Day three of Blastfest saw a lot of people starting to look slightly more tired, which made sense knowing that some of the many foreigners started partying 3-4 days earlier upon arrival in Bergen, and some of them brought enormous amounts of duty free liquids.
Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe
What was more fitting than starting the auditory pleasures with Funeral? They were originally one of the very first funeral doom bands around, and by Norwegian standards they are a somewhat strange occurrence seeing as Norway isn’t exactly renowned for its abundance of doom metal acts. Unlike some of the most extreme bands, Funeral seemed to fit the intimate Studio stage perfectly, in terms of how the room seem to resonate well with the slow doomy bands, just as it has done before with Swallow The Sun and last year with Saturnus. The set flowed seamlessly through songs like ‘This barren Skin’, ‘Vagrant God’, and ‘The Will To Die’. Strangely enough, considering the gloomy atmosphere of both music and lyrics, the band really seemed to enjoy themselves. Although they only got to perform a quite short set due to the time limitations, they managed to put on one of the best performances of the festival.
Djevil, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe
Djevel delivered a slab of straight-forward bleak black metal. Sadly, as with some of the other bands playing the Studio stage, the sound production sounded a bit off. Although with such an unbalanced and harsh production it ironically fitted both the approach the band has to black metal and their stage performance. As much as the band has a few scene stalwarts in their ranks, it might very well be Erlend Hjelvik of Kvelertak that makes the strongest impression. It’s not just that he delivers a good vocal performance, but just as much the fact that he is usually seen on far bigger stages fronting Kvelertak, making this all the more exotic.
I remember seeing Arcturus twice about ten years back, and I wrote them off as a live ensemble. It was just chaotic, and the songs that sounded amazing on record were lost in second-rate live performances, a lot of theatrics, and awful sound productions. Seeing them live from Maryland Deathfest was an eye-opener. Could they actually pull it off these days? Well, the answer, as given at Blastfest, was a clear and resounding yes!. Except ICS Vortex sitting while performing vocals on some of the tracks it was a band showcasing their musicianship fully, and playing a selection of songs spanning their entire career. All the way from ‘To Thou Who Dwellest In The Night’, via Master of Disguise, to ‘Arcturian Sign’ this was a remarkably good performance from the all-star cast.
1349, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe
1349 has been drummer Frost’s more extreme black metal outlet, and despite some later albums not living up to the standards set by their 2005 release Hellfire, the band continues to be relentless in a live setting. And so they were at Blastfest. Set opener was none other than ‘I Am Abomination’, and it was succeeded by none other than the brilliant two songs ‘Nathicana’, and ‘Sculptor of Flesh’, all off of the aforementioned Hellfire album. Until the very closing number ‘Cauldron’ the band were simply amazing, providing the proper Norwegian black metal alibi of the evening.
Ihsahn, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe
Ihsahn seems like somewhat strange headliner material. Or, at least if you consider the fact that he was part of Emperor, but that his solo project seems somewhat in that band’s very shadow. Not that there are that many similarities except both bands being extreme metal and with Ihsahn’s characteristic voice spearheading them. As far as musicianship goes it’s stellar stuff, but in terms of musical expression. Well, it seemed like half the audience really enjoyed, me probably being amongst those who think it best to let prog be prog and metal be metal, being more fond of the 70s when it comes to the progressive side of things.
Einherjer, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe
Einherjer are purveyors of the craft known as viking metal. Unlike most folk-/viking metal acts of latter years they are not overly jolly, and neither are they sporting costumes more fit for role play. They are about the music, and the viking image is mostly channeled through the lyrics and artwork, not through helmets and horns – noting that viking helmets didn’t actually historically have any horns. With last year’s well-crafted ‘Av Oss, For Oss’ in their belts they delivered a stunning set of just as many old songs as new ones. Einherjer is also one of the bands that have recorded in the now defunct yet infamous Grieghallen studio, and introduced their song ‘Dragons Of The North”\’ by mentioning that very fact.
Sahg never ceases to amaze. What an incredible live band! And not just are they an incredible live band, but their song material is of the kind that leaves whoever lends them an ear with a newfound favourite. The Sardinen stage downstairs main venue was pretty packed for this show, and as mentioned, it’s easy to see why considering their performance.
The contrast was huge to what was going on as Red Harvest took to the main stage for a reunion show. The industrial extreme metallers … Well, where black metal has this little hopeful spark to it, Red Harvest is a descent into a hopeless dark abyss. There’s no light, there’s no hope, it’s mechanistic, it’s industrial. It’s truly as their song ‘Cold Dark Matter’. Except some small things to complain about in terms of sound production, their set was one that made me simply want to catch them again as soon as possible.
Green Carnation, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe
Green Carnation disbanded at some point in 2007, leaving Tchort as the band’s sole member. Their return as a unified whole would be marked by their appearance at Blastfest 2016, and what a grand return it was. Ancient has been around since the early 90’s, but hasn’t played in their hometown of Bergen for something like 20 years. This time around mainman Aphazel, now residing in Southern Europe, brought none other than Nicholas Barker of Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir fame on drums. Little did that help the fact that their sound was way too loud, and so dense that it was difficult to hear those good riffs. As for the guitar solos, they completely drowned in all the rest that was going on. A wall of guitar noise, drums, and vocals, an unpenetrable wall. Sadly this ruined what could have been a most memorable experience. For their closing act they invited local sticksman Kjetil Grønvigh to play “Lilith’s Embrace” together with them, as he was the original drummer on the 1996 recording nothing seemed more fitting as a celebration of that very era, the one when Ancient was most relevant in the scene.
Abbath, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe
Abbath shouldn’t be in need of much of an introduction, not after fronting Immortal for two decades. However, this was his first show on home turf where he flew under the new moniker. With his larger-than-life on-stage persona he and his minions presented us with a set covering most of his career. There was some Immortal songs, some songs from the I record, and of course songs from the newly released Abbath album. The audience seemed ecstatic, and especially so as the band played the hits from Immortal’s Sons Of Northern Darkness; ‘Tyrants’ and ‘One By One’. With a show like this comes the usual theatrics, and if there’s one thing Abbath knows it’s how to keep an audience engaged throughout a concert. There’s never a dull moment. So once again he delivered a great show, with good sound, a great performance, and he and his comrades put a worthy end to four days of metal bliss in the lovely and scenic Bergen. And as this is being written the bands for the 2017 edition are already being booked. See you all next year!
Abbath, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe Abbath, at Blastfest, photo credit Jarl H. Moe
BLASTFEST 2016 REVIEW PART I
WORDS BY PAL LYSTRUP
PHOTOS BY JARL H. MOE