Mar 312022

Ascension Festival Iceland MMXXI in November of last year was one of the most memorable metal festivals this writer has ever attended, and also one of the most heart-warming, despite the chilly temperatures outside the venue and the often wintry music inside.

The good feelings were in part the result of knowing about the avalanche of hurdles the festival had to leap over in order to make the event a reality — which included two covid-related postponements, two venue changes, numerous band cancellations, and of course the persistent peril of the virus, which included a surge happening in Iceland right around the time when the festival began and which threatened to cause a government cancellation of the festival’s third and fourth days. The fact that the event went off at all, much less as beautifully as it did, made it one to remember.

Of course, the music was also fantastic, as were both the people who worked the fest and those who attended. It was as if everyone, both on-stage and off, genuinely and deeply understood how lucky they were to be there after 18 months of lockdown and after all the ridiculous odds stacked against the event happening at all. Continue reading »

Nov 162021


By the time most of you read this I will have begun the trip back to the Pacific Northwest from Reykjavík. Counting the early show-up time at Keflavik Airport, the long flight, the exit process at Sea-Tac Airport, and the eventual ferry ride home, my best guess is that it will take about 14 hours, not counting a pair of cab rides. With luck, I’ll be in bed between 4 and 5 a.m. tomorrow, Reykjavík time. But every minute and every mile will have been worth it.

If you had the patience to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this report on Ascension Festival Iceland MMXXI, you already know how much I loved it. I found something to enjoy in the performances of nearly every band, despite how varied the music turned to to be — indeed, because of that — and I only missed two of those bands over four action-packed days. Continue reading »

Nov 152021


The preamble to Part 2 of this report on the just-completed Ascension Festival Iceland won’t be quite as long as the intro to Part 1 (which you can find here), though I can’t resist including one episode I omitted yesterday.

As forecast, this Part of my report mainly includes commentary about the music and photos from the third and fourth days of the festival. As before, I’ve pretty much just copy/pasted things I posted on Facebook while the event was in progress.

Part Three, whenever I can get to it, will be some kind of wrap-up. Continue reading »

Nov 142021


Ascension Festival Iceland MMXXI come to a glorious end last night, surmounting what seemed like a non-stop swarm of perils to provide a fantastic experience for all who attended. I was lucky to be there from beginning to end, for all four days and nights.

Both for myself and for many others, it was the first live music we had witnessed since March 2020 or earlier. That gave the experience both an extra poignancy and an extra shot of energy. I can hardly imagine a better way to have a taste of “normalcy” after so long, though of course “normal” is now a highly relative term.

Of course the music was only part of what made this covid-delayed edition of Ascension so memorable. It was a reunion of old friends and the good fortune of making new ones.  I’ll remember the people and the conversations as much as the music. Continue reading »

Nov 292019


Our site obviously isn’t an all-purpose outlet for metal news. We almost never post announcements of tours, festivals, line-up changes, or even forthcoming albums (unless there’s an advance track we like that we can share in a new-music round-up). We get dozens of such announcements in our in-box every day, and even if all we did was copy/paste those things into our page, there wouldn’t be time to do much else. Plus, there are tons of other sites out there which do the newsy copy/paste thing. Why would anyone need one more?

Having said that, the last few weeks have brought a flood of enticing 2020 festival announcements, and I thought it would be worth making a slight exception to our usual decision-making and collect some of those here today. Still, this collection isn’t intended to be comprehensive — most of what I’ve picked will take place in North America — nor is my memory photographic, so I’m sure someone will be irritated that we left them out. Apologies in advance.


I’ve already expounded at length about how much I loved the first edition of Ascension Festival Iceland, which I attended earlier this year. Definitely one of the best festival experiences I’ve ever had — maybe THE best — and a fantastic successor to the Oration festivals that preceded it. All respect and appreciation to Stephen Lockhart and his partner Edda for making it happen — and even more gratitude and respect to them for bringing back Ascension for round two next year. Continue reading »

Jun 192019


Yesterday I wrote about almost everything that mattered to me about the recently concluded Ascension Festival MMXIX in Mosfellsbær, Iceland, EXCEPT the music. If you happened to wade through that long post, you’ll know that a lot of things mattered to me besides the music — and I think most other people who attended the event experienced the same extremely positive feelings about what surrounded the sounds. But I suspect all that enthusiasm would have been diminished significantly if the music hadn’t also been great.

Fortunately, it was. With very few exceptions, my own reactions to the bands’ performances ranged from pleasantly happy to wide-eyed, slack-jawed, and aghast in wonder. All that good feeling easily carried over into conversations with friends and new acquaintances in between sets, in beautiful surroundings and sustained by good food and drink. In turn, the fun of that camaraderie carried right back over into the music hall for the next set, in a kind of thrilling feedback loop. Continue reading »

Jun 182019


(It is Monday as I write this, though it will be Tuesday before you see it, as I agreed with Mr. Synn to post his own reminiscences about Ascension Festival on Monday. All the photos are my own, unless otherwise noted.)

I had a restless period of half-sleep on Sunday night. In part that was due to the sweltering conditions in my Reykjavik hotel room. The sun, which briefly dims in Iceland this time of year but never sets, had warmed it up during the afternoon and the two small windows were restricted in how far they would open, rationing the amount of cool air that could come in. I missed my second-floor room at the Hotel Laxnes in Mosfellsbær where I could keep the door to a balcony wide open, and all the windows gaping, and enjoy the breeze ruffling the gauzy curtains until the land of Nod fully took me.

But mainly my restlessness derived from the fact that I couldn’t shut off my brain. It was still flooded with memories of Ascension Festival MMXIX, which ended in glorious fashion at roughly 2 a.m. on Sunday morning in Mosfellsbær. Of course, many of those memories were re-playing the music that had bombarded and mesmerized the senses over three days, but an equal number that continuously flashed through my mind in that half-waking, half-dreaming state were of other aspects of the experience that had become just as indelible as the sights and sounds from the stage. Continue reading »