For years, the Inferno Metal Festival has brought metalheads from all over the world together to celebrate our love for metal. As a true haven, the historic heart of black metal, Oslo, hosts Norway’s largest metal festival. This makes it the perfect place to enjoy bands such as Urgehal, Djevel, Odium, Mork, and Emperor. But it’s not just the heart of the black metal fan that races here: the organizers behind Inferno also book death, industrial, doom, and thrash metal bands, and even progressive acts. There’s something for everyone!
Today is Easter Sunday, marking the final day of this delightful metal holiday. The sun is shining, so I’m enjoying a lovely stroll along the famous Karl Johans Gate to the boulevard. At the end of the promenade sits the Astrup-Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, definitely worth a visit if only to admire its unique architecture inspired by the sail of a ship. After exploring works by Damien Hirst and Anselm Kiefer, among others, I find myself relaxing on the terrace of the sculpture garden, offering a splendid view of the fjord and the city.
Shortly after, it’s time for the first act of the day: the Norwegian black metal band Urgehal. The venue quickly fills up as performances by this underground band have become quite rare nowadays. In 2012, Trondr Nefas, who co-founded Urgehal alongside guitarist Enzefir in 1992, passed away. This afternoon’s concert is a tribute to the late Nefas. And what a tribute it is! The five angry men on stage seem to be pulling us into an endlessly deep and dark forest where all evil resides. Morten Shax (Endezzma) initially takes on the vocal duties, followed by Sorath Northgrove (Vulture Lord).
Urgehal plays satanic black metal, and that becomes immediately evident with the intro of Goatcraft Torment. It’s exhilaratingly dirty and primitive, yet with a touch of groove, reminiscent of Nattefrost with Carpathian Forest. And what can be said about those beautifully pyro-accompanied, march-like drums in Dødsmarsj Til Helvete and the tinny drums in The Eternal Eclipse? My personal favorite from this performance remains, nostalgically, Satanic Black Metal in Hell. With an attitude that demands respect, you can see that the music is clearly inspired by early Darkthrone. This is the true Norwegian black metal that is best experienced in the country itself. It feels truly different. What an enchanting frenzy!
Immediately following, Afsky takes the stage in the other hall. The stage presence is in stark contrast to the Norwegian spectacle we witnessed earlier, so you need to adjust your mindset. Not everyone manages to do so, as many passively absorb the music of this Danish one-man project. Afsky begins with Stormfulde hav, the opening track from their latest universally acclaimed album, Om hundrede år. Thanks to Ole Pedersen Luk’s immensely powerful voice, the audience gradually becomes more and more convinced of his atmospheric black metal. His authenticity also contributes to a sense of goodwill. Meanwhile, the blastbeatfest of Tyende Sang brings more smiles to the faces. Tak for alt definitively enchants the crowd with its dragging melodic sequences. And thus, you witness the winning over of many (dark) souls!
To my great dismay, Vredehammer had to cancel for Inferno. The next band I get to see as a result is Abbath. The immortal myth chooses Triumph by Immortal to kick off his performance. It’s followed by I’s Battalions from the 2006 album, and finally, we get to hear some solo work with The Artifex. The crowd responds with furious enthusiasm to Dream Cull, one of only two songs from the latest album, Dread Reaver, that made it onto the setlist.
I notice how seriously the band takes themselves tonight. You wouldn’t expect such restraint from Abbath. The jolly enthusiasm isn’t exactly bursting from the stage now. It’s not until Harvest Pyre that the laughter erupts when Abbath adds an extra dimension to Inferno with his fire-spitting skills. He is a man of many talents! While the concert calmly meanders along, an increasing number of attendees leaves the venue. It’s likely due to the fatigue after four intense festival days. Just when we think the performance is over, Abbath returns with his hit, Winterbane. Time to sway our hair and hips one more time!
As night falls and brings an end to this delightful metal holiday, the reverberations of black metal power continue to resonate throughout Oslo. The festival has not only delivered incredible music but also offered a chance to meet metal icons and delve into the rich history of the Norwegian metal scene. From intimate shows in small venues to grand spectacles on the main stages, the bands have mesmerized the audience with their intense and emotive performances. In reaffirming Oslo’s status as a sacred pilgrimage site for metal enthusiasts worldwide, this festival stands as a true testament to the enduring spirit of black metal.
Inferno Metal Festival was a journey that left a lasting impact on the hearts of every metalhead. We’ve witnessed the triumphs, felt the intensity, and surrendered to the irresistible allure of this dark and captivating genre. With memories etched in our souls, we bid farewell to Inferno Metal Festival, knowing that its legacy will endure, inspiring generations of black metal enthusiasts to come. Tusen takk and hails to the power of black metal!
Date and location
9 april 2023, Oslo