Good, Evil Weekend
The Inferno Festival at Rockefeller and John Dee, Oslo, Norway March 29th and 30th 2002
by: Chris Flaaten
The Inferno Festival is growing into a tradition now at its second year -- and the third is already being planned as I write. Its mission is to be a showcase for Norwegian metal bands as well as finally bringing a festival to Norway. It has certainly succeeded in both ways. It has experienced some turbulence, though. Last year they had announced most of Norway's bigger metal acts, but later had to admit that they had only asked those bands to perform -- nothing had been confirmed. This year Aura Noir cancelled as a protest against what they -- and many with them -- felt was an unreasonable split of the money. Dimmu Borgir apparently got paid dozens times more than the other bands... I won't say much on this matter, but it seems apparent that lesser known bands have much more to gain career-wise by playing on a festival like this than Dimmu Borgir. Money is not all that matters. Twenty one "underpaid" bands still showed up to play, and they all seemed to enjoy it.

Day 1

On March 29th, good Friday, it kicked off. I missed openers Nocturnal Breed and arrived during Scariot's set. Scariot, an unsigned band from southern Norway, can be described as a very aggressive Nevermore. This is mainly due to the vocalist, who sings quite similarly to Mr Dane. The band delivered a solid performance and I'm looking forward to checking out their debut when they get signed and release it. Next up on the main stage was Carpathian Forest. I noticed they had better sound than the last time I saw them [CoC #43], but since I don't like the band all that much, I decided to find a good spot in front of the John Dee stage instead. Minas Tirith was next! The last time I saw Minas Tirith was actually on the same gig as when I last saw Carpathian Forest. They were both openers for Mayhem when they last visited home. Minas Tirith were in great form and had a crystal clear sound, only lacking a little more punch in the guitars to be perfect. They played a varied setlist, including a new song and some old favorites and obscurities. Great performance.

Next up on the main stage was Aeternus, and I was met with a thick wall of distorted guitars when I made my way upstairs again. Their sound absolutely smashed! Amidst the set, the vocalist announced: "There is a serious lack of air up here, but we'll continue at full speed!" And so they did, focusing on their latest album _Ascension of Terror_. Aeternus proved beyond any doubt that death metal is alive and well in Norway. After Aeternus, I decided to skip John Dee for the rest of the night, as it was massively overcrowded. This gave me time and opportunity to find a decent place to watch Behemoth. Nergal and company played through a great setlist, technically superb and at furious speed, but the sound ruined their show. You could recognize the songs fairly easily, but they were stripped of any punch. All treble and no bass makes Behemoth sound dull. Too bad, as they were one of the bands I really looked forward to seeing. They were among the few foreign bands that attended, and it's a shame that they were denied proper sound. As it would turn out, the other foreign "big name", Lock-Up, suffered the same fate.

Around 1am, roughly on schedule, it was time for the main attraction: Dimmu Borgir. Dimmu had made a stop fairly recently at the same venue as part of their last tour, so they had announced they would play some older material at Inferno. Many grew skeptical during the first forty-five minutes, as all their songs were relatively new, but after a strategic break Dimmu returned with old favorites like "Nar Alt Lys Har Svunnet Hen" and "Raabjorn Speiler Draugheimens Skodde". Both sound and execution were mediocre, though, so in many people's opinion they failed to live up to their reputation (and paycheck). Norway's biggest channel, NRK, videotaped all the bands who performed on the main stage on Friday. You can download those videos at: http://www.nrk.no/kanal/nrk_petre/ambolt/1738274.html (use ASFRecorder to download).

Day 2

We arrived early at Rockefeller and found ourselves a great place to stand... so great that we never left it, thusly I blatantly ignored the bands at John Dee this day. I later found out that some of the crowd was denied entrance there because it was completely full, so I have no regrets. Source of Tide was first out on the main stage. Led by Lord PZ, a man who's a little too fond of attention, this band actually surprised me in a positive way. Their massive and gloomy guitar sound and harmonies reminded me of older Anathema -- energetic melodies with a distinct sound. The only setback is their vocalist, who not only diverts attention from the good music to himself, but is not a very -good- vocalist either. He works better here than in Peccatum, but in my opinion... that's not saying much.

After Source of Tide, Blood Red Throne was up. The stage sound was missing during the first song, but apart from their expressions and dialogue with the roadies, I couldn't tell anything was wrong. The problem was apparently fixed, because they seemed more relaxed for the remainder of the set, which included two or three new songs along with tracks from their recent album _Monument of Death_ [CoC #57]. They actually played their first song again later on due to the initial sound problems, but I didn't hear that much of a difference. Their performance was intense, fast and very professional, and BRT are hopefully, along with Aeternus, the beginning of a real Norwegian death metal scene.

Next up, Vintersorg, who closed last year's Inferno Festival, but back then as Borknagar's vocalist. This year, his own band made their debut on Norwegian soil. They started out with newer material, but poured out some old favorites soon enough -- much to the crowd's approval. The Norwegian audience obviously favors older Vintersorg with Swedish lyrics. The band had decent sound and played tightly enough. Nothing spectacular, but above average.

Lock-Up had dreadful sound and I can only describe what I heard as painful noise. Since I had no interest in the remaining bands, Aggressor and Witchery, I called it a night and left with a slight headache and ears ringing -- the way it should be after a metal festival.

(article submitted 3/7/2002)


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