Damned in black at the Inferno Metal Festival 2011
Another black easter filled with infernal extreme metal madness is behind us, and even though I'm glad this only takes place once a year, I'm already looking forward to the next Inferno Metal Festival. It has been great fun to be a part of what is, in my opinion, not only Norway's greatest easter tradition but the world's. It is not only a festival of music, but a chance to enjoy artwork, tattoos, shopping and horror films as well as networking, meeting your favourite artists and partying with other extreme metal fans. In short - it contains everything your black little heart may desire (if you got one, that is).
The first Inferno Metal Festival was held in 2001 headlining bands such as Khold and Borknagar, and the festival has only grown bigger since then, attracting people from all over the planet. This year metal fans were served a wide range of different bands, among them the mathematical and innovative geniuses Meshuggah and the northern masters of black metal Immortal.
The festival gives metal heads all over the world 4 days of music and mischief. It kicks off with the Wednesday Club Night which since 2008 has arranged for the metal and rock pubs and clubs around Oslo to have concerts presenting both less famous and aspiring bands as well as the more well-established ones. I had the pleasure of being present at Rock In and Unholy this day, and was plesently surprised both with the bands I'd never heard of before and with well-known Alcest. At Rock In, March of Echoes delivered progressive post-rock inspired metal, at Unholy The Farmhouse Killings served melodic death metal combined with brutal grungy rock and back at Rock In, Resonaut gave us 70s' rock influenced metal while Alcest simply was Alcest - great, melodic and evanescent black metal. The atmosphere is intimate and crowded during Club Night and this year was no exception, especially during Alcest, and it's a great way to start the 4-day metal mayhem (full program and venues can be found at http://www.infernofestival.net/).
Thursday and 2nd day at Inferno was a blast. Workshops about running your business and tutoring in extreme metal vocals and guitar playing were held at the official festival hotel, Hotel Royal Christiania. At Rockefeller I got to see the Indian metal band Bhayanak Maut, the minister of goth himself Gothminister, the masters of avant-garde psychotic black metal DHG/Dødheimsgard and trashy black metal Aura Noir. While I personally do not see the exact purpose of Gothminister playing at an extreme metal festival, he and his musicians delivered a kick-ass show filled with energy, pyrotechnics and many new songs from his upcoming album "Anima Inferna." Bhayanak Maut consisted of Indians who looked like they'd been pulled straight out of business school and into black t-shirts, screaming their lungs out, which was entertaining enough. DHG/Dødheimsgard delivered a fantastic live show which exceeded my every expectation, serving the audience a meal of metal avant-garde psychosis. Aura Noir opened the show with "We are the ugliest band in the world!" and set the record straight, bringing us trashy black metal the way it should be.
The 3rd day started off with a Hangover Metal Quiz in the bar at the festival hotel, followed by a songwriting workshop by Satyricon's Sigurd 'Satyr' Wongraven and a presentation and tasting of his two red wines, Wongraven Langhe Rosso and Wongraven Barolo. At Rockefeller this day I saw the dangerously catchy metal band Djerv, raw and raging black Astaroth, operatic doom metal Ava Inferi and the masters of cold black metal Immortal. Djerv, being the first band to play at Rockefeller that night, delivered a tempo and energy level which spellbound the audience, creating a great atmosphere while presenting their catchy and aggressive metal. Astaroth served raw and cold black metal played by talented, young musicians. Ava Inferni is, in my opinion, the kind of band that works better on the stereo speakers than live, simply because it's hard to deliver the same type of vocal quality on stage, but it was still a good show. The main attraction that night was, of course, Immortal and they were as they always have been - cold, good old fashioned Norwegian black metal with corpse paint and screaming vocals. Abbath and Apollyon are the kind of musicians that will make you laugh, scream and bang your head off, this being no exception.
The 4th and last day was a day of mixed emotions. A part of me was quite exhausted while the other part wanted more of the Inferno Metal Festival insanity. An open black metal sightseeing was held during the day where the participants visited important places in black metal history such as the site of the record shop "Helvete" and the re-done Holmenkollen chapel after burning down in 1992. At the festival I got to see the 70s' pioneers of doom metal Pentagram, satanic and pure black metal from Urgehal and the genius work of Meshuggah. Pentagram started defining the genre of doom metal already from their start in 1971 and the band with crazy vocalist Bobby Liebling (65) in the front gave a live show to remember. I was also lucky enough to get signed by the entire band (I still have permanent marker all over). Afterwards I saw the black metal band Urgehal who delivered their satanic plain-and-simple pure black metal the way I personally like it. The main event that evening, at least for me, was Meshuggah. They served brilliant and ingenious music, and gave a live show like no other. If you wonder if they are as talented live as they are on their records, then the answer is YES.
In short, this year's Inferno metal Festival was a grand beginning of a new decade of annual infernal metal fun, and I am lucky enough to have been a part of it from dusk 'till dawn, each day. At the festival it was also revealed that Arcturus, Borknagar and Witchery are three of the bands playing in 2012. I know I'll definitely be there next year, will you?
Pictures by Ravn Heggerud/The Inferno Metal Festival