Live Review: Inferno Festival – Oslo, Norway 06.04.2023

Phil Pountney

So after several trains, planes and automobiles I finally landed in the hallowed ground of Oslo, Norway, for what was set to be my initiation into the infamous Inferno Festival. The ground was littered with recent snowfall and reports had come in that Snow had started to freshly fall around the venue which was ironic as it helped create the perfect typical backdrop of a snow ridden landscape which classically goes hand in hand with an extreme metal soundscape, it’s almost as if the snow had been ordered in by the organisers of the festival just so that attendees could get into the mood before they even hit the venue.

As I made my way into the official festival hotel, The Clarion Hub, I couldn’t help but find myself gazing around at the walls, which were adorned with posters of the festival, whilst taking in the ambience of Rotting Christ blasting out over the Lobby speakers and all manner of black clad figures loitering with intent, this certainly set the mood for what was yet to come, four days of pure extreme metal madness and a journey I was certainly hyped up to be a part of.

By the time I had checked in and dropped my bags off in my room I returned to the reception area only to be met with Metallica blasting out which had enticed several of the gathered hordes to spontaneously burst into some manic head banging whilst there were several cabin crew checking in at reception who were visibly in awe of the sights and sounds of their new surroundings. As I marched through reception I felt myself getting more and more hyped, more and more exhilarated with the knowledge of what I was about to enter, what months and months of planning and excitement had boiled down to, ladies and gentleman Inferno Festival 2023 had commenced.

Unfortunately due to travel arrangements I missed Nekromantheon and the recently drafted in Blood Red Throne but reports from others that had been lucky enough to catch them were that both bands were sublime and absolutely killed it in both of their sets. Both were reported to be punishing and brutal in equal measures. Absolutely gutted that I wasn’t there!!

So after deciphering the map that the festival had kindly furnished us with, I hot footed it round to the Rockefeller and John Dee and sorted out my festival wrist band and accreditation and then scaled the notorious slope into the Rockefeller venue only to be met with a solid wall of black shirts, all displaying various festival line ups and band monikers from across the world, charting decades of aggression and pride, each and every one showing their signs of affection with varying degrees of colour, from the blackest of black right through to the ‘well worn, much loved’ greyest of greys. The place was rammed, and it was an impressive sight given that it was only late afternoon and the spectacle of Djevel was well underway on the imposing festival stage, adorned with only candlelight the true beauty was the raw and callous black metal which was being spat out from the stage. As I stood there being battered with the barrage of vicious and venomous vocals, which sat alongside the pummelling and entrancing musical score, I couldn’t help but find myself hypnotised by the sheer brutality and malevolence of the whole experience, this was brutal Norwegian Black Metal at its finest. What a start to a Festival.

Still reeling from my introduction to the day, and the festival as a whole, I made my way down to the John Dee stage just in time to catch some Navajo Black Metal courtesy of Arizona’s finest, Mutilated Tyrant. As they hit the stage they were like a pack of rabid dogs, possessed and intent of delivering the most vile of Black Metal to the gathered ensemble. Lardel Tsosie stalked the stage as if possessed by some inner demon while Chaos and Goatslaughter delivered string work worthy of conducting Satan himself in the very debauchery of his demonic chores. The whole set was delivered with passion and belief, punctuated with ravenous tracks such as ‘Under The Cold Dark Moon’, ‘The Infernal Legions’ and ‘My Journey’, each being displayed with maniacal enthusiasm and depraved energy. This was an impressive set from start to finish and one which exuded power and precision in amongst all the chaos and angst which was delivered to the John Dee crowd.

Back up to the Rockefeller and for more Black Metal, although this time with a different slant on it, this time we were to be entertained by the “Ineffable Kings Of Black Metal” and Sweden’s finest, Dark Funeral. As we were carved open with ‘We Are The Apocalypse’ the intentions of the Black Metal royalty were clear for all to see and hear, they were absolutely pounding and mauling from the off. As the set progressed with anthems such as ‘The Secrets Of The Black Arts’ and the absolutely behemothic ‘Nail Them To The Cross’ we were welcomed to a lesson in how titanic Black Metal should be delivered. Lord Ahriman and Chaq Mol delivered piercing and mesmerising fret work while Heljarmadr stalked the stage like a demon haunted, expelling every vocal with vehement disgust and misanthropic beauty. A triumphant ‘Where Shadows Forever Reign’ closed the set out and gave the black flock worshipping before the Swedish lords the opportunity to show their appreciation one last time and they did not disappoint, the whole floor erupted, heads banging in unison and pints being flung in the air. It somehow felt like Dark Funeral had just got this god damn party started.

Nervosa were up next on the John Dee and they had obviously arrived in Norway with a point to prove. They hit the stage with barbaric power, precision and technicality, not giving the overflowing room a chance to pause and catch their breath one iota. The deathened thrash onslaught being omitted from the stage was impressive on varying fronts, the vocals were ruthless and the drums being beaten in the background were immense and immersive in their portrayal, indicative of a riotous marauding soundtrack to the most rancorous rebellion ever known. The appreciation shown by the hundreds in attendance was loud and definite, each track lapped up with gratitude and admiration from each soul that was stood in the basement for this lesson in violence.

Back up on the main stage and it was time for the epitome in brutal Death Metal, this time courtesy of American bruisers and genuine Death Metal legends Cannibal Corpse. From the opening chords ‘Corpsegrinder’ led the death march from the front, orchestrating and manipulating the tracks to deliver as intense a blow as you would probably witness all weekend. As the set progressed with tracks such as ‘The Wretched Spawn’, ‘Evisceration Plague’ and ‘F*@cked With A Knife’ (which was introduced as one for the ladies) the momentum built with power and aggression, being harmonised perfectly by Barrett and Rutan with their six strings while webster and Mazurkiewicz added the muscular backbone with the thicker strings and skins respectively. The crowd for the Death Metal behemoths had visibly swollen from the already colossal size we had seen up to this point, and the fact that Death Metal can sit so comfortably within a sandwich of Black Metal of differing styles is testament to the diversity and inclusion which a Metal crowd embraces with so much dedication and commitment, hell, pretty much everyone on the floor even took up Georges strategically placed invite to challenge him to a ‘headbang off’ but despite the attempts and eagerness there was only going to ever be one winner, and I’m not sure we will ever find anyone who could respectfully take on the challenge and beat Corpsegrinder and that neck!!

Back down to the smaller stage and it was the headliner for the day, a very healthy dose of Norwegian Black Metal courtesy of Mork and it seemed that pretty much every one sporting an Inferno wristband were eager to cram into the small room in order to catch a glimpse of the Black Metal that was to ensue. Violent, misanthropic Black Metal was the order of the day for these Norwegians and Eriksen et al were polished and elegant in their deliverance of their trade. ‘Kulden’ opened the proceedings and we didn’t look back as we progressed through the set with ferocious intensity portrayed with a fierce and vehement tirade. The place was absolutely crammed to the rafters and the appreciation dispensed from the heaving floor was impressive beyond belief, a true representation of the respect and affection Eriksen has cemented within the black hearts of so many.

Now, no introduction is needed for the event we were to witness back up in the main hall as we prepared ourselves for tonight’s main stage headliners, the true legends that are Emperor. Tonight we were carved open with ‘In The Nightside Eclipse’, IN FULL, and then treated to a select few from ‘Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk’ as well as ‘Curse You All Men!’ and ‘In The Wordless Chamber’. To hear ‘In The Nightside Eclipse’ in full was something special, a treat which only a few in the grand scheme of things will be able to include in their arsenal of memories and future stories to be told around camp fires for years to come. For me though, ‘The Majesty Of The Nightsky’ and ‘I Am The Black Wizards’ were particular jewels in the crown, decadent and intricate, brutal and majestic, Emperor at their true finest. Ihsahns vocals didn’t falter throughout the whole set, the epitome of the black metal trademark, while Samoth was a stalwart on the axe duties, never seeming to falter throughout the intense and intricate fretwork the masterpieces demanded of him. As the set closed out, the crowd were left baying for more, demanding more of the icons that had just destroyed Day one of the Inferno Festival. Now that is how you headline a festival, and
headline it in style.

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