(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 we’re spreading out in installments this week. Day 3 is the focus of this post; reactions to Day 1 and Day 2 can be found here and here.)
The third day of the festival began with another long lie in, followed by a bit of a wander around Oslo, which included stopping at a nice little restaurant/bar just around the corner from the venue for a delicious burger and several pints of Norwegian beer, before I eventually made my way into Rockefeller in time to catch Nordjevel riffing it up on the main stage.
Appropriately enough my arrival at the venue was heralded by a loud bang and several gouts of flame, as it turned out that Nordjevel were the one and only band of the weekend who had brought their own pyro.
But while this certainly added a bit of extra sound and fury to their set, it also confined their vocalist to the back of the stage, making for something of a stand-offish spectacle which clashed with the aggressive, in-your-face nature of the band’s music.
Still, both the new songs and the material from the band’s first album sounded extremely tight and aggressive in all the right places, so you can definitely chalk this one up as a success.
Down on the John Dee stage British blackened buccaneers Necronautical were the next band up, having been hand-picked from a number of competition entries to fill one of the festival’s “special guest” slots.
Despite displaying some obvious nerves at times, the quartet had clearly upped their game to suit their surroundings, and performed with a sense of confidence and an energy very much befitting a band ready to step up to the big leagues, closing with a ludicrously good rendition of “Oceanus Procellarum” and leaving behind one extremely impressed audience, which had practically doubled in size over the course of their set.
Back on the Rockefeller stage, Post/Prog troubadours Krakow provided a welcome change of pace from the rest of the festival’s more extreme content with their moody, semi-metallic soundscapes, coming across like a natural extension of Enslaved’s progressive sections, stripped of their Black Metal shackles and allowed to wander and roam as far and as wide as they want to.
True, it was by no means the best performance of the day, but it definitely helped set the tone for what was to follow.
As good as the night’s headliners were (more about them later on), I’m very tempted to declare Sinistro’s set as the best of the evening. Of course the change of pace/style possibly would have been a lot more jarring if Krakow hadn’t been there to ease the transition, but the truth remains that the Portugese quintet put on an absolutely spellbinding show that quickly demonstrated why they’ve recently become one of the most talked-about bands in certain underground circles.
Much of the attention and acclaim of course must go to the stunningly expressive, painfully emotive vocals of Patrícia Andrade, whose performance was both strange and captivating in equal measure, but we also mustn’t forget the contributions made by the band’s four other members, who together laid down a truly massive wall of doomy, atmospheric riffage and scintillating percussion that I can practically still feel thrumming through my bones right now.
As you will all no doubt be aware, British bruisers Memoriam are the spiritual successors to the now defunct Bolt Thrower, to the extent that they even comprise two members of those much-celebrated metallic overlords – vocalist Karl Willetts and drummer Andrew Whale.
And while I may have already picked out Origin’s Jason Keyser as the most cheerful frontman of the entire festival, it was Karl Willetts who stood out as the most sincere and straight-spoken vocalist of the entire weekend, spending his time between songs sharing words of wisdom and compassion with the crowd, decrying the rise of fascism and intolerance, speaking about his mother’s struggle with dementia, and just generally proving himself to be an all-round good dude.
It wasn’t preachy by any means, but it definitely added something to the set to be able to hear what each song was about, and how much it meant to him (and to the whole band) before they launched into yet another blisteringly effective, brutally efficient, barrage of crunchy Death Metal riffs and gritty, gravel-chewing growls.
Having observed on the previous day just how busy Rockefeller could get (not that I wasn’t already aware of this from having been to the festival before), I elected to stay upstairs and hold onto my slightly elevated position so as to ensure I got a good view of Ihsahn when he finally hit the stage, which he did soon enough with a hypnotically heavy version of “Lend Me the Eyes of the Millenia”, the opening track of his upcoming album, Àmr.
Interestingly enough, his backing band this time around included a second guitarist, a drummer, and a keyboard player… but no bassist, which meant that the bass portions of the mix were largely provided by the synths, which ended up giving all the material performed this evening a slightly different feel than it has on record.
“Pulse”, for example, was given an even more prominent Ulver/Massive Attack feel, while “Until I Too Dissolve” developed a strobing electro-prog undercurrent to match its shamelessly ’80s guitar heroics.
Other highlights of the set included a relentlessly catchy rendition of “The Paranoid” and a stellar penultimate pairing of “Frozen Lakes On Mars” and “A Grave Inversed” (featuring a guest appearance by Jørgen Munkeby) which led into the doom and gloom finale of “The Grave”.
Just a fantastic performance, start to finish.
Of course the evening truly belonged to only one band, and that band was Satyricon, who made their highly-anticipated return to the Rockefeller stage with “Midnight Serpent” from their latest album, Deep Calleth Upon Deep, and then proceeded to rampage their way through a collection of hits (and even some deeper cuts) from across their back catalogue.
Some obvious highlights were a punchy “Black Crow on a Tombstone” early on in the set, followed soon after by a seething “Repined Bastard Nation”, as well as a storming triple-header of “The Wolfpack”, “Now, Diabolical”, and “To Your Brethren in the Dark”.
The band had a few surprises in store of course, concluding their main set with back-to-back renditions of “Walk the Path of Sorrow”, “Transcendental Requiem of Slaves”, and “Mother North”, which left more than a few of the audience a little bit shellshocked, before returning to the stage to deliver “The Pentagram Burns”, “Fuel for Hatred”, and “K.I.N.G.” to close the show in triumphant fashion.
I hope you’ve been enjoying my write-up(s) of the festival so far, as there’s only one more day left to cover now. And I hope that what I’ve written has prompted you to check out and discover a few new bands/albums in the process. See you all tomorrow for the fourth and final day of Inferno Festival 2018!