Norway’s very own Vemod were the first sacrifice of the day up on the Rockefeller stage and with them, they brought their dark Ethereal Metal to the Inferno masses. From the moment they ignited the stage they were no holds barred, atmospheric and sublime. The epic soundscapes were delivered with precision, ambience, and a heavy expressionistic undertone. The vocals were muscular and potent while the guitars which sat behind the sumptuous vocal delights were intricate and mesmeric beyond their years. With 2012’s ‘Venter Pa Stormene’ still being the bands only full length release to date I am excited to see what else will be delivered from these Norwegians in the future.
Time for the first journey down to the John Dee of the day and this time for some Sludge Doom by way of Dwaal. ‘All Masters, All Servants’ injected the heavy crushing wares into the late afternoon gathering and from that point on we were welcomed to a pulverising demanding set full of vicious and rampant crunching basslines and drum beats, this coupled together with piercing guitar leads and riffs made for a substantial platform on which the vocals sat majestically, punishing with every moment that passed.
Next up on the main stage and it was time for a complete legend, a gent that needed no introduction, a true Hellenic Black Metal warrior and a genuine household name in the extreme metal community, Sakis Tolis, who ignited Inferno with his new army of brothers in arms and the very first live showcase of his solo album. The place was packed out, each soul was eager to catch a glimpse of the icon and the premier airing of tracks from ‘Among The Fires Of Hell’. Tolis et al did not disappoint, the set was punchy and powerful from the start, chords and riffs were delivered with accuracy and exactitude. The fret work was meticulous and fastidious while the vocals from Tolis were enthusiastic and grateful. The backbone was reminiscent of its Greek cousins make-up and bore a striking resemblance to those of the Rotting Christ anthems yet they were also tinged with a unique identity all of their own. The album was showcased in all its glory although the track listing was mixed up for the sake of the live setting, ‘Among The Fires Of Hell’ and ‘We The Fallen Angels’ were particularly impressive beyond belief, and a cover of the Daemonia Nymphe classic ‘Nocturnal Hekate’ was even tagged onto the end in order to create a genuinely crushing conclusion to what was a foreboding and impressive spectacle. It truly was evident that Sakis Tolis truly has the absolute Midas touch on everything he spawns and creates.
Now, when we talk about legends, that is exactly what we got with Dold Vorde Ens Navn down on the John Dee stage, on show here were members and ex-members of the likes of Dodheimsgard, Ulver, Strid and Satyricon to name but a few. With a fairly limited career, and an even more streamlined history in the live setting, none of this was obvious from the display that was created in the cramped confines of the second stage. The vocals from Vicotnik were the epitome of power and command, dealing out a healthy slab of authoritative sway onto the howling crowd before him. ‘Arvesynden’ and ‘Vitnesbyrd’ were prime examples of the talent on show in this Black Metal flock, each track of the brief set was surrendered with an explosive and fiery hunger and a real thirst to welcome every beating heart into their inner circle and become new lifelong friends from that day forth.
Back up on the main stage and time for some avant-garde prog metal in the form of Oslo residents Arcturus. The crowd had thinned a little for these experimental lords yet the ones that stuck around had visibly poured everything into the appreciation that they sent back to the stage and as the set progressed song by song, the roars and applauds become even more animated and raucous. The drum work from Hellhammer sat proudly behind his Mayhem embossed drum kit, was phenomenal, precise, accurate and a brutal force on which the tracks were built with intricacy and complexity. The keys from Sverd were indulgent and resplendent, coupled with beauty and splendour while the vocals from Vortex were mystical and spiritual spat out of his larynx with intriguing aggression. ‘The Chaos Path’ and ‘Crashland’ were behemoths which flowed from the stage with ease and potency, real gems in the eclectic innovative genre pioneers set list. As the set closed out I’m sure the experience and spectacle will have left plenty reeling from the journey they had just been taken on from these Norwegians, one which will have burnt a lasting impression on many a retina and tympani alike.
English Post Metal was up next down on the John Dee and this came by way of Svalbard and a release from the obvious uncompromising Black Metal of the day. Svalbard brought their own crushing brand of Black, Hardcore and Metal, the vocals being omitted from Serena Cherry were callous and brutal, switching between harsh and caustic growls to moody and fresh clean vocals. Phelan backed up Cherry with strategically placed vocal duties while they both tamed their fretboards and six strings with authoritative commanding force, managing to generate riffs and chord lines with eloquent power. They punctuated their set with obvious fan favourites in the guise of ‘Disparity’ and ‘Open Wound’ as the reception which had built within the tiny venue was palpable for all to see and as the set closed out with ‘Eternal Spirits’ I’m sure they will have managed to transform their first ever time at Inferno into a definite reason for the band to return and do it all again someday.
One of my highlights next on the Rockefeller, brutal Death Metal and the mighty Nile. As the curtain drew back we got our first glimpse of Karl Sanders and the Ithyphallic, Egyptological bruisers. As the set was launched it was hard not to just stand back and appreciate the enormity of the situation we were in. Scott Eames looked as if he had been in the Nile ranks for years as he took centre stage and manipulated his guitar in order to generate awe inspiring guitar licks whilst expelling vocals which sat perfectly at home alongside the deep and guttural growls of Sanders. With Kingsland sitting out the touring duties for a short period, they seemed to have struck gold by welcoming in the Vital Remains growler with which to keep the fires burning. As the set progressed with the likes of ‘Defiling The Gates Of Ishtar’ and ‘Annihilation Of The Wicked’ we were hit with sheer ferocity and violence, lead breaks and an epic atmosphere. Set closer, ‘Black Seeds Of Vengeance’ was simply sublime, the epitome of ruthless and technical Death Metal, delivered with lunacy and precision and a chance for the American heavyweights to pitilessly stamp on and maul your very being. Simply perfection personified.
Sadly, with a heavy heart, I was unable to penetrate the John Dee entrances in order to bear witness to the Portuguese Black Metal of Gaerea so I had to resign myself to setting up camp just outside the ominous doorway soaking it up from a blind perspective. The vocals from Henriques sounded maniacal and foreboding, barked out with misanthropic intentions and commanding narcissism, the bass sounded a little top heavy, almost washing out the other stringed efforts although mid set this seemed to be rectified as the six strings came into their own on ‘Absent’. Reports from inside the room were that the vision was one of a crazed and inflamed optical rampancy, Henriques stalked the stage with a dedicated, demented and wild flamboyancy, subliminally decreeing that the crowd to join in the psychotic event. As the set burnt out, it left just one lingering question, why on earth were Gaerea stationed in a room which had a capacity of just 500 when they could have easily filled it three times over.
Time to close out the days events and close them out in style with uncompromising sin and pure obnoxious beauty. The curtains opened once more and we were welcomed to the vile and immoral world of the Swedish black metal uber gods Watain. The stage was decorated with all sorts of flames, candles, skulls, bones and fire and then we were hit with an aural sledgehammer as Danielsson and his demonic comrades marched out and blasted immoral and foul anthems to the devoted pack stood before them. The Watain spectacle ensured that it was a visual delight as well as an audible frenzy, each member of the band adorned with tattered and torn leather whilst being completely drenched in blood and corpse paint. ‘Reaping Death’ and ‘Devils Blood’ were absolutely astonishing, the power and riotous nature of the tracks and the delivery of the black anthems were absolutely mesmerising with ‘Sworn To The Dark’ being absolutely gigantic and inhumane in its liberation. A. Lillo was gargantuan on the bass duties throughout, menacing and intimidating with his threatening bass lines and foreboding pillar of ominous and terrorising prowling while H. Eriksson was vile and technical in equal measures on the guitar duties throughout. Danielsson was a true fallen angel delivered into our world and now worshipped by so many for obvious reasons, the art he expels along with his fellow comrades is formidable and impressive on so many levels. A worthy headliner on top of a day of exquisite extreme metal and as we departed the Rockefeller it was pretty ironic that we were stepping out into the blackest of black night skies and one which bore a simple, unadulterated full moon.