Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - JONATHAN SELZER

Sól­stafir, Gaahls Wyrd, Aura Noir, Win­terfyl­leth, oranssi Pazuzu, Tyr and the mind­bend­ing Heilung de­scend on Nor­way’s Midgards­blot



Crick­ets. It’s not your typ­i­cal fes­ti­val sound, but the soft chirp­ing sound com­ing from the woods bor­der­ing Midgards­blot’s opening cer­e­mony only deep­ens the oth­er­world­li­ness of this unique fes­ti­val. Of­fi­ci­ated next to a re­con­structed Gilde­hallen (Great Hall) by the two core mem­bers of folk/tribal free-for-all, Folket Bortafor Nor­davin­den – Benny a tall, rangy bea­con of benev­o­lence and Gus­tave, a wiry, wild-haired sto­ry­teller who looks like he’s tum­bled, Catwea­zle-like, from an­other age – the blot is an hon­our­ing of the Norse gods, of­fer­ing sac­ri­fices in re­turn for good for­tune, and more im­me­di­ately, good weather (or at least, with wry prag­ma­tism, “What­ever the gods deem ap­pro­pri­ate!”). En­cir­cled by pe­riod-clad torch bear­ers, drum-beat­ers and crowds of mostly at­ten­tive fes­ti­val go­ers – a large num­ber of whom have also come in their Thor’s Day best – chants are of­fered to Freya and Odin be­fore t-shirts, pen­dants and other per­sonal trin­kets are of­fered to a fire. The guests are also in­vited to anoint a statue of the gods with ac­tual blood, make pro­nounce­ments to the spir­its of their own choos­ing, and then smear that blood on their faces. Just out­side is the quiet in­dus­try of a Vik­ing vil­lage, be­yond that the burial mounds of an­cient kings, over­look­ing the Oslofjord. Ev­ery­one who takes up the of­fer in­vests the his­tory around them with per­sonal mean­ing.

This year, the vil­lage it­self has its own stage host­ing var­i­ous be­guil­ing auld-school folk bands, no­tably Eldrim, Byrdi, Vire­lai and Son­gleikr, but For­mer 3rd And The Mor­tal singer KARI RUESLÅTTEN [5] proves a strange choice for the Gilde­hallen’s first mu­si­cal of­fer­ing. Despite the ten­der clar­ity of her voice, her far more mod­ern take on folk feels out of place in this set­ting, and bland, too. That’s not some­thing you can say about

FOLKET BORTAFOR NOR­DAVIN­DEN [8], whose an­ar­chic na­ture gives way to rib­ald cel­e­bra­tion, thump­ing away on drums as a guest fe­male vo­cal­ist lets loose a breath­tak­ing, spir­it­srous­ing wail and Benny gives a pow­er­ful, his­tor­i­cally aware speech about cul­tural unity, adding an­other ral­ly­ing cry as they all but blow the rafters off.


With archery and axe-throw­ing lessons, var­i­ous Vik­ing tests of strength, site tours and his­tor­i­cal sem­i­nars go­ing on nearby,

NAN MADOL [7] get the main stage go­ing in grad­ual but ex­pan­sive fash­ion, com­bin­ing South­ern-style doomy riffs with a Tool-es­que metro­nomic pulse, as their drum­mer/vo­cal­ist helps put the band’s col­lec­tive back into their pro­gres­sion. Oslo’s SUPERLYNX [7] keep the hyp­notic vibe go­ing, their doom/psych mantras driven by vo­cals that sound like Court­ney Love in a trance state.

Up­ping the mood, TENGGER CAV­ALRY [8] front­man Na­ture Gan­gan­bai­gal’s root-you-tothe-spot throat singing is just one part of a con­stantly groovy, melodic metal ar­se­nal, a home­made two-string Tob­shuur gui­tar beat­ing out an in­fec­tious twang as they’re joined by a shamanic Vik­ing drum­mer in full, pelt-clad re­galia for good mea­sure.

Proof that cel­e­brat­ing Vik­ing her­itage is syn­ony­mous with cul­tural ex­change,

WIN­TERFYL­LETH’S [8] evoca­tive English­ness fits per­fectly in this set­ting with an­thems so rous­ing that, for them, black metal seems more of a launch pad. Their sig­na­ture ‘Woah-oh’s res­onate across the field and down a mass of raised fists.

When it does come to black metal, though, GAAHLS WYRD [9] are as de­fin­i­tive and as tran­scen­dent as you can get, their level of con­scious­nes­salter­ing in­ten­sity akin to com­press­ing your brain mat­ter into di­a­mond form. Joined briefly by Kati Ran on hurdy gurdy, and Dark­end’s An­i­mae on guest vo­cals Gaahl’s oth­er­worldly pres­ence has a mag­netism that draws some­thing pri­mal out of you, not least when Steg hits an elec­tri­fy­ing moth­er­lode and stays there, re­ver­ber­at­ing un­til you’re spir­i­tu­ally rav­ished and then some. UN­LEASHED [8] are on ma­jes­tic form this evening, feed­ing their love of Norse mythol­ogy into thick, cours­ing waves of d-beat-charged death metal that sends the field into rap­tures.

SÓL­STAFIR [9] are wor­thy head­lin­ers and the an­tic­i­pa­tion build­ing amongst a sea of metalheads only makes their con­tin­ued ab­sence from UK out­door metal fes­ti­vals an in­com­pre­hen­si­ble anom­aly that needs to be reme­died be­fore it starts get­ting em­bar­rass­ing. Tonight, un­der a set­ting sun, they’re mes­meris­ing, trans­port­ing, those lone, search­light riffs cast out like a psy­chic lif­er­aft. Sól­stafir look like rock stars, but this is a com­mu­nal ex­pe­ri­ence, the likes of Ótta and Ne­cro­logue, fol­low­ing a mov­ing speech about men­tal health and reach­ing out, tap­ping into a bind­ing con­ti­nu­ity that’s the very spirit of this fes­ti­val.


To some ex­tent, Satur­day open­ers SAHG [7] are also a trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, haul­ing up clas­sic 70s riffs and giv­ing them a trans­fu­sion that ban­ishes any retro trap­pings. Com­bin­ing sym­phonic, op­er­atic and gothic metal into one turgid and ut­terly un­con­vinc­ing morass, SYNKVERVET

[3] are good only for bar tak­ings. Such is the el­e­men­tal and cos­mic force of ORANSSI

PAZUZU’S [8] mantric black metal over­load, that they not only whip up a sud­den gale and a plague of prob­a­bly star­tled in­sects, one of their gui­tars gives up un­der the on­slaught, leav­ing the rest of the mem­bers to jam their last two songs, jour­ney­ing to the looser end of krautrock and be­yond. Switch­ing Apol­lyon to drums, AURA NOIR [7] love Motör­head, Celtic Frost and rid­ing roughshod over your senses. They of­fer a clenched fist in the face of all higher func­tions and we’re all the bet­ter, and far more drunk for it. As epic as

MOONSORROW’S [6] folk-in­fused metal might be, their show­man­ship is an un­nec­es­sary, over-flam­boy­ant gloss, and as it hap­pens, ut­terly re­dun­dant in the face of what’s to come.

If Guillermo Del Toro were to come up with a me­dieval pa­gan folk band, it prob­a­bly wouldn’t look, or sound, as mind­bog­gling as HEILUNG [9]. On a stage be­decked like an elab­o­rate, prim­i­tive ini­ti­a­tion cham­ber and each mem­ber look­ing like an end-of-level spirit guide, the vis­ual over­load – com­plete with black paint-smeared, spear- and shield­wield­ing war­riors – is matched by the rit­u­al­is­tic throb hammering a nail though your con­scious­ness and down into some an­ces­tral residue. By the end, the field has turned into a rave of the an­cients, ev­ery­one lost in an hal­lu­ci­na­tory jour­ney past time, space and san­ity.

Let it be said that Faroese head­lin­ers TYR [6] go down a storm, their epic yet ef­fi­cient Vik­ing metal of­fer­ing a stri­dent and ro­man­ti­cised call to arms. There is a sim­plis­tic qual­ity to their songs, though, that takes a fast route around any gen­uinely emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence, but when a full field is pump­ing fists in the air, there’s an en­ergy afoot that charges these his­to­rys­teeped fields anew.

Un­der a set­ting sun, Sól­stafir are mes­meris­ing

this isn’t We re­ally hope

pic this dude’s Tin­der

Midgards­blot’s blood:

There will be cer­e­mony

opening blot Sól­stafir strike a perfect

chord at Midgards­blot


Heilung guide

you to the next level of


Gaahls Wyrd: star­ing do not have a con­test with

this man

Tengger cav­alry:

metal masters Mon­golese

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