Inferno 2015 sees the great Norwegian festival celebrate its 15 year anniversary and once again is has shown why it is one of Norway’s biggest and most successful metal festivals. We were lucky enough to have been at the 2013 edition of this amazing festival and gave you a lot of background on it back then so without further ado, onto the music.
The Wednesday at Inferno Festival is a more intimate evening affair spread across smaller venues throughout Oslo. After some deliberating with a couple of other festival goers I decided to head to the Vulkan bar and check out Denmark’s Solbrud. With their second album, Jærtegn, Solbrud have cemented themselves as one of Denmark’s most impressive up and coming black metal bands, and I can tell you, they don’t disappoint live. Their sound was dark and heavy but clear at the same time, a breath of fresh air in a scene where all too often the sound of a band can be lost when played live. This is sadly the case with Sinmara. Playing on the smaller stage downstairs in Pokalen they had drawn a fairly impressive crowd who seemed to really feed off of the great energy and the on stage performance. Sadly with a lack of clarity coming over the PA and drum levels coming in and out of the mix I found myself leaving after only a few songs and getting a drink. Back up the stairs to Vulkan again in time to see Naglfar deliver their brand of melodic death metal. Playing a mix of tracks covering their extensive catalogue right back to the now twenty year old Vittra. I would love to tell you how amazing Svartidaudi and Arcturus were but sadly a the day of travelling was catching up with me and I found myself having to call it an early night. Don’t worry, I will not make this a recurring theme.
After a day of exploring the harbour and the Akershus fortress it was back into town to the Rockefeller Music Hall to see my first band of the day. Execration are not a band I knew a great deal about going into this set but they pleasantly surprised me. With melodic riffs and harmonised solos there is a slight doom slant on a very solid death metal base. The drum fills are fast and clear with a technical edge. Over all a great start to the evening. Next up were Inner Sanctum playing downstairs on the John Dee stage (you’ve gotta love the Norwegian way of having two stages only a staircase away from each other). Vocalist Gaurav Basu instantly set to working the crowd and after only a couple of songs seemed to have them under his spell. With only a couple of releases under their belt I can see this band going from strength to strength with the track ‘Wake of Destruction’ being my favourite song of the set. Definitely a band to keep an eye on in the future.
Back up the stairs to the Rockefeller and its a band I’ve been wanting to see for a while now, Septicflesh. First thought during the opening song? ‘Fuck me, listen to that kick drum’, I mean you could feel it cutting through your chest, then Spiros Antoniou’s guttural vocals cut through the mix and you realise you really are watching something special. With fan favourites like ‘The Vampire from Nazareth’ and ending the set with the chilling ‘Prometheus’ this was one of my highlights of the whole weekend. A quick shout out, I was lucky enough to sit in on an interview with vocalist Spiros Antoniou and wanted to say what a friendly and down to earth guy he was. There was a calamity of errors when trying to shoot this interview and he dealt with it like a true professional. Next on the John Dee stage were Sweden’s Antichrist, and I was expecting a lot more from them. Thrash metal has never done much for me so take this with a pinch of salt, but I just wanted more. The guys at the front of the crowd were leaning over the barrier and head-banging away to every riff and what the band played their style very well, it just wasn’t for me. One for you to listen to at home and decide for yourselves.
We now get to the three main acts for the night, kicking off with 1349. As some of you will know, we have reviewed 1349 a few times before at different festivals but it still amazes me how a band can get it so right. The drums were tight, the guitars and bass harmonic yet haunting, and the vocals brutal. This was also the first stage show of Inferno 2015 to include pyrotechnics. Overall a faultless show from masters of the craft, though sadly I had to leave this set early in order to catch a band I had been trying to see again since I discovered them at this festival in 2013. A quick dash across Youngstorget get me to Kulturhuset, a café/bar in which Vulture Industries are setting up for a small intimate show. Before the band even come on I know I’m in for something special from the twisted housing backdrop that has a quaint, almost home made, look to it. What follows is a mixture of avant-garde metal and theatre in it greatest form. From a marching conga line through the crowd, lead by vocalist Bjørnar Nilsen, to a ‘doctor’ injecting members of the band with giant needles while handing out signs to the audience with messages such as ‘obey’, ‘need’ and ‘reward’ printed on them. The set was a fully encompassing experience right the way through, ending with the classic track ‘A Path of Infamy’.
The final band of the day were Behemoth bringing their unique style of blackened death metal to the eager audience. With a solid stage show including ritualistic imagery and intense pyrotechnics it was clear why Behemoth had a reputation and one of THE best live acts in metal today. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen them before and it is safe to say I will be looking out for the next tour.
The first band of the day I caught were Ohio based thrash metalers Skeletonwitch. You really can not fault vocalist Andy Horn’s energy on stage as he sprinted from one end to the other rallying the crowd in a frenzy of headbanging and the occasional sing along. A solid performance and if you’re a fan of thrash well worth a look into. Back down the stairs again for a dose of Norwegian black metal in the form of Dødsengel. When looking into the line-up I was really excited to see this band on the bill so I can’t really express how disappointed I was once the set began. There seemed to be a lot of issues with tuning and the timings on the guitar parts. On top of this I’m sorry to say but I found the whole experience, well…… a little dull. While I stood watching the crowd slowly shrunk in size until I decided it was a good opportunity to grab some food and check out the tattoo convention upstairs. Maybe this was a very off day, but I won’t be rushing to see Dødsengel again too soon.
Taking over the Rockefeller main stage next at Inferno 2015 were My Dying Bride, a band that I have listened to heavily over the last few years but some how always missed live. It was great to see the return of Calvin Robertshaw on guitar and the chemistry between him and Andrew Craighan really became clear during their many harmonised sections with every harmonic ringing perfectly. It was refreshing to see the violin sections actually being played live rather than synthesised or on a backing track and songs like ‘She is the Dark’ gave Aaron Stainthorpe a great chance to show off his impressive vocal range. Overall, a great performance all round. After a quick bite to eat it was down to the John Dee stage for Sargeist and for the first time of this years festival I struggled to get down stairs, the crowd for the Finnish black metalers was huge. An energetic performance for a band with darker roots and one that I expect to see on main stages in the near future.
Enslaved were next to take to the Rockefeller stage to a full house in their native country. Opening with ‘Thurisaz Dreaming’, the first track on their latest album. I was worrying that we may be in for a set of new tracks with only the odd classic throw in to keep the audiences attention. Luckily this thought was quickly diminished from my mind when the chilled opening to 2006s ‘Ruun’ kicked in. Kjellson has a great rapport with the audience and it is easy to see why so many fans have turned out to see this set. Closing with the classic ‘Isa’ definitely left a smile across my face as I made my way over to Revolver to catch Sheol. Playing one of the smaller side venues after the headliners for the day was always going to be difficult and it was a shame to see the bar half empty as the UK based death metalers began their set. After a few songs though the venue seemed to fill out and with a mix of solid drums and shred style guitar solos it was a great crowd pleaser to end the day.
The final day of Inferno 2015 and after a morning of recovering from the alcohol antics of the night before I made it down to the Rockefeller in time to see Kampfar. My first time seeing them live and what a show, with the exception of a few of the main headliners there hasn’t been as much stage production put into many of the sets as you get in some of the bigger outdoor festivals but Kampfar put on an amazing stage show of flash bangs, pyrotechnics and strobe lights that really bring another level to their performance. A great live band and one that I will be looking out for in the future. Also, I have to mention the use of live didgeridoo, something I never thought I would say in a black metal review, but it really added to the performance of ‘Troll Død Og Trolldom’.
Slagmaur were up next, easily having the biggest crowd for the John Dee stage of the whole festival and definitely could have been pushed to the much larger Rockefeller. The set started off well but I found the songs to all be a bit similar to each other, though I seemed to be in the minority for this as the stage stayed at capacity for the entire set. One to check out for yourselves I think. After a quick beer break it was upstairs to see Dødheimsgard, a much slower set than I expected with haunting guitar lines and front man Vicotnik moving around the stage like a madman struggling with his inner demons. The only downside to this set was the guitar tone, which was very unforgiving and sadly the mistakes that were happening came across very obviously. A great set, just not as tight as I would expect from such a high position on the bill.
Sadly a food break meant that I only saw a bit of Italy’s Mortuary Drape but what I did catch I was very impressed with. Strong guttural vocals over a very prominent bass sound. Definitely a band I’ll be looking out for at future festivals. The final band of the festival was the death metal super group Bloodbath. I have been lucky enough to have seen Bloodbath a couple of times over the years with Mikael Åkerfeldt behind the mic so I was interested to see how Paradise Lost’s front man Nick Holmes was going to do following such a tough act. Opening with ‘Let the Stillborn Come to Me’ it was clear that Holmes was up to the job of pushing the band forward with the strength of their newer material. The problems seemed to sneak in with older tracks such as ‘Cancer of the Soul’ and ‘So You Die’ where Holmes’ voice just didn’t have the same power as the previous vocalists. He had great communication with the crowd joking that “nobody has shouted the names of previous singers yet so I’ll take that as a positive……But there is still time” acknowledging the rather large metaphorical boots he had to fill. While the performance was great I found myself disappointed by the end of the set when during ‘Eaten’ Holmes seemed to struggle so much to hit the guttural lows that sections of the chorus were handed over entirely to guitarist Anders Nyström to sing. It’s still early days for Holmes with Bloodbath and I have been a fan of his work for quite some time. I’ll definitely be at their next shows and strongly believe that this line up can only grow stronger as Holmes settles into his role.