Day One – Wednesday 1st April
The 15th anniversary of Norway’s most prestigious metal festival had me saving up for months prior to descending upon it. The second incarnation of Blastfest held in February was also a tempting proposition with an all star extreme line up but Inferno is special; offering an immense selection of bands across various genres but most importantly the bands are unique, very rarely playing here in the UK making the opportunity to witness something new irresistible and to say I was excited about the trip is a huge understatement. Travelling to the Norwegian capital was pain free, no delays, the proverbial smooth as silk was highly appropriate and a relief. The hotel Christiania which opens its doors to metal fans and bands alike is a perfect place where the opulent luxury was given the utmost respect by every person staying there. Arriving and checking in meant a swift trip, after dumping bags off in the room, to get festival merchandise and obtain a wristband which were done inside the hotel at a makeshift reception desk in the bar. So with wristband, festival shirt and hoodie bought at about the same price as the UK it was time for food and drink, though not necessarily in that order.
With four days of extreme music to sink my teeth into I was a novice but Andy, my shooter, was a veteran of four ventures to Inferno under his belt. Technically the first night is a club night with four stages in operation around various parts of Oslo but all within close proximity to each other. It was impossible, however, to see every band and some arduous choice making was required when choosing between the places to go, but strategically mindful of walking distance and how much could be packed into the evening I plumped for taking on the John Dee venue (it was closest to the hotel to be honest) as each stage offered a minimum of three bands and here I caught my first band of the festival with The Osiris Club from the UK. An interesting and charismatic art metal band whose faces were adorned with face masks that suitably managed to match their mysterious and eclectic music, where a psychedelic dark art rock was revealed with consummate professionalism. I was unfamiliar with their music and wasn’t too taken by their milder style initially but as their set continued the nuances of their music created swathes of grey scale texture to a virtually monotonic like stage presence. The face wear definitely added that mystique where no faces enable you to focus on the music rather than the characters and gave Inferno 2015 a great start as some beer was in order to celebrate and toast the loss of my Inferno festival virginity.
In total contrast was Brazilian barbarians Patria whose black metal malevolence was unleashed like napalm on the crowd. Their assault on the masses was nothing short of aural Armageddon, where devilish vocal vomiting was balanced with an anarchic war metal approach on songs like “Black Storm Prophecy” and “Far Beyond The Scorn”. With each band member suitably corpse painted they were an ungodly sight as thundering bass lines segued with a primal barrage of incandescent malignancy. The momentum of the band never waned; each tune was a rocketing crescendo of malfeasance that was underpinned by some extraordinarily inhuman drumming speeds throughout the set, which ended far too quickly, as I quickly bought a shirt and a vinyl from the bands merchandise stall at Indie Recordings at a decent price compared to what I expected and matched most gigs I’ve attended in recent years at about £15 for the shirt and vinyl apiece.
Apart from Patria the main reason for staying at the John Dee stage was to catch Norwegian act Blodhemn whose couple of albums have struck a gigantic chord with me in recent months. With little adjustment made to the sound mix, especially the bass, their tunes suffered due to loss of coherence as each instrument bled into the other creating an amorphous sonic disarray which if you weren’t familiar with their stuff would have come across as congealing mud in your ears. However with lots of listening experience taken prior to attending the festival (I revised a lot before this festival) I was able to take in the bands dextrous ferocity when they opened with “Djevelen I Menneskeform” which was followed quickly by “Flammenes Virke”. As my ears attenuated to the sound the melodies were revealed in irreverent heinous glory on “Rettersted” and “Åndenes Ansikt” as the hyper speed attacks were matched by scintillating slower melodic sections as more merchandise was purchased after they had played. It was going to be an expensive trip I could see judging by the quality of the opening day so far.
As I mentioned previously four stages were in operation and the ten minute walk to the Pokalen stage was greeted by a wall of people inside that was baking at over 35ºC inside it felt. Not even my skinny frame could negotiate this venue as I stood at the back and took in the battering notes of Icelandic band Sinmara, who I really did want to see but could only hear (Norwegians are damn tall people). Their music is typically black from some of most Northern parts of our continent, aggressive yet attaining a level of accessibility that is infectious the place literally seethed in waves it felt and meant me cutting my losses and heading to catch Swedish black metal soldiers Naglfar at the Vulkan stage within the same building but upstairs. A sizeable venue this with a large stage and plenty of ability to catch the bands unique brand of deathly black metal that did lack a little in the way of individuality but proceeded to slice chunks off the crowd that had surged in number as Sinmara had finished and resulted in the venue operating a one out one in policy that was strictly adhered to as I decided to leave the venue to get a spot for Taake at another venue, borrowing a festival poster off the wall as I vacated the premises.
Arriving early at the Blå venue heading back towards the starting point meant I was able to catch Norwegian post black sludge rockers Kraków though I watched from the side grabbing a rare sit down in the vibrantly full venue. The band was an enigma musically as softer post rock progressiveness was cemented with some utterly seismic sludge passages that vibrated the venue from top to bottom. Their set was laced with highs and lows of intensity and were in stark disparity to the notorious Norwegians Taake, a band that has played the UK a fair bit. By now the place was absolutely rammed solid and again the one out one in policy was put in place. I managed to get a spot front left before the room became impassable and late arrivals were left stranded in the adjoining bar area. Despite no photopit a few of the late arriving shooters seemed to think that the crowd, who had stood patiently waiting to ensure a good spot should part like the Red Sea to allow them to the front simply because they waved a camera! A recurring theme through the festival it caused some animosity between the crowd during the Taake set resulting in a fracas that soured the mood slightly. Taake hit the stage at 00:50, and from the outset they assaulted the crowd with their aggressive black metal. As one song blended into the next, the unholy hymns relentless in their ferocity yet retaining their melody were poured upon the audience like fluidised brimstone. Hoest was bedecked in corpsepaint atop his beard, all beneath his ever present hood, adding to his menace as he stalked the stage like a deranged lunatic staring at the gathered masses. With his top attire opened revealing an inverted cross daubed onto his abdomen he was the epitome of Norwegian black metal hatred and so ended day one of Inferno and what a day it was.
(Review Martin Harris Photos © Andy Pountney)