Norway’s Inferno Festival is one of the highlights in the gig calendar for me, and this was to be my sixth consecutive pilgrimage to witness an enticing mix of big names rubbing shoulders with the best of the underground from the world of extreme metal. Not surprisingly black metal is heavily represented, but the uninitiated may be surprised to see how much variety is on offer and one of the joys of Inferno for me is discovering new bands.
The festival extends beyond the walls of the venue with the festival taking over a hotel for the duration, creating a real sense of community, with fans and bands alike sitting down together at breakfast, and drinking together in the bar. The usual hotel was closed this year for renovation, and so proceedings had moved to the Scandic St Olav’s hotel. I was a little tentative at first, given how much I had enjoyed the set up at the previous hotel, but the Scandic was every bit as good. There was a warm welcome with a red carpet and flaming torches leading to the door of the hotel, and the Inferno information desk was just inside. There was a spacious central area which had been taken over by a small metal market and wristband exchange area, and would also be the setting for the metal auction and for the planned Abbath interview.
There were also several guest metal DJs who ensured that appropriate tunes were blasted over the hotel’s PA for the duration of the festival. As if that wasn’t enough, the hotel hosted a film festival in its integral cinema, and played host to the beer tasting sessions.
The first night of Inferno is traditionally the “club night”, with an array of talent on display across several venues and this year was no different, with four venues hosting a mouth-watering line up. If I’m honest, this gave me a huge dilemma as each of the line ups contained real gems, but clashes made it impossible to see them all. I was really keen to see Borknagar and Sarkom again, and I was hoping to catch Red Harvest for the first time, not to mention four very tempting bands at the Parkteatret venue. In previous years, I have run between venues to catch the bands I have been most interested in, but alas this year logistics meant it wasn’t going to be possible, and so instead I decided to head to the Parkteatret venue for the Terratur Possessions label showcase and set up camp for the night. Arming myself with Aass Beer from the bar, I found a spot for what I anticipated was going to be an impressive aural assault from all four bands.
The Parkteatret is an old cinema which is now used as a concert venue, and is well suited for this purpose with great sound and a sloping floor, giving a good view of the stage from anywhere on the floor area. Looking at the posters on the wall there are some fantastic gigs up coming at the venue including Wolves in the Throne Room and Panopticon, but back to the matter in hand and the Terratur showcase.
Icelandic/Irish four piece Slidhr got my festival underway with their oppressive mid paced black metal barrage. Opening with the first two tracks from their ‘Spit of the Apostate’ EP (namely the title track and ‘Belief Burned In Incense’) was a really statement of intent and generated a claustrophobic feel in the hall, while maintaining an element of melody which was lapped up by a small but appreciative crowd.
Keeping the international flavour alive, Italy and Sweden combined to bring us Darvaza who have been creating some waves in the underground of late, and I was definitely looking forward to their performance. Wearing the obligatory corpse paint, and splattered with blood, the band created a sinister atmosphere which was matched by their brand of fiery black metal. Coming across as more aggressive than Slidhr, Darvaza were a little more to my personal taste, and I was impressed by their brand of vicious yet melodic black metal.
Trondheim’s Whoredom Rife were my main reason for attending the Terratur Possessions stage tonight, and there was palpable anticipation in the air prior to their set. In Norway, venues close curtains across the stage between bands which works well, as sometimes seeing the stage show and props being set up can ruin the illusion, or at least take away any surprise. As the curtains were drawn back to the ominous chiming of bells, it was apparent that the stage was adorned with goats’ heads and skulls as Whoredom Rife launched into their crushing old school Norwegian black metal, opening with unreleased (except on social media!) track ‘Svik’. The crowd had noticeably swelled for this performance and after a few songs, all were head banging in unison which was a glorious sight to behold. The set flew by at breakneck speed until things were brought to a close with ‘Beyond the Skies of God’ and ‘Gitt til Odin’ which were devastating. As I understand it, Whoredom Rife will be releasing their debut full length Dommedagskvad in May, and that will definitely be worth keeping an eye out for.
And so it fell to Deus Mortem to bring things to a close for the evening. This Polish supergroup has a strong pedigree with members having rotated through Behemoth, Infernal War, Azarath and Tortorum to name but a few. Disappointingly the crowd thinned a little, no doubt drawn to some of the “bigger names” on offer elsewhere in the city, but a dedicated hard core remained and were rewarded with an uncompromising, visceral masterclass in aggressive black metal.
Opening with ‘It Starts to Breathe Inside’ followed by ‘Receiving the Impurity of Jeh’ left the crowd in no doubt what they were about. Both of these are from their 2013 release ‘Emanations of the Black Light’ (although if I recall correctly ‘Receiving the Impurity of Jeh’ was originally available on their 2011 Darknessence EP). They then played their 2016 EP release ‘Demons of Matter and the Shells of the Dead’ in its entirety before mixing things back up again.
As the set drew to a close, I found my way to the merch to pick up as many vinyls and shirts as I could by the bands that had played, as well as a few other gems that reside on this label. Sadly Whoredom Rife had sold out but otherwise I came away with a very satisfying haul after a great opening night.
I headed back to the hotel exhausted, but satisfied and thoroughly looking forward to the remaining three days.
Words and pictures by Andy Pountney