Finally, the Greek pilgrims, Marilena “Bathory”, Sophia “Tool”, Kostas “Mysticum” and me, reached the holy city of Oslo! The reason: the Inferno Festival 2006 of course! 3+1 days of Black, Death, Doom and Thrash metal, in the Metropolis of True Norwegian Black metal.
Our journey begins the Wednesday 12th! After having found our hotel, we walked at the streets (gata) of Oslo, till we reached the Rock In club where VREID were gonna play that night. A small, warm club, where we found another Greek comrade, Michael “Troll”. The first band that appeared in the specific show were BETEA REACH, a 6-pieced band from Oslo. They attracted my attention quickly, due to their style: metalcore based on MASTODON and Relapse-esque genres and they could be described as mathcore if they were a little bit more risky. Very young musicians with very mature ideas! The fact that they used three guitars can only be acknowledged as inspiring! Both BETEA REACH and BATTERED (the next band appearing that night) had a magnificent clean sound. BATTERED had just released an album in Tabu Recordings and they would played also at Inferno festival in the second stage. Straightforward thrash metal in the vein of old THE HAUNTED, with furious vocals! VREID, the headliners of this live, had much worse sound. True Norwegian Black metal with a variety of vocals. Our trip’s fatigue and the free beers from Mortem, the light technician, didn’t allow us to stay any more in Rock In. So, we returned to our hotel in order to be fully prepared for the Inferno.
Thursday’s cloudy morning found us ready for walk in the city of Oslo. After an invasion on a local CD store, we visited the Akershus Castle, the Resistance museum and the Armed Forces museum. So, after this military enlightening, we were strengthened for the festival.
KEEP OF CALESSIN: One of the biggest hopes of Norwegian black metal was the first band appearing in Rockefeller hall, the bigger stage of Inferno festival. With a mediocre quality of sound, they based their set on their new album “Armada”, without forgetting their past. They managed to assemble Inferno, especially the Norwegians, which assumed that KEEP OF CALESSIN is the next big thing. Personally, I wasn’t convinced from their appearance, believing that it was one of the Inferno disappointments. Norwegian Metal for Norwegians.
WALKENVOREN: Without any official recordings and with Apollyon (AURA NOIR) on drums, they presented their punk’o’thrash.
NIGHTRAGE: Greek-Swedish NIGHTRAGE was a different tone at Inferno festival, due to their music style. Swedish melodic death metal isn’t the preferable style for blacksters and that’s the reason why they had much lesser crowd. However, Gus G’s and Marios Iliopoulos’ guitars were at the right place for a brilliant appearance. Balanced tracklist between their two albums, NIGHTRAGE entertained us for more than half an hour. Well done!
DEMONIZER: I have nothing to mention for these Belgian thrashers. Muddy sound and boring music, so…time for shopping!
KHOLD: Moonfog black metal part 1. With KHOLD we faced the same incident that we saw at KEEP OF KALESSIN: the Rockfeller was fulled of Norwegians. I was never fan of KHOLD, they didn’t also attract my attention so, nothing to add.
CARPATHIAN FOREST: Having gathered everybody at the Rockfeller hall, CARPATHIAN FOREST should have been the headliners of the first day. They were the most significant band and they approved it with their spectacular appearance. Even if they hadn’t at the beginning the proper sound, when it was restored, both crowd and band warmed and so we had one of the highlights of the day!
SAHG: Surprise! I didn’t expect to be shocked from this Norwegian doom band! They have in their line-up Tom Visnes (aka King Ov Hell), GORGOROTH’s bassist and Olav Iversen, a capable guitarist with a tremendous and expressive voice. Their heavy rock got me high, filling the John Dee club (the small stage) with emotional art, something that made me impatient for their debut album which is going to be released this month. I was doomed!
USURPER: Unfortunately, USURPER also achieved to doom me, not due to any Black Sabbath influences, but because of their awful heavy metal music. A totally pointless decision of honoring USURPER headlining the first day of Inferno. Their “black metal” was presented on stage on a low-level heavy metal style. So, we left Rockefeller, with bitter in our hearts, because we haven’t seen anything really spectacular.
Highlights: SAHG, CARPATHIAN FOREST, NIGHTRAGE.
Friday’s morning was spent on musical affairs. Firstly, we went on a pre-listening of two albums (SECHT and NEEPACH) which are going to be released from the new label of Tchort (CARPATHIAN FOREST, GREEN CARNATION), Sublife Productions (more information about these albums on forthcoming reviews). After that, we went on the Edderkoppen hotel in order to be present on a discussion about how the Norwegian black metal can be promoted outside Norway. Music industry at its best! We heard some remarkable aspects, but generally it was a discussion that interested the Norwegian bands which had been invited on the specific event. When this was over, we ran to the Rock In club in order to hear the new GORGOROTH album. Interesting songs, blacker than their latest albums (only one death metal song), but the most weird was that the last two songs were IMMORTAL clones! Finally, when I asked from Gaahl an interview, he refused it because, as he told me, he hadn’t time since he had to return to prison!
SYSTEM:OBSCURE: Hammond? Are they the DEEP PURPLE of symphonic black metal? Interesting big songs with Norwegian black metal riffs and the keyboards giving the proper atmosphere, they opened perfectly the first day.
SUSPERIA: More power than black, I heard them for about 3 minutes and I went downstairs in order to avoid hearing their tragic songs. As I heard Mustis went on stage for a couple of songs…
MANNGARD: With a very good sound, MANNGARD performed their old-school Bay Area thrash metal with a variety of vocals and they were approved as a very good band!
DISMEMBER: Second time that I’m seeing them live and for a second time they didn’t convinced me for being one of the major old-school Swedish death metal bands. The bad quality of sound and the fact that we could hear the guitars didn’t enable them to change my opinion.
ENDSTILL: Ultra-fast black metal from Germany! Their latest album “Navigator” is crap. On stage, they are much more funny and awful!
BORKNAGAR: This was the first monumental moment on Inferno festival. BORKNAGAR was just perfect that night. Excellent musicians forming an excellently solid band. They performed songs from all their albums, having in that way a balanced playlist. Vintersong is a talented singer and he controls the fact that substitutes singers like Vortex and Garm. Congratulations!
EMPEROR: For the glorious moments I have to describe, poor my vocabulary is. Generally, I shouldn’t write down anything about what we experienced that night. Only those that had the honor to be that night at Rockefeller club can understand what I mean. Ihshan is such a perfectionist that we shouldn’t expect something less from what we saw. Simply, we couldn’t understand that early. With fear I recall the moments from my memory. I would never forget the sentiments I felt when I heard the intro of “Into the Infinity of Thoughts” or when we were singing The lyrics of “With Strength I Burn”… never. I have nothing to say about the performance of the band. They demonstrated 100% their talent, making even clearer and better their songs (especially those from their early albums).in addition to that, they had prepared a brilliant and balanced tracklist: “Into the Infinity of Thoughts”, “Thus Spake the Nightspirit”, “An Elegy of Icaros”, “Curse you All Men!”, “Wrath of the Tyrant”, “With Strength I Burn”, “Towards the Pantheon/The Majesty of the Nightsky”, “The Loss and Curse of Reverence”, In the Wordless Chamber”, “Inno A Satana” and for encore “I am the Black Wizards” and “Ye Entrancempyrium”. A flawless live experience that send EMPEROR in the Pantheon of rock. Ihsahn had warned us: “We are EMPEROR from Telemark and we are here to teach you a lesson in Black Metal”. Damn, he was right. This lesson was written deep in our hearts.
Highlights: EMPEROR, BORKNAGAR
Without having understood what happened last night (I had to return in Greece in order to begin understanding what we experienced that night), we visited a brilliant Oslo’s park, the Vigeland Park: an architectonical and sculpturing perfection of our modern times. So, after the stroll we were ready for the last day of Inferno!
LEGION: This is the original band of Emil Dragutinovic, the new drummer of MARDUK. Having already heard their new album, I expected them much better. They seemed unorganized and disunited. Their sound on stage is much more MARDUK, due to the lack of the melodies which are in their albums.
DISIPLIN: Moonfog black metal part 2. In contrast to KHOLD, DISIPLIN achieved to stimulate me with their groovy black metal. Their dress code was unique: bassist and guitarists were like terrorists when the singer had the characteristic Hitler’s hair-brush! Nattefrost (CARPATHIAN FOREST) jumped also on stage for a song! Exciting!
MYRKSKOG: Did they use to play death metal with industrial elements? At the Rockefeller stage, their style was similar to a brutal death metal band, like VADER and MORBID ANGEL. The awful sound (we couldn’t hear the guitar when the drummer was blasting) made me descend to John Dee, where I saw Marco Aro of FACE DOWN (and ex-THE HAUNTED) being unserious and kidding during the sound check.
FACE DOWN: For about three songs, they were just perfect! Killing groovy Swedish death metal! However, the second half of their program didn’t achieve to hold the interesting of the crowd. The band seemed to have a great time on stage and Aro, with his characteristic shirt, proved for once more that he is a talented frontman. Their set was based on their latest release, with playing anything from the pre-HAUNTED era.
BOLT THROWER: England had aided the Norwegian partisans during the World War 2. However, this time English people were in Oslo for a totally different purpose: to conquer Inferno Festival. I started feeling disappointed during the first three tracks, because they had an awful sound. But when this was fixed, they easily gained us, I formed a small pit and everything was just in the right place. Their unique death metal is ideal for a festival, something that they approved it! Baz Thomson and Gavin Ward were at their positions, Jo Bench and Martin Kearns made the world to be burned while Karl Willets, the genuine frontman of BOLT THROWER, sang tales of war, history, glory and pride. Even if they based their set on their latest incredible opus “Those Once Loyal”, they performed songs from “Warmaster” till “Mercenary” albums, omitting the weak “Honour-Valour-Pride”: “At First Light”, “Entrenched”, “Mercenary”, “The IVth Crusade” (thrilling), “Cenotaph”, “The Shreds of Sanity”, “For Victory” and “When Cannons Fade”. Certainly, BOLT THROWER didn’t conquer the festival, as I stated in the beginning, because the nature of the festival was much blacker (and we had also fresh in our minds the EMPEROR’s experience). However, the band was just perfect, having a balanced playlist while turning the stage into a battlefield. It is quite interesting the fact that they were the only band that returned on stage for encore (“When Cannons Fade”) under the crowd screaming their name.
MARDUK: Arioch, Arioch! Blood and Souls for my Lord Arioch! Morgan took the right decision when he recruited the new members for MARDUK, having as a result refreshing the band and its sound. Inferno was highly expecting their appearance and no one was disappointed from their performance. Morgan was in his position, unleashing his glorious ultra fast riffs, using three different guitars, when Arioch (FUNERAL MIST), the enlightened Swedish frontman, walking gallantly all over the stage and singing the tales of horror. According to my opinion, Ihsahn and Arioch were the rersonalities of the festival. In their set, they included “Warschaw”, “Burn my Coffin”, “Seven Angels, Seven Trumpets”, “Slay of the Nazarene”, “Panzer Division Marduk”, “Steel Inferno”, “World Funeral” and “Infernal Eternal”. Summarizing their appearance, there is only one description that can perfectly describe them: Christraping Black Metal!
WITCHCRAFT: Let the tales be sung by the bards! WITCHCRAFT were placed in the best position in the schedule; calm down from MARDUK and be ready to welcome CATHEDRAL. Rock doom tunes that reborn the meaning of bands like BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE and WISHBONE ASH. Tales enchanted by delightful music. I was bewitched!
CATHEDRAL: Even my exhaustion, after 7 hours without rest (including a BOLT THROWER show) and three whole days with only a few hours of relax, I was still in position to rock and dance with the CATHEDRAL songs. Hell yeah, these incredible Englishmen gave a brilliant performance on front of a enough full Rockefeller club. They got us high with their psychedelic metal. Lee Dorian was amazing, Gaz Jennings with his Gibson SG played his delighted riffs, while Leo Smee and Brian Dixon were on their own, groovy world. They covered all their discography, including also a song from their doom masterpiece “Forest Of Equilibrium”. For encore, they perform excellently their all time classic “Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)”.This was the time where the SG was on fire, the witches were burned, Dorrian was hanged and Gaz was destroying our ears ,while we had to leave Rockefeller before it was too late…
Highlights: BOLT THROWER, CATHEDRAL
Final score: Norway – England 1-2.
Scorers: EMPEROR for Norway, BOLT THROWER and CATHEDRAL for England.
P.S. Special thanks to Marilena Smirtioti, Sofia Farkona, Kostas Vaggelis, Leuteris Tsoureas and Claudio Giuliani
Originally written for www.MetalEagle.com