Inferno Festival 2018, Oslo, Norway

“We’re going to hell for this!”

Seeing as most of Europe was still frozen over, you can bet your kroner that Oslo was too. Arriving to a brisk Norwegian Spring day of -9 degrees, we were ready to get heated by the mosh pits celebrating Inferno Metal festival’s 18th birthday!! This year’s Festival was expected to be the greatest yet, along with the bands now starting earlier at 5:30pm, they’ve swapped the Wednesday club night for four full nights of metal madness. Held again on the stages of Rockefeller and John Dee in Oslo from March 29th – April 1st, Inferno 2018’s line-up was an epic battle to contend with, especially with names such as EmperorSatyriconCarpathian ForestObituary and Electric Wizard thrown onto posters strewn around the city.

 

Although we had a delayed start to the first day, due to late flights, we threw on our battle jackets and arrived in terrible timing. We had just missed Naglfar and Dodecahedron were playing on the stage downstairs in John Dee and the queue to get in was enormous, this set the pace for all shows down there over the weekend, now we knew to get in quick. With beers in hand Sweden’s Shining played next on the Rockefeller stage as a replacement for the cancellation of Katatonia. Vocalist, Niklas Kvarforth was his normal disguising self, nothing to the extreme of his most reputable shows by any means. His vocals were aggressively stand out but his stage demeana was nothing to write home about. Considering they hadn’t played live in months, I guess they get a free pass. Apart from flicking his used snus at photographers, he announced “We have a new drummer since November and I don’t even know his name.” Later that night, he met my hairless friend at the bar and asked how long he had been a skinhead for. Uff! I’m glad we took our leave and headed down to catch the Norwegian debut of faceless black metallers,Uada. Hailing from Portland, they have gained quite the interest from within the world’s black metal scene since they arrived just a few years ago. Their music is time-honoured, following the original 90’s Norwegian Black metal form, with their own twist and it was great to see that Norway supported them in this. The room couldn’t be more full and this hooded four piece’s performance showed why. Uada’s show was electric, full of raw energy and left us wanting more. This was the third show of an extensive European tour for Uada, running on their debut album, Devoid of Light. I’m excited to see their reception from the rest of Europe and support them in their success.

 

Following the scent of burgers and sausages, we found our way to the roof top. The food stalls this year proved a lot better than last years cheeky waffle stand and the staff were amazing. Smashing burgers into our faces, we got ready for Dark Funeral who had promised a unique show with a very special stage set-up, including pyro, for their 25th Anniversary show. They had quite a lengthy 'walk on' intro, the lights shone bright onto a not so spectacular stage setting. Aside from large side serving of stage banners, lit up inverted cross pieces and their armoured suits, the crowd seemed disappointed, especially at the lack of pyro boxes on stage. They played quite a mix of old and new, including songs off their latest album, Where Shadows Forever Reign. They at least played Open the Gates, which was exciting, considering it was off their debut 1994 EP. Heljamardr, their new front man since 2014, ticks the boxes in the vocal department, but compared to Dark Funeral’s former vocalist, Emperor Magus Caligula, his stage presence wasn’t as dominant...

 

Meanwhile, One Tail One Head had inferno chomping at the bit to get a piece of their ambiguous live show on the basement stage. The incense was thick for this one, half the crowd was in sneezing fits and asthma attacks, but hey? It sure added to the atmosphere! In true Nidrosian fashion, vocalist Luctus decides to adorn his esoteric stage attire at the beginning of his ritual. Dipping his head into a bucket full of what we can only assume was blood, he then showered the photo pit and all the lucky contenders in the first few rows. This show was ferocious, deep from the fiery pits and the audience ate it alive! As lovers of Irony, their merch this time around, sported a glittery band logo, you know I bought one...

 

Final band of the night and Death metal pioneers, Obituary, hit the main stage just after midnight to the well lubricated inferno mass. Starting solid with Redneck Stomp, which made the pit very happy, they hustle their fans through a searing set performing a lot off their 2017 self titled album. Looking like some sort of creature from the swamps of Florida, John Tardy is always such a pleasure to watch, after throwing in a few older ones, his historical snarls bring the band back for an encore and they ended the night with Slowly We Rot. After piling out of the venue and hearing the sad news that our beloved Rock In bar would be closing its doors after Inferno, we decided to spend as much time there as possible. So naturally we staggered out of there and home in the wee hours after a naughty trip to Max Burger.

 

Awakened by the aroma of vomit and beer could only mean one thing… it was Good Friday! As we head back into the venue we were greeted by the sounds of Sweden’s Mephorash. Hooded in cloaks and concealed faces with shimmering silver metal masks, reflecting the flames flickering in their alter pieces, it was dark magic. As their vocalist makes symbolic or obsure hand movements, the rest of the band remain quite reserved in their stations. The Mephorash sound is both enchanting and disturbing, what a performance! To take a look around this year, there are many merch and market stalls, for all your black metal needs. In the main room there are tattooists making their mark on people and artists selling their wares, musicians signing records, there is so much to see and do and we have so little time. Origin, celebrating 20 years of pure American Death metal slammed Rockefeller to its core and pushed the limits of the Norwegian standstill. Jason Keyser stomps around the stage, commanding attention as his growls assault the ears of everyone in the building. He encourages the crowd to create possibly the first and maybe the last wall of Death in Norway and … it actually happened! There may have been about 20 people in it, but it was there. “Look I know crowd surfing might be illegal here in Norway, but lets do this!” His comedic banter mixed with violent head banging only fuelled the sea of head bangers into more fury.

 

Most of this day was spent at the main stage, not for lack of trying, but it seemed like there were so many more punters on this day. Each set downstairs was a struggle to get into, so we took a beer and waited for the highly anticipated Emperor. Playing their award winning second album Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, from start to finish, the mob was wide eyed and bushy tailed for the entire set. There is nothing quite like watching Emperor on their home turf, this is where it all started, the soil here is rich in Black metal history and you can almost feel Ihsahn’s sense of Pride playing in Norway. I’ve never seen this amount of people squeezed into Rockefeller, it was so hard to get a viewpoint in the venue from any of the levels. As the set drew to a close, I managed to kneel down for vantage and through the balcony railings, I saw the horns get raised for Curse You All Men! Ihsahn gives a modest smile to their fans with Samoth to his right on guitar and Trym Torson paused with drum sticks held high, they concluded the night with Inno a Sanata. This was also the end of our evening at Inferno although we still managed to stumble home around 9am, kebab in hand...

 

As we prepared with a whisky breakfast for our Saturday return to the venue, Nordjevel finally brought the fire to the party! These Norwegian all star black metal brothers banded together in 2015 and haven’t stopped spawning new material since. Flame throwers, smoke, spikes and corpse paint, their display had it all. Although the first band of the day; their constant addiction to creating new music in this genre proved why they earn such a massive turnout. 

 

Now for some old school UK death for dinner, Memoriam bring the mass back to the main stage. For Bolt Thrower fans, this truly is, as good as it gets. Karl Willets on vocals, is incredibly humble with the crowd, dedicating songs to his mum all the while stalking around like a hunched mystic creature from the Dark Crystal. He tells us to have no remorse, no regrets and to never look back. This was one hell of a tribute to the late Bolt Thrower drummer Martin Kearns. Playing a lot of new tracks, off their brand new album, which just came out in March, The Silent Vigilthe sirens wail and so does the crowd when they triumph into Resistance from their first demo.

 

Down into the dungeon, it was about time for some doom! AHAB begin their set and I’m instantly transported to the ocean floor in the deepest depths, in a complete transient state. Although the vocal changes and breaks send shivers down my spine to keep me alert, for the most part, I just wanted to close my eyes and enjoy the moment in a booze-fuelled daze. An absolute favourite performance of the day. The headlining act of the night was upon us, to a very eager Inferno, in the final hour, Satyricon striked. In their very neat button up black shirts, the band engage with so much integrity as they know they’ve already stood the test of time. Constantly pushing boundaries, they receive great crowd feedback when they play the title track form their newest album, Deep Calleth Upon Deep. Satyr wouldn’t let us leave without Mother North just as much as Frost would never leave the drum kit. After a massive 14 song set, they come back for an encore and finally leave us with The Pentagram BurnsFuel for Hatred then finishing with K.I.N.G. This was a set list to make any Satyricon fan happy. Satyr roars, “Come on Oslo, even in places like Norway where people are rich, you shouldn’t worry about your clothes getting sweaty and dirty, we still need a moshpit!” With that we took our dirty, sweaty selves to the last night of partying at Rock In. Shots of ‘mintu’ barely kept us alive but we drank the place dry and danced the night away. The last thing I remember was racing all the way down the main street at 9am in shopping carts and waking up on the bathroom floor of our air bnb. Worth it!

 

The last day of Inferno was sadly here, that horrible Easter Sunday that none of us look forward to seeing the end of. Tsjuder are a savage three piece that have been a stronghold in the Norwegian scene for over 20 years, cultivating that true Norwegian black metal spirit. Vocalist and bass player Jan-Erik ‘Nag’ Romøren arrives to the stage with ‘Faen’ scribbled across his stomach, while guitarist and vocalist Halvor ‘Draugluin’ Storrøsten has enough spikes on his arms to make an echidna jealous. Their dual vocals are completely demonic and the people roar as they speed into Kill for Satan. Towards the end of their set, Nag announces they will have a special guest on stage for the last few songs. As the Bathory goat banner drops at the back, so do our stomachs!! They welcomed to the stage founding member of Swedish pioneers Bathory, Frederick ‘Freddan’ Melander on bass guitar. This was one of those rare occasions where you just have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dead, so naturally, we went wild for it. They surprised us with Bathory covers of Born For BurningSatan My Master and of course Sacrifice, I’m sure even Quorthon would’ve been impressed with the tribute they layed out.

 

There is a good hour or so lost here in the upstairs bar and DJ room, it was a mix of shots, drinking the newly crafted Inferno beer, dancing like a loser and catching up with long lost pals. After actually finding a seat on the second floor, we filled our cups and sat down to be drugged by the sound of UK doom greats Electric Wizard. Behind them, a screen of psychedelic visual delight, revolving imagery from old horror movies, satanic rituals, naked bodies everywhere and oh so much colour. Witchcult Today was their opening track and we truly wished we had taken acid. Guitarist Liz Buckingham has a zen like stance, flared jeans and all, the crowd below become a synchronised sea of hair, lagging back and forth to her drudging low end riffs. Jews Osborn is everything right with doom, he wields his guitar as though he is leading us into some sort of slow motion battle and croons through distortion over the 20 minute masterpiece that is Dopethrone. “This song is for anybody that has ever smoked weed” he proclaims. Bringing the set to a close, they ruin us with Funneralopolis, which took me right back to smoking bucket bongs as a teenager in a boiling hot shed, somewhere in outback Australia. Beautiful!

 

This was it, the last band of this years festival, crawling back out from behind the trees after a long hiatus, Carpathian Forest arrived to the Rockefeller stage with a new line-up and to a hungry congregation. Founding member and front man Nattefrost has us hooked as they dramatically walk on to Theme From Necromantikk and move into The Woods of Wallachia. The new line-up sees Gamle Erik and Malphas on guitars, Slakt on bass and Audun at the back on drums. Between all the new members who are well known in the Norwegian scene from other bands like SvarttjernEndezzma and Magister Templi to name a few. Nattefrost has definitely chosen his aggregation well, together, you can tell their sound has been rehearsed to perfection and live, it does the older songs justice. A Norwegian flag hangs proudly and the stage is strewn with obscure life-like masks (assuming they weren’t the sliced off faces of real people, this is Carpathian Forest after all). A very engaging set list, Nattefrost even busting out an amusing harmonica solo for When Thousand Moon Have Circled. His vocals haven’t aged a day, the older songs sound as raw live as when they were recorded, Black Shining Leather receives a mammoth reception as well as their cover’s of The Cure’s A Forest and Turbonegro’s All My Friends Are Dead. It’s dirty, it’s ugly and we didn’t stop moving the entire set. After a vigorous run, they send us home with The Suicide Song, now if this is the sound of Death, I’ll take two tickets please , they were undeniably my highlight of the festival this year...

 

This concluded our Black Metal Easter adventure for another year, another mental closing party, arriving home at 3pm and this was probably the most immense Inferno festival yet. After looking back on all the incredible performances over the four days, all the debauchery and mayhem had, I guess Carpathian Forest can sum it up best, “We’re going to hell for this!”

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Jørn Veberg Photography - http://www.jornveberg.com/