My second time in Kvinesdal, Southern Norway has been one of the most amazing festival experiences one can ever have. I believe I managed to meet the best photo crew that can share the same tent and press area for some days and make each second go away with an incredible amount of laughter. Therefore, my good musical experience at the festival is highly increased by the mood around me.
Norway Rock festival used to be known as Kvinesdal Rock festival until 2008, and is currently organised by the foundation Norway Rock Kvinesdal, which, according to their website, it is mainly composed of volunteers who think it is cool to have world stars play in a field in Kvinedsdal. There is no age limit for the weekdays of the festival, Wednesday and Thursday. The location is absolutely stunning, being surrounded by hills/mountains on all sides, a river running right by the backstage area and the grass in the camping make it a perfect location to spend few nights. This year we didn't seem to please quite all the gods, so we had plenty of rain in the area. Yet, the response from the organisers was rather fast with sand and straws being thrown over the areas where most of the swamps would form. It still led to a lot of ballet among the audience, but I've seen much worse. Other than that, the festival not being an oversized one, it's very pleasant to have space to move around, not to have to spend ages queuing for drinks or food and, most of all, to just end up knowing everyone who already knows everyone around you. Also, having only two stages to worry about is very good for your legs and energy levels.
The concerts have started on the main stage on Thursday with the melodic/power/progressive/death music of the Danes from Mercenary. I saw them a few months ago as a support act for Power of Metal, and they made a good impression back then as they did now, of a daring power metal that has borrowed the mean aspects of death rhythms. Their show seemed much more fit for a small stage, since the vocalist also plays the bass and it's not easy for him to move around too often. It was a good and energetic kick start for the upcoming days of metal music. They were followed on the small stage by one of local surprises of the festival (for me at least). Breed, a Norwegian band who released two albums so far, delivered an excellent stage show, with very powerful vocals and stunning riffs in a melodic yet brutal mix of sounds that made you think you see AC/DC, In Flames and Black Label Society playing at the same time. Before Breed I actually saw a few minutes of the performance of a very young band called Switchblade Love, who should keep up their work on the punk/alternative metal they have delivered for about half an hour and through which they proved a lot of talent.
The madness returned to the main stage where other Norwegians, this time Kvelertak, offered one hour of fury. If it could be thrown, it was thrown, if it could be jumped, it was jumped, if there was place to run, climb up or down, they would run, climb up or down. Too bad the drummer was stuck to his chair, I bet he would have joined his other 5 colleagues in the insanity. I found it hard to pay attention for more than 2 seconds to, let's say, the bass player who was throwing the instrument in the air, since the singer would run around and make something even more extreme, all of their actions fitting perfectly with their dark punk/metal style. After so much testosterone, it was time to cool off a bit by watching the Djerv show in the tent. Their singer, Agnete, also participated in the latest Dimmu Borgir album and shows. She has an incredible powerful voice and they work hard on offering a good experience to the crowd, but honestly after the two ones I previously described, it wasn't at all too exciting to watch them. Neither were the Germans from Blind Guardian or U.D.O. on the main stage afterwards. It's always cool and funky to listen to their famous songs, hear the crowd singing along, but they were not the kind of shows to blow you off the ground through their energy. They were beautiful and would only be enjoyed from the perspective of watching some metal legends live.
I went back to the small tent for another portion of extreme and harsh metal, also from Norway, this time the band Insense. I find it hard to place them in any genre whatsoever, I can just say I had the feeling of hearing a slowed down Meshuggah with vocals borrowed from metalcore, yet managing to surprise with the intensity of their growls. It didn't seem like the kind of music concentrating on being too technical or so, but the songs they put together are really interesting to listen to. The last band I watched in the small tent was Norwegian, Ingenting (meaning Nothing, whose website actually redirect you to nothing.no and offer you a short history about the Nothing). They are a popular local rock band with the kind of party songs that people love and would scream together with the singer for the duration of the whole set. They had light problems for the first 3-4 songs, so my photographing experience was ruined by the lack of light, cutting off my mood to watch the rest of the show.
The night ended in style with the Swedes from In Flames, whose melodic/alternative death metal was well spiced with pyro effects both on stage and on its sides, and even some lovely fireworks after the show. The festival offered the chance to four people to win a meet and greet with In Flames members before the show, so that increased their popularity among the crowd. They're a good live act altogether that would easily make you sing or jump along, despite the fatigue gathered during the day.
By Andrea Chirulescu