DAY THREE: SATURDAY
Day three was to be much less frantic as I started with the usual bus ride that included a test by the bus driver in my pronunciation of the bus stop we were to get off at, which caused much amusement to the driver and some other passengers, as the driver explained that the name of where we were getting off meant church on a slope. Great trivia! Before the music I had decided to attend the seminar titled ‘From Satan To Odin – The Many Roots Of Metal’ by Harald Fossberg that was held in the Midgarsblot Historisk Center Auditorium. The auditorium was pretty much filled as the seminar covered the roots of metal into extreme metal and if I’m really honest it didn’t tell me much I didn’t know already though Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) was in attendance and did a short stint sat down in promotion of the bands upcoming album “E” due out later this year.
With such a gorgeous day I headed down to the Viking games area and sat on the grass to watch the feats of strength and in particular our very own Andy Pountney as he got involved in the knockout bouts of tug of war plus a try against The Troll. The first of these can be seen here and if you keep playing more bouts should follow
There was also competition involving a large sheet of material where five or six people grabbed hold and tried to make the others let go which was hilarious but extremely serious too as Andy got through to the finals by being presented with a stone. The finals were to be held in front of the main stage at 4pm so more of that later.
With bands due to start it was time for Andy to dust himself down and grab his gear and get a spot for Sahg. For some reason Sahg has completely passed me by and I’ve no idea why as their pumping doom rock on the main stage was laced with upbeat riffing and rousing lead breaks. My familiarity with their songs may be zero but one thing I do know is that the opening song had the guitar solo from Thin Lizzy’s “Emerald” in the middle of it, but I wonder if anyone else realised it. At times their music reminded me of Grand Magus, with that fist pumping rousing anthemic style as the vocalist announced “Black Unicorn” as the next track which began with a despondent riff and eerily delivered vocals that developed into dual vocals that were very effectively executed. “Pyromancer” followed as I noted that I needed to check out this bands back catalogue pronto as yet again the sun gloriously beat down on the festival, and some people call me the weather gremlin because it rains all the time wherever I go.
After such a good start to the day with Sahg, the same cannot be said of Synkvervet whose symphonic metal was very confused. With dual male and female vocals Christina spent most of the time flouncing about the stage with her arms waving slowly as her operatic tone didn’t suit the music which was dense and brutal of its own accord and I enjoyed in its own right. Much of the sound was backing track as well which I find irritating in bands these days as the band had to start one of their songs again because someone made a mistake. The songs veered from one idea to another and lacked cohesion though without doubt the band can play as I decided to have a wander and get myself a beer and check out the shops and merch area.
With 4pm approaching it was finals time and Mr Pountney was involved in those finals which involved a preliminary match up of boys versus girls within a circled area that saw the girls placed in the middle facing outwards. The boys also face outwards on outer edge of the circle with their backs to the girls and as the referee shouted go the modus operandi was to push each other out of the circle. Andy survived so was through the final that was a repeat of the event holding the sheet of material like before all in front of the main stage. The competition was fierce to say the least and lasted a good three minutes or more which you can watch in the video using the link provided. Whilst not the overall winner he put on a valiant effort good show including a brutal somersault at one point and no injuries by any competitor
After the finals of the strength contents and some liquid solace I was very keen to see Oranssi Pazuzu from Finland, a band I’d heard only in name. However possibly the most fussy and pretentious band of the festival they took an inordinate time to set up and eventually started 15 minutes late that meant they had 15 minutes less on stage, but once they started the eruption of energy was volcanic as their music blasted out like obsidian psychedelia under the fiery sun. Standing near the front the intensity was incalculable as each guitarist had a different sound to the other in a controlled cacophonous onslaught. The keyboardist was deranged hinting at a style similar to guys in the 70s as he raged at his keyboards and ran his hands across the keys frenziedly. Underpinning this dementedness was black metal riffing and vocals as the raucous riffing which had a feral black rawness. Quite where one song ended and another started is anybody’s guess as keyboardist had an extended section distorting notes before the other guys filtered back in as the set came across as being improvised. Tech issues arose for the stage right guitarist who left the stage as the remaining part of their set became a discordant amalgamation hurtling towards ebonized sonic oblivion, almost like a black metal Hawkwind if you can imagine that.
Aura Noir stood as the only thrash outfit of the festival who were also late on stage, as the three piece mauled the audience with short rabid blackened thrash tracks with about as much subtlety as gargling on battery acid. “Sons Of Hades”, “Fed To The Flames” and “Deep Tracts Of Hell” did a fine job in battering the crowd with Venom and Motörhead inspired filth as the Slayer like “Destructor” sliced into crowd. The band was workman like, hacking into the audience with stabbing riffs and snapping drum work which in some respects was a little tedious and repetitive.
I decided that if I wanted to see Folket Bortafor Nordavinden in the Gildehallen I’d best get in there early which proved to be wise decision. As a three piece the main guy made the audience cheer as though they’re the best band in the world at least three times before playing anything. With the band having played numerous times already during the festival it was explained that they rarely know what will happen as they started with vocals only. Percussion was added and Ingrid, from Songleikr, joined them on stage and was magnificent. She had the audience completely in the palm of her hand, clapping when she asked as the song was improvised and intensified. Her voice was compelling as she swung her hair about animatedly, not head banging as such bringing the song to a close with much cheering. That was supposed to be the end of the 20 minute set but they stayed to do something else as the main guy started jumping about and he got the crowd to chant Freja which was surreal. Some guy stood on a table at the back, some woman who was on crutches suddenly ditched them then it suddenly ended and we all buggered off.
I must admit I was looking forward to Finland’s Moonsorrow more than any other band of this weekend and they did not disappoint. The step up in quality was colossal the moment they walked on stage and started and with only 60 minutes it was possible I might get a handful of songs or maybe just two. Daubed in red and black paint they looked impressive and for a change everything was played by the band, no backing track, as they opened with “Jumalten Aika” the title track of the bands last album from where most songs were taken for their set. Few bands have such an aura as Moonsorrow as the choral vocal harmonies were breath-taking as you could see people awestruck at the front where I was stood. I had goose bumps and I get them rarely at live shows these days as the band paused after the epic opener to tell the audience that they don’t have songs about Vikings but they do have a song about wolves and launched into “Suden Tunti”. I stood mesmerised watching Moonsorrow forgetting I was reviewing them, as the band dedicated the next song to the crowd which I think was “Raunioilla” and contained a brilliant pagan vocal piece and whilst I usually loathe the whole woah vocal thing it really works with Moonsorrow’s music as the band engaged with the crowd, completely immersing themselves into the show as the song dropped into a wonderful lone guitar piece before some clichéd Judas Priest like guitar posing as they came to the front of the stage. As the set approached its close the singer said “what if I said it’s the last song”, which it could have been even if it was 20 minutes to go. He followed by saying “I know it’s a burial ground but make some fucking noise” which we did and they played “Sankaritarina”. Moonsorrow were truly awesome, their presence and dynamics were unparalleled over the weekend and were one of the best bands I’ve seen in 2017 as their set came to an all too quick an end.
Heilung were a whole new proposition to me, and reading the information in the program it told me that the ‘sounds of Northern European iron age and Viking period soundscapes are created from samples of reconstructed swords, shields, ancient frame drums, bronze rings and human bones’. Watching the stage set up unfold I was curious and a little bemused as to what this would entail as the stage became ever more complex and intricate which you will see in the photos more than I can describe in words here. Added to that is the number of personnel that initially consisted of five people dressed in various intricately decorated and very different costumes. The set started with the five members standing in a circle holding hands with smoke being wafted towards the crowd, and as the circle broke a horn sounded and a vocal chant started that triggered some percussion by one of the other members who returned to the rear of the stage. As the performance was underway lots of people started to arrive in the audience also dressed up for the occasion as more instrumentation was added to the unfolding mix which was gathering momentum when suddenly one of the stage members howled like a wolf that was immediately imitated by the audience in waves. There was an obvious clash of cultures going on here much like acts such as Wardruna as the stage became invaded by people sporting spears and shields. The lady wearing white antlers had an exceptional voice though whether it was effect laden I am not sure as her tones were echoic but well suited to the tribal like intent of the music. The spear wielders were coated in mud or paint and came forward as the music’s ritualistic and percussive texture was hypnotic and if I closed my eyes and ignored the visual spectacle I quite enjoyed it. The spear wielders came forward to another platform so the audience could see them better and they did look very cool and intimidating as the music had took on an industrial edge due to the percussion and at one point there was an almost trance like beat that was very effective as I decided to head into Gildehallen to catch Lamia Vox to make sure I got in based on previous experiences with that venue.
The image Lamia Vox in the program was one that appealed to me, brooding and mystical I was expecting a set of dark ambient music in subdued lighting. Arriving in the venue, Lamia Vox was having some issues with the sound, not the first artist to have problems in there, as she had a lap top and various electronics at her disposal for the set. The photographers were sat on the floor as usual as by now the set was late starting. I’ve seen a few artists delving into the dark ambient and also the synthwave scene and as the set started there was a hefty delay in her vocal which was effective but the whole set came across as doing karaoke to your own songs. The gothic look was fine and it was clear there were sound issues and she was doing her best as the music had an industrial touch but wasn’t for me so I cut my losses and went for stroll to the nearest bar.
On paper I thought Týr headlining the mainstage on the final night was a weak decision but I was plainly wrong as they were perfect. I’ve seen the Faroese band a few times before but like Sólstafir the previous night the setting was great and again it wasn’t raining, as the bands intro permeated the cool night air. As the trio came on stage to a cheer their anthemic riffing was absorbed by the crowd that had thinned quite a bit unfortunately, as the drums swirled amid their charismatic choral vocals that were truly magisterial throughout their set. The energy that flowed from the band was palpable during “Blood Of Heroes” as they instilled the crowd with a new lease of life that encouraged people to dance and jig. A party atmosphere was generated with a song like “By The Sword In My Hand” as I saw people linking arms and dancing around each other fully immersed in their own little shindigs as even in our own little group I stopped writing notes, hence the lack of song titles and enjoyed the set as the soaring harmony vocals blanketed the crowd. I must admit I was taken aback at how thunderous yet melodic Týr came across during their set and their set of 60 minutes was perfect, distilled down into pure energised mirth and was a fantastic band to finish the main stage with.
Part of me wants the festival to expand, yet I also don’t want it to, as the location is so intimate that to make it any larger would spoil the aura and atmosphere that made it singularly so distinct. Suffice to say this festival isn’t purely about bands, encapsulating a myriad of experiences that you can tailor to your own desires and I for one will be returning in 2018 that is a certainty.
PROSE: MARTIN HARRIS
PHOTOGRAPHY: ANDY POUNTNEY