BY:Larm music conference in Oslo has some of the most startling bands of any line up in the world claims a wildly excited John Robb

From black metal to ambient to weird folk By:larm music conference in Oslo has the best musical line up of any these events I have ever seen. For sheer inventiveness and atmospheres the Norwegian event bands are a far cry from the endless indie bands of the similar UK events.
This year there were so many brilliant bands. We saw lots of stuff and this selection of ten is just a brief guide to the amazing eclecticism of what was on offer. (also check out Kvelartak- the best new rock n roll band in the world review)
Black metal is many things. It started as anti music. Pure noise to fuck off everybody. It’s ended up as being the catalytic inspirational point for a whole host of musicians. Last year Wardruna, made up of members of black metal heroes Gorgoroth, thrilled with their old school Norwegian Viking folk played on recreated 8th century instruments. This year it’s the turn of Ulver (Norse for Wolf) who since their 1995 folklore/black metal fused ”ËœBergtatt- Et eeventyr 1 5 Capitler’ debut have been on a long and strange musical journey. Incorporating classical,  chamber music, folk, noise and experimental into their muse they have released several albums and played only seven gigs.
So it’s no wonder a thousand people turn out for their extraordinary performance that  still retains a flavour of black metal roots but is closer to the sombre, dark electronics of Coil or the esoteric mindfuck of Laibach.
Ulver create a dark and unsettling atmosphere with their music and the added brilliant back projection of films of Nazi genocide, animals being ripped apart and gigantic ocean waves has the effect of adding to the strange, mystical music that is built around laptops, drums and bass and guitar and some guttural vocals.
As you watch hypnotised by the dark power you wonder why no-one in the UK dares to make music this of the wall.

Ulver myspace

After all the artful black metal, it’s great to see an old school black metal band in action. 1349 have been around since 1997 and instead of incorporating a bunch of other styles into their sound have decided to hone down their music to a suitably dark and brutal perfection.
Named after the year of the great plague in Norway and described by some passing wag as the sound of a washing machine, 1349 are yet another example of this form of music being closer to avant garde than trad metal. Even at its most brutal and guttural like 1349 the musical form has the sombre and unsettling melancholic darkness of those long freezing winters in the desolate back country of Norway.
1349 also look like your classic black metal outfit- with the corpse paint and a bass player who dresses as the grim reaper. There is a blur of exotic studs, weird armbands and flailing hair and it’s imposable to tell if a sense of humour is at play but that matters little as the music has a strange and powerful darkness all of its own and a desolation that matches the wall of sound horror of the piled up guitars.

1349 myspace

Blood Command
There is a lot of great hardcore in Norway.
Blood Command who are tearing the stage apart in a kick boxing gym in front of what looks like the squat kids. The band are a louder and fiercer take on the classic American old school hardcore of Black Flag and Minor Threat and modern refuseniks like At the Drive In and key Scandanavian outfit, the highly influential Refused amped up and with added chaos.
There is a fierce existential energy about what they do and they also have the added twist of having, the charismatic waif like Silje Tombre a female vocalist whose dressing up is a genius contrast to the sweatshod balck T shirt of the form and who really adds to the band’s sound with her alternating screaming and heart felt gabbling. Their debut Ghostlocks album last year was well received on the underground and their constant touring will pay dividends.

Blood Command myspace

Social Suicide
Hitting the stage like street rats- Social Suicide are relentless Norwegian hardcore. There is no let up from one end of the set to the other and the band player harder, louder and meaner than any current hardcore band on the circuit. Their charismatic frontman is a stick thin waif who flails about the stage or hangs from the roof of the venue staring impassively at the crowd. There is a great feeling of antagonism and feral anger in their powerful machine gun attack and his attitude as he stares at the audience between throwing himself around the compact stage is magnetic.

Social Suicide myspace

Like Rats From A Sinking Ship
Angular, tense and sharp Like Rats From A Sinking Ship have taken the hardcore energy and twisted it into new shapes of their own. The youthful band, who must be about 17 years old, seem determined to create their own musical language and even have their singer trapped behind a keyboard for parts of songs before he suddenly darts out for some frenzied mosh action. The band are determined not to stick to the traditional but lose none of their energy in their reassembling of the hardcore attack and lose none of the wild energy of the music.

Like rats From A Sinking Ship myspace

Coming on like some sort of gonzoid mix between Butthole  Surfers and Jesus Lizard, Arabrot are a fantastic noise. The first half of the set sees only two of them on the stage- a skinny, topless guitar player who cranks out the filth from his six string and one of those precise and off the wall drummers that Steve Albini records so well.
One song lasts for about 18 minutes and works well, building the tension and the filth with a grinding love of the raw power ebbing and flowing as the duo are locked in a mind meld.
The bass player then wanders on stage and adds this filthy, demonic bass sludge to their sound and suddenly it’s all the sort of jazz filth that the Jesus Lizard used to do so well, only because its Norwegian, it’s heavier and more freeform.
Arabot are an amazing band and understand the tense dynamic and free form wildness that this kind of music demands.

Arabrot myspace

Jenny Hval
Making the personal deeply poetic music Jenny Hyval is perfectly framed in this amazing venue- a church with a  massive pue where the stage is set. The gig is being promoted by the great the Quietus website.
Her stark confessional songs have a power and beauty of their own as she strips everything down to a poetic confessional over a brooding ambient backdrop that has an amazing tension of inventiveness. There is an air of the mutoid, sparse folk blues that Nick Cave explores so well and that sense that you are hanging onto the lyrics lost in their poetic fragments of blood soaked beauty. If Patti Smith had come from Norway in 2011 this is what she would sound like.
There is also a commercial touch in this highly original and unsettling, beautiful and strange music that will surely see her breakout.

Jenny Hyval myspace

Jenny Hval – Blood Flight (official video)

More like an electric orchestra, AcACc play these rolling atmospheric almost John Barry film sound tracks with jazz flourished. Coming on like a Bad Seeds with that kind of understanding that power and melancholy can be delivered in the most subtle of ways, this is a band built around guitarist Jan Martin Smordal whose highly original and brilliantly constructed music is breath taking in its scope.
With just a keyboard and voice Annana has a stark and daring sound that is stripped of all artifice. Her powerful and beautiful voice fills the church and echoes around its ancient walls. This is a deeply personal music that allies the minor keys of the piano with electronic effects that paints its own melancholic floating dreamscapes.
Formed in 2004 on a  remote island in western Norway Blodemn is more misanthropic black metal that started as  a one-man project and has built a band up around his guttural, heavy darkness. Now based in the black metal city of Bergen and with his own band he has created an effectively filthy unit for his dark hearted black metal themes..
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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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