Live Review: Inferno Festival – Oslo, Norway 07.04.2023

Phil Pountney

As I woke up to the morning of the second day of the festival I was met with one of the most substantial and diverse breakfast buffets that had ever been known. It was huge and diverse beyond belief. I then met up with the rest of our group for a morning of culture in the form of ‘Bad Vibes’ a Black Metal exhibition at the Norwegian National Library celebrating the “Sonic Emotions Of Norwegian Black Metal”. 

Once we had found our way to the Library, an imposing and elaborate building, we made our way inside only to be met by a friendly member of the Library team who then directed us up to the exhibition which, upon our approach, greeted us by flinging open its ominous doors in order to immerse us fully in the spectacular history of the Norwegian Black Metal movement. On display were copious amounts of rare and obsolete artifacts from poignant moments in time, all housed and displayed with obvious passion and pride. The collection ranged from rare first pressing vinyls, videos depicting accounts from infamous figures within the Black Metal community, a unique listening experience of multi-track recordings of classics by Mayhem and Enslaved from the Grieghallen Studios and a whole host of other weird and wonderful items, even including the original door from the ‘Helvete’ shop. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so pleased I grabbed it with both hands as it was emotive and thought provoking of staggering proportions.   

As we left the dark and evocative surroundings of the exhibition I couldn’t help but induce an element of reflection on everything I had been witnessed to, and process the magnitude of the movement I am so fondly and proudly a part of. 

As we once again headed up the ‘slope’ into the Rockefeller I was just in time to catch Harakiri For The Sky. I had caught these guys before at Cosmic Void Festival in London, so I was keen to be able to cross paths with them again, and they did not disappoint. Their brand of Post Black Metal was compelling and entrancing, bathed all in red for most of their set it was intriguing to say the least. The vocal prowess of J.J was impressive and intertwined with the musical backing to create a unity of exquisite beauty and splendour whilst managing to maintain an air of brutal directness. As the set closed out, the gathered masses were obviously more than appreciative of the art that had just cascaded down from the stage in order for them to soak it up. This had been a triumph and a perfect start to day two. 

My first visit of the day to the John Dee meant only one thing, it was time for an encounter with Dordeduh and their majestic Atmospheric Black Metal. The room was absolutely rammed and with good cause, as the band hit the stage we were washed over with a tsunami of sound which enveloped you and messed with your emotions which you had to consciously take hold of and control so you could engross yourself in the inspiring soundscapes which eclipsed all other wants or needs of the time. The deliverance and results commanded your full attention so as to be able to appreciate all fractions of the complex musical makeup. The set was accomplished, luxurious and delivered a tirade of sweeping imposing harmonies which infiltrated your pores and took up residency in your very being, a residency which will for the most part stay with you for a long time to come. 

After a brief pause to enable to system to recalibrate it was a quick jaunt up to the Rockefeller for some more Black Metal, this time of a completely different nature. 

Symphonic Black Metal, complete with a dual attack of keys, was the order of the day from Odium and from the moment they hit the stage we were in for an aural battering. Opener ‘Riding The Starwinds’ blasted into the gathered souls and from then on we were savagely beaten and crushed with brutal malevolent Black Metal. It was the first outing of the day for the symbolic corpse paint and the vocals from sechtdamon were vile and malicious, each word delivered with total passion and belief. The strings were mesmeric and engaging whilst maturely maintaining an air of forbidding hatred and bitterness. Now, with a collective pedigree of past involvement with some of Black Metals finest, it would be foolish to look past Odium as a live entity but they delivered a set this afternoon which corroborated those credentials and corroborated them with a huge stamp of authority. The tracks which were unleashed on us were done with decadent immoral and foul precision, each chord dispatched with energy and abhorrent contempt for all that stood in their way. This is the way symphonic black metal should be constructed and delivered and I for one was hugely impressed with the set that had just been laid before us.  

Could things get any more loathsome or disgusting, I feared not, that was until I entered the cosy confines of the John Dee room and then I was met with a barrage of depraved anger courtesy of Darvaza. From the moment we caught our first glimpse of the crazed horde it was controlled chaos, total engagement with the dedicated worshippers who had gathered for this repulsive congregation of violence and aggression of astronomical proportions. The black sermons were delivered with anger and brutality and this was reciprocated right back at the stage with loud energy of deafening proportions and a total disregard for any etiquette or propriety, the devotion on show for the black metal barbarians from the crowd was truly astounding. The set was delivered with angst and attitude throughout, antagonism and wrath orchestrated by the unmistakable maniacal figure of wrath who prowled and scavenged the stage with pure lust and intent for the underworld and the occult. As the set came to an all too abrupt ending I am more than sure that these rabid black majesties had made a healthy dose of new friends forever more. 

Time to change tact, direction and pace up on the Rockefeller stage as we welcomed some exquisite Atmospheric Black Metal courtesy of the Trans-Atlantic spirits, Wolves In The Throne Room. The whole mood of the Inferno collective had now switched to more of a generalised calm and appreciative persona with movement in the pit (and on the floor in general) was now fairly minimalistic and it was evident that most of those in attendance were happy to just observe and let the epic majestic and resplendent sounds infiltrate their very being and enforce almost a hypnotic state on all who succumb to the aural delights. The grandeur of the tracks were truly impressive and the precision and passion with which they were delivered was notable and stirring, evocative and significant of equal proportions, this was the perfect respite to take account and reset the systems from all the debauchery and rage whilst still maintaining an air of stirring haunting emotions. 

Next on the John Dee was an entity I wasn’t overly familiar with, Lili Refrain, although it seemed that many who had gathered were either very familiar with the works of the lone figure or they were too intrigued by what was about to be performed before us that they had to be in attendance. As the stage was taken by the solo figure it was soon apparent that the evenings proceedings had taken an abstract twist as we were welcomed into the world of grand drum beats, intriguing bells and percussion as well as a well versed and utilised loop machine, all which entangled with harmonious, absorbing and fascinating vocal opuses to help generate a mystical and fascinating result. Lili Refrain was certainly a unique take on the world of performing arts and this helped create a potential divide amongst those in attendance but the prospect that the set could at any point take on a unique and diverse turn probably kept the majority of the observers in attendance but for some it was probably just a little too abstract and different. 

None get more powerful and unique than the UK’s Industrial bruisers, Godflesh, and that is exactly what was welcomed onto the Inferno stage next. Two solemn figures occupied respective wings with the drum efforts coming courtesy of a strategically placed laptop and then the crunching began. Green and Broadrick pounded out battering riffs in front of a giant video screen amidst all manner of eccentric and characterful sonic attacks, all culminating in a delectable feast of heavy guitars and industrial muscle. The crowd had visibly thinned for these heavyweights, I’m not really sure of the reason why that was, maybe the heavyweight pioneers were just too diverse and different from the other sets of the weekend for many to stay and play.

For one reason or another, I had to cut my day short there but I did get it on good account that Amorphis and Masacre absolutely killed it and battered all those in attendance, mighty and battering sets which left everyone beaten and reeling in the success that they had been a part of. On reflection, and with a healthy dose of hindsight, I was gutted that I wasn’t able to catch these two sets but I will just have to mark them down on my bucket list for next time they are in a town near me. Oh well, c’est la vie I guess.

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