Midgardsblot 2019

Around 8,000 people visited Midgardsblot, a unique festival on historic Viking burial grounds, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2019. The festival is a cultural experience. There was a Viking village, market, battles and norse games, a museum, exhibitions, seminars and workshops. Of course, there was plenty of beer and metal! We focussed on the music and checked out a few bands each day on the main stage, which had excellent sound quality.

Tekst og foto: Anne-Marie Forker

Torsdag 15.august 2019

Gaahl is one of black metal’s most talented vocalists and lyricists. His latest project, Gaahls Wyrd, provided an excellent start to the festival, although the set was short at just under 50 minutes. They played several tracks from their 2019 debut album «GastiR – Ghosts Invited», including «From the Spear». The band’s repertoire consists of selected songs from Gaahl’s past projects. Highlights included God Seed’s «Sign of an Open Eye» and «Alt Liv» and Gorgoroth’s «Prosperity and Beauty». Check out our interview with Gaahl in our next issue of NRM (2019 #3)! 4/6

Black metal band Tormentor formed in 1986 in Hungary. They recorded their first influential album, «Anno Domini», in 1988, but were unable to release it until the communism ended. Norwegian frontman Attila Csihar (who also became the vocalist of Mayhem) gave a high energy performance and connected with the crowd well. This seems to be a band he loves! The setlist included songs such as «Damned Grave», «Beyond» and «In gate of hell». A highlight was one of the most iconic black metal anthems ever «Elisabeth Bathory» from «Anno Domini», an album which helped define the genre. The mix of clean guitars with distortion created a chilling atmosphere. Tormentor delivered one of the best performances at Midgardsblot. 5/6

Headlining the first night of Midgardsblot, Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (Gorgoroth and Wardruna) delivered an exclusive performance of music from their two albums, «Hugsja» and «Skuggsja» in addition to material from their respective bodies of work as composers. The live band consisted of percussionist and backing singer Iver Sandøy, keyboardist Håkon Vinje and Hardanger Fiddler Silje Solberg. The music filled the festival with atmospheric soundscapes as the day turned into night. The powerful Wardruna track «Helvegen», a song about facing death, ended the first day at Midgardsblot. 4,5/6

Fredag 16.august 2019

Vreid‘s «black’n’roll» is a unique blend of elements of 70’s rock and 80’s classic metal rooted in Norwegian black metal. They formed in 2004 after the breakup of Windir following the death of lead singer and founder Valfar. The sound clarity was excellent on the main stage for Vreid’s performance. A highlight of the set was «One Hundred Years» from their eighth and latest album, «Lifehunger». Other tracks included «Pitch black» and «Solverv». There was lots of moshing down at the front of the crowd. A shame the set was only 50 minutes long. 4/6

The headliners on Friday night, Gåte, are one of Norway’s best live bands. They brought a fascinating combination of traditional Norwegian folk music and progressive rock to the stage, along with an intense energy that few bands match. Siblings Gunnhild and Sveinung Sundli have great chemistry on stage and guitarist Magnus Børmark rarely kept still and regularly jumped down into the press pit and climbed up amps. The setlist included «Skrømt», «Bendik og Årolilja» and «Fanitullen». They gave the best performance at Midgardsblot 2019 and deserve rarely given full marks! 6/6

American death metal band Deicide (meaning the act of killing a god) are no strangers to controversy. Their lyrics cover topics such as Satanism, anti-Christianity and blasphemy. The band consists of the two founding members Steve Asheim (drums) and Glen Benton (vocals and bass), and also Kevin Quirion and Chris Cannella on guitars. Together, they delivered an intense and brutal set, featuring old classic tracks such as «Deicide» and «Once Upon the Cross» and newer material, such as «Excommunicated» from their 2018 album «Overtures of Blasphemy». The Satanists in the audience were delighted, especially with tracks such as «Scars of the Crucifix». 4/6

Lørdag 17.august 2019

Since forming the band in the early 1990s when they were teenagers, Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson have developed the sound of Enslaved beyond traditional black metal and also incorporate elements of progressive rock. The band have been together for almost 30 years but showed no signs of slowing down. Kjellson’s vocal shrieks were intense and Bjørnson and Arve Isdal’s riffing combined brilliantly, all showing the band were on top form. There were also interesting visuals to enjoy as several dancers dressed black sequence with dreadlocks threw themselves around the stage. There was a crowd rousing performance of «Allfǫðr Oðinn» from their 1993 EP «Hordanes Land» and «Loke», which ended with Kjellson’s vocals transforming into maniacal laughter, followed by him hitting his own head. Disturbingly brilliant. 5,5/6

The last time Heilung headlined Midgardsblot in 2017 they were a relatively unknown band but their popularity across Europe has grown. Translated from German, their name means ‘healing’ and their sound stems from the northern European Iron-Age and Viking era. During a ritualistic performance they used several instruments and objects including shamanic drums, reconstructed swords and shields, human bones and throat singing. The lyrics contain original texts from rune stones and preserved spear shafts, amulets and other artefacts and also poems about historical events or translations/interpretations of ancient texts. The location of Midgardsblot, located next to Northern Europe’s largest assembly of monumental grave mounds from the Germanic Iron Age and the Viking Age, was the perfect setting for Heilung’s music. Before the band arrived, a hooded man prowled across the stage wafting incense. Then the band stood in a circle, reciting words that the crowd repeated:
«Remember, that we all are brothers
All people, beasts, trees and stone and wind
We all descend from the one great being
That was always there
Before people lived and named it
Before the first seed sprouted»

The rhythmic, hypnotic drums of «In Maidjan» began to beat and the crowd seemed to be in a trance. Their music taps into something primal and people in the audience moved together in the darkness, some howling regularly. Every band member was striking in appearance, but Maria Franz stood out and looked otherworldly. A highlight was the 14 minute long track «Hamrer Hippyer». It was not like any concert I have ever been to. Heiling are a unique experience. Even if you are not bewitched by the music, it is an interesting piece of musical theatre. 4/6

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