Guitar World's Henry Yuan (front, middle) with Autopsy. Clockwise from left: Karina Thorsen Eikeland, Henrik Palm, Chris Reifert, Pär Arvidsson, Danny Coralles, Joe Trevisano, Eric Cutler and Yuan. Photo by Christoffer Jonsson.
During the last week of August, Guitar World ventured to Bergen, Norway, to attend the eleventh edition of the Hole in the Sky Festival, one of Scandinavia’s most prestigious summer metal festivals.
Throughout the week’s worth of activities, our writer, Henry Yuan, witnessed performances from some of the most epic bands in heavy/extreme metal, including Ihsahn, Autopsy and Venom, bro’d down with the natives and imbibed more than a few local spirits.
Below, read Yuan’s day-by-day account of Guitar World’s journey into the heart of Hordaland.
Day One, August 23: A Perfect Vision of the Rising Northland
When my plane approached the western coast of Norway (after nine-plus hours flying from NYC) and I caught my first glimpse of this countryside, I realized this was not going to be an average metal festival trip.
While I was aptly primed to witness sets by metal’s heavy hitters such as Angel Witch, Watain and Repugnant, along with a slew of underground acts, I was not prepared for such metal landscapes! To say the scenery around Norway is breathtaking would be a serious understatement. The small rustic homes inside the fjords, the mist, the mountains, the sun’s reflection on the arctic waters… It all seemed too perfect to be real.
But I was on a mission to get to the heart of the Hole In the Sky experience, and this was the perfect start to what I knew was gonna be a truly epic time.
After touching down and shuttling to the Marken Gjesthus hostel in downtown Bergen, I was ready to see some of the city. I was pleased to find out that one of Hole in the Sky’s main venues, Garage, was only 10 minutes away. This meant that I could party like crazy…and make it back to bed in one piece! So I dropped off my bags and headed off to Garage...
Posters at the Garage
An interesting series of events soon unfolded upon my arrival at Garage. First, I discovered how expensive this country was! This brutal fact hit me like a brick in the face when I had to pay 46 NOK [Norwegian Kroners]—$7.53—for a 0.4 liter cup of Hansa, the cheap (read: affordable) beer of Bergen and one of the festival’s sponsors. To add insult to injury for this American, the law here requires alcohol prices to be raised 10 NOK after 10PM. I thought it was rough back in New York… But, expensive or not, these details weren’t going to ruin a good time.
Second, as I nursed my pricey beverage—while the British post-hardcore band Gallows played to a sold-out crowd downstairs—I noticed a familiar face behind the bar. It turned out to be none other than Grutle Kjellson, bassist and vocalist of supreme progressive extreme metal band Enslaved.
I guess if you’re from Bergen, this may be a usual sight. But for an American like myself, it was a pretty damn cool indication of what was in store. As I would discover soon enough, Hole in the Sky is the kind of festival where the artists and attendees are both there to have a good time…and hear some good metal.
Being the respectful person (and all-around wimp) that I am, I decided to leave him alone and wait to chat with him during the press-only listening session for Enslaved’s new album, Axioma Ethica Odini, later in the week (more on that later). Besides, a basement venue filled with 400 thirsty Gallows fans needs a man’s full attention…
Calm Before the Storm: The scene at Garage a day before the festival.
As the night went on and after checking out the local scene, I decided to head back to the hostel to get some sleep. I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be getting much rest this week.
Day Two, August 24: The Cult is Alive
Back in May during Maryland Deathfest, I had a chat with Kick, the drummer of Norway’s alcohol-driven thrashers Nekromantheon, about Bergen. He told me that it’s one hell of a wet city—sort of like Norway’s Seattle—and I should expect loads of rain. The previous day's sunny and beautiful weather made me think Kick was just exaggerating about the weather.
Unfortunately, he was not, as I discovered when I woke up on day two to a rainstorm. I awoke my second day in Bergen to rain. As I left the hostel I noticed that most people here didn’t use umbrellas. They just walk around like nothing’s going on. Hardcore.
The only person in Bergen with an umbrella...probably a tourist.
Another thing I noticed was how quiet the morning commutes were. In New York, people are constantly on their smart phones, making deals or whatever, and just obnoxiously chatting away. This does not exist in Bergen. It was quiet…too quiet…
After breakfast, which was an “affordable” snack at 7-11, I decided to walk around and see some of the city. I felt like I was walking in a ghost town, with the misting rain and beautiful scenery. This was especially true at Bryggen, Bergen’s old section, which I spied from across the bay. The row of small and colorful houses on the water was ridiculously surreal.
Bergen's historic district Bryggen
A little after noon, I received a call from a writer at the local newspaper, Bergensavisen (also known as BA). It turned out that the festival press organizer, Martin Kvam, tipped them off to Guitar World’s attendance, and the paper decided it would be interesting to interview me. I honestly didn’t know what to make of this, but I figured there must be at least a few guitar fanatics in Norway, so I went with it.
The meeting was to take place at Garage at 2PM, and I had about an hour and a half to kill. Bergen is extremely convenient in that it doesn’t take more than 10-15 minutes to walk anywhere in the downtown area. I stumbled upon an awesome record store called Apollon, which was just across the street from Garage. Awesome!
The first thing that I needed to purchase was Stronghold of Men, the debut album of Bergen’s awesome thrash band, The Batallion. Another purchase was Nicke Andersson’s new band, Imperial State Electric. For those of you who may not be familiar with him, he’s the guy responsible for Nihilist/Entombed (basically the entire Swedish death metal movement of the late-Eighties), The Hellacopters (R.I.P.) and Death Breath. Imperial State Electric is his new Seventies-hard rock/powerpop band and is worth checking out. Also in my bag was the debut long-player from Norwegian blackened crust punk group Okkultokrati, No Light for Mass. This is one of the most insane bands I had heard in a while, since they take the black metal elements that I enjoy most and fuse it with the most vile crust punk/hardcore. This is some seriously vicious stuff.
As I made my way to the cashier to drop what I suspected would be an obscene amount of money for three records, I asked the owner of the shop to recommend something from the Norwegian underground. Without hesitation, he led me over to the self-titled debut of Kvelertak. Why the hell not? I’m dropping close to $100 as it is. Why not add another album? With my goods secured, it was about time I headed over to Garage for my interview with BA.
Guitar World makes the Bergen newspaper
I was greeted by Ivar Bjørnson, guitarist/songwriter of Enslaved. He introduced me to the caretaker of Garage, Dennis Reksten, who turned out to be a seriously epic guy. Soon after, Steffen Opheim, the journalist from BA, came over with his photographer. This situation was getting weirder by the minute, but, whatever, I went with it. After the photoshoot ended, Steffen asked me a couple of questions, which basically led us to talking about how amazing The Batallion are. All in all, it wasn’t too painful, but I will say I’m way more used to being the interviewer rather than the interviewee! Once it was over, I bought myself a victory beer. Skål!
The vibe was pretty chill at the Garage, so I decided to hang there until the festival kicked off. Mr. Reksten gave me a private tour of the facilities, which were more historic than I expected. The venue used to be an old wine cellar, and he decided to not change the layout at all. The room still has the feeling of being in a cave. He was telling me that the ideal rock venue should make you uncomfortable… I guess having a pillar right in the middle of the room towards the front gets the job done.
A classic photo of Immortal's Abbath on Garage's wall
Soon Kristian Valbo, drummer extraordinaire of Obliteration, showed up, and I was happy to see him again (Valbo and Obliteration slaughtered New York City and Maryland Deathfest earlier this summer). He came a day early to play drums in the doom-rock band Valhall, filling in for Darkthrone’s Fenriz. After we caught up for a bit, he headed downstairs to gather his gear and get ready for the show.
I started to chat with a few people, and one of the more interesting characters that I met was Munich Tom. He rode his motorcycle to Bergen all the way from his hometown of, you guessed it, Munich. Later on, I met up with another New Yorker; Hallie from Vice. She had come over to Bergen to catch NWOBHM gods Angel Witch and the fathers of black metal, Venom.
After some beers and stories, it was show time. While this was the first night of Hole in the Sky, it was billed as the official “pre-party.” The theme of tonight was "Incoming," as the bands playing were from Bergen and Oslo. It was basically an underground showcase.
The great thing about the lineup was the stylistic diversity: Rikets Crust from Oslo plays Discharge/early Scandinavian-style hardcore, Byfrost from Bergen is a thrash metal group with a strong Immortal influence, Lobotomized from Oslo have a unique take on old-school grindcore with a completely bizarre live show.
Valhall, also of Oslo, heavily worship doom masters Trouble, Saint Vitus and, of course, Black Sabbath and the night’s headliners, Bergen’s Dead to this World, are a full-on blackened thrash band from ex-Immortal bassist Iscariah (who handled vocals and guitar). Each band, as different as they were, delivered the goods and set the mood right for Hole in the Sky. However, I felt the strongest band of the bunch was definitely Valhall. The playing was rock-solid, and the sheer doom/stoner feeling had me headbanging from start to finish. Hail heavy doom rock!
Dead to this World
By that time, I was done: Hours of drinking and jetlag aren’t exactly a good mix. It was off to bed and I knew the hostel’s close location was going to be a huge help.
Day Three, August 23: Premature Autopsy
The start of day three was marked by the first, of several, hangovers. It wouldn’t be “True Norwegian Black Metal” any other way, I suppose.
To combat my battle fatigue (and the wet, chilly weather), I scarfed down some breakfast at 7-11 and downed tons of "kaffe." I decided that I should just kill time in the hostel lounge, due to the less-than-favorable weather conditions, and head out to the Rock Merch shop when it opened at noon. While sitting around, I met an Australian named Justin. He was sporting an Autopsy hoodie from their performance at Germany’s Party.San Open Air a week before. We chatted for a while and made plans to meet later at Garage.
I then headed out to Rock Merch, which is kinda like Norway’s Hot Topic: the most popular store to purchase official band merchandise. They didn’t have anything too fancy, and with Norwegian prices, I was feeling a bit gun shy. However, I uncovered a pretty awesome Venom shirt and got a 50% discount. The reason for the discount was that the Hole in the Sky program acts as a coupon. Good info to know…
Hole in the Sky officially takes over
As soon as I dropped my stuff off at the hostel, it was off to Garage once again for one of my most anticipated days of the festival. I was finally going to get to see the resurrected Repugnant, Sweden’s ultimate death metal band. Also performing were London, England’s Sadistic Intent-worshippers Grave Miasma, Holland’s atmospheric-black metallers Urfaust and a double Greek assault from the fantastic dark death metal cult Dead Congregation and the legendary Rotting Christ.
At the Garage I met up with my buddy Henrik Palm of Sonic Ritual and In Solitude, and his friend Christoffer “138” Jonsson, ex-bassist of Sonic Ritual and DS-13. Trips are always better with awesome company and I couldn’t have gotten a better crew. Soon we linked up with the Kolbotn, Norway, gangs Obliteration and Nekromantheon, which turned into a serious hang marked by massive Hansa consumption.
Urfaust started off the night with their tortured black metal. The crowd response was good, despite the fact that Urfaust were the odd-band-out, as the rest of the bands were all death metal (aside from the now-mellow Rotting Christ). The young Grave Miasma came on next and, as great as they were, only set the mood for Repugnant: one of the highlights for me at Hole in the Sky. The band—founding vocalist/guitarist Mary Goore and newcomers Gottfrid Åhman of In Solitude and Invidious on bass, Adam Zaars of Enforcer and Tribulation on lead guitar and Emil Svensson of Degial and Graveless on drums—were on fire for the entire set and delivered cuts from Epitome of Darkness as well as early demo/EP tracks. Epic!
Grave Miasma, Photo by Christoffer Jonsson
As much as I love Dead Congregation (especially their Purifying Consecrated Ground EP), following Repugnant is a rough task and I couldn’t wrap my mind around anything else at that point. When Rotting Christ hit the stage, I only stayed for about 15 minutes before I went upstairs to the afterparty, where Primordial’s Alan Nemtheanga was DJ-ing. It was there that things got lost in a drunken haze…
Day Four, August 24: Hard N’ Heavy
Are you familiar with the classic Tankard song “The Morning After?” I am, and it was definitely one of the songs for this trip’s “soundtrack.”
Henrik, Christoffer and I were invited to Dark Essence Records’ listening session for upcoming releases from Vulture Industries, The Batallion (!) and Helheim, who also premiered their new music video for the track “Dualitet og Ulver.” It took place at a fancy music/theater hall 10 minutes from Garage, where we all met at 2PM.
Joining us was Gottfrid, who was killing time before he went back to Sweden later that day. He’s another interesting guy, and all-around nice dude. The four of us had some pretty killer conversations that ranged from Dave Mustaine, to listening to the Cro-Mags while on a wild acid trip, to [Agnostic Front’s] Vinnie Stigma and popular metal/music blog culture in Sweden. Christoffer is one hell of a storyteller.
After the listening session, we walked back to my hostel where I interviewed them for MetalKult [Sonic Ritual with Henrik and In Solitude with Gottfrid and Henrik]. We soon went our separate ways until festival time, and I made it over to Inside Rock to meet up with the Kolbotn gang.
Interview time with Henrik and Gottfrid, Photo by Christoffer Jonsson
Inside Rock is another heavy metal establishment in Bergen, and it’s also a pub with really good burgers. They have this one burger called the “Suicide Solution,” and it’s basically a giant, three-pound beast with an obscene amount of fries and salad. It’s about $70 but if you finish it within an hour, you get your money back. I’ve been shit-talking for months about eating this, but when I found out you had to finish everything on the plate—not just the burger—I wimped out and drowned my sorrows with beer…and a delicious jalapeño burger. Still thirsty, we then decided to go to the supermarket and purchase more beers.
Obliteration/Nekromantheon guitarist Arild M. Torp hates Hansa, so he introduced me to his favorite affordable beer: Ringnes. This is a beer that originated in Oslo and is Norway’s most popular brew. I couldn’t exactly taste the difference, but then again, I was pretty buzzed the entire day.
Our little hotel room party before seeing the lords in Angel Witch was pretty rad. Early-Seventies psych-rock, beer and 9/11 conspiracy theories…classic ingredients for a good party, for sure. Oh, and throw in the trailer footage for Autopsy’s comeback EP, The Tomb Within. Once we finished up, we raced down to Garage (which was less than five minutes away) just in time to catch Sweden’s young heavy metal heroes, Enforcer.
Diamonds, the band’s sophomore and latest album, is becoming one of my favorite records of 2010 and I was more than impressed with them after seeing them in Brooklyn last year. My expectations were high, but they delivered the goods. Singer Olof Wikstrand could be the next Bruce Dickinson if he keeps up his high energy, and guitarists Adam Zaars and Joseph Tholl could be the next big heavy metal guitar duo. This is a band that needs to be on your radar!
Next up were Angel Witch. Of course, it would just be mainman Kevin Haybourne carrying the Angel Witch name, but it’s his band and he was 100% on-point from start to finish. The self-titled debut is one of my favorite records of all time, and I was extremely happy when it made up a good chunk of the setlist. No “Free Man,” but I can’t complain. I mean, it’s Angel Witch!
After witnessing a performance of unearthly proportions by the NWOBHM legends, I was treated to a crushing set by Long Island, New York’s masters of brutality, Suffocation. Seeing my hometown heroes play in Bergen, Norway, was a pretty special experience.
Suffocation are a band that never disappoint onstage. Drumming god Mike Smith hits every blast beat with conviction, guitarists Terrance Hobbs and Guy Marchais nail every note, bassist Derek Boyer somehow gets everything right with his mind-boggling stage moves and vocalist Frank Mullen is as intimidating as he is psychotic. It was funny to watch the Norwegian fans’ expressions when Frank went on his insane stage rants. Watch the following video for an example of this craziness.
Now it was time for the excellent afterparty upstairs. When I thought things couldn’t get more insane, Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto showed up, along with Aura Noir/Immortal bassist Apollyon. Various other heavy-hitters from the Norwegian metal scene were lurking around as well, like legendary Slayer zine editor Metalion and Horgh of Immortal. Hails!
Horgh throwing horns
It was at this point that all hell broke loose. Kristian decided it would be nice to buy me a healthy shot of Ratzeputz, after I’d been drinking like crazy all night. I don’t even remember going back to the hostel but I did…
Day Five, August 25: Pure F*cking Armageddon
There’s a song by an excellent upcoming Swedish death metal band named Vanhelgd called “Drunk Beyond Death” from their debut album, Cult of Lazarus. Listen to it, and you will probably feel how insanely brutalized I was that morning. It was horrible...but totally worth it!
Last night was the final day of the festival at Garage. USF Verftet, formerly a sardine factory on the bay, held the final two days of Hole in the Sky and it’s a much bigger venue with a capacity of about 2,000. I was anxious to check it out, but first I was scheduled to attend the Enslaved listening session, for their new record, Axioma Ethica Odini, which would turn out to be the most bizarre event I had ever attended.
It began at Garage, at about 2PM, where I met up with Henrik and Christoffer. When we met up, we were confused as to why there was no one outside waiting to be picked up for the session. Inside, Bergen-based stoner rock band Sahg was performing some new songs off their upcoming album, Sahg III. It was a public listening session/party with free food and orange juice.
Sahg delivering the goods at Garage, Photo by Christoffer Jonsson
As Sahg left the stage, Enslaved were ready to take us to the location of their listening session: the aquarium.
The Akvariet, the official name of Bergen’s aquarium, is located in the west of the city and is about a 20-minute walk from Garage. We stopped by at a small park where we were given an Enslaved-branded fisherman hat. Also available were a selection of Italian cold cuts and cheeses, as well as boxed wine. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t treat myself to the fine dishes due to the brutal stomach problems that visited me that day, but from what I heard, it was some seriously good stuff.
Christoffer, Yuan and Henrik geared up for the Enslaved listening session. Photo by Christoffer Jonsson
We arrived at the Akvariet, just in time for the seal show. Imagine almost two-dozen metalheads walking into a seal show filled with families and their babies. After a dazzling display of seal acrobatics and theatrics, we were given a bit of free time to walk around and check out some nearby sea animals.
What's more heavy metal than a seal show?
Our group stood out a bit from the rest of the acquarium-goers.
Finally, it was time to listen to Axioma Ethici Odini, Enslaved’s latest masterpiece. But first, it was movie time! We were shown a short documentary about whales in Norway, and I still have no idea why. I know that Ivar comes from a family of whalers and Cato [Bekkevold, drummer] is a well-known fisherman. Perhaps this is the reason? Nonetheless, we were hungrier for Axioma.
It was interesting to watch the international heavy metal media sit in the same room and listen to Enslaved’s latest full-length. I was expecting some intense headbanging and all-around craziness, especially during the awesome album opener “Ethica Odini,” but everyone was pretty subdued. While there were some heads bobbing, everyone around me kept their composure and listened to the album with attention. But, despite the chilled vibe, everyone pretty much agreed this new album ruled.
After the listening session, we all went our separate ways before meeting later that night at USF Verftet. Meanwhile, I had my own little tour of Bergen.
A view from the hill
Unexpectedly, the biggest challenge for me were the amount of hills and brick roads. They get so slippery due to the rain and I was constantly anticipating rolling down a steep and rough hill. It was also tricky to navigate within the more residential areas as the streets aren’t as straightforward and grided as they are in New York. With that said, it wasn’t that hard to accidentally stumble back onto the main roads to head back downtown.
Bergen as the clouds roll in...
After a quick meal at 7-11—which was turning out to be my default restaurant of choice—I decided to head to the new venue location. I had no idea how to get there, but I remembered seeing the top of it on a hill when I was walking back from the Akvariet. Using that as my reference, it was actually quite easy to get to.
A view USF Verftet from a road above
I missed the first two bands—Secrets of the Moon and Solstafir—due to an interview with former Guitar World columnist and black metal expert Ihsahn. I did get to make it in time for one of my favorite new bands: Holland’s occult rockers The Devil’s Blood.
After a slew of technical/sound problems in the beginning, the Dutch six-piece unleashed their ghoulish brand of Seventies-hard rock with cuts from their incredible EP Come Reap and last year’s stunning full-length debut The Time of No Time Evermore. With three guitarists delivering psyched-out-to-the-max riffs and sporting enough blood on their faces to drown a small animal, The Devil’s Blood put on a show that I will never forget.
The Devil's Blood
Next up was Ihsahn and the crowd was more than pumped to see this Norwegian legend churn out his solo material. The former Emperor frontman rarely performs live, so this was a special treat for those in attendance. Though he wouldn’t be joined by some of the guests from his three solo albums—like Shining’s saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby, who has some stunning playing on Ihsahn’s latest album After—the musicianship of his backing band [prog-metal band Leprous] was stellar and Ihsahn’s progressive metal madness was the perfect complement to the night’s other “progressive” band: Cathedral.
Seeing Cathedral was very special to U.S. attendees, as the band hasn’t been to America in more than 10 years. Needless to say I was stoked to see frontman Lee Dorian and the rest of his crew in action. The band ripped into “Vampire Sun” and that set the standard for the next hour or so. The setlist contained everything from the early doom beginnings of the band’s debut, Forest of Equilibrium (“Soul Sacrifice”) to the latest The Guessing Game (“Funeral of Dreams”).
Finally, black metal legends Venom hit the stage and unleashed “Black Metal” upon the packed house. The band—with only bassist/vocalist Cronos as the sole original member—was tight as tight can be, thanks to new drummer Danny Needham and guitarist Rage. “1000 Days In Sodom,” “Warhead,” “Welcome to Hell,” “Live Like an Angel”… they played all the classics along with some newer material that I’m not too familiar with.
As the final notes of “In League with Satan” came to a close, it was time to head out. It was a bittersweet moment as it meant the festival was nearing its end. Only one more night left…
Day Six, August 26: Divinity of Death
I’m not exactly sure what I did the night before, and my drinking was cut back severely due to my diminishing funds. I remember walking around town with Henrik, Christoffer and our friend Karina and spending some time in a kebab joint. This was also when I decided that Stormtroopers of Death’s “Speak English or Die” would also be a fitting addition to my Bergen soundtrack, as I was the only non-Norwegian/Swedish speaking person in our large group.
In any case, waking up on the final morning was a pretty somber event. I had the eight-person bunk room to myself when I woke up and I started packing. A pretty uneventful start to the day. Things picked up around 3PM, when I was invited to some friends’ apartment for an authentic Norwegian dinner. I met them in New York City during Obliteration’s awesome show at Fontana’s and their hospitality was something that I will never forget. With Autopsy setting the mood through the speakers and full cups of Aass bock beer, it was the perfect way to ease into the final day of Hole in the Sky.
Most Metal Meal of the Trip: Reindeer Heart
First on the menu: smoked reindeer heart. F’ing metal! I’ve had reindeer before while I was in Finland and it was one of the best meats I’ve ever tasted. However, due to some horrible past experiences eating non-traditional animal dishes: cow brain, chicken heart, I was not sure I was up for the heart. Plus, that thing was huge! But, I broke my own rule and decided to try some.
The verdict? It was goddamn electric! Imagine the best-tasting ham with a good amount of fat and game-y flavor. That’s smoked reindeer heart.
Next up was monkfish with rice. I’m not a fish person by any means, but this was a hell of a dish. Monkfish has got to be one of the ugliest animals on this planet, but when cooked right, it’s a delight.
After we finished, we met up with Eyvind Wærsted Axelsen—bassist of the fantastic Oslo-based death metal band Diskord, who came just to see Autopsy—and raced down to USF Verftet to be on time for the leaders of the new death metal movement: Kolbotn’s Obliteration!
Being the opening band at any gig is tough, especially when show time is at 6PM. When the young Norwegians went on, however, the space filled up fast. This was the best I’ve seen them play, and vocalist/guitarist Sindre Solem is a natural frontman. His in-between banter is kept to a minimum (and it was all in English!) to make enough room for their short set. The band—which also included lead guitarist Arild M. Torp, bassist Didrik Telle and drummer Kristian Valbo—played only from their latest album, Nekropsalms, and executed each and every note brutally and with something that most young modern death metal bands lack: soul and passion.
Sindre Solem (left) and Arild M. Torp of Obliteration, Photo by Christoffer Jonsson
Ohio’s Satanic death-thrashers Nunslaughter were up next and, even though they are from the States, I had never seen them before. And I was stunned: the set was simply killer, and they kinda ripped Bergen a new one. Watching drummer Jim Sadist made me think he has got to be one of the most charismatic persons in metal, with his quick remarks about life, religion and the legend that is Tom G. Warrior—who was up next with his new band, Triptykon.
Nunslaughter's Don of the Dead, Photo by Christoffer Jonsson
Slow and heavy was the name of the game for Triptykon, and a doomy version of the classic Celtic Frost song “Procreation of the Wicked” started things off. As much as I loved the slower direction Triptykon was going, I felt like it didn’t fit with the Frost songs, which were peppered throughout the set. The intensity was sacrificed for heaviness, and it just didn’t resonate with me. However, their own songs were great and Warrior—along with drummer Norman Lonhard, bassist Vanja Slanjh and live Frost guitarist V. Santura—captured the energy and magic of their debut, Eparistera Daimones, perfectly.
After Triptykon finished, Watain had a fairly long set up time (which you will find out why in a moment) so I spent the time in the VIP-area with the crew. For the entire duration of this trip, I made it a priority to be able to meet The Batallion’s Stud Bronson. I just had to shake hands with the man who wrote “The Spirit of Masculinity.” He wasn’t present at his own band’s listening session, so I was hoping to catch him at the festival. Surely enough, he was here. So I walked over, and extended my hand. Mission accomplished!
I would also like to use this time to apologize to Nocturno Culto, who I spilled a bit of beer on when some asshole knocked my arm. Ted, if we ever cross paths again, I’ll buy you a beer. I hope that clears that up!
Those final hours hanging with my Nordic friends were pretty rad. Here I am, a lifelong metal fan with nothing but huge respect with Norway (and Scandinavia in general), chilling with some Scandinavia’s most respected metal artists. It was an awesome way to end the festival and a perfect segue into the final performers, Watain and the American death metal masters, Obituary and Autopsy.
The VIP area in USF Verftet, Photo by Christoffer Jonsson
I’ve seen Watain a couple of times stateside and once at Wacken Open Air in Germany two years ago, but the Swedish band’s performance at Hole in the Sky definitely takes the prize for best stage show. Where do I even begin? For starters, they had two giant tridents on fire, a proper ritual altar, pillars of skeleton on fire, pyro and even more things on fire. Basically, the stage was a vision of hell. As for the band themselves, they were—pun intended—on fire. They played a good mix of cuts from all across their catalog, with plenty of tracks from their latest records, Sworn to the Dark and the incredible Lawless Darkness. If you haven’t seen Watain, be sure to do so soon!
Watain, Photo by Christoffer Jonsson
What can I say about Obituary? That they’re the most consistent death metal band live and on record? Every time I see these guys, I have the time of my life, and this time was no exception. “Redneck Stomp” got the crowd pumped and throughout their hour-long set, people were just going nuts. This is the first time during the festival that I saw people moshing and just going insane. Some of the hardest headbanging was also done. Leave it to Obituary to destroy everything in its path!
Finally, it was time for Autopsy. They were the most anticipated band of the entire festival, as this was the first time this seminal death metal outfit played Norway. Drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert, guitarists Danny Coralles and Eric Cutler and bassist Joe Trevisano were finally here, in the flesh. However, Trevisano would only be a roadie tonight, and bassist Danny Lilker (of Brutal Truth, Nuclear Assault) filled in onstage.
Autopsy with Dan Lilker on bass (left), Photo by Christoffer Jonsson
Autopsy’s hour-long set was shorter than in Maryland, but they delivered cuts from Severed Survival, Mental Funeral, Acts of the Unspeakable, both of their demos and a new(ish) song, “Horrific Obsession,” with the same twisted feeling. They were louder and the guitars were much more brutal than my last encounter with them. I couldn’t help but notice how much fun Grutle from Enslaved was having in front of me; the guy was piss-drunk and moshed from start to finish. This dude is just epic.
As soon as Autopsy finished their amazing performance, we headed straight outside. Henrik was feeling a bit more high than the rest of us, because he saw one of his favorite bands and had a nice encounter with Lee Dorian, a man which he has loads of respect for. As we’re all walking back and away from USF Verftet, I was feeling sadder than usual. This was the end of the line for Hole in the Sky 2010! I was feeling very exhausted and decided to be lame and headed back to the hostel. Everyone went their separate ways but we felt better knowing we will all meet again in October at the Live Evil Festival in London. Can’t wait!
Day Seven, August 27: The Flames of the End
For the first time this week, I did not wake up feeling like shit. I guess it was a smart move on my part. This may be cliché but Black Sabbath’s “Hole in the Sky” was the song for today.
I met up one last time with Sindre, Kick and their manager Proxy at the InCity Hotel before they had to leave for the airport. They had a massive party in their room the night before, and from the look of Proxy, it was obviously an excellent time. We just took it easy, chatted for a bit and finally said our goodbyes when their shuttle came. I now had the whole day to myself to recouperate.
I sat and chilled in the hostel lounge, got some dinner and called it a night so I’d be rested for the long flight home. I sorta already started to miss this town…
Day Eight, August 28: Final Thoughts
Since today was my flight day, absolutely nothing happened. So I’ll use this entry to give my final thoughts about Bergen and Hole in the Sky.
One of the most epic group shots ever: (from left) Henrik, Nunslaughter's Jim Sadist, Christoffer, Pär Arvidsson, Karina Thorsen Eikeland and Yuan, Photo by Christoffer Jonsson
Like I said before, Bergen is a beautiful place to visit. I regret not having the time to do more exploring. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Fantoft Stave Church, which is the church that was burned down by Varg Vikernes located south of Bergen. Many people that I encountered went to visit it, and I’m bummed that I didn’t. I also didn’t get a chance to go up to Mount Fløien. This is the mountaintop situated right above Bergen and is easily accessible by a cable car.
Another epic view of Bergen
I did, however, go to the Leprosy Museum that was recommended to me by Adam of Enforcer/Tribulation/Repugnant. That was a pretty sweet place and right next door to the hostel.
Only in Bergen: the Leprosy Museum
A display in the Leprosy Museum
As for the Hole in the Sky Festival itself, what started out as a simple tribute to the late Erik “Grim” Brødreskift (Immortal, Gorgoroth, Borknagar) 11 years ago, has evolved into one of the most excellent metal festivals in the world. It’s Norway’s first-ever annual metal festival and it sells out every year. The fact that there’s a commitment to quality over quantity adds to its unique charm, and there’s a powerful sense of camaraderie within everyone in attendance. From the fans to the bands, and from the staff to the locals, it feels like one big family.
Yuan with Martin Larsson of At the Gates and Henrik, Photo by Christoffer Jonsson
Though this is an expensive country, the five days of metal made it totally worth it. Where else can you get to see all your dream bands play together in an intimate setting? I mean, if someone told me I would be seeing Angel Witch in a packed club of 400 people, I would’ve laughed. Only at Hole in the Sky.
Until next year, hails!