I was greeted by clear blue skies on Friday so took the opportunity to take in Oslo’s waterfront and let the hangover clear. The day quickly passed and I soon found myself in the photopit at Rockefeller waiting for Swedish occultists Mephorash. I had been listening to them a lot in the lead up to Inferno and had found an affinity with their brand of black metal. The stage was packed with props including ornate torch flame holders bearing the bands logo and other scripture and of course the obligatory goat head.

The band took to the stage for the first time ever in Norway wearing cloaks and masks with the epic ‘Riphyon – The Tree Of Assiyah Putrescent’ before further mesmerising the crowd with tracks such as ‘Berbirioth – Vandalising the Throne of Atziluth’ and ‘Sfaíra Ti̱s Fo̱tiás’. The dual vocal approach worked well with the two styles being symbiotic helping create a fervent yet hypnotic set. I had wondered whether they might have been better served in the more intimate confines of the John Dee stage but it turns out they were perfectly suited to the big stage and this was certainly a cracking start to the day.

Dutch phenomenon Ulsect were next up, bringing their own soundtrack for Armageddon to John Dee. Having crossover with Dodecahedron  and Textures gives a hint as to Ulsect’s style but doesn’t tell the whole story as they confidently delivered their aggressive yet desolate technical extreme music to a reasonably sized early crowd who responded well to their challenging tomes. Both Dodecahedron and Ulsect introduced themselves to new listeners at this festival and I would say they have gone home having significantly impressed, setting a good foundation for what is to follow.

Having been at Inferno last year as part of the immense Icelandic night, Auðn returned this year having been justifiably promoted to the main stage. Opening with a stunning combination of ‘Veröld Hulin’ and ‘Lífvana jörð’ the dapper Icelanders put the Rockefeller crowd under a spell with their anguished, sweeping black metal. As ‘Haldreipi Hugans’ and ‘Prísund’ washed over the crowd it was hard not to be entranced by their performance, at times battering and uncompromising and at others serene and tranquil, much like the Icelandic landscape from which they hail. By the time the final bars of ‘Þjáning Heillar Þjóðar’ were fading away I felt drained such was the journey I felt I had been on. Suffice to say, I like this band!!

Belgian beasts Wiegedood took things back to full throttle in a beyond capacity John Dee with people desperate to get in to experience their ferocious aural assault. Essentially appearing as silhouettes bathed in red light for the vast majority of the show, Wiegedood were content to let their music do the talking, effortlessly combining melodic interludes with pummelling black metal with ‘Svanesang’ and ‘Ontzieling’ leading the charge. The onslaught was relentless until things were brought to a close with a particularly intense rendition of ‘Onder Gaan’. They tour the UK in May and I urge anyone with an interest in modern day black metal to get to one of the dates. My ticket is already purchased.

Having been around for 20 years, and during that time having cemented a reputation as one of the most consistent technical death metal bands in the business, it was almost unthinkable that this was Origin’s first time at Inferno. However, determined to make up for lost time, they were soon mauling the front rows with wave upon wave of brutality as Jason Keyser on vocals energetically stomped around the stage, while between songs he was clearly in a good mood, reflecting on the fact they were “supporting” Emperor and generally chatting with the crowd. They got some decent sized pits going and went down well with those at the front, but if I am being honest it did seem as though their brutal death metal divided opinion within the Inferno faithful and the crowd thinned a little during their time.

Bringing about a definite change of pace, Earth Electric took to the John Dee stage as an unknown quantity to many attendees who could be overheard chatting, not knowing what to expect. They were perhaps drawn by the involvement of Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen, who has previously had involvement with Mayhem, Aura Noir and Ava Inferi. This was however a completely different proposition and is much more based around a 70s rock sound with hints of prog and doom in the mix. The main vocals are provided by front woman Carmen Simões (also with Ava Inferi) who was the main focal point for the band’s live show with her flamboyant stage presence. As good a show as Earth Electric were putting on, and as enjoyable as their sublime melodies were, the draw of Emperor playing next in the main room was too much for many to resist and the crowd began to thin as their performance moved on.

Today, and perhaps the whole festival for some, was all about the mighty Emperor returning to Inferno to celebrate the ‘Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk’ opus from 1997 by playing it in full. The air was heavy with anticipation and Rockefeller was fuller than I have ever seen it to the point that moving around was virtually impossible. The lights dimmed as the instrumental intro ‘Alsvartr (The Oath)’ played culminating in the immortal spoken words….“O’Nightspirit! I am at one with thee. I am the eternal power…..” The crowd had reached fever pitch and were louder than the PA as they roared the closing words “…..I am the Emperor!”.

What followed was a faithful rendition of this black metal masterpiece, no frills just allowing the music to speak for itself. ‘Thus Spake the Nightspirit’ and ‘The Loss and Curse of Reverence’ were obvious highlights but to be honest it is better to consider the album and set as a whole rather than breaking it down into constituent parts. Following the album, there was a short “greatest hits” section with ‘Curse You All Men!’, ‘The Majesty of the Nightsky’, ‘I am the Black Wizards’ and ‘Inno a Santana’ bringing things to a fitting close. Majestic, Epic, Stunning…..there are so many superlatives that could be used to describe this performance. It had the air of a special event, no doubt helped by being in a relatively small venue rather than at a huge festival, and effectively on home soil. I am honoured that I was there to experience it.

It goes without saying that whoever followed Emperor were going to have a tough job, but Necrophobic smashed it to an absolutely rammed John Dee. Opening with ‘Mark of the Necrogram’, their unholy blackened death metal pounded those in attendance with raw aggression as ‘The Crossing’ and ‘Before the Dawn’ continued the steam-rolling. Clad in leather and spikes, the Swedes exuded a malevolent presence during their set with tracks such as ‘Nailing the Holy One’ and particularly ‘Blinded by Light, Enlightened by Darkness’ being absolute beasts. Necrophobic were far more venomous than I recalled from previous encounters and this was definitely the most potent performance I have ever seen from them.

And so it fell to Fleshgod Apocalypse to close a momentous day. Taking to the stage at 00:15, the crowd had (thankfully!) thinned somewhat but was still respectable for Fleshgod’s classical death metal outpourings. Their bombastic and symphonic style stands them apart from many of their peers, yet they manage to stay uncompromisingly heavy. Veronica’s vocals were more prominent than I recalled to great effect as they ran through a flawless, polished performance. The remaining crowd were enthusiastic with a decent pit, a wall of death and a crowd surfer and as tracks such as ‘The Fool’ washed over me, what else could I do but grab (another) pint and bang my head.
Since the festival, I have heard that Fleshgod had their gear stolen in Gothenburg a few nights later. In true metal fashion, they are pressing on, but while we hope they are reunited with their equipment soon, maybe pop over to their website and pick up a shirt to help them out a little?

So, day two was over and there had been some truly special performances. The remaining two days had a lot to live up to, but with a mouth watering line up still to come I was sure I would not be disappointed.

Review And Photos Andy Pountney

Part 3