Inferno Day 3, April 18th 2014
Photos by Eivind Nakken
Good Friday, Great Music
After a sizable breakfast and some well-deserved rest, Trondheim’s underground prodigies Vemod are set to start today’s festivities. As the sweet aroma of incense fills the room, guitarist Åsli enters the darkened stage holding a set of dramatically oversized keys. The video backdrop paints a picture of a starry winter night, while arctic lights flicker across the stage. Playing black metal with a trancelike meditative bent, Vemod create an atmosphere best described as transcendental.
Repetitive hypnotic riffs are interwoven with occasionally clean vocals, and as the visuals unfold into cosmic grandeur we are transported to a realm of the aurora borealis. Although the cold intensity of the music stands in stark contrast to the burning sunlight just outside the venue, something just seems to click with Vemod’s performance. Tracks like the profound longing of “Ikledd Evighetens Kappe” elevates this event to something truly special. Rather than being lulled into sleep by the ethereal hymns, this sublime performance proves highly invigorating. Thyrgrim should take note!
Out of the light and down into the utter darkness; something evil is lurking in the basement. As it turns out, the balaclava-clad duo on stage constitute the Irish ambient project From The Bogs Of Aughiska. Despite their unconventional getup, the gloomy couple take a backseat to a front and center video-canvas. Greyscale images of ancient burial grounds, ruins, and the popular Irish suicide location the Cliffs of Moher are accompanied by droning bass, eerie synths, and voice samples about death and hauntings.
From The Bogs Of Aughiska
An old man regales us with stories about the nature of storytelling and legends, while the guitar and synths paint an increasingly bleak framework. Not surprisingly, the rather subdued performance, as well as the early concert start, means that not many people are present for this ponderous case of black ambient. Meanwhile, a storm of greater magnitude is brewing on the top floor.
From The Bogs Of Aughiska
The American post-metal outfit A Storm Of Light seem a bit of an odd fit for Inferno. Playing the main stage, sandwiched between dark ambient and underground black metal, they are obviously struggling to draw a crowd. For comparison, only a week ago they had a long line of fans hoping to get into a packed Het Patronaat venue in Tilburg. In any case, the band seems unfazed by the lackluster attendance, and put on a show filled with tribal drumming, demolishing riffs in the spirit of Neurosis, and heaps of apocalyptic and authoritarian imagery. It’s a powerful performance, but does little to fire up an audience that are still in the process of getting drunk for tonight’s further escapades.
A Storm Of Light
Again we depart early. Not out of choice, mind you, but because Polish masterminds Mgła are about to take the small stage by force. The basement is once again packed to the brim, and reportedly people are standing in line to get in. As a result, the place is getting increasingly hotter, creating a suitably oppressive atmosphere for the band. How the mysterious group are able to perform in black cloaks with their faces entirely covered up, without collapsing from the heat, we may never know.
The band explodes onto the stage with a track from their 2007 EP Further Down The Nest, and play their masterpiece With Hearts Towards None almost in its entirety. Again the sound is pristine, with every carefully placed riff and melody cutting through the dense atmosphere like knives through sweaty leather-clad butter. Completely silent and static between songs, this feels more like a ceremony than a metal gig. The cult of Mgła have mastered the art of the live show, and remain one of the most interesting current black metal bands on the planet.
There is almost a surreal contrast at play as we proceed to exit the building, passing through a sparsely populated set curated by gothic metallers Tristania. Instead of dwelling on the dichotomy, we head over to one of Inferno’s collaborative pubs to grab a beer and burger. Debating whether to return for Hatebreed, the desire for cold brews trumps any craving for hardcore swagger. Later, we catch a sliver of their final song, featuring a very small audience (for a headliner) jumping and shouting along to the baseball cap-sporting frontman. Truly there is something for everyone here.
The German preachers of hellfire Necros Christos may not get the crowd jumping along, but completely obliterate the venue with their trademark blackened death metal. Sporting a sound heavier than the abyss, they keep the use of samples to a minimum, rather opting for a full on assault on the senses. If the live setting robs them of some of their occult flair, they more than make up for it with a groove and malevolence that is out of this world.
Frontman Mors Dalos Ra, dressed like some kind of theosophic gypsy, has the lungs of a grown grizzly bear, as the band belts out memorable and spinecrushing riffs one after another. Their tight performance is nothing short of staggering, continuing a trend of amazing shows at John Dee this year. And to think that last year’s festival was severely marred by the terrible acoustics…
The next band may lack the groove of the German horde, but a resounding roar warns us that something gargantuan is approaching. After 30 years of bashing in skulls, the Ross Bay cult Blasphemy have finally come to Norway on the hunt for blood1. Black Winds and his black metal skinheads are an unstoppable warmachine of muscles, bullet belts, sunglasses, and carpentry nails. Covering most of their material in the span of an hour, they lay waste to Rockefeller with a blizzard of sound.
The moshpit rages for most of their set, frenzied fans thrashing about like there’s no tomorrow. Curious onlookers seem to dwindle as the battle rages on the stage, and when the band returns for an encore to play the abominable “Ritual”, most of the crowd has already left. It seems like a late night barrage of noise and blood-curdling black metal is too much for most to handle. For shame, Oslo. At least the attendance exceeded Hatebreed’s show.
After being assaulted by Blasphemy’s inhuman rampage, ears are sure to be ringing for days. But we still have one more day to go, so it’s time to find somewhere to pass out in peace!
1I haven’t been able to verify this. Feel free to correct me in the comments if they have graced our soil before.