Live Review: Inferno Festival – Oslo, Norway 09.04.2023

Phil Pountney

As we descended on the Rockefeller complex for one last dose of festival magic we were obliterated right from the very start with some raw and diabolical Norwegian Black Metal by way of Urgehal. Following their split in 2016 and the hiatus that followed, Urgehal are now back and as demonic as ever. Covered in soul piercing corpse paint and stalking the stage as if their very beings were possessed by an occupier of the underworld, Urgehal reached deep within our cavities and ripped our innards from within us with their brand of caustic and corrosive Black arts. ‘Satanic Black Metal In Hell’ and ‘The Eternal Eclipse’ were absolute standouts and each was delivered with a menacing air to its construction, spat out from each fraction of the Norwegian outfit with might and malignant power. As the set drew to a close and then faded out from our sights, this had been a success of monumental proportions, only to be corroborated by the huge amount of feet making their way to the merch stand in order to commandeer themselves a shirt of their newfound love, testament to the fact that Urgehal had delivered an absolutely blinding set on this late afternoon to the Inferno masses. 

Next up on the John Dee was Afsky, the brainchild of the Danish enigma that is Ole Pedersen Luk, and again the small room was absolutely rammed by hundreds, all willing to bear witness to the Black Metal wonderment of this despair driven Black Metal juggernaut. ‘Tak For Alt’ was sublime, the depth and intricacy on show was astounding and subliminally caused the whole room to rock back and forth in unison with individual pockets of action breaking out across the whole floor. Luk’s vocals were commanding and authoritative throughout and the results culminating from the individual fretboards were euphoric and joined as one complete flawless entity throughout. A true spectacle and feast for the senses for anyone lucky enough to have been in attendance for this majestic ritual.

Back up on the main stage and it was time for some New Orleans Sludge Metal, it was time for the legendary Crowbar and their monumentally heavy and crunching metal showcase. Now I am not normally a huge Sludge Metal advocate, but I have warmed to Crowbar over the last couple of times I have caught them live, especially when I saw them supporting Sepultura in Manchester, so I was very keen to experience the wares of the Sludge pioneers once again and boy was I not disappointed. From the moment they infiltrated the Rockefeller stage, Windstein et al absolutely crushed everything in sight. ‘I Feel The Burning Sun’ was colossal, truly battering and mauling, the drum work from Buckley was especially noteworthy, a series of beatings which lashed all the other components together into one huge sprawling package. As Windstein steered us through the set, wielding his fretboard into submission with crunching and gnarling chords and riffs, we saw the Crowbar spectacle grow in stature with each track that passed until it ended with a mighty crescendo of epic proportions which gave the adorning throng the opportunity to send the band back over the Atlantic with the thanks and appreciation they so rightfully deserved. 

I stayed up on the main stage in order to grab a spot for the mystical and mysterious Uada, and I wasn’t the only one as the floor beneath the main stage filled, and filled quickly, there was an obvious air of anticipation and excitement surrounding these masked Americans and as the curtains opened to reveal the silhouetted figures adorning the stage we were not disappointed. ‘Djinn’ was battering from the off and started the set in the way with which it continued, transcending through surreptitious surroundings and ominous landscapes. Superchi barked the vocals out with influence and power, imposing themselves on each spirit within the Inferno enthusiast with supremacy and dominance. The guitars on ‘Cult Of A Dying Sun’ were intricate and measured while maintaining an air of decadence and aggression, the bass lines were heavy and substantial preserving a degree of muscle and motivation on which the rest of the band built their responsibilities. As the shadowed figures closed out their time at Inferno, it had been an accomplishment of astronomical triumph and one which left many an observer reeling from the spectacle they had just participated in. 

Another legend then hit the Inferno stage and one which ensured that the Rockefeller Hall was crammed to the rafters, Abbath was in town and with him he brought his troop of Black Metal combatants and a hell of a lot of fire to boot. The set opened with a couple ‘non Abbath’ beauties, ‘Triumph’ from the Immortal back catalogue and ‘Battalions’ from the I era, both delivered with purpose and cruel intentions. The set then got fully underway with wave after wave of Abbath incarnations, ‘Ashes Of The Damned’, ‘Hecate’ and ‘Root Of The Mountain’ were all absolute behemoths, allowing Wallace and Farstad to accompany Abbath on string duties, each manipulating the fretboards and twines to generate presentations of the tracks which were more aggressive and violent than are generally projected via a stylus and stand-alone speaker set up at home. ‘Harvest Pyre’ then raised its antagonistic head and with it brought Abbath breathing fireballs high into the Inferno sky, each one raising a cheer from the appreciative crowd, building with impressive gratitude as the fire ignited past our wide eyes. The set then closed out with ‘Winterbane’, and this was the perfect finale to the perfect set, the onslaught of the track was enough to incite an offensive which the crowd lapped up with sheer delight and enchantment. Black Metal of the finest order indeed.

This had been a set full of riches in awe and splendour whilst managing to maintain aggression and hostility of the most loveable nature. An unflawed set delivered by a true Black Metal personality and his more than willing and accomplished comrades. 

It was with a heavy saddened heart that I then had to bid a fond farewell to a new find on my festival radar, and one which will definitely not be a stranger from now on. Inferno, you treated me well and for that, I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart. Tusen Takk

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