(Our Atlanta-based contributor Tør was fortunate to attend the 2019 edition of the Beyond the Gates festival in Bergen, Norway (headlined by Watain, Mayhem, Emperor, and Abbath), which took place on August 21-24, and he provides the following thoughts about the experience, and a treasure-trove of his own wonderful photos.)
Beyond The Gates VIII has just wrapped up and I am back in my Airbnb room — the cool Bergen breeze is coming in through the open window. It has been one hell of a festival with all three days providing quality entertainment for all who were lucky to witness it. I have lots of things to say about the festival itself, the city of Bergen, the country of Norway, and the friends I met along the way: things about why Norway is one of the happiest countries in the world, how Bergen is one of the liveliest cities I have visited, and why metal has become such an international phenomenon. However, those are heavy subjects for my tired soul and best left for another time. For now, a brief overview of the last three days will suffice.
Arriving in Bergen late on Tuesday night, I immediately check into my Airbnb room and go to bed. The following morning, I make my way to Apollon, the legendary record store-slash-bar to pick up my wristband and accreditation. The metal crowd is there in numbers and already chugging back a few beers. I would stay and drink one myself but I want to explore the town.
I make my way to the UNESCO heritage site of Bryggen in central Bergen and walk along the harbor taking in the wonderful sights. Bergen is a wonderfully scenic city and I recommend everyone to check it out even at the expense of skipping Oslo. The colorful neighborhoods, fresh sea breeze, and welcoming inhabitants make me fall in love with this place immediately. I already begin planning my second visit as I walk through the fish market and the surrounding areas. The fish market is pretty dope and I can go for a roll of whale sausage at any moment. I decide to ride the famous Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen. The view of Bergen Harbor takes my breath away. I try the infamous reindeer sausage with the classic toppings at Trekroneren. It’s better than good. My first day in Bergen has been a success.
This year’s edition of the festival kicks off with a special show featuring Watain, Ritual Death, and Imha Tarikat at the converted bomb shelter Hulen. I can’t attend this sold-out show but a few friends who are able to get in rave about it the next day.
The regular three-day festival is held at USF Verftet, a sardine factory converted into a live music venue with phenomenal sound (USF actually stands for United Sardine Factory). The venue is a mile-long walk from the city center and nicely located along the harbor. The venue has three bars, one restaurant with a full kitchen, art gallery, and a number of street food vendors present on the grounds. The patio provides a beautiful backdrop for having a beer and chatting with others between sets. A quick word on the food: it is awesome. Tacos and quesadillas? Check. A brisket-burrito that tastes out of this world? Yep. Fish and chips with the best tartar sauce I have ever had? You got it. Beer with no reservatives and fillers? Say no more!
Day 1: Thursday 8/22
Lineup: Obliteration, Svartidaudi, Behexen, Marduk, and Mayhem
Day One kicks off with a bang: Obliteration are fast and loud. Svartiduadi show off everything that is great about the Icelandic scene, Behexen are mystical and eerie, and Marduk are ready for tactical combat. Mayhem close out a magical first night with brilliance. There is something about seeing a band play on their home turf: a factor that makes a concert absolutely magical. Mayhem have it tonight and I am lucky to be there to witness it. The stage lighting is surprisingly workable and I glide around around the photo pit trying to get a decent shot of Attila Csihar. He leans in and down into my camera lens with an evil grin. I think I got something but who cares about that right now? I have the best seat in the house, and seeing Mayhem in their home country for the first time. This is certainly a momentous occasion and a night to remember. I walk home in the drizzle with fellow metalheads. The city is as safe at 2 o’clock in the morning as it is on a Sunday afternoon. Bergen is beautiful even in the dark.
Day 2: Friday 8/23
Lineup: Varathron, Horisont, Arcturus, Emperor, and Primordial
Day Two picks up with the same intensity that Day One had. I have possibly the tastiest lamb burger of my life at Kafé Spesial in the city center and then make my way to the venue. Energy and excitement levels are high. One or two beers are needed to go into full-metal mode.
Varathron mesmerize the early crowd and quickly become one of the many highlights of the festival for me. I am not too big on Horisont but holy hell, they are a lot of fun to watch live. Arcturus are playful and enigmatic. But for me, this night is all about Emperor. I am beyond ecstatic to see them and they don’t disappoint. Al Svartr (The Oath) rings out loudly from the speakers as an anxious crowd awaits Ihsahn, Samoth, and crew to come out. Time freezes and I lose myself for the next few minutes. Emperor, again, playing at home is a sight to behold. The venue is packed to the brim and having a blast. Primordial manage to match the intensity and play a monster set to a somewhat thinned-out audience.
I treat myself to some beer and fish and chips. No rain tonight and the walk home in the cool breeze is spectacularly rewarding. There are people swimming in the harbor (not sure if this is allowed) and having a good time. Could life get any better?
Day 3: Saturday 8/24
Lineup: Necros Christos, Lucifer, Midnight, Candlemass, and Abbath
Day Three is off to a slower start, understandably. The Scottish metalheads I keep running into tell me they have already had a few beers before coming to the venue. I have arguably the best brisket burrito I’ve ever had (and I lived in Texas for ten fucking years) and mingle with the crowd. Everybody seems happy to be there. The atmosphere is relaxed and fun. After a lengthy discussion on seemingly unrelated topics like Norway’s oil revenue, welfare policy, and farming with the locals, I head out to the pit to photograph Necros Christos. There is another highlight from this awesome festival. Lucifer bring something different to the picture and the crowd love it. Midnight put on perhaps the most energetic set of the entire festival, at one point almost decapitating me with the headstock of their instruments, but I live to tell the tale. Candlemass thrash around in master fashion and Abbath close out the night and the festival with a top-notch performance. I leave the venue with my ears ringing and taste buds still on a high from that brisket burrito.
Beyond The Gates VIII is by far the best-organized festival I have attended. Set times are right on time every time. The food is delicious and well-priced. The venue is clean, spacious, and safe. The organizers, staff, and crew are extremely nice and professional. Every single person I spoke with said they had a blast and would be back. In addition to all of this, there were zero fights, security issues, or crowd problems of any kind. A number of early-bird passes for next year’s edition of the festival went on sale on Day Two and were sold out within minutes. I will be back here next year and I highly recommend everyone to do the same. Seeing live metal in one of the most influential places in the entire scene was truly a special experience. Many thanks to the organizers Torgrim and Øystein for providing accreditation and being such gracious hosts.
Bergen (and BTG), I love you!
Great writeup and even better photos! Some stellar bands this year, though Lucifer and Horisont sounded like the odd nad out.
whoa, so many good bands) and so many good photos!
Charles Hedger’s ‘stache though
I got my four day pass for 2020. It will be my first time. I have been to Inferno fest back in 2006 but I always regretted not making it to Hole In the Sky in Bergen. I have been to Bergen once and I agree about how nice the city is. I look forward to my return.