Day Four – Saturday 4th April
Taking a short tour with my shooter around some of the records shops in Oslo could have been fatalistic to our finances but we restrained and took some more silly photos amid the piles of snow still intact in the Norwegian spring sunshine. As consolation but also due to the prices we bought a few records each as a whole slew of essential acts awaited in the evening as day four loomed with IXXI on the John Dee at 5.30PM. I hadn’t really investigated this band much prior to attending the festival but I certainly will now as they started the final day in grim fashion with mid tempo black metal. With faces suitably decorated the bands take on the scene was a little different offering some crust like filth to their auditory offensive as on “Glory, Pride, Satan, Death”. The Swedes had some work to do to convince the audience and slowly but surely they dragged the gathering throng into their way of thinking as some of the riffing took on a distinctly thrashy feel but must see band Secrets Of The Moon beckoned for a good spot so off I went. Luckily obtaining a table via my shooter’s partner, a security guy came over and I wondered what the hell we had done. As it turned out he was the height of professionalism and politeness and kindly told us to be wary of people behind us when they are drunk if we stand up so that we didn’t end up making some spectacular balcony dive with dire consequences.
This German band was highly anticipated by many as the Rockefeller stage filled up very quickly awaiting their melodious melancholia. With an air of mystique shrouding the band they took to the stage like a ghostly apparition, almost unannounced as their paganistic blackness cast a veritable umbra over the crowd. With velvety melodies being sprinkled from the instrumentation the drums cut deeply into the mix. The tempos were funereal at times, ritualistic as the bass work on “Lucifer Speaks” was epic, possessing a mercurialness unheard by other bands, they captured a sense of abject despondency throughout their set. Oppressive sombreness on “Man Behind The Sun” was uplifted by clean vocalisations which could have been differentiated better when the powering drums blanketed them. As before time is at premium and more importantly so is standing space real estate so with some reticence yet with keenness I vacated to experience the grubbier escapades of impending Swiss horde Deathcult.
The sound for these guys was ridiculously low and the proverbial aural bludgeoning that exuded from the stage by this band was robbed of any subtleties. The obliteration that emanated from the guys instruments was nothing short of decibel warfare as the ultra dense sound was tectonic in every respect and if Secrets Of The Moon were the sound track to your own funeral then Deathcult were the soundtrack to your own disinterment and reanimation to wreak sonic pandemonium on an unsuspecting horde of fans. The band was cold-blooded auditory murder as their cataclysmic songs continually mugged the audience with massive tempo shifts and an explosion of grinding bedlam close to the likes of old Terrorizer, Repulsion and Nausea. The doom death insertions were cavernous, huge cliff dropping antitheses that created an landslide of boulder infested noise as I left the bands gutter slugging racket to get ready for Norwegian band Kampfar who were making a much requested return visit to Inferno.
Arriving at the Rockefeller stage via buying Deathcult merchandise and a beer of course, it’s only money anyway, a great number of people had already assembled with obviously more knowledge about Kampfar than I had though their last album “Djevelmakt” is an album I’ve enjoyed listening to a fair few times prior to seeing them here. Opening with a folk like almost ceremonial initiation they blasted into life with “Mylder” from the aforementioned album with an incendiary detonation followed by flame cannons from all sorts of angles to an enthralled crowd. I could see why they had gathered early. Smoke floated from the stage like an incandescent miasma as a cloaked person arrived onstage to play a very long wind like instrument. The enigmatic Dolk on vocals had the masses eating out of his hand from the moment he opened his mouth and proceeded to swirl his head at every opportunity galvanising the crowd to sing, bellow, raise fists and horns and every other cliché at a metal show. The continuation of fire, flame and sorcery as eerie keyboards created breathing space for the songs and catalysed the explosions of speed that often followed. 30 minutes into a 50 minute set meant again having to cut my losses as I knew that Slagmaur, also from Norway were going to be a big draw in the smaller John Dee room, and I was right.
Slagmaur was one of those bands you either loved or hated and on this occasion I wanted to love them but just couldn’t. The crowd was compressed into the room as their set started with some narration in Norwegian than seemed to last a while before arriving on stage wearing various masks as people continually shouted at the band. The singer carried a book in his hand as their set opener was virtually instrumental and preferred to stalk the stage looking menacing in their stage wear. As the singer started his performance he virtually sermonised the audience using the book as a prop as most were adulation for the band. With a ton of effects being ingrained into the tunes their music seemed amorphous, lacking cohesion and any sort of direction, which was probably the sole objective. Much of their set was about experiential intensity, with the songs building then relaxing in great inhalations and exhalations of malevolence as at one point the bassist was throwing cellophane wrapped shirts into the crowd. Weird would be doing a disservice to that word as this band was beyond that, mystifying and distinctly oddball their threnodial music was suffused with drama and texture.
The prospect of watching Dødheimsgard on the main stage filled me with trepidation and anticipation equally, their albums are often circus like in arrangement, with variable histrionics thrown at the listener. Sitting on the first balcony they started their show with a short intro as the five piece band took to their positions and I admired their backdrop. The industrial black insanity indeed was what I got with a vocalist who liked to flex his larynx with a multitude of noises. Their set was a kaleidoscope of musical passages from all out blackened rancidness within “Oneiroscope” and “Traces of Reality” which blended together from a very early release to the 13 minute plus duration of newer song “God Protocol Axiom” as the vocalist with a suitably decorated face moaned and groaned through it. More accessible was “Bluebell Heart”, an earlier composition from 1996 it had a post metal like feel but with injections of pace being used to decent effect, but again not entirely my musical beer of choice and more polite than a friend of mine who said they were shit I descended the steps to the John Dee stage.
Italian ghouls Mortuary Drape, whose records I had seen in the Neseblod shop a few days earlier meant I kicked myself repeatedly for not buying them after watching their show. “The Hiss” opened their show as an intro piece followed by the guys floating onto the stage like apparitions launching into “Lithany”. With a makeshift lectern the singer looked every bit the zombie priest reading the last rites to a crowd of eagerly awaiting sacrificial victims as the band played their namesake song. Their music was soaked in the slime and grime of age old musty black metal harking back to the 90s, where mould ridden antiquated putrescence within stripped bare blackened filth drenched the audience on “Who Calls Me”. Their music was like sonic narcoses as I watched intrigued the guys all cloaked laid waste to the John Dee stage and even though the room was malodorously warm the only thing missing was the place being as a cold as an underground crypt. With the guys unceremoniously lashing and flogging the crowd on “Obsessed With Necromancy” and “1600 Gnostic Year” a masochistic like perversion gleamed cadaverously from the singer relishing the adulation that was heaped upon the band and deservedly so as I took my leave during “Dreadful Discovery” to await the days headliner but also to hope that some Mortuary Drape merchandise had been put out, but sadly it hadn’t.
Death metal supergroup Bloodbath has parted ways with Mikael Åkerfeldt on vocals to be replaced by Old Nick (Holmes) of Paradise Lost, and sceptically when I heard this and was to review their latest album I was very cynical indeed but as it turns out Old Nick did a fine job on “Grand Morbid Funeral”. Garbed in what looked like a monk’s habit and with blood tears daubed onto his bearded face he looked a deathly sight and with a voice to match as the band opened with “Let The Stillborn Come To Me” from said recent opus that lead straight into “Mental Abortion” which was guttural, possessing a disembowelling sound that threatened to implode the torso. Announcing that the next tune, “As You Die”, was one he didn’t sing on so ‘don’t judge me’ as he stated, was unnecessary as he did a fine job alongside the band executing the audience with its slow pulverising beat initially before picking up the tempo. At one point it looked as though Nick’s microphone had packed up and was berating someone backstage as he wandered off stage and finished the vocal from behind a curtain like the wizard of oz. The utterly pulverising “Breeding Death” and personal favourite “Anne” from the new album were like an avalanche of molten lead teemed onto an audience that lapped up every molecule. It was quite obvious that the attendance for watching Bloodbath had depleted compared to the other headliners of the festival but in no way overshadowed their grisly performance of “Cancer Of The Soul” or “Soul Evisceration” as Nick continually harassed the crowd to raise their fist or horns at every opportunity which they did of course. With my energy levels waning and money virtually out I decided my run at Inferno was done and proceeded to call it a day during “Like Fire” as I and my shooter were eagerly awaiting “Eaten” which was played two songs later I found out, damn it.
With four days of some of the most potent bands on the planet playing and some saying the line up wasn’t as good as previous years I was left with a smug feeling of self satisfaction watching a raft of underground band gems that will retain in my grizzled memory until I fade from this mortal coil. As a festival it was perfectly organised in every aspect and not a single band that I saw started late or overplayed during the four days which is some achievement in itself and if you’ve never been then save up and get yourself there before it becomes so massive that obtaining tickets will be like getting golden tickets in Willy Wonka chocolate bar. Many I suspect are put off by Norway’s prices but the festival can be done with a cheap flight, the hotel and ticket and a fest shirt and buying some ale and grub in a supermarket which I didn’t do but I know lots did to curb the expenditure. I shall return in 2016 without any shadow of a doubt.
(Review Martin Harris Photos © Andy Pountney)