Friday 14th April
Good Friday brought day three of the festival and I couldn’t wait for things to get underway. With things not kicking off until 1730, I had a lie in and then took the opportunity for a bit of a mooch around Oslo and a stroll down to the waterfront amongst the light snow that was falling.
Soon enough, it was time to head towards the venue in time to catch opening band, and competition winners, Vinterblot. This Italian Horde have been in existence since 2008 and have two full lengths under their collective belt, with the most recent ‘Realms of the Untold’ having been released just over a year ago. Their pagan inspired melodic death metal was well received by a decent sized throng who welcomed them as old friends. The band developed a good rapport with the crowd, acknowledging the irony of a band from Italy being called Vinterblot, and also saying they were humbled by the reception. By the time things were brought to a close with ‘Unveiling the Night’s Curtain’ and ‘Evoked by Light’ they had proved themselves worthy competition winners, and definitely worthy of further investigation.
Such was the monstrosity of Vinterblot’s outpouring that it caused the structure and furnishings within John Dee to vibrate so much that my £8 fresh pint of beer flew from a table at the back straight onto the floor!!
Upstairs on the main Rockefeller stage, Insidious Disease were preparing to unleash their rabid brand of death metal. Formed in 2004, Insidious Disease might be considered an extreme metal super-group of sorts, having been formed by Silenoz (Dimmu Borgir) and Jardar (Old Man’s Child) with Tony Laureano (Angelcorpse, Nile) and Shane Embury (Napalm Death, Brujeria, Lock Up) joining shortly after on drums and bass. The original line up was completed by Marc Grewe (previously of German death metal act Morgoth) on vocals.
The crowd was inexplicably relatively small, but the band didn’t seem to notice or care, and proceeded to pulverise anyone within ear shot with their violent, no nonsense death metal and by the time the set came to a close the small crowd had been comprehensively overcome by this insidious disease.
A jaunt downstairs again was called for to experience Diabolus Incarnate’s symphonic black metal. Opening with a powerful combination of ‘Shadow’s Fall’ and ‘Infernal Flames’ got things going nicely and gave the set momentum which built as the set progressed alternating between soaring melody and black metal battery. This tried and tested formula didn’t break any new ground, but was confidently delivered with aplomb and prowess, converting plenty to the cause in the process.
Soon after, Anaal Nathrakh were inciting carnage in the main room, with their distinctive soundtrack to Armageddon, celebrating the tenth anniversary of their first ever international show, which coincidentally was also at Inferno, on the John Dee stage. It didn’t take long for their nihilistic blasting to inspire a trickle of stage divers, which is the first time I’ve ever seen that at the Rockefeller. The band seemed in good mood as Dave Hunt bantered with the crowd in between tracks such as ‘Hold Your Children Tight and Pray for Oblivion’, ‘Depravity Favours the Bold’ and ‘In the Constellations of the Black Widow’, but once the songs kicked in he became a blur of unhinged perpetual motion
Following a cancellation in 2011, Polish Black Metallers Infernal War finally made it to Inferno, on the back of their fantastic last release ‘Axiom’. They played to a capacity crowd and wasted no time in making amends for the long wait, as tracks like ‘Spears of Negation’ were a sledgehammer to the face of those in the front rows. This war machine crushed all in its path and took no prisoners, leaving sweaty pummelled bodies in its wake.
Samael have been around since 1987, and this was to be a 30th anniversary show. As such, the band had promised to play only songs from the first four albums, mixed in with some brand new material. From the outset, the bands pulsating rhythms were hypnotic and the performance was majestic in its elegance with old tracks such as ‘After the Sepulture’ effortlessly rubbing shoulders with brand new tracks such as ‘Rite of Renewal’. The new material was mesmerising, and the new release promises to be something special. From my vantage point, it seemed as though Samuel started with a large proportion of the room casual onlookers, but ended with a room full of devotees such was the power of their performance.
Sludge metal from New Orleans is not something you often find at Inferno, but up next in John Dee were Crowbar, bringing a change of pace and ambience. They were eagerly anticipated and the crowd spilled out of the room onto the corridor area outside with people desperate to get in. I have to admit that their style of music is not my usual cup of tea, but I enjoyed what I heard and they were certainly lapped up by an enthusiastic crowd. I decided to leave early and let someone else have a chance to get in while I grabbed a beer, some merch and a spot for the day’s headliner.
Named after the dead plateau in the Land of Mordor from Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’, Gorgoroth have been spewing forth their satanic black metal since 1992, and during this 25 year tenure have endured numerous line-up changes (including one particular acrimonious split and subsequent legal battle) and controversies, not least the infamous Krakow show.
Infernus remains the only original member and although Atterigner carried out vocal duties on 2015’s ‘instinctus Bestialis’ release, it appears that live vocal duties are still being handled by Hoest, who is keeping himself busy having been on tour in the UK with Taake less than a week prior to this show. This show was billed as a 25th anniversary show, and there was a lot of excitement around the forthcoming performance and speculation about what the stage props might be utilised.
As the curtains parted and the band opened with ‘Bergtrollets Hevn’, it was apparent that although the band members had the obligatory corpse paint, blood and spikes, there was a distinct lack of a stage show or props which many had been eagerly anticipating. That, however, became completely irrelevant as the band proceeded to deliver an unholy racket as Hoest stalked the stage like a rabid lunatic looking every bit the deranged demon.
Every album from the 25 year discography was represented with the exception (not surprisingly – see earlier comment re line-up changes) of ’Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam’. ‘Under the Sign of Hell’ and ‘Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt’ were the most heavily visited with four and three tracks played respectively. The most recent album only had one track ‘Kala Brahman’ played. My personal highlight was the ‘Destroyer’ and ‘Incipit Satan’ combination, but in all honesty the set is best considered as a whole entity rather than evaluating its constituent parts.
Gorgoroth were everything you would expect. They were aggressive and confrontational, while the music was powerful, gnarly and all consuming. This was exactly as black metal was intended to be and for me was easily the best performance of the festival so far. Day four had a tough act to follow…….
Words and pictures by Andy Pountney