs thrown in public. Delirious Attila in front of a skull. Satan is above and smiles satisfied.
PS: The other bands on stage at Inferno 2016 were: Psycroptic, Gorguts, Exodus, Dødsfall, Beneath, Hetroertzen, El Caco, Orkan, Flukt, Shaving the Werewolf, Athens, Scarred, Dissecdead, The Crawling, Nordjevel, Thaw.
Article by Titus Constantinescu
Galeria foto are 23 imagini.