Black metal’s biggest festival reviewed by Gaye Advert
This year’s festival hotel was the Scandic St Olavs Plass, and they had literally rolled out the red carpet, along with rows of flaming torches to welcome the guests and bands. After a quick drink at the bar with Hilde Hammer, artist Dan Seagrave and curator Tor Baklund, we headed off to a club called Bla to make sure of being on the spot to see what was for me the main event, Sarkom.
The club night is the only night where there are band clashes, and so I missed Norwegian black metal bands Nachash and Furze, and the rare chance to see Tangorodrim unfortunately, but Stig Ese’s post Vried project SLEGEST provided a good warm up to the evening, melodic and doomy.
Slegest photo credit Eric Waring
Oslo based SARKOM’s set was to include songs that they have rarely or never played live, and they launched into a riff driven onslaught of pure energy from the outset, kicking off with I Call Your Name from Bestial Supremacy, and material from all four full length albums and the Exit Terra ep. Sorath Northgrove from the late lamented Beastcraft, provided guest vocals on Black Metal Necrophilia from their latest album Anti Cosmic Art. He had also joined them for a cover of Darkthrone’s In The Shadow Of The Horns when I first saw them at Inferno in 2010, which was equally awesome.
Sarkom – Black Metal Necrophilia pics and video credit Gaye Black
I had a chat with them afterwards, and suggested that they have a distinctive sound.
Vocalist Unsgaard ‘I am the songwriter and I’m in charge of the finishing touches, but we change the style with each album, including the vocal style, and my singing is more typical black metal style now than it was to start with. There have been different guitarists. Apart from Unsgaard, bassist Sgt V is the longest serving, Defest (drums) three and a half years, Galaaen (guitar) one year, and Somby (guitar) joined in December. This was the first time we have played the title track of second album Bestial Supremacy live, and also The Chosen One from Aggravation of Mind and Exit Terra from the ep are rarely played.’
It’s a shame they ran out of time and didn’t get to finish with Inside A Haunted Chapel from the excellent third album Doomsday Elite, but they did play the title track. They have just put out a new video for Seen Through The Eyes Of A Paedophile Priest, a song on recently released fourth full length Anti Cosmic Art, about topical issues of religion based abuse. Unsgaard- I was inspired to write it after seeing a documentary called Deliver Us From Evil, about a priest who had abused children. I think it’s been seen as a bit of a taboo subject, we only sold three of the Paedophile Priest t shirts on our recent tour.
Last band of the night was HAIL SPIRIT NOIR from Greece. They came over a little lightweight after Sarkom, kind of feelgood pop rock with prog and occult touches.
After a few hours of breakfast we went in search of museums and had a look around the fortress and cathedral and on to a pre party at Indie Recordings’ office for some music, beers and pizza. Then it was off to the main festival in time for HELHEIM, opening the Rockefeller stage with their unique brand of Norwegian viking metal, their dual vocals lending a melodic edge. It’s quite a few years since I last saw them and they no longer wore chain mail, but they did have a beautiful rather surreal background animation of figures falling out of the sky in slow motion, and they finished with a song from my favourite album of theirs, Kaoskult.
Helheim photo credit Eric Warin
Then downstairs to Canadians PANZERFAUST for some occulty black metal that filled the incense scented John Dee. Best band of the night, and Goliath was definitely the biggest frontman, clad in bulky black coat and gloves with his head covered, which must have been pretty hot!
Panzerfaust video credit Gaye Black
After having a look at VENOM INC, original members of Venom without Cronos, it was back to the John Dee for AZARATH, Behemoth’s drummer Inferno’s band. Their music was in the same vein as Behemoth, pretty brutal death metal with a touch of black.
Last band of the night downstairs was PILLORIAN, a new project from the US including John Haughm, late of Agalloch. They created a dark atmosphere with some lovely melodies and guitar work.
Listenable Records had arranged a listening session of tracks from Order’s upcoming debut album, Lex Amentiae, so off we went to the studio where it will be mastered, and met up with the band minus Billy/Messiah, who was recovering from a brain op in hospital. The line up on the album comprises original Mayhem members Manheim and Messiah, Anders Odden from Cadaver (And Satyricon in recent years) and Stu Manx from Gluecifer. The songs sounded powerful and beautifully clear, with sinister guitar riffs and Billy’s vocal style giving them a distinct identity. I look forward to hearing the completed opus when it is released on July 7th.
Afterwards we went for a few pints in the Aye Aye Club with Manheim, Anders and Stu, and Steffie from Listenable. The Abbath interview that was scheduled to take place in the hotel atrium had been cancelled due to ‘unforseen circumstances’ so there was no need to rush back.
Back at Rockefeller first band of the day was INSIDIOUS DISEASE, whose upcoming album Dan Seagrave is providing the cover art for. They are something of a supergroup, founded by Silenoz (Dimmu Borgir), and including Tony Laureano (ex Nile) and Marc Grewe (ex Morgoth). Death metal with gravelly vocals.
Then it was downstairs for DIABOLUS INCARNATE, a symphonic black metal band formed in South Africa in 2010 and now based in the London area. Grandiose with haunting melodies amongst the onslaught. And even a touch of humour: ‘this next song is a romantic one. As they used to say, one for the ladies’ announced front man Dieter Amadeus. ‘ABORTED’!
Diabolus Incarnate video credit Gaye Black
While Anaal Nathrakh ploughed through their high speed anthems we had a closer look at the art show in an adjoining room and a chat with curator Tor Baklund.
Tor- ‘This is the first year that the Inferno festival art show and stalls have been curated. Hilde Hammer invited me to do it as I had curated a rock and art festival for sixteen years, but then the rock scene died where I live so I stopped running it. For this show I wanted to book artists that had a link to the scene. I have included Trine and Kim and the other artists at previous festivals, and I was very keen to have Dan Seagrave, he’s special. I flew him over from Toronto for Inferno. I always follow album cover art, I’m an artist myself.’
Dan, who is originally from Nottingham, was exhibiting his fine art album cover prints and original paintings. He has provided the cover art for many death metal albums, check out his work on www.danseagrave.com
I saw Trine and Kim’s album cover artwork featured in an exhibition in Oslo which tied in with the Inferno festival in 2010 if I remember rightly. Their graphic style shines on covers such as Mayhem’s Ordo ad Chao. This year their work was on display at the festival hotel.
Another impromptu trip to Aye Aye and then back to the John Dee stage to check out CROWBAR, pioneers of sludge metal, all long grey beards and Louisiana drawl, slow soulful sections interspiced with more lively passages.
And finally GORGOROTH, never a bad way to finish a night, although their stage show has been somewhat pared down since Infernus regained control on the occasions that I’ve seen them, even this 25th anniversary year show, and the sound wasn’t as clear as it could have been, maybe because I was hearing it from the top level balcony. Hoest from Taake is still on vocals and is a good front man, all barely contained fury and exuding evil like there was no tomorrow.
Gorgoroth photo credit Eric Waring
Along with Sarkom, Slagmaur were the other main draw for me this year, and like Sarkom, I had first come across them at a previous year’s Inferno, so I was looking forward to their set, especially as they would be putting on an ambitious stage show. They had invited me to interview their stunt team, TEAM ACTION DESIGN, or TAD, so we headed up to Rockefeller after breakfast to meet up with them before they started rigging.
Kent Roger Skaget, who would be the robed figure to hang and burn the victims, explained that TAD and Slagmaur are both based in Fosen, so know each other, and they devised the show together with the band. They had done stunts before with people being on fire, but this would be the first time one of them would be set on fire hanging upside down, and they were planning for the burning to last for at least forty seconds, over twice as long as it had been done before. We use wires to support the members who will be the hanging victims, so they are not actually hanging from the nooses. We’ll make it look like the stunts have gone wrong, but that’s all part of the show.
They do stunts for film and TV, music videos and live events, and as you can see from their showreel here, they’re incredibly agile
and back to the hotel for the Inferno Music Conference drinks pre-party before heading off to Rockefeller for SLAGMAUR. An amazing spectacle. The stage was dominated by an upside down cross suspended from the ceiling, two hooded figures with nooses around their necks waited on to be dispatched on platforms and the band themselves look like characters from a nightmare fairy tale. The vocalist has a bird skull for a head, the drummer a clown mask, and they are flanked by a guitarist with a pig’s head mask with a mane and, scariest of all, a humanoid masked figure in a tin hat who somehow reminds me of leatherface in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Songs from latest album Thill Smitts Terror are the perfect soundtrack for the creepy visuals, atmospheric and mesmerising in their relentless repetition. The slow, solid and ominous drumming and insane tinging melding with the orchestral side of things. When the ‘priest’ knocks away the first platform, the hanging victim swings and struggles for some time, and a while later the other victim is dispatched the same way, and finally the ‘witch’ is brought on, tied to the cross, winched up and set ablaze for what seems even longer than anticipated. Avant garde black metal but so much more. They really have nailed the combining of music and imagery to create a whole other world. Brilliant!
Slagmaur photo credit Eric Waring
Irish black metal band Primordial were next on the main stage and put on a good show, although they couldn’t compare with what had gone before them. Musically they are very tight and the songs are good but I have never particularly liked operatic vocals, and those parts were a bit dominant for me.
The John Dee stage tonight was dedicated to Icelandic bands, and third on was KONTINUUM, progressive post black metal apparently. Nice atmospheric guitars and ok for a bit of a break. I hadn’t rushed down to see the first two, Audn and Zhrine, as I would be seeing them in London the following week, and they turned out to be not a million miles away from Kontinuum, although both with their own identity.
Upstairs again to BELPHEGOR, an Austrian onslaught of furious death metal, incense and dead things. They are very slick and tight and go down well.
Belphegor photo credit Eric Waring
SVARTIDAUDI were the last Icelandic band of the night, and the best. In fact I enjoyed them more than the last time I had seen them, supporting Mgla in London a couple of years ago. They create an eerie atmosphere without sacrificing speed and ferocity. An appropriately feral conclusion to the John Dee stage.
ABBATH started off with a long, grand intro and blew some fire to kick off his set, clowning about more than ever, which didn’t really fit in with the atmosphere of the songs, such as the irresistible Warriors from the ‘I’ album. King ov Hell has taken to wearing flares of late, and to me that just looks a bit silly in a black metal band. Suddenly, four or five songs in, Abbath threw down his guitar, breaking the neck, and strode off. A new guitar was hastily prepared, and Creature started to do a drum solo to fill in time, and King noodled away on bass for a bit, but Abbath did not reappear, so they gave up and left the stage after a while. After a few minutes of silence an Abbath spokesman had to come on and apologetically announce that Abbath would not be coming back, and that a statement would be forthcoming from Abbath’s camp in the next few days. People didn’t seem too bothered by the abrupt ending, it had been a good few days.
Last mammoth breakfast fest and a chat with TANGORODRIM’s Incinerator: We originated in the Soviet Union but we are based in Israel now. The band started in 1995, we had a break for two years in 2008 while we did another project, then in 2010 Norwegian label Apocalyptic Empire rereleased our first two albums and then a new 7” two years later. Our last album Defunct Pluto Mythology came out in 2015 with cover design by Eric C Harrison of US doom band Grief.
I asked why they had chosen to relocate to Israel, as bands generally move to countries and cities with more major music scenes, for the purposes of gigging etc. Incinerator: A lot of people from the Soviet Union moved to Israel around then. I was 20, and worked on TV channels and related media. I was from the south, and I like the middle east, the desert climate suits me. This was only our second gig. Our first one was in Israel in 2013, then Inferno contacted us and asked us to play this year, so we had to take leave and rehearse.
Slagmaur photo credit Eric Waring
Sad not to have been able to see the gig, but of course there was footage available soon afterwards, so I was able to see how it went. I would also have liked to see a couple of the Inferno films in the hotel’s own cinema: Rob Zombie’s ’31’ and ‘Saga’, a black metal viking biker-film with Zombies! A quick trip to the National Gallery to take advantage of the free entry with festival wristbands offer, and it was all over for another year.
Thank you Inferno, and my two high points – Sarkom and Slagmaur!!