Inferno Festival Day 1, April 1st 2015
Photos by Eivind Nakken.
In Norway, the Easter week is traditionally reserved for skiing and snuggling up in a cabin somewhere away from civilization. For some of us, however, the holiest weekend is synonymous with extreme metal and extreme hangovers. For the 15th consecutive year the Inferno Festival has drawn crowds from all over the world to Oslo, showcasing some of the finest bands that Norway have to offer, as well as a selection of respectable international artists. As the long-haired and leather-clad hordes converge on the capital, they have come to expect a succulent variety of black, death, thrash, and doom metal, ranging from promising cult bands to world-conquering veterans. As usual, we arrived at the scene with high expectations and a packed schedule.
Kicking off the festival with a broad array of bands, Wednesday April 1st is known as Inferno’s club day. This means that a variety of shows take place at different venues around the city, representing showcases of Norwegian labels such as Indie Recordings and Dark Essence Records. A number of overlapping concerts means that it’s practically impossible to see everything, so to make it easier on ourselves we chose to spend the night at the cozy pub Pokalen. Having rightfully earned a cult following during the last few years, the Trondheim-based label Terratur Possessions promised volcanic black metal with a triple Icelandic billing.
The venue quickly filling up, the still young but remarkably competent Misþyrming have the honor of opening the night’s debauchery. With their newly released debut Söngvar Elds og Óreiðu making waves through the underground, expectations are high as the band takes the scene. A dynamic mix of furious black metal and ominous atmospheres, the raw sound of their debut is transformed to a grander concept on stage. Smeared in ashes and cloaked in the dim lights of Pokalen, core members Dagur and Helgi make an impressive stature with the help of a few hired hands. Considering the relative youth of the band, this triumphant performance sets the bar high for their senior countrymen. It’s eerie, cold, and deeply nefarious stuff, performed with a mix of professionalism and dark energy.
Murmurs of the next band are being heard across Pokalen before the chaos returns. Having existed under the name Chao since 2008, the current incarnation of Icelandic powerhouse Sinmara came into being in 2013. Hot on the heels of their debut full-length Aphotic Womb, they proceed to vow the crowd with a frenzied take on orthodox black metal. Vocalist Ólafur makes an intimidating figure, as the band dominates the stage with feverish intensity. Pitch black and mercilessly barbaric, Sinmara stand leagues away from the comparatively moody sound of their younger brothers in Misþyrming. By the time their anti-cosmic assault draws to an end, the venue is becoming difficult to navigate. A mix of freely flowing alcohol, dark interiors, and an impressive amount of festivalgoers have taken control of Pokalen.
Of the post-millennial Icelandic black metal scene, one band has rightfully claimed the throne and attained particular international acclaim. Shrouded in black face-masks, the grim presence of Svartidauði feels like a freezing wind howling throughout the venue. Since the pub is now at capacity, the stage-area is getting inaccessible. Somewhat marred by having drums way too high in the mix, the icy waves of riffs still dig beneath the skin and right to the bones. Eventually joined by Luctus of One Tail, One Head and Behexen on guest vocals, the showmanship complements the roaring music. Capping off Terratur’s exhibition of atrocity, Svartidauði skillfully play their part to craft a wicked climax to an evening of Icelandic might. Unfortunately we have to miss the end of their show, since something is stirring above us.
With Icelandic hymns still resonating from Pokalen, we make the journey up the stairs to the venue’s larger counterpart Vulkan Arena. Tonight’s Inferno headliners are the eclectic ensemble Arcturus, returning to the festival to promote their upcoming album Arcturian. Despite consisting of Mayhem’s Hellhammer and a number of previous Ulver-members, all eyes tonight are on vocalist ICS Vortex. Adorned in capes, goggles, and other trinkets, the oddness of the avant-garde metallers is further accentuated by a generous use of multicolored lasers. Marking a triumphant return to the festival, Vortex and his cohorts practically have the audience eating out of their hands. With a set covering much of their career, up to and including the newly minted single “The Arcturian Sign”, this is a proper Easter miracle for fans of the band. For the rest of us, the theatrics may seem borderline ridiculous, especially in contrast to the grim rituals we just witnessed, but it’s obvious that Arcturus know how to put on one hell of a party. Exhausted from the sheer magnitude of it all, we hobble away from Vulkan Arena, disappearing into the night reeking of stale tobacco and expensive beer.
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