Live at Blå in Oslo, Norway on February 11th, 2016.
Photos by Marie Solheim.
It’s no secret that Norway’s darker cultural exports still lean heavily on black metal, but in recent years a significant amount of doom bands have been coming out of the woodwork. Tonight’s gig at Blå serves as a showcase of the new wave of Norwegian doom, with three wildly different approaches from distant corners of the country. Boosting the feeling of a burgeoning scene, the Norwegian crowd clearly takes care of its own, as evidenced by the impressive audience turnout for a Thursday night doom show.
Originally hailing from the west coast city of Stavanger, the opening act Ocean Dweller are a relatively new band, consisting of members from more established names such as Stonegard and Haust. A furious onslaught of sludge and hardcore, Ocean Dweller cut an impressive figure between the seizure-inducing spotlights. There are traces of High On Fire and Mastodon in their balls to the wall pummel, with the stronger hardcore-influences admittedly make them the odd ones out on this triple-bill. Channeling the sound of a warlord planting his axe in an enemy’s head, the pulsating energy is somewhat marred by frontman and Matt Pike-soundalike Lars Nilsen Vatle’s silly banter between and during songs. In any case, Ocean Dweller are an absolutely intense live machinery, driven by twin guitars and a human machine behind the drumkit, providing a stellar argument for wearing earplugs.
Taking the tempo down several notches, Reptile Master still manage to ramp up the intensity. Representing the northernmost region of Norway, the band has taken the trip from the arctic city Tromsø in order to bring monolithic post-sludge to Blå. Despite a moniker borrowed from Sleep’s signature song “Dragonaut”, Reptile Master conjure a smell more like ash and smoldering embers than of stale bongwater. Having recently released their debut In the Light of a Sinking Sun, Reptile Master have their knapsacks filled to the brim with bowel-shaking, lumbering riffs, tinted with pitch black atmosphere. The walls shake as their droning wall of sound crashes forward, while the two vocalists perform a hellish duet of screams. Somewhere within the droning oceans of bass, low-key guitars paint desolate bleak soundscapes, but the massive sound drowns out most of the underlying post metal flourish. After smashing the venue underfoot, the reptiles bow out on a somber note with the melancholic title track “In the Light of a Sinking Sun”, an achingly dark opus of staggering proportions.
Local representatives for Oslo this evening, headliners Tombstones begun making a name for themselves internationally with 2013’s Red Skies and Dead Eyes. Celebrating the release of their fourth album Vargariis, and marking their 10-year anniversary as a band, the three-piece bring the audience crashing back to earth with their bottom-heavy stoner doom. Musically an amalgamation of doom stalwarts such as Sleep, YOB, and Electric Wizard, Tombstones’ strength lies not in their originality, but in their groovy live presence and teeth-rattling heavyweight riffs. These guys live and breathe doom metal, and it makes their performances a smoke-glazed joy to behold.
After opening with the Acid King-esque “Obstfelder”, the band proceeds to play Vargariis in its entirety, supplemented with a trippy video backdrop. In contrast to the preceding bands, it’s abundantly clear that Tombstones have experience of taking their show around Europe, bringing a sense of professionalism that’s tempered by the obvious enjoyment of their music. Only a three-piece, the band makes the most out of the colossal sound mix, with every fuzzed out note shambling straight for the jugular. Grinning from ear to ear due to the great crowd response, the band keeps playing well past the point where their premade video backdrop has run its course, past the venue’s midnight curfew and past your bedtime. Leaving Blå with ears still ringing, it’s been a elephantine yet greatly diverse musical display from three bands that all carry the Iommic torch in their own individual ways.