Tons of Rock 2016: Black Sabbath - 'Fredriksten Fortress' Halden, Norway

Yes, you read that right, I was about to see Black Sabbath inside a fortress

This was it. The End. The final tour by legendary Metal Gods, Black Sabbath and I was on my way to see them play to a crowd of around 10,000 at one of Norway’s most unique festivals, Tons on Rock! Tons of Rock is a three-day festival, historically located inside the mighty 17th century Fredriksten Fortress. Yes, you read that right, I was about to see Black Sabbath inside a fortress, in Norway and I almost couldn’t contain my excitement! Together with my Italian accomplice for the two-hour train Journey from Oslo, we coughed as we opened beers like 13 year olds, hiding from the train security. Unfortunately for us, both, the festival buses and the camping were sold out, so we were winging it, attempting to party until the first train at 4am - we were in it for the long hall! Arriving at our destination; battle vests and a bottle of wine in tow, we found ourselves looking up at a beautiful sight - the majestic Fortress looked like something truly out of a fairytale while it guards the town of Halden and the Iddefjord. As usual I have something broken, so all the while whining about my broken toe, we had a small walk in the rain around this humble town as we made our way up to the Fortress.

We purchased our ‘cashless cards’ with enough money for beer on them and followed the frantic crowd up to the main stage area. People were running like crazy and I had never been here before so I had no idea where I was going and after a bottle of wine, it’s not ideal to be at a festival with a broken toe, running through a frantic crowd awaiting Black Sabbath, let me tell you that. Lucky for me I had my Italian comrade firmly gripping my hand, “Hurry up! They are starting!”, she screams, as she plowed through the sea of black like a hound dog from hell to ensure we got a good spot for the show.

Then we see it; what Tons of Rock is all about this year, the stage is set for Sabbath and it sits at the bottom of green mounds covered in bodies looking over each other’s shoulders, we are surrounded by the bricks of the fortress. As the backdrop lights up with the giant flaming letters of BLACK SABBATH and the stage fills with smoke, I look around me, at where I am and I feel at peace. I can now die a happy metal head. Bell chimes ring loudly from the speakers, we all know this is the beginning of the song ‘Black Sabbath’. The Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne stands centre stage, rocking back and forth on his microphone stand and I swear the crowd is dead silent... It’s earie. I’m looking over the heads of thousands on the same hill as me, and we are all moving around to get a better view. Every hair on the back of my neck stands up as Ozzy’s unmistakable voice slowly echoes over the walls of the Fortress, “What is this that stands before me…?”  Joined onstage by Toni Iommi on lead guitar, Geezer Butler on Bass and the only non-founding member, Tommy Clueftos filling in for Bill Ward. The men of Sabbath get everyone into full swing. Dramatically doing the sign of the cross, Ozzy yells “Come on everybody, let’s go crazy!” At this point my shits lost, we throw caution to the wind and run down the hill to be a part of the beer spilling, head banging mass. What broken toe?

As the night went on, the setlist really proved to be the stuff any Sabbath fans’ dreams are made of. Playing only songs from their 70’s albums, they gave me the feeling that I was actually at a Sabbath show when it all began and I simply cannot translate into words, how magical this made me feel. Having played these songs thousands of times, you couldn’t sense any debility in their performance and they still looked great up there! With our fists held high in the air, we windmilled our way through our favourite songs, as it was pouring rain, my wet hair whipped anyone within a metre radius and frankly I didn’t give a Rat Salad. (haha, see what I did there!) Sending us to another era, they played through the classics, Fairies Wear Boots, Snowblind, Iron Man and many more including Children of the Grave. Regrettably, they hadn’t placed any toilets down near the main stage, so we had to miss snippets of the show, while struggling up the hill to line up for ten minutes to use the portaloos. Lucky everyone else was in quite a hurry to get back as well or it could’ve taken way longer. So of course I was in the toilet line as I heard the sirens wail out, signaling the beginning of War Pigs, I don’t think I’ve ever used the bathroom that fast in my life. I was like a lightning bolt straight back down just in time to join the greatest metal singalong I’ve ever been a part of and the rain made it even more enchanting. Ozzy jumped up and down on stage as he encouraged the crowd to sing every second verse, announcing his love for us all, but we loved him more, “Oh Lord Yeah!”

Finishing this otherworldly experience with non-other than Paranoid, Ozzy and his hunched posture, stalked around the stage in a last effort to put the lid on what has been an incredible 47-year career for the Infamous Black Sabbath. While the thousands cheered and held horns high Ozzy thanked us and said goodbye, leaving us bereft of all senses. If this really was ‘The End’, they certainly left us with a bang.

As the soaked, deflated crowed milled around to go back to their camps or find their friends, so did we and boy did we have one hell of a car park party. Huddled in a giant circle on the wet grass in the darkness, joined by strangers and friends, we partied and talked in our way into the next day. I woke up in a strange car with a cluster of battle vests for a blanket and a strange voice in a Norwegian accent spoke to me. “Good Morning, we’re driving to Oslo now, you want a ride?”

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tons of Rock