Day 2 Friday
After the dowsing of rain the previous evening I was hoping for a drier clearer day but still packed up the waterproofs as I wasn’t going to tempt fate. With the bands not starting until mid-afternoon it was possible for all festival goers to partake in axe throwing and archery, plus there was log sculpting going on from what I could see as I ventured back for the second day of music and atmosphere.
Instead of arriving by vehicle my companions and I decided to walk to the festival along the coastal path and then head to the festival via a path through the forest that ran close to the site, before traversing the burial mounds towards the entrance. It took about an hour and encompassed some excellent views of the fjord and distant island as the forest offered some respite from the bit of rain that had started but was short-lived as the clouds cleared and the sun beat down allowing us to forego the jackets and waterproofs for the time being.
I was really looking forward to today’s opening act Norwegian avant-garde black metallers Urarv who produced a masterclass in delivering piercing glacial riffs set against a war like rhythm battery, all counterpointed by cool riffs and some more exotic sonic delights as they launched off with “Kråkekjøtt”. The girl on drums was a machine, her robotic style was perfect for the hypnotically driven riffs as a cleaner vocal style was heard alongside more harsh tones, as said vocalist was throwing things into crowd in the Gildehallen at random. “Sannhet” followed and retained the momentum by delivering a wrathful blitzing that cruised into a very cool double kick section. This band had me hooked completely as banshee screeches ensued as the singer decided to hold up a fake gun (bit bizarre I thought) and pointed it as us before darkening their show with “Aurum”. An occult rock style was felt and indeed that style threaded through their set especially on “Valens Tempel” which I adored being played live. They closed with the fantastic “Red Circle” with its blasting foray and very catchy riff taunting the audience as an array of hooks were hurled at the audience and I left the Gildehallen completely satisfied with the start to the day.
Now that the sun had made an appearance I parked myself at a bench to savour a beer before Synthetic Gentlemen were due on the Valhalla Stage. All very pleasant and civilised, as the band struck up with electronic tones though I remained seated for their high energy vibrant alt rock that was dosed with catchy choruses as the powerful tones of the vocalist were clearly a focal point. “Dead Horizon” was preceded by some chat about thanks for coming and proceeded to radiate copious melodies and hooks as I decided that that mental note about getting into Gildehallen was reminding me to move just as the band played “Dark N’ Sexy”.
Usually I listen to every band playing at a festival prior to going but I decided not to for this festival, instead preferring a virginal option for those bands I didn’t already know as my focus for the festival was generally the Valhalla and Gildehallen stages seeing as they were more metal based
predominantly. Next up were local outfit Jointhugger whose stoner infused doom was unceasingly loud and viscous as they poured tar like riffs atop the sizeable crowd that had gathered. The droning guitar work was splashed against the sludge riddled rhythm section, as the bass was insanely loud to the point of discomfort and whilst their style was thoroughly pounding on songs like “Empty Space” and “Superbitch”
I needed something more upbeat, so beat a retreat for the sunshine to watch the Viking Battle that was due on in front of the Valhalla Stage. The last man standing in the simulated battle was watched by many as I did grimace at some of the antics the Viking warriors indulged in that left a final warrior on warrior battle cheered on by the sun bathed throng. They repeated the affair but this time it was warrior versus shield maiden, as the shield maiden was victorious with her spear.
In need for something upbeat, as I said, I was hoping that the popular Nan Madol would rectify that but unfortunately didn’t quite ignite the fire I had seething with the energy I was feeling at the time as their hard rock melted in the background despite having the drummer singing most of their songs which is unusual in itself I guess. However I stuck them out for a while hoping for momentum and the occasional glint of something I’d like but it didn’t come to pass.
With this in mind I decided to check out the merch area and stalls before chilling out in the welcome sun before heading back into the gloom of the Gildehallen to await Narthraal. I had no idea what to expect from this Icelandic quartet who set about shaking the timber work of the hall with an old school death metal demolition. At the time I wasn’t that impressed with their brand of grisly deathliness but on reflection they put on a fine show delivering a Swedeath like style tinged with that grottiness only Scandinavian death metal bands seem to be able to manifest. “Feed The Pig” was grisly and horrifying as the song picked up the pace somewhat as they followed it with “Carnage” after telling us it was hot in the venue. It wasn’t to me I might add, as the band crushed the crowd with barraging blasts and a thoroughly battering display. Airing their latest single, “Baptized In Blood”, no it wasn’t a Death cover, as the song was a tad more complex than previous tunes, offering more diversity within their decaying sonic sphere as the double kick rolls sounded like Thor hammering on the roof of the hall.
Now I was expecting Chinese black metallers Zuriaake to appear on the Valhalla stage next but turned out they had swapped stages with Norwegian folk rockers Vǫluspá who were supposed to play in the Gildehallen but instead played the main stage much to my disappointment initially. However occasionally a band that you might not have checked out is handed to you on a plate as they produced a masterful show fronted by the brilliant vocals of Sól Geirsdóttir, whose band this is alongside Stefan Roke. As a horn was blown the band arrived on stage as a four piece, with another female vocalist and another instrumentalist. It took some time for the change in stage times to filter through, everything seems to go through facebook that I rarely use these days, but suffice to say Vǫluspá was a revelation as they blended folk dexterity with a rock backdrop that was utterly enthralling.
The dual female vocals sat on top of the songs superbly but Sól was just sublime throughout the set. Politely speaking the opening to “Heathen Heart” in both Norwegian and English they proudly lifted the energy of the day to dazzling heights as the vocal arrangements were incandescent. Most songs were explained through Nordic mythology though the titles escaped me as the power of music was in equilibrium with the folk elements as various instruments were played. The mesmeric vocals which veered from whispering to more wholesome bellows as at times their songs had a flavour of Blackmore’s Night, as I headed for the Gildehallen to catch Zuriaake only to be too late as they had closed it due to being full, only allowing one in one out and would have meant queuing for a while in the very long line of people. Instead it was time to take stock, have a chat about the day so far and, you guessed it, buy another pot of alcoholic nectar before the next band.
I was extremely excited to see Vreid on the Valhalla stage, so much so that I had already tried to get a shirt of the band only to find out that they didn’t have any; I was gutted to say the least. Whilst I love this band my interpretation of the vocalist’s song titles was lacking, as they burst on stage amid
pyros shooting skywards. Their inherent catchiness was palpable demonstrating potent empowering ferocity within the songs too as “Lifehunger” launched into the audience. The double bass catapulted the density upwards as the song had an infectious riff that ran through their whole show. An air raid siren opened a track followed by some keyboard backing as the blasting sortie was tempered with double kick carpet-bombing as I stood in awe at their deadly assault.
Vacating the Valhalla stage arena for the Gildehallen, there were already a lot of people awaiting Eldrim, some sat on the floor, as they took an inordinate amount of time to set up due to technical issues I found out afterwards, where they apologised for the delay. However they did start up about 20 minutes late to rapturous cheering as by now the venue was at choking point and uncomfortable to be honest. My usual criteria of two songs to get a guide of their music is what I stuck to as the vocal hum initiated their ritual followed by folk instrumentation. The crowd was totally in tune with the band as they remained quiet and respectful with multiple vocals joining the melody. After all the toing an froing of getting set up I was rather surprised to hear a backing track start up (unless I’m mistaken given my limited vantage point, where the pipes I believe were added difficult as the room was crammed solid and after the song I decided that that was enough and made a break for it.
Having got outside it was a relief to be honest as I awaited the next band Gåte who I had no idea about except they were an extremely popular Norwegian act. Before they played, the usual refreshment was acquired after the ordeal with Eldrim during which my companions and I got talking to the guys in Sarkom catalysed by my shooter wearing one of their shirts, earlier of which one of their band members had their photo taken with him. It was quite unusual for a band to want to take photos with someone wearing their shirt but they were amiable guys and we chatted about this and that only for one of the guys to be amazed that I had the same middle name as him and that my father had the same first two names, in Norwegian of course, which he was thoroughly stoked about and proceeded to tell everyone in his group who were equally amazed.
However I digress, as the time approached for Gåte to start the crowd had visibly swelled as their blend of folk metal was hotly received by their faithful following. With the lead vocalist appearing in dazzling white she looked every part the rock star and with vocals to match as at times they had a vibe of our own Skyclad due to the bouncing beat. Their animated persona was infectious as violin and guitar duelling took place and whilst their music was not something I would really listen to generally they had an energy and fervour that was undeniable.
Venturing to the Kaupangr stage to catch UK folk act Seidrblot a decent size crowd had gathered around the open fire, sat down mostly. Thankfully the weather had held up for the whole day and as the wafting smoke drifted over the area, its smell was heady drawing the crowd in as the band started up with chanting vocals that had a strange solemnity as a couple of kids were sat right in front of the band on the ground. As the percussive strains filtered in the ambience was lifted somewhat with clean vocal excerpts texturizing the songs with a surreal atmosphere that was slightly narcotic as I stood near that fire. Prising myself away I made for the Valhalla stage to await the headlining act.
It must be said that the majority of acts playing this festival have some ties with the concept of Norse mythology as the festival booklet linked Deicide’s name of killing a god to the demise of gods in Nordic myth, which as tenuous as you deem it was sufficient for the US death metallers to lay waste to the night. The moment they started they were the epitome of grooving obliteration and indeed they were a totally different band to who I saw at the Netherlands Deathfest a few months before. As the band arrived on stage, Glen Benton (vocals/bass) proudly announced in his deep drawl shouldn’t you lot be raping and pillaging instead somewhere, to plenty of laughs. There are no frills with Deicide, no intros, no showmanship just unadulterated deathly power and they delivered it by the train load. Opening with “Dead By Dawn” the grooving earthshattering prowess was
magnificent as Benton’s unmatched growl immersed the crowd in his tones whilst the double guitar whiplash and bombarding drums levelled the area. Straight into “When Satan Rules His World” there was no chat, as the brutalising catchiness coupled to the battering drum work was wholly contagious. “Scars Of The Crucifix” and “They Are The Children Of The Underworld followed in quick succession as there was no letting up with the latter being one of my favourite tunes. The ruthless and clinical execution of the songs was surgical as the immense “Once Upon The Cross” was aired as by now the days alcohol reached a pinnacle as I was completely immersed in the sonic bombardment as Benton bellowed ‘Fear Him, Fear him’ at the songs build up sequence. So far this was old school death metal of the highest order as “Serpents Of The Light” was a blurring barrage that led into the crushing mayhem of “Seal The Tomb Below”. Pausing briefly Benton did chat about generic stuff whilst throwing picks into the crowd and blasted into “Dead But Dreaming” as whilst I wanted to stay for the full set the shuttle bus timetable begged to differ and I headed off suitably inebriated but completely satisfied with yet another fantastic day.
WORDS: MARTIN HARRIS
PHOTOS: ANDY POUNTNEY