Saturday began with a lie in and a late breakfast before exploring Oslo a little more with a few beers along the way before returning to the hotel for the metal auction. As usual, this was hosted by Tore Bratseth with rare gems from Immortal, Bathory, Dark Angel, Kreator, Coroner, Satyricon, Darkthrone and Burzum amongst others, alongside more curious items such as a photo of Old Funeral and Black Adder (Actually a cardboard cut out in a video store!) and a boot leather wing used by Abbath during shows in the 1990s. It was fun hearing the background of some of these items and I bid on a few but didn’t go crazy having already stretched my budget at Neseblod and Katakomben records, as well as frequent trips to the merch stall during previous days at the festival.
All too soon it was time to return to Rockefeller for another sold out day, looking forward to a varied line up and of course a headlining set by Satyricon. First up were Nordjevel who had played the John Dee stage in 2016, but this year have been promoted to the main stage and wasted no time levelling a big crowd with their no nonsense black metal complete with the obligatory corpsepaint, leather and spikes. They opened with ‘Into Ever Deeper Depths’ and then ‘Funeral Smell’ which if I recall correctly was when the first of their percussive pyros nearly took the heads off everyone in the photopit! Further pyros and flames followed adding to the atmosphere as they blasted through their set including a dramatic finishing combination of ‘Djevelen I Nord’ and ‘Norges Sorte Himmel’. All in all this was a very accomplished set, with Nordjevel achieving that fine balance between melody and aggression.
UK black metal buccaneers Necronautical were up next and having been impressed by their melodic blackened melodies at last years Warhorns festival I was looking forward to this set. Initially taking to a candlelit stage, they were soon bathed in red light which stayed with them as they delivered gems such as ‘Oceanus Procellarum’ and ‘Pure Moon’ with a confidence and professionalism that stands them above so many of their peers. If Necronautical continue on this trajectory then should have a big future ahead of them.
There was a change of pace next on the main stage as Bergen’s Krakow took to the boards with their misery infused melodies straddling the line between post rock and stoner. Having just returned from a tour of the US, Germany and Switzerland, the band gave a shout out to “familiar faces”, before announcing a return to older tracks with ‘Omen’. At this point, I was thinking to myself that although this is not my usual cup of tea, I was enjoying their set, but ultimately it all became a little too plodding and although I appreciated the musicianship of closing tracks ‘Mark of Cain’ and ‘Mound’ I retreated to the bar.
There was more musical variety downstairs in the form of Portugal’s Sinistro. Fronted by the enigmatic Patrícia Andrade the band delivered a passionate, mesmerising performance of hard to define ‘dark art rock’. Patricia looked tormented and anguished as she writhed and jerked on stage creating a disturbing image which was perhaps a little too much and distracted from the music. However, musically this was a show of force as the hypnotic, haunting melodies washed over a small but dedicated crowd. In my notebook I wrote “good show”. I then crossed this out and wrote “actually really good” next to it. That probably says enough.
Memoriam should need no introduction, and I am sure that anyone who has read the review this far will be aware that Memoriam arose from the ashes of the now disbanded legendary Brummie war machine Bolt Thrower, with members from Bolt Thrower, Cerebral Fix and Benediction making up the new group. The entertainment for me began during the soundcheck “Check, Check ….. the cheque is in the post”. Perhaps it’s just my Brummie background but this amused me as the Norwegians around me all looked bemused! Opening with ‘War Rages On’ and then ‘Dronestrike’ set the tone for their no nonsense, old school rhythmic death metal. ‘Reduced to Zero’ continued the offensive before Karl took time out to dedicate the next track to his Mum, explaining that it was about dementia. Opening himself up to the crowd with these personal anecdotes was brave but served to increase the bond as ‘Nothing Remains’ blasted from the PA. ‘Resistance’ kept the momentum going and by this point the floor or Rockefeller had become a turbulent sea of flailing hair which was a glorious sight from my elevated position at the side of the venue. Karl continued his explanation of songs by talking about racism and equality before ‘Bleed the Same’. It was clear that it wasn’t a capacity crowd but those that had remained were passionate about the music and there was a good atmosphere in the hall. Things were finally brought to a close with a blistering version of older track ‘Flatline’.
Again I descended the stairs to John Dee, this time for a big helping of Swedish Death Metal courtesy of Vanhelgd. Taking to a stage illuminated with lanterns, they wasted no time launching into ‘Dödens Maskätna Anlete’. Putting it simply, this was a barbaric attack of aggressive death metal of the highest order, which not even a broken snare drum could hamper. ‘The Salt in My Hands’ and ‘Ett Liv I Träldom’ brought things to a close leaving the crowd a few minutes to catch their breath before another change of pace upstairs.
Having conquered Inferno the previous evening with Emperor, Ihsahn returned with his alter-ego blackened prog band. Greeted by a huge roar from a capacity crowd, things opened with ‘Lend Me the Eyes of Millenia’ and ‘Arcana Imperii’ (both from the yet to be released Àmr album) demonstrating that perfect mix between melody and aggression. Before long, Ihsahn reflected on the fact they were back playing in Norway before ‘My Heart is of the North’. A stunning ‘Frozen Lake on Mars’ kept momentum going before the set was brought to a saxophone augmented ‘A Grave Inversed’ and ‘The Grave’. This was a dynamic performance that brought a great variety of styles and a compelling display of musicianship, and the band thoroughly deserved the accolade from the crowd.
I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Ahab, and having read before the festival that they are “German funeral doom” I wasn’t particularly looking forward to them, not being a fan of that genre. However, to ensure that every band at the festival was covered in the review, I headed downstairs expecting the worst but trying to stay open minded. It goes without saying that Ahab were oppressively heavy but there were also well placed melodic sections and the whole experience felt cathartic. Much to my surprise I was impressed and headed to the merch stand to buy some CDs.
Satyricon need no introduction having risen to the highest echelons of extreme metal over recent years with stellar studio releases and outstanding live shows. Yet again the sold out venue was uncomfortably full as ‘Midnight Serpent’ opened the show, before a prophetic ‘Our World, It Rumbles Tonight’ shook the foundations of the building. ‘Black Crow on a Tombstone’ ensured there was no let up in intensity and this live favourite never fails to impress. I have seen Satyricon many times now over the years, and already this was shaping up to be something special. As ‘Repined Bastard Nation’ had the crowd singing along fervently it occurred to me that Satyricon are a powerful force in the live environment and that in one sense, their studio recordings don’t really do them justice. ‘The Wolfpack’ and ‘Now, Diabolical’ kept the baying masses satisfied while a giant Finnish Hagrid look alike took up a vantage point right behind me and kept screaming for ‘Mother North’. In due course, this anthem was of course aired and was truly majestic, promoting the biggest singalong of the festival so far. (Incidentally my Finnish friend left the venue within thirty seconds of his requested track starting!). A triumphant encore followed, culminating in ‘Fuel for Hatred’ and ‘K.I.N.G.’ leaving the Inferno crowd completely satisfied as they headed out into the cold Norway night heading back to the hotel.
Review And Photos Andy Pountney