Easter Sunday brought the fourth and final day of this year’s Inferno Festival, and another sold out day with a mouthwatering line up was in store. Norwegian black metal band Djevel got the evening underway and they wasted no time delivering their unholy sermons to the gathered congregation (end of Easter puns I promise!). They were uncompromising in their approach and delivery (which should be no surprise given the pedigree of the band members) with my personal highlight being a crushing ‘Her er ikke spor af mennesker’ from the recently released album ‘Blant Svarte Graner’. This was an impressive start to the day and set the bar high for those who followed.

I grabbed a beer and made my first foray of the day to the John Dee stage for competition winners Empyreal. The room quickly filled and the throng was rewarded with a vitriolic ‘Meant to Cease’ as the Germans delivered a set of solid blackened death metal. The title track of the ‘Psalms of Forlorn Hope’ EP came mid-set getting heads banging as the crowd warmed up while a few tracks later the set was brought to a close with ‘Vengeance is My God’. Although there were a few old friends in the crowd, I suspect Empyreal were new to many, and I think it is fair to say that they massively enhanced their reputation and fan base with this show. Deserved competition winners indeed.

Upstairs, the Rockefeller stage was already full in anticipation of Tsjuder. Having been going since 1993, the Norwegians have built a well deserved reputation as one of the best black metal outfits around and in my experience they never disappoint in the live setting. The trio took to the stage and wasted no time appeasing the crowd with favourites such a ‘Kill for Satan’, ‘Mouth of Madness and ‘Ghoul’ alongside newer tracks ‘Kaos’, ‘Antiliv’ and ‘Demonic Supremacy’ in a master-class of controlled aggression. However, the Tsjuder logo backdrop was then replaced with a familiar goat’s head as Frederick Melander (one of the original Bathory members) joined the band on stage for cover versions of ‘The Return of Darkness and Evil’, ‘Satan My Master’ and ‘Sacrifice’. A special set indeed that will be remembered for a long time to come.

There was no time to reminisce as John Dee was about to play host to Naðra, another spawn of the bludgeoning Icelandic black metal scene. Looking like an angry caveman, their shoeless vocalist cavorted around the stage leading the charge while they delivered an intense yet melodic barrage across the packed room. A monumental performance indeed!

Back to more familiar territory and Napalm Death were preparing to lay waste to Inferno. An acquired taste that not everyone fully gets, but there is no arguing about Napalm Death’s heritage or on-going relevance. Barney was a blur of perpetual motion, running from one side of the stage the other while venting his characteristic vocals across an appreciative crowd with new and old tracks rubbing shoulders creating a dense wall of controlled mayhem. ‘Oh so Pseudo’ and ‘The Wolf I feed’ kept the momentum going before we were taken back to 1986 for the first track from the first Napalm death album, ‘Scum’ which sent the crowd into a frenzy. Before long, Barney was explaining that the band had been heavily influenced by Scandinavian hardcore which led into a frenetic cover of Anti Cimex track ‘Victims of a Bomb Raid’. Things were kept going with old favourite ‘Suffer the Children’ and a warp speed rendition of ‘Breed to Breathe’. At this point, I decided to head downstairs to ensure I got into the John Dee room for the next band as I knew they would be popular and the “one in, one out” policy was back in force.

Swiss enigma Schammasch have been building a big reputation for themselves in recent years and the room was soon full as the Inferno crowd rammed into the room ready for the ensuing liturgy. The band took to the stage enshrouded in robes while they offered their ritualistic sermons to the faith. Their performance was dense and hypnotic, brooding and atmospheric and as always truly immense.

Electric Wizard perhaps stood out from the rest of the Inferno bill with their occult 70s style doom rock, but they have grown from their humble origins into a true phenomenon as evidenced by a full Rockefeller. True, it wasn’t as rammed as it had been for Emperor or Satyricon, but there was still a very healthy crowd. Barely visible bathed in red light in front of a huge video screen showing naked rituals, the band provided their own soundtrack. ‘Black Mass’ epitomised their performance, part stoner, part doom and part sludge with minimal crowd interactions. To be honest, this genre is not really my cup of tea, but they were enjoyable enough and their fans enthusiastically lapped it up.

My final trip to John Dee for this year was for Swedish death metallers Grave, who were celebrating their 30th anniversary with an old school set, playing only tracks from 1988-1991 predominantly from the ‘Into the Grave’ opus. ‘Deformed by Grave’ opened the set and proved the perfect antidote for the 70s doom that had preceded. The band were in a good mood and this was infectious with the crowd equally enjoying the show as ‘Morbid Way to Die’ and ‘Extremely Rotten Flesh’ flew by. I’m not sure death metal was supposed to be this much fun but there was a party atmosphere in the room giving Grave a well deserved birthday party!

And so it fell to Carpathian Forest to bring the festival to a close with their fiery brand of Norwegian black metal. Taking to a stage adorned with a sidewards Norwegian flag (creating an inverted cross), two henchmen and comedy facemasks, Nattefrost led the troops into battle, and shortly into the set brought a hangman’s noose onto stage which he preceded to swing around and then throw into the crowd. ‘When thousand Moons Have Circled’, ’Black Shining Leather’ and ‘Morbid Fascination of Death’ as well as an awesome ‘Bloodcleansing’ were obvious highlights but new tracks ‘Rock’n’Roll Gloryhole’ and ‘Likeim’ were also well received. As expected there were a couple of covers during the set (‘A Forest’ (The Cure) and ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ (Turbonegro)) which slotted in well before things were brought to a close with ‘The Suicide Song’ and ‘He’s Turning Blue’ leaving the masses heading out into the cold night for the final time. Electric Wizard may have been the official headliners of the day, but on the ground it certainly felt as though Carpathian forest took the title with their confrontational, punky black metal.

This year’s inferno was another unforgettable experience with some truly memorable performances, and proved yet again why it is deserving of its reputation within the extreme metal world. See you next year…….

(Review and Photos Andy Pountney)