DAY 2 SATURDAY
The first band weren’t due on until 15:00 on Saturday giving time for another walk along the fjord and around the burial mounds as well as a visit to the Midgard Vikingsenter, home of the festival’s seminars and exhibitions. There was then time for a browse around the market as well as a couple of beers before taking up a spot in readiness for the first band of the day. That honour fell to Resjemheia who opened the day in the shadow of the magnificent Gildehallen with some groovy folk tunes heavily based around the Hardanger Fiddle. It was an enjoyable, gentle start to the day but perhaps served a little more as background music than a focal point for most.
Folket Bortafor Nordavinden made another appearance next opening the second ‘Kaupangr’ stage, and it felt to me that this was the FBN that I had seen in previous years, with their sense of humour back to the fore setting a good mood for their shamanistic offerings and the rest of the day.
I made a quick dash back to the mighty Gildehallen to catch Runahild (having had to miss her due to a clash on the previous day), keen to experience her ethereal incantations. Having been accompanying Folket Bortafor Nordavinden during their sets, it was fitting that they accompanied her into the Gildehallen in a procession before they all took to the stage. The light was minimal as Runahild used traditional Nordic instruments to enchant the crowd with rhythmic hypnotic percussion, subtle melodies and a sublime vocal performance.
Unfortunately I had to leave before the end of her set to catch some of the Viking Battle which took place in front of the main stage, with Vikings and Shield Maidens ferociously going at each other while the stage was prepared for Vanvidd and their “Folk noir” (Their description, not mine!). I wasn’t really sure what to expect but as they took to the stage I was pleasantly surprised by their fusion of Norwegian black metal and traditional folk sounds. It might sound as though this shouldn’t really work, but it did, and before long the small but appreciative crowd were headbanging and jumping up and down to tracks such as ‘Fjellheimen’.
Over on the Kaupangr stage Nytt Land were putting in their second set of the festival with more captivating percussion and throat singing as part of their Nordic dark shamanic rituals. Once again, they were visually striking and their memorable performance was fitting for the rich history of the setting.
I am a big fan of Scotland’s Saor and their Celtic inspired black metal, so was really looking forward to their set on the main stage. As soon as they began their epic and atmospheric soundscapes cascaded over the hallowed Borre land, evoking images of windswept Scottish highlands and battles of days gone by. All too soon their short set was being brought to a close with the colossal ‘Tears of a Nation’ which brought a loud cheer from the crowd. This was a truly magnificent set.
Another UK band, the time from West Yorkshire, followed on the Kaupangr stage in the form of the incredibly talented Darkher. They humbly took to the stage with Jayn H Darkher as the obvious focal point with her black robe and striking long red hair. Before long their sombre melancholy had drawn a decent and respectful crowd who stood transfixed. After taking a few photos, I grabbed a beer and found a spot at the edge of the crowd where I was able to let the atmospheric, melancholic melody of tracks such as ‘Wars’ wash over me.
Faroese doom metal (you don’t get to say that often!) troupe Hamferð were next on the main stage. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am not a fan of the doom end of the spectrum, but I had thoroughly enjoyed Hamferð at Midgardsblot two years previously and so approached this set with an open mind. Taking to the stage in their traditional mourning suits, it didn’t take long for Hamferð to cast an eerie spell over the crowd as their powerful tomes created an oppressive atmosphere. Once again I was impressed and vowed to listen to them more once I was home from the festival.
Einar Selvik needs no introduction having served time with Gorgoroth and Sahg amongst others, and more recently with Warduna, Skuggsjá and Hugsjá to critical acclaim. His solo, stripped back performance on the Kaupangr stage promised to be something special and had been keenly anticipated by many at the festival. Using traditional Nordic instruments, Einar proceeded to give powerful renditions along with extended explanations of the songs’ origins and meanings including the importance of circles and the sun, runes and wealth, the Norwegian Constitution and St Olav (and how he was a tyrant!). Mid way through the set, he announced that the next song would be played with goat horns which were traditionally used to scare away predators, but ruefully noted that they didn’t appear to scare away bass drums as the sound check from the main stage became increasingly audible. The next song was about Ragnar Lothbrook, specifically when he succumbed to the Northumbrian snake pit, and with a wry smile Einar noted that when you are a warrior about to be thrown into a pit of snakes, writing poetry is what you do! Frustratingly the bass drum sound was getting even louder and Einar joked that “This is going to get jazzy”! Fortunately the sound check either ended or the volume was turned down allowing people to enjoy Einar’s music as it had been intended. There followed an explanation of some of the complexities of Nordic poetry before announcing that the song to be played next was based around a poem which actually had 60 verses! He told the crowd that he wasn’t going to be playing all of these, but did say that he had recorded 26 verses for the forthcoming Wardruna album which was greeted with a cheer. The final track was about death, crossing over and letting go and was a fitting culmination for a triumphant set.
Finnish Vikings Ensiferum raised the energy levels in the crowd back on the main stage with a glorious set of melodic folk metal. ‘For Those About to Fight for Metal’, ‘Two Paths’ and ‘Heathen Horde’ got the party started before ‘Twilight Tavern’ and ‘Token of Time’ got the Finnish flags in the crowd waving. ‘Two of Spades’ was introduced as “pop-punk-disco” and although the crowd were asked for a moshpit, the mid song ‘disco’ section saw some outrageous Abba-esque dance moves being thrown down! ‘Lai Lai Hei’ and ‘Iron’ closed the set which had passed in the blink of an eye but had been thoroughly enjoyed by all.
In direct contrast to the party atmosphere of the Finns, Swedes In Slaughter Natives crushed the Gildehallen with their dark, ambient, industrial outpourings. Performing in near darkness with surreal black and white images projected onto a screen set the mood for this dense, sinister experience which verged on disturbing. Powerful stuff indeed, and I really had to drag myself away but I was keen to catch the last band on the Kaupangr stage.
Hailing from Haugesund on Norway’s west coast, Årabrot’s noise rock is always intriguing and enthralling and this was no exception. The modest but appreciative crowd lapped up every second of the absorbing post punk, avant garde rock melodies pouring from the stage. Sure, they are something of an acquired taste, but once they click they are magnificent and for something superficially so accessible they are incredibly intense.
It fell to Watain to deliver their unholy sermon and unleash armageddon to the backdrop of a satanic inferno. Taking to a stage full of inverted crosses and tridents, Erik carried a flaming torch and ceremoniously lit several of these stage adornments alight before kneeling at their altar. Once the stage was set for their ritual, the band tore aggressively into a maleficent ’Stellarvore’ which was followed up by ‘Devil’s Blood’. As has become part of the ritual, during this track, Erik stood at the front of the stage holding aloft a chalice taunting those in the front row who were literally baying for blood, and of course they weren’t disappointed as the contents of the chalice were thrown out into the crowd sending the photographers in the photopit running for cover!
The intensity increased further with recent track ‘Nuclear Alchemy’ which saw many in the crowd screaming along fervently before a vicious rendition of ‘Malfeitor’ was spewed forth.
‘Furor Diabilicus’ was the second track from the latest album and its rapid fire staccato approach had heads banging from the front of the crowd to the back as fans old and new succumbed to its might. A particularly malignant version of ‘Outlaw’ kept up momentum before we were back to the present with ‘Sacred Damnation’ from the latest album amidst a raging inferno on the stage.
The onslaught continued with heads banging across the field as older track ‘On Horns Impaled’ was unleashed with spite and venom before the magnificent ‘Waters of Ain’ brought things to a fitting climax.
This was an uncompromising, ferocious and confrontational set by one of the best live black metal bands out there at the moment, and it was an appropriately bulldozing climax to this year’s festival.
Once again, Midgardsblot had been a truly unique experience delivering an awesome varied line up in an incomparable intimate setting. There is nothing like it and I have already bought tickets for next year – See you there!
Review and all photos Andy Pountney