Inferno is the premier black metal festival in the world. Gaye Black (formerly ice cool bassist from the Adverts – Gaye Advert and currently great artist) is a huge fan of black metal and survived the weekend to bring back this report…
I arrived at the festival hotel while the metal auction was taking place in the bar. I idly wondered who would make the winning bid for Varg Vikernes’ Zippo lighter. But then it was off to John Dee with my video camera for the opening band DEATHCODE SOCIETY. Symphonic black metal but quite guitar driven, the beaked and robed French men did justice to a bunch of songs from their 2015 debut album Eschatonizer.
[Deathcode Society vid]
First up on the main Rockefeller stage are ICS VORTEX, the solo project from the eponymous Borknagar and Arcturus vocalist – and of course ex bass player with Dimmu Borgir. His clean vocal style, verging on the operatic, is not my favourite but they were tight and polished.
I caught a bit of VADER’s set, very tight, unsurprisingly as the Poles do tour a lot, but it’s pretty standard death metal.
Swedish black metal war machine MARDUK really nailed it tonight with a set comprising songs from their new album and a selection of their best songs from their 25 year career. Mortuus is a commanding front man and Morgan knocked out the anthems effortlessly. From where I was standing it looked like Apollyon from Aura Noir on bass – apologies to Devo if I’m wrong!
Downstairs again for Californian death/grind outfit CATTLE DECAPITATION, who were actually pretty good, and respect to them for their animal rights stance. Back at Rockefeller we were confronted with a mind boggling sight, MYSTICUM’s three members each standing on 2 meter high LED screen covered platforms with a similar backdrop which pulsated with all sorts of satanic imagery and patterns so that they seemed to be three tiny figures floating in space. Added to this was a line of spotlights swooping out from the stage in sequence, strobes, and a barrage of inhuman industrial blackness. It was like going on a trip without the inconvenience of taking drugs!
Another post breakfast drum clinic with the excellent FROST, replacing Mayhem’s Hellhammer. He ran through songs by both Satyricon and 1349, including the challenging Chasing Dragons, this time without additional band members or backing tracks. Delegates were invited to watch from all angles to study his technique and then ask questions. He said that the latest 1349 and Satyricon albums were the most satisfying that he has played on, and that the Satyricon album had broadened his horizons a lot. He does yoga before playing these days to help prevent more injuries, but the early years took their toll. He has actually found that changing his pedal technique to a looser, more bouncy style sounds better than with his earlier battering the kick drums style that caused injuries to his feet and ankles.
Then off to the Munch Museum to see the current Mapplethorpe + Munch exhibition before heading back to John Dee in good time for STAHLSARG, representing the UK on the black/death metal front. And a good job they did too. It is pretty unusual to see an English band of this type at Inferno as Norway has of course produced quite a few of it’s own over the years, but their take on history and the horrors of war sets them apart. They powered through songs from their debut album Comrades in Death, including the memorable Razed to the Ground and Damocles XIII. Eisenfaust’s drumming was spot on, along with Destruction’s rhythmic bass assault. Krieg’s scary face had the photographers gathering, and Eissturm was clearly delighted to be treading the John Dee boards.
Afterwards I caught up with STAHLSARG for a chat:
Gaye – It’s rare for a UK band such as yourselves to be playing at Inferno, how do you feel about that and how was it for you?
Krieg – We feel honoured. We’re all really happy with how it went and the professional organisation and great sound.
Gaye – Apart from your set, what has been your highlight of the festival so far, Marduk? Frost? The legendary buffet breakfast?
Krieg – I was very impressed with speaking with Frost and him answering my questions. Seeing him play in that environment was very good as it’s hard too see drummers at the best of times. I like the new album by Marduk very much and hearing lots of that in the first part of their set was great. Posh nosh like all the antipasto and salmon before a full English breakfast helped make up for the huge beer prices.
Eissturm – Getting a load of cheers and horns when I nipped outside for a fag fully hoodied up before we began our set!
Eisenfaust – My highlight was definitely when the curtain drew back onstage and we began the set. Or, the pancakes at breakfast.
Destruction – The hotel buffet breakfast and Suffocation. The suffocation bass player played and held his bass upright like a double bass with the bottom of the vee resting on the stage.
Gaye – You and Destruction were in Eastern Front before splitting off to form Stahlsarg, what about the other members?
Krieg – Eissturm and Eisenfaust were just in local unsigned bands before being recruited to Stahlsarg. Eissturm’s first gig with us was supporting Mayhem then next gig was Bloodstock!
Gaye- How has the album been received?
Krieg – The press has been mostly good. Many reviews gave it 8/10, like Terrorizer and PowerPlay. I think getting such prestigious gigs speaks volumes about how positively people view us. In May this year it will be two years since that first UK show with Mayhem. I am humbled.
[Stahlsarg photo outside John Dee by Eric Waring]
Next on that stage was ABYSSION, Jose Rossi’s black metal project. He was augmented by two keyboard players and a drummer, and despite being distracted by the sight of his orange underpants showing through a large opening in his track suit bottoms in an otherwise not particularly visual show, I enjoyed their psychedelic groove laden set.
Popping out in search of food, we ran into the lovely Billy, AKA Messiah, standing guard outside Kniven bar lest the marauding thugs who had tried to force their way in the previous night came back. He had seen them off in true superhero style! Iceland’s WORMLUST had finished by the time we returned to the venue but I will catch them next time. A quick look at SUFFOCATION and down to John Dee to wait for tonight’s headliners.
I was really looking forward to Sweden’s CRAFT and they did not disappoint. Their Inferno debut was much anticipated and John Dee filled up quickly, so not everyone could get into the venue to witness it. To me, well played raw black metal is the high point of any festival. Nox is a charismatic front man with a great vocal style, raspy and full of hate. Favourites from all four of their albums like Demonspeed and Fuck The Universe had the crowd banging along with them.
It was drummer Uruz’s last gig with them so after he had said farewell, the talented Trish Kolsvart took over for a great version of I Want To Commit Murder to close the set.
Off on the delegates’ ‘Dark Side of Oslo’ bus tour (with beer!), on which we walked to the top of the opera house roof where Eirik P Krokfjord sang an excerpt from Prometheus to us, then on to the National Gallery to see the work of Theodor Kittelsen, whose work has been used on many a black metal album cover, and hear a tale of trolls. Then on to City Hall Pier to view the fortress and the carvings of folklore scenes on the walls of City Hall, the inspiration for many a black metal name.
Back to the hotel for the warm up drinks party in a futuristic suite. Finding myself sitting next to Heirr General Cerastes from Mysticum, I asked him about the logistics of such a spectacular stage set which must have cost a fortune. They had not played in their native country for 20 years, and their 2014 album Planet Satan was their first in 18 years. Cerastes said that it helped that he worked in the industry and had pulled in some favours, and the lighting guy worked in the same company. It had taken a long time in the planning, and the type of nets they used for the images were very expensive. They had a warm up gig in Luxembourg with a scaled down set and 1 meter high platforms, but had been let down at the last minute by the tech guy, so it was to their credit that everything came together so perfectly on Thursday. I was also impressed that he recognised my Throne of Katarsis t shirt and is friends with them!
Racing off to John Dee we arrived in time for NORDJEVEL’ s 5.30 start. I had seen Djevel a couple of years ago so was looking forward to seeing this collaboration with Nord, plus Marduk’s drummer Frederick. Bass player Svein-Ivar Sarassen had also been conducting beer tasting sessions at the festival hotel from his own home brewery, a multi tasking band indeed! The venue was already packed for this their debut live gig. Doedsadmiral’s harsh vocals and the twin guitar assault did justice to the songs from their recently released album. I’m so glad they won the voting competition for this new band slot and so were many more judging by their reception!
Straight after that was the much awaited ORDER appearance and they exceeded all expectations, a tight, flawless set of doom infused black metal including Folly Grandeur and Torquemada from their debut release. Messiah commanded the stage, armed with a large satanic bible, and it was hard to believe that they have only done a handful of gigs so far.
Then down past the tattoo convention and merch stalls to John Dee again for their fellow Norwegian black metal outfit MORK. For years a solo project, they have only recently become a full band and started gigging. They were pretty absorbing, but I had to tear myself away from their cold and moody atmosphere to catch up with Order
ORDER comprises original Mayhem members Messiah on vocals and Manheim on drums, plus Anders Odden, ex Cadaver (and in more recent years Satyricon) on guitar, with Stu Manx from Glucifer on bass.
Gaye – It’s so good to see you play at last after the tragic setback you had in 2014
Messiah – We had done our first gig in Warsaw with the initial line up which had another ex Cadaver member, Rene Jansen, on bass, but not long afterwards he got leukaemia and passed away. I really wanted to do something to save him, like donating bone marrow, but it wasn’t to be. Rene was a real trouper, for example he fell off the stage during the first number at the Warsaw gig as it was very smoky and hard to see the edge, and broke a rib, but he just carried on and didn’t complain about the pain. I didn’t want to carry on with the band for a few months after that, but then when Stu came along he brought a more rocking style to the band, having come from a more punky, rock and roll background, which suits the music very well.
Gaye – Who writes what?
Anders – Rene and I started off writing the songs together, now Manheim and I write the music together and Messiah writes the lyrics.
Gaye – Who put the images together for the Torquemada video – ancient paintings and engravings that complement the tale of the inquisitor?
Messiah – It was me.
Gaye – What did you do after Mayhem and before Order came together Manheim?
Manheim – I was playing in noise bands. It’s good to get back to metal now, it has more energy. I’ll be appearing with Mayhem tonight too.
Messiah – And Maniac and I are, we’re looking forward to it, and Necrobutcher has been very happy in rehearsals, glad to see us all together again.
Next up was NIFELHEIM, Sweden’s over the top thrashy black metal diehards. They appeared to have a baby’s coffin in front of the drum kit. The two fraternal frontmen Tyrant and Hellbutcher sport spandex and more spikes than a family of porcupines, but they’re totally committed and always entertain with anthems such as Storm of the Reaper and Sacrifice to the Lord of Darkness. Pure energy!
I had been looking forward to MAYHEM’s set as I knew they were going to have ex members making guest appearances in a set of three parts. Surprisingly, Maniac took the first shift, covering the period when he was vocalist. It was great to finally see him live. Grand Declaration of War isn’t their most accessible album but it worked really well live with the superb lighting and stage set, and Hellhammer’s echoing opening blasts was about the best start to a gig you can get. Attila fronted the next section in his familiar priest’s robe and performed material from De Mysteriis dom Sathanas era, singing into a human skull and doing those creepy movements that make him look like a cross between Regan and Father Karras in the Exorcist, amidst carcases, skulls, and flaming torches. Then Maniac returned for some more early material and Manheim took over on drums from Hellhammer for a great rendition of Chainsaw Gutsfuck. And then to cap it all, over to Messiah for the final two numbers. Pure Fucking Armageddon indeed.What a great climax to a great festival, the audience loved it and the band clearly enjoyed the reunion – Necrobutcher fairly skipped across the stage to some incongruously jolly closing music as the band departed. A historic night!
These short clips are only to give a flavour of the bands, I was primarily concerned with actually watching them live!
Full Mayhem set by Tjodalv