Bizarrekult on Oslo’s Inferno Metal Festival and the new album

Over the Easter weekend, Oslo turns black. Metal fans around the world gather in the Norwegian capital, the historic heart of black metal, for Inferno. Norway’s most famous metal festival. The place to unite and celebrate our love for metal. Passion knows no bounds so Zware Metalen is going to report on Inferno for the first time. Ahead of this black metal pilgrimage, Zware Metalen talks to Roman from Bizarrekult, who is on the impressive line-up alongside many prominent bands.

Hi Roman, first of all, how are you doing?

I am great, thank you! Enjoying the combination of snow and sunny weather in Oslo.

Many congratulations on the release of Den Tapte Krigen! Zware Metalen was very impressed by your latest album and gave it 88/100 points. Among the things that stood out were the different layers of emotions and the refined balance between heaviness and serenity. How do you like the reactions so far?

Thank you for your kind words! I am glad that listeners appreciated the new songs and the overall flow of the album. Some say it is not as “punchy” as Vi Overlevde but for me, it is like comparing your mood today with the week before. Life is different and dynamic, and there is room for any emotion as long as you are being “yourself”.

How did you feel about collaborating with Season of Mist for Den Tapte Krigen?

It has been perfect so far. Great coverage in the media, opening new doors and have a look at those video clips! It is a pleasure to work with a highly professional team that knows what they are doing. Season of Mist is like a “seal of excellence” for our album, a legendary label that I could only dream about.

Your lyrics are mostly in Norwegian, but some Russian has also been added. What is the reason why you chose these languages? Is it just to do with the fact that you can express yourself best in these languages or is there another reason behind it?

I wonder if I could say that language chooses me, not I choose the language? Even though I could have easily used English, I believe that Norwegian is more appropriate for my music, even though this choice limits understanding of the words for non-Scandinavian listeners. But, how many people actually read the lyrics? Don’t know. As for Russian – I wrote the lyrics for the track Den Tapte Krigen while running in the rain and mud with a demo version of the album, thinking of my own life and what I am doing right here and right now. The use of both Norwegian and Russian in that particular track is related to one of the stories from the novel Life of the insects by Viktor Pelevin where human relationships are described through the lives of anthropomorphic insects.

Art seems to be an essential part of the presentation for Bizarrekult. With Vi Overlevde, you included artwork for each song in the booklet and the same goes for Den Tapte Krigen. What is the added value of that for you? How significantly does art play a role for you in Bizarrekult?

All artwork for both albums is created by Ivan Gladkih from St. Petersburg based on the lyrics of the album and some hints and directions from my wife Dina. She suggested that the art should work as an extension of lyrics and translate the message for non-Scandinavian listeners and I really liked the idea. You can say that for both Vi Overlevde and Den Tapte Krigen the art goes along the lines of mood, lyrics, and music. We are trying to deliver a complete package, a complete experience to a listener.

You emigrated from Russia to Norway. Was it easy for you to adapt to Norwegian society? Did you feel comfortable quickly or did you have to overcome some obstacles? If so, which ones?

Back in the days when we arrived, it was quite challenging – starting from scratch in a new country, having a demanding job in the life science sector, and a little kid to care about. Not the easiest combination, but we survived! Norway is a great place to be, I can’t think of any obstacles, no.

About Inferno, the Vaterland club night on 5 April will be very special for you, as I understand you will be performing several songs live for the first time then? From both Vi Overlevde and Den Tapte Krigen?

We will indeed play a selection of older and new tracks and for some of these, it would be a first-time performance. It would also be our first stage appearance since the tour in Europe last autumn, and we are excited to play in Oslo again.

Will your wife Dina then join you on stage for vocals on the likes of Du Lovet Meg, for example?

I doubt that, sorry. For practical reasons, the clean vocals on stage are handled by Fredrik, our guitarist who is trained as a classic opera singer.

Primarily, Inferno is a black metal festival, but this edition also has a good portion of death (such as Cannibal Corpse, Filthdigger, Nile, Unleashed, 1914, Masacre and Ingested) and even some prog (Elder) programmed. Could you please describe what makes Inferno so special to the black metal scene?

I guess it is a combination of historical events in Oslo that have a meaning for people that are into black metal (the same can be said about Bergen). And then what makes it a cool festival is that it is indoors and you can actually watch the whole thing without the need to prioritise. The Rockefeller main stage and John Dee stage are in the same building and there are no artists playing in parallel.

What is the atmosphere like in the city during Inferno? From what could you sense the international character of the festival?

Similar to other state holiday periods the city gets very calm and a bit abandoned. Here it is also a combination of the Easter and spring vacations in schools. Many inhabitants of Oslo would either fly out for a dose of sun in the South (Spain, Italy, France, Greece) or drive elsewhere in Norway for skiing. And the city center becomes flooded with international tourists in black clothes and leather. Very cool hearing different languages and seeing cultures joining for the celebration of metal.

Inferno offers not only a festival but also a conference with panel discussions and presentations. Is the conference more for professionals in the music industry or is it also interesting for ‘regular’ music fans to attend?

It really depends on the topic I guess but I feel it is mostly industry and musicians.

This year there is also a special black metal bus tour with none other than Anders Odden. We will then go to the rebuilt Holmenkollenchapel that was set on fire by Varg Vikernes, Faust, and Euronymous in 1992, to Neseblod Records where Euronymous’s former record shop Helvete was, to the place where Euronymous was stabbed to death by Varg Vikernes and to the black metal exhibition at the National Library. Oslo also has many other things to offer in terms of culture. For instance, there is Gol’s stave church and several museums that are well worth a visit. With Inferno’s full program, is there still enough opportunity to explore Oslo?

I think so, yes. The concerts at the main venue are from 16:30, so there is enough time to do something else between breakfast and the festival, just be ready for walking and have a pair of comfortable shoes. I hope for nice and sunny weather as well.

What places do you recommend for our readers to definitely visit in Oslo?

Akershus fortress, Opera house and also the new Munch museum (within walking distance from the festival hotel, Clarion Hotel The Hub), The Vigeland sculpture park (metro to Majorstuen and then a bit of walking or a tram from festival hotel area), Folkemuseum (bus 30 to Bygdøy), The Ekeberg sculpture park on the hill (also a short tram ride) and of course so many forests around. I am a big fan of outdoor life in Oslo, it takes only thirty minutes from the city center to get into a real forest (from my place it is ten minute’s walk to get into the woods).

Could you perhaps tell us a bit about that black metal exhibition at the National Library?

I don’t have that much information, it will be open on March 30th, but I believe it will be interesting. It is curated by Thomas Alkärr, the co-creator of the Helvete documentary for NKR (Norwegian state TV).

And a music fan yourself, which act are you personally most looking forward to? What should we really not miss?

My personal picks would be Emperor and Arcturus. Both bands are legendary and I have been listening to them for over twenty years! I have seen Ihsahn live twice, but not Emperor yet. Then I am also looking forward to seeing Wolves in the Throne Room and of course my friends from Gaerea.

Maybe you have some (practical) tips for Inferno as well?

Probably most important is to keep in mind that Easter is a state holiday in Norway, meaning Thursday, Friday, and Sunday the shops would be closed and Saturday shops are open only until 16:00. Drinking alcohol is expensive in Norway and the sale of alcohol is time limited (beer is available in the grocery stores until 20:00 on Wednesday and 16:00 on Saturday). If you want something else or a broader selection of beers you would have to visit Vinmonopolet which has its own working hours. There are of course oriental or Eastern European shops in the center that are still working during these days, but no alcohol there. So plan a bit ahead of the practicalities, what to do on which day, et cetera.

Finally, what would you like to say to our readers in the Netherlands and Belgium?

Thank you for supporting the band during the last two years, I have been in touch with many of you and I would love to do some shows in the Netherlands and Belgium, if not this year then in 2024.

Thank you very much for this interview and see you in Oslo!