Wednesday 23rd March 2016.
I can’t believe a year has passed since my inaugural visit to this festival in 2015. Monitoring the band announcements over the year still gives me an air of excitement especially on the undercard slots which more often than not are packed with top quality underground metal bands that favour the blacker side of extreme metal overall and it is that aspect that thrills me the most. With my shooter already in Norway I hit the road to catch the flight to Oslo from Manchester with no hiccups on the journey and arrived at the Christiana Hotel in great time to relax for a little while before implementing the plan of action discussed during a beer prior to commencing battle. Dubbed the club night Wednesday’s bands were scattered over five venues, so analysing their locations and who was playing where meant the shooter and I had constructed plans A, B and C as the venues can get rammed and closed if capacity is reached.
We started at the Sentralen venue which was a rather snazzy little venue in what looked like an old bank to witness Norwegian black metal band Flukt. Very few people were present for their show initially as they created a maelstrom of black noise that was tinged with retro authentic iciness that came across as familiar but was delivered with considerable power as Inferno got off to a flying start. So with merch obtained time was upon me for the second phase of day one.
With plan A in force I headed to the John Dee stage, located under the Rockefeller venue, to witness the pummelling assault of Vredehammer that was bass dominated for a lot of their set and rendered some of their intricacies completely dead. “Spawn Tyrant” from the new album “Violator” punched the audience who were rather lethargic in their response to the bands brand blackened death metal tyranny. As time was rolling on it was time to hit the road again and venture to the Vulkan venue that also housed the Pokalen stage (or Pokemon as one of our party preferred to call it) purely to gather some merch for bands playing there (Psycroptic for myself as I was catching them in Manchester on return from Inferno and some stuff from Hetroertzen for my shooter) which clashed with our main plan of attack. With merch bought and bagged the five minute leisurely walk to the Blå stage was pleasant in the chilly Oslo air as we walk through an area that appeared to be a film set and posed for cheesy photos on a pile of snow, as you do.
The Blå stage was acting as a Dark Essence Records showcase, to catch a quadruplet of fearsome black metal carnage that began with Bergen beasts Orkan. My pre-festival investigations had this act very high on my list as they opened with a lengthy intro before unleashing an avalanche of drums in the sound which was pulverising but mixed into their musicianship with considerable aplomb. The ferocious guitar work was equally intoxicating as their set varied from thundering terror to more poignant potency with alluring guile. The guitarist in this band was exemplary; the contortions in style created an aural landscape adorned with colossal dynamics and became one of the best bands at the festival for me personally, as I quickly headed to their merch (so did my shooter) to buy a shirt and their CDs (no vinyl for these unfortunately).
Greek band Lucifer’s Child didn’t ignite me on pre-fest listening so my expectations weren’t as high for them as they stalked the stage with “Spirits Of Amenta” amid a cloud of smoke from incense burners. Their progressive approach wasn’t as well received as Orkan and the depletion in audience numbers whilst watching them showed I wasn’t alone in my thoughts. Fusing intelligent blackness with doom is not new but here there was a clumsiness in their delivery that caused the flow and cohesion of songs like “He, Who Punishes and Slays” and “King Ov Hell” to feel disjointed and clamouring for an aural foothold. Things did improve with their namesake song and “True Mayhem” but the damage was done unfortunately as I retreated to the bar and sat down to absorb a couple, or was that a few, beers.
What I didn’t realise in my pre-fest band revision was that Norwegian nihilists The 3rd Attempt was the band formed by Tchort and Blood Pervertor when they left Carpathian Forest, and rounded out by Tybalt (Den Saakaldte) and Ødemark (ex-Midnattsvrede) on drums and vocals respectively. My reference to Carpathian Forest should give an indication to the formula the band unveiled when they started a little late on a stage fitted out with various adornments including a pentagram constructed from barbed wire and barbed wire stretched across front of stage which was effective. The sonic expectorant that gushed forth from the band was incendiary and purulent on the opener “Torment Nation” and whilst the performance was a tad clichéd the virulence of songs like “Beast Within” and “Firestorm” was contagious as I noticed that Ødemark had barbed wire wrapped around his right forearm. His variation in tone from larynx damaging screeches to more sombre spoken passages added considerable texture to the bands detonating tunes. There was a black ‘n’ roll aspect too that added immense amounts of melody yet still serving up rancid black metal viciousness on “Sons of The Winter”. With rotating room syndrome developing I took the opportunity to gain a seat as opposed to gravity providing it without warning it was a trip to the merch area (you’ve probably got an idea of the pattern involved now) where the last bits of merch were snapped up as the last shirt for The 3rd Attempt was grabbed by my shooter and we both grabbed the last bits of Mistur merch it seemed as well in a pre-emptive strike.
I didn’t think The 3rd Attempt could be usurped in terms of stage charisma but fellow Norwegians Mistur were equally mesmerising and bookended with Orkan as being the best bands of the evening. Mistur were nothing short of staggering as their opulent epic compositions towered above the whole evening’s entertainment. Dynamic and oozing a magisterial quality their set was transfixing as clean vocals sat with harsh emanations throughout the set hinting at a Borknagar feel. The symphonic texturing was exquisite and subtly done allowing all the instruments to reveal a ceremonial radiance. Noticeably the crowd numbers had depleted for their show, which I assumed was people wanting to catch Exodus at the Vulkan stage. As I watched in awe I completely forgot to write down the songs they were playing as I was too busy keeping my eyes and ears firmly on the bands show, though the constant flashing lights was annoying and gave me a damn headache as they finished their set, I think, with “Attende”, a gargantuan sonic journey that closed their performance brilliantly and closed off a fantastic evening of music on the first day of Inferno 2016.
Words: MARTIN HARRIS
Photos: ANDY POUNTNEY