The final day of a festival is always bittersweet with a whole day of great bands left, but also knowing that when it is done, it is back to the grind of normal life. However, I was determined to enjoy the day to the full and I spent the early afternoon exploring Oslo, taking advantage of the good weather and I even managed to get sunburnt while enjoying a beer or two on the waterfront!
The final day began with the enigmatic Cult of Fire who took to the stage with church organ music for their Inferno debut. They had the most opulent stage display of the festival with incense burners, candles and ornaments set on makeshift altars either side of the vocalist whose microphone stand was attached to two crossed scythes. The band themselves were wearing robes with the hoods up and had minimal crowd interaction.
Opening track ‘Závěť Světu’ set the scene as the rich black metal was augmented by prominent keyboard melodies between periods of battering black metal outbursts and this continued throughout the set with the tracks merging into one powerful ritual. I overheard many people talking about this set through the day and from what I heard, many thought this was the highlight of the festival.
Downstairs in the John Dee room, the festival’s second competition winners Vingulmork were preparing to grab the opportunity to showcase their intense blackened thrash to a new crowd. A healthy mob had gathered and Vingulmork’s energetic stage show and aggressive delivery of tracks such as ‘Ytterst’ and ‘Painting Lives’ got heads banging and won them new fans.
Archgoat attacked the crowd with the subtlety of a punch to the face as the unholy trio’s blasphemic sonic barrage ripped into Rockefeller. Wave upon wave of crushing riffs battered the crowd through tracks such as ‘Black Messiah’ and ‘Lord of the Void’. Not quite as primitive as I recall them during previous encounters but this was still stripped back raw black metal and even short technical problems could not detract from the impact of the performance. This was another highlight of the festival for me.
Dutch death metal outfit Altarego were the next to hit John Dee. Having been formed back in 1990 Altar were around at a seminal period for death metal but they eventually disbanded in 2007. However in 2016, former original member and guitarist Marcel Verdurmen reformed the band adopting the name Altarego. Perhaps the biggest change was the introduction of a female vocalist, Janneke de Rooy, and I was looking forward to see how this would translate.
The room was initially pretty empty but it quickly filled as Altarego delivered no frills Dutch death metal of the highest order, and I have to say that Janneke did a great job delivering guttural growls with the best of them. The band stuck to latter day material (relatively) including ‘Wrong Night’ (1998), ‘I am your Provider’ (2000), and ‘God is Alive’ (2007), as well as a few tracks from their new EP ‘The Exorcism of Jesus Christ’. It was a bit disappointing not to hear earlier material but I guess that was to be expected politically. Either way, this was another great performance and I expect to hear more from Altarego.
There was a long wait while Carach Angren’s stage show was set up, and the reason for this became obvious as the keyboardist and guitarist were elevated high into the air on hydraulic platforms throughout the set while Seregor darted around the stage like a deranged maniac. Crowd pleasers ‘General Nightmare’ and ‘The Carriage Wheel Murder’ came early on as the crowd lapped up the theatrical horror metal. A mannequin was brought to the stage and had its throat slit leading into ‘Blood Queen’ as the music became a soundtrack to the performance unfolding on the stage.
Their flamboyant black metal was perfect for Inferno – Heavy and yet accessible, memorable and flamboyant, completely over the top and thoroughly entertaining. Sadly no ‘The Funerary Dirge of the Violinist’ but you can’t have everything!
The was a complete change of atmosphere downstairs as Scottish progressive sludge outfit Dvne took to the stage. It was good to see a UK act get such a healthy turn out as they came on to a full room. Opening with ‘The Crimson Path’ their heavy prog was well received – I could hear elements of doom and sludge mixed in with the heavy prog creating a wall of dense yet accessible tunes centred around heavy riffing. The six songs played were all drawn from the ‘Asheran’ album and the set was over all too quickly ended with ‘Scion’. This was definitely a successful raid into Scandinavia for the Scots and I will be keeping an eye out for them in the future.
I scurried back to Rockefeller eager to get a spot for 1349 and was met with chaos…..The crowd barrier was having to be pushed back to allow Carach Angren’s props to be removed from the stage. Thankfully the crowd were helpful and moved back working with security who handled the situation well (as they did throughout the whole festival).
Eventually normality was restored and 1349 took to the stage with their traditional fire-breathing before all hell was let loose. An endless barrage of pyros and flames made it look as though the band were performing in the very pits of hell. Their performance was caustic and ‘I am Abomination’ and ‘Sculptor of Flesh’ were uncompromising in their aggression, although ‘Slaves’ was perhaps my highlight. I have seen 1349 numerous times over the years and this was perhaps the most confrontational and aggressive I have seen them.
There was no let up in intensity for my final trip of the festival to John Dee, this time for Icelandic black metallers Misþyrming. They opened with ‘Söngur heiftar’ and from then on the tracks merged to create one monolithic wall of noise overlaid with sweeping soundscapes until the set closed with ‘Alsæla’. This was black metal at its majestic best and I’m hoping for an overdue new album soon.
The final band of the festival and Sunday headliner were Opeth. I had heard a lot of grumbling in the lead up to and during the festival itself about this particular choice of headliner, but a sold out venue speaks for itself. True, the crowd wasn’t as rammed as it had been on previous nights but there was still a big crowd who thoroughly enjoyed the Swede’s progressive metal set. Opening track ‘Sorceress’ saw waves of opulent melody washing over the crowd, leading into ‘Ghost of Perdition’. The band were in good spirits and Mikael Åkerfeldt spent a lot of time bantering with the crowd including baiting them by saying “We come from the capital of Scandinavia”…..Most of the Norwegians took it in good spirits!.
I have to say I enjoyed relaxing listening to them with a beer as a chilled out climax to the festival but those around me were becoming frustrated by the lengthy prog passages, clearly yearning for the days when Opeth were a death metal band. There were of course glimpses of this during the set but those days are long gone and once you get past that and appreciate them for what they have evolved into, there is plenty to enjoy. Having said that, the set was closed with older tracks ‘The Drapery Falls’ and ‘Deliverance’ which both have plenty of growls……
So I headed out of the venue dragging myself back to the hotel completely satisfied, albeit exhausted, bruised and with an empty bank account and not looking forward to the alarm call for the flight home the next morning!
Yet again Inferno was a fully immersive extreme metal experience and to my mind is one of the best festival out there, and is already in my diary for 2020. See you there!
Review and Photos Andy Pountney