(Andy Synn was fortunate to be in attendance at the 2018 edition of Inferno Festival in Oslo on March 29 – April 1, and files this report, which will be spread out in installments over the balance of this week.)
What to say about Inferno Festival that I haven’t said before?
From the venue(s) and the location, to the bands and the general organisation, it’s still one of my favourite festivals I’ve ever been to, and this year was a particularly good one for me.
Of course things didn’t get off to the best start, as my plane was delayed on the tarmac for almost two hours, meaning that, by the time I finally hopped off the plane, jumped on a train, and made my way into Oslo, I had missed the one part of the Inferno Music Conference, which I really wanted to attend.
After meeting up with Yvonn, the girl to whom I’d sold my spare ticket, I made my way to my hotel to check in and grab a nap prior to heading over to the festival itself, which meant that I missed out on both Odium and Erimha.
But considering I was already feeling the effects of my ridiculously early start that morning, I still think this was a good decision in the long-run, as it meant I was nice and awake and raring to go by the time I rocked up at the main entrance to Rockefeller a little later on.
As a result of this, the first band of the day, for me at least, was the ever-reliable Naglfar, who did their best to warm up the main-stage crowd with a solid, though not stunning, set of stylishly streamlined, menacingly melodic Black Metal.
Granted, there was nothing particularly groundbreaking or mindblowing about their performance, but as a way to ease myself into the festivities it certainly served its purpose.
Of course the term “mindblowing” is one that you hear a lot in reference to Dodecahedron, the next band on my musical journey that evening, and one which is richly deserved, as they proceeded to turn the John Dee stage into a whirling vortex of angular, avant-garde extremity for the next forty-five phenomenal minutes.
Putting on what was easily one of the heaviest, most devastating sets of the entire festival, the Dutch quintet set such a ridiculously high bar that very few bands would come anywhere near to reaching it over the next few days, and left the stage having beaten a fair portion of their audience into a walking fugue state with the sheer intensity of their performance.
Heading back upstairs it was now time to catch my old friends in Shining strutting out onto the stage to deliver what was, effectively, a “greatest hits” set (to my ears anyway), kicking off with truly vicious blast through “Han som lurar inom” off their latest album, and concluding with a shamelessly epic rendition of their now-traditional closer “For the God Below”.
In between this they stopped in at Klagopsalmer (“Ohm (Sommar med Siv)”), Everyone, Everything (“Framtidsutsikter”), and Halmstad (“Låt oss ta allt från varandra”), as well as throwing in fantastic renditions of both “Jag är din fiende” and “Hail Darkness Hail”. Not only that, but not once did Niklas threaten to stab or piss on any of the audience, preferring to let his (highly underappreciated) voice do all the necessary talking (and singing) for him.
As luck would have it I was able to grab another good spot down in John Dee to watch Uada attempt to tear the place down with their relentless barrage of blistering Black Metal, although only just, as the whole place quickly became rammed to the point of bursting (pro-tip: it’s often advisable to break away from a band’s set 5/10 minutes early, if you can stomach that, in order to get yourself a good spot for the next one… although, in this particular case I couldn’t tear myself away from Shining until “For the God Below” was done, and it was pure chance that I managed to find a good position from which to enjoy Uada).
Powering through a mix of tracks from both their debut album, Devoid of Light, and their upcoming sophomore release, Cult of a Dying Sun, the faceless, hooded quartet barely paused for breath over the course of the next forty-five minutes, giving absolutely no ground and no quarter, and ultimately delivering one of the few sets of the weekend which I thought was capable of going toe-to-toe with the destructive dervish unleashed by Dodecahedron earlier that same evening.
Still reeling from Uada’s blazing sonic storm, I made my way back to the Rockefeller main hall to catch the legendary Dark Funeral hack and slash their way through an enjoyable set of classic cuts and newer numbers in celebration of the band’s twenty-fifth anniversary.
And, as a recognition and celebration of the band’s history and undeniable legacy – complete with all the spikes, corpse-paint, and call-backs to their early years (including a venomous rendition of “Open the Gates”, the very first song from the band’s very first EP) you could hope for – it was undoubtedly a success, as the audience gladly ate up every single metallic morsel on offer.
As a general performance, however, I felt it was lacking a little something, a certain x-factor, which would have made it a truly special show, and never quite managed to match the electric, livewire energy of the band which preceded them.
That being said, I still enjoyed myself immensely. No arguments about that.
Sticking to the blast-filled, blackened theme of the evening, One Tail, One Head had clearly brought their A-game to the John Dee stage, rampaging through their pissed-off, punky Black Metal with all the verve and vigour of a band with something to prove and with a real chip on their shoulder.
Coming across like a much nastier, much gnarlier version of Watain, without any of the esoteric pretensions or delusions of grandeur, the Norwegian quartet unleashed their music with an intensity which I can only describe as feral, attacking every song with a mixture of tooth-and-nail viciousness and coldly calculating focus that had to be seen/heard to be believed.
And while it wasn’t a flawless performance by any means, it was definitely amongst the most visceral of the entire weekend.
Now this is pretty much where my day ended, although I did catch a bit of Obituary stomping their way through a predictably pounding set upstairs before I left, so stay tuned for my review of Day 2 of Inferno Festival 2018 and, if you haven’t done so already, make sure to check out all the bands I’ve written about above!