Southern Discomfort

Now that summer sort of draws to an end in Norway, it's time for indoor festivals. This one took place between the 17th and 18th of September in southern Norway, in the city of Kristiansand. The city itself deserves its own post, since I had some funny experiences, but that's maybe for another time. The festival was hosted by two venues - Kick for the main bands and PÃ¥ Hjørnet for the “afterparty”, where smaller bands performed — very close to each other and none of them for too long. But that was not a problem, since the audience was not very numerous. The sound was decent overall, the stage at PÃ¥ Hjørnet was too small for the bands with more than 3 members, and beer drinkers had most of the fun. I loved the relaxed and friendly atmosphere at the festivals I have been to in Norway, and this one wasn't any different.

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In Vain live@Southern Discomfort 2010
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / StudioRock

The openers of the festival were Aspherium, a recently formed band with young members, who have only released a demo so far and played some mix of Black and Death Metal. It must have been a bit tough for them, since the crowd didn't dare/want/bother to move all the way to the front, so they only had an enthusiastic guy headbanging right in front of the stage while everyone else was few meters back. It wasn't a bad performance, but not too catchy either, and I spent most of the time adjusting camera settings for the dark venue, so I can't speak much of their music. Next on stage we had In vain, a really nice surprise for me — I started to listen to them a few days before the festival and I was impressed after the first few minutes. The progressive metal that they are playing is a really genuine combination of brutal passages, progressive keyboards and guitar riffs, lovely melodies blended with different of vocal styles. They had a “guest” singer on stage who played only a few of the songs, while the keyboardist handled the vocals for the rest. Their latest release — Mantra from 2010 — is a masterpiece, and one can nothing but admire the quality of their work. I don't know how often they have played live, but their looks, the chemistry between the members and the stage show is adequate for their style. Their songs are quite long, and they delivered a setlist that covered the main hits from the 2 albums they have released so far.

The headliner of the day was Ihsahn, the former frontman of Emperor whose live shows are backed up by the brilliant young progressive band Leprous. Considering the complexity of Ihsahn's music, it looked as if on the stage there were more strings on the instruments than keys on the keyboards. Everyone used 8 strings and the bass had 5. Finally the crowd seemed to have gathered in higher numbers, and I heard some really pleasantly surprised comments when songs from Emperor albums were played. Ihsahn himself is not much of a showman, but no one cares as long as he performs with such confidence and brilliance. On the other hand, the bassist didn't stand still for 2 seconds, and the keyboard player puts up his own act headbanging like crazy most of the time.

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Ihsahn live@Southern Discomfort 2010
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / StudioRock

The 1 hour setlist and encore covered all his albums plus two Emperor songs (Thus spake the night spirit and The tongue of fire) and they were totally loved by the audience. The parts where Ihsahn's voice is not suitable were nicely covered by keyboardist Einar Solberg who does quite a good imitation of Mikael Åkerfeldt on Unhealer, while the growling responsibility belonged to guitarist Øystein Landsverk, who seems rather shy and not at all like the one who would put out such awesome growls. The people I spoke with were really happy with the concert, but since the pub turns into a night club right after the last concert, we had to relocate to På hjørnet for two more bands.

The stage at På hjørnet is hardly a place for a 6 piece hardcore punk band like Black Blood World (or any band who performed there, actually). After half a song everyone was covered in sweat, and they had to be really careful not to hit each other (or the crowd) with the guitar necks. The vocalist was full of energy and entertaining to watch, but the punk-ish music was totally unfit for me after the previous concerts sporting totally different styles. That's why we didn't manage to stay until the end of the show and missed the last band of the day.

Saturday started again at 7PM, and it was quite surprising to see such a big number of long haired folks gathered in front of the stage. Once you hear the music of Fannefjell though, you understand why. Such combinations of black/folk music, “savage” clothes (including a fox fur hanging around the singer's body), face paint, make you think of all the troll bands out there and is perfect to set up a good party mood among the audience, especially when spiced up with jokes from the musicians. I read it was their first performance and that the same day they celebrated their first release, so I guess it explained why they seemed so nervous. However, the performance was quite extraordinary for a band at this stage in their career, so I hope they will go on impressing and making new fans.

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The Batallion live@Southern Discomfort 2010
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / StudioRock

The second I saw the members of the next band coming on stage, I thought we're in for some heavy metal. But the idea vanished shortly after the old fashioned thrash riffs kicked in. It belonged to a band coming from the West coast of Norway — The Batallion, a band containing members from other famous groups like Old Funeral, Grimfist, Borknagar and Helheim. They came on stage with outfits that totally fit their music which seemed built around the Spirit of Masculinity (the title of one of the songs). Leather jackets, pants, sun glasses, evil-ish smiles, etc. Unfortunately, there seemed to be something wrong with a cable after a few of their songs, so the music stopped for a few minutes. Yet, it was the highlight of the concert as someone in the crowd started shouting “We're not gonna take it”, and then everyone else, band members included, tagged along and played a little of the famous Twisted Sister song. The other highlight of their show were the guitar solos and riffs.

The main stage shows ended in an even more evil manner with the performance of black metallers from 1349 and their brutal songs about the darkest of creatures. The show didn't lack an entrance with two lit torches, horned fists, face and body paint, huge spikes around the wrists/arms of the singer, a cloak worn by the bassist, fast “hair mill”, but most of all they impress by the really tight way in which they deliver such fast music. From the photographer's point of view they're really annoying, since they don't like too much light on their stage; from the neck's point of view, they're very painful, since one ends up doing some fast headbanging. I tried to get a glimpse of Frost, the drummer, but there was way too much smoke on stage to see him behind the drums. It's just insane how fast he plays. 1349 have released a new album this year, so they covered it in the playlist, without forgetting earlier hits like Riders of the Apocalypse or I Am Abomination.

Again, the club turned into a disco after the festival, so we moved along to På hjørnet, where the crowd was already getting mad on the rhythms of Dunderbeist's music. People were jumping, singing, somehow dancing. There were 7 musicians on stage, with black paint around their eyes and all had white tank tops and black suspenders. Musically, they sounded as if everyone of them plays whatever famous song he is thinking of. It got quite hard to breathe in front of the stage, so I stayed further back and enjoyed looking at the enthusiastic crowd. I also wondered if it would have been the same had they played on the main stage and earlier in the day.

All in all, a very pleasant experience and I personally haven't noticed any organisational problems, so there should be some thanks going to those who set everything up.

Andrea Chirulescu