First of all, for the video side of things, here's the youtube playlist of videos I took.
Tuesday â€“ Thrills at the museum
Not officially an Inferno festival day, but on the page it was presented as a grand opening of the IMC at the Norwegian Viking Ship Museum, Tuesday 30th of March at 19:00. It was the concert of Wardruna, the brainchild of Kvitrafn (Einar Selvik), who started the project of making music out of the Norse runes after he left Gorgoroth as their drummer in 2004. According to their website, Wardruna is the sound of the Norse forgotten culture and played their very first show at The Viking Ship Museum during IMC 2009. That event was held during normal daytime opening hours, and the audience was mesmerized by the heavily emotional experience. Al I can tell you is that the audience who joined for this event on Tuesday, as it was outside the opening hours, was as mesmerized as the initial crowd. It was all due the combination of the hundreds of years old viking ship on the background, surreal light effects changing patterns on every song, weird and odd instruments played by people who got so captivated by the music as when they wandered their eyes over you, you could have just felt their music passing through you.
The concert didn't last for long, but it was enough to introduce you in the “Easter” infernal atmosphere offered by the city of Oslo for this week. I left the museum with my batteries charged and with my ears delighted by the experience.
In a pub in Oslo, afterwards, we saw Trollfest live. I don't think it was a part of the festival schedule, but it was a fun concert, with one of the band members wearing fur clothes and the saxophone singer making really funny faces. The way they combine metal with Balkan rhythms made many people dance around in the small pub.
Wednesday — Indian menu
At Inferno, Wednesday has been the club night, where smaller bands play in different venues around the city. And some of these bands make it to the main stages next year or few years after, like NegurÄƒ Bunget did. We couldn't go and see all bands, since the concerts run at the same time, so we went to BlÃ¥ for the 3 acts there.
First there was a British band called Spearhead and they played their death metal without really impressing many people. They made some mistakes and were not very convincing overall.
Next up was the surprise band for us. They are called Scribe and they come from India. They had funny outfits, wearing their jackets, but they explained that they just arrived from 40 degrees to like 2-3 and they were just cold. The performance was impressive: a hardcore show, reminding of System of a Down's crazyness in some parts of the vocals. They had a lot of fun, the crowd was entertained and seeing Indian people headbanging was quite new to me and nice to see. At some point they asked two long haired guys from the audience to come and headbang with them on the stage. It was such a crazy sight to see two local Vikings, taller than all the band members, long haired as well, among the 5 Indians. It's a band to check out, nevertheless.
The evening ended with Vomitory. A brutal death band, who did their job well, rocked the place and showed their experience in the quality of their music. In my opinion they would have been better than some of the bands of the other days who played on bigger stages. All in all, an entertaining club evening with a very nice Indian surprise.
Thursday â€“ Trolls day
I didn't get the chance to attend the concerts on Thursday, so I will speak little about it, based on the feedback I received from my friends.
The Austrians satisfied the wish of some people for very brutal death metal and put up a good quality show that has triggered a lot of headbanging.
The folk-ish metal that people expected was played at its best and made the crowd dance to different rhythms than the other bands.
Off to Monica:
Have you ever had the the feeling of being lost for words after a really good concert? I did, after seeing Marduk for the first time on stage. Being so close to my heart (after all, I am Romanian, and they sang about Romanian history), I was eager to see this black metal legend alive.
And Marduk lived up to their reputation of putting an infernal stage performance without the help of pyrotechnics and other useless band-aids, managing to create a true black metal atmosphere with their music alone. About the playlist I cannot tell you much, except that they played some songs from Panzer Divison Marduk (Baptism by fire was a blast), and they also combined fast songs with some slow ones, but without slowing the pace.
I was way too absorbed to take notes, like everyone else in front of the stage (by the way, fantastic chemistry between the crowd and the band), but thanks to K's keen eye, behind the amps you could actually see someone headbanging. It was nobody else but Alan Nemtheanga, the Primordial vocal, who later joined them to sing along Accuser/Opposer. And the little devil on my left shoulder tells me to also note the fact that this time Alan managed not to blow his nose, as he usually does on stage :p.
Friday â€“ Night of the Emperor
I missed Misturâ€™s show, so the first one for the day was Ram-Zet, on the main stage. The female singer, a woman with big “soul”, so to speak, tried her best at impressing the audience and the result was not bad at all. Her voice was cool and powerful, and she is good at doing her act. So was the keyboard girl, whose hair looked as if it was on fire. But I was even more impressed by the violin solos spread across their songs and some nice intros. However, I could have picked many other bands that played on smaller stags to replace them, since their almost Goth-like style didn't seem to fit the festival very well. Plus, it felt weird that the male vocalist sounded more like a woman than the female vocalist.
It was time for some more death metal. I didn't know Benediction from before, so I just hoped for a nice surprise and I wasn't disappointed by their energetic show during which they called for mosh pits and managed to get the crowd in front of the stage go nuts. Since they didn't seem to have any recent record, the feast for those who enjoyed their old works was plentiful. However, I wouldn't call it the best show of the festival, and after few songs it was no longer interesting, so I moved along.
More death metal started afterwards on the smaller stage at John Dee. It was a 4 men show, and already pretty packed when I got there, since everyone seemed to want to check them out. We got rewarded for our curiosity with an impressive brutal death show that even made the beers headbang. I especially enjoyed the guitarist's headbanging, he was putting one knee on the ground and spinning his head like a mill. Also the vocalist's guitar was catching your eye since it had no head. The show reached its climax during the 3 minute drum solo that made me once again wish the organisers had a different choice for some of the bands on the main stage. These guys totally rocked the small venue at John Dee.
For all I care, Ihsahn, supported by the amazing newcomers from Leprous, could have been the one and only band of the festival, playing for all the 4 days. It was obviously a show of an experienced guy with a passion for what he's doing and with interest for detail. They performed stuff from the new album, but without forgetting the great songs from previous ones, thus taking us into a journey where black metal was surprisingly combined with a wide variety of tunes. There was a small problem with the bass during the first song, but it got solved quickly, and what came afterwards became history. The band members played with accuracy and passion, and despite their young age (according to the site, they are between 19 and 24), Leprous outperformed many of the experienced bands I saw this week. There was a saxophone on stage during few songs, completing the lovely sound of the music. And all this good music was spiced with one of the best light shows I ever saw, without being extremely pompous. Seeing it from the top floor (Rockefeller offers the possibility to stay next to the stage or go to the first or second floor and have an awesome view over the whole stage and the crowd below) has made the experience even more awesome.
Mayhem — Circus Maximus
Off to Monica again:
So, the story could start like this: it was a nice Friday night, before Easter. I had just seen some truly great concerts, so I really felt like nothing could surprise me, in terms of pure (black) metal awesomeness.
I didn't really know what to expect of Mayhem, so I and K headed up to the balcony to find a good place to see. I was kind of hungry — after all, it was past 12 o'clock, and the need for some fresh blood or at least some well cooked meat had started to haunt my senses. From the place we found, near the stage, we could actually take a peak on what was going on there. And we saw huge bags with ribs. Yummy! So much flesh wasted just to annoy our poor hungry souls…
K was more practical: he was wondering which butcher shop sponsored the event (so we could go next day, they would surely have fresh meat, judging by the quantity of pretty dead cow's ribs sacrificed on the altar of black metal).
Back to the subject, i.e. the concert. It started with a puff, a zombie made-up Attila wearing an orthodox priest's robe and swinging around a censer, and some pretty bored guys playing (at least the bass player was the walking epitome of spleen). And all this on a stage decorated with — what else? — ribs. Ah, and a horned skeleton, which looked more like the Easter bunny caught by surprise in the Norwegian woods and eaten by the (very hungry) band, leaving its skeleton in the “laying eggs” position.
The sound wasn't their friend, but I think nobody really cared: all eyes were on Attila and his feud with the bones hung around the drum set, which Hellhammer was too busy torturing. Ah, and on the fires, of which there were many. At some point, a delicious smell of barbecue had started to spill from the stage into the public, and then Attila decided to share some meat with the hungry fans and tossed a spine and some ribs to the crowd; I'd like to believe those didn't end up as somebody's dinner.
At some other point, he anointed each member of the band with blood from the less than tasteful decorations, finishing, how else, gloriously crucified while gargling tomato juice on a cross brought on stage by guys wearing executioner hoods.
Don't-try-this-at-home-kids-warning: some fans shouldn't take this too seriously, 'cause the band surely doesn't.
To conclude, this concert was exactly the opposite of Marduk's show: if the latter concentrated on music, Mayhem concentrated on circus. Circus maximus, to quote another famous band's lyrics (The Kovenant). All in all, like some other bands enrolled in this genre, (Immortal comes to mind), these guys managed to dance, once again, on the thin red wire suspended between ridiculous and sublime.
Saturday â€“ Nexus Polaris
To put us back on our feet after the fatigue of the previous days, first band of the day for me was Taake. Their crazy fast drumming, combined with the intensity of guitar and bass riffs was as successful as a “morning” coffee. I moved around during their show since the sound didn't seem to be at its best, but eventually the problem got fixed. The crowd enjoyed the concert in the black metal way, almost stiller than a church crowd, the main difference being the raising of horns and the occasional banging of the long hairs. The band probably headbanged way more than anyone in the audience, I donâ€™t think they even needed cooling fans on stage. They also had a guest on stage, Carpathian Forest's Nattefrost. Face painting was there, too, contributing to the perfect atmosphere of a true black metal concert. Or should I say true Norwegian black metal? Details, details.
Batteries charged, I moved on to John Dee as I was told that Irr were worth checking out. They came up one by one, each holding a hammer and smashing something in the middle of the stage. Their bodies, or at least the visible parts, had dark greenish paint on them, so I am not sure if they meant to resemble zombies or trolls, yet it fit well with the hammers and the remaining setting of the stage. But these details got uninteresting when they started to perform. It was a 3 piece band, and I was impressed with the intensity of the music, though a bit too extreme at points. I heard they previously made it to Wacken, so I think that explains the stage show, since they have been through the experience of a big festival and know what it takes to be in front of the crowd. As usual, I appreciate bands who like to be on stage, since it makes their music even more enjoyable, even if not my cup of tea.
Back to the main stage at Rockefeller once more for some good mix of black, death and thrash metal from this band with members from various countries. The crowd didn't seem too eager to see them, so it was rather easy to find a place in the first rows, but it was only their loss if they decided to be somewhere else. It is not a band known to me, sounded like Slayer at some points in the show, and I have no regrets for staying and hearing them for a while.
Inferno festival prepared the surprise of Kovenant's reunion for the 10th year anniversary of the festival, and the band decided to play the whole Nexus Polaris for this occasion. I heard various opinions regarding their choice of album, yet I think their choice was a good one. We went long time before it started and hung on to the fence in front of the stage so we could have a first hand experience. We had to guard the place well; we had glances of Sarah Jezebel Deva coming up on the stage on our side and, well, with all due respect for her voice, nobody was thrilled by her choice of outfit. The curtains were pulled revealing a rather simple stage setting, with a big band logo and… band members with interesting outfits, yet not too extreme. A very nice touch was that the first words were small presentations of the band members and which projects they came from. The second surprise that the band had for the Inferno crowd was a newly recorded song, never performed before. I don't recall if they said anything about a new album, but the song worked very well as an intro, as it was an instrumental piece. Then Nagash announced that Nexus Polaris shall begin. The album was a delight to listen to. It felt like the songs got a bit of extra arrangements at times, but I am not sure if the sound just got distorted due the intensity of my own headbanging. A bit of editing after having had heard my recordings, and the impression that Sarah Jezebel Deva didn't have a good voice day was confirmed, which was a pity. But the music kept flowing, the crowd kept singing along and applauding, the musicians gave their best, and I am convinced they loved their time on stage as much as those who loved seeing them. There was nothing extravagant about their show, no super extra fancy riffs or solos, only the pleasure of hearing a good old album played from A to Z and this band reunited on stage.
They were one of this festival's big surprises. I knew their name, I had seen them before at Graspop, but in a much smaller setting. They were the last band of the day on the main stage, and also the last band of the festival. I no longer stayed in front, I went to the middle floor so have a better view over the stage, and it offered a perfect experience of this band's performance. You could see the fact that they've been around for quite a while, since they knew how to put up a good show. With their thrash music sending you back to the early days of Metallica maybe, they got the crowd to headbang and to scream a lot throughout the whole performance.
Despite having their 10 years anniversary, Inferno had a weaker line-up than previous editions in my opinion. Don't read that I was disappointed, maybe it's also because I didn't know many of the names on the list. However, I did encounter nice surprises, and I will be looking forward to attend the next edition of this alternative to the normal Easter in the capital of Black Metal. It is a week where the normal dark metalheads that seem so gloomy and mean on the streets are gathering in these not so big venues and share the joy of good music, beer and, most of all, a friendly atmosphere. It was incredible how easy it is to just walk up to them and start talking, how an enormous bloke wearing spikes apologizes if he hits you by mistake, and how happily they smile whenever they come across somebody they know. And even someone you don't know just comes to you and tell you that you love them. Definitely keep an eye out for the next editions.
By Andrea Chirulescu and Monica PanÈ›Ã¢ru