Midgardsblot 2017

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We know there are a lot of festivals out there, competing with each other to offer you the most impressive line-up or most original location. But what if I told you there is a hidden gem out there? A festival that held only its third edition this year, but succeeds in offering a festival experience that combines metal and folk music, authentic folklore, stunning nature and a rich Viking history. Add a small but very international crowd and a most welcoming atmosphere and you have the recipe for a weekend that will change your life. Allow me to take a trip with you to Borre, Norway, to Midgardsblot

Location & Philosophy Things To Do Metal Music Folk Music

Metal Music

Almost all the bands programmed at Midgardsblot have a connection with viking culture, Norse mythology or rune mysticism in one way or another. Further, they seem to make sure all Nordic countries are represented, even the more remote places like Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Still, true to the open-minded and welcoming nature of the festival, you could also find a more Eastern name on the festival’s line-up this year (Tengger Cavalry). Then again, also this band mainly sings about their own Mongolian culture and heritage. So it seems that in every way the organizers keep in mind the overall concept and philosophy of Midgardsblot.

Many of the artists can be found wandering the festival terrain or watching another show in the crowd. Those who stayed in the hotels at Horten could often share the breakfast buffet with artists who spent the night there. I wonder if Gaahl takes his eggs hard or soft boiled?


We have to admit it, we missed the main stage opening act Nan Madol because we were still too involved with all the viking games at the museum’s playfield… Mea culpa! I still want to give a shout out to them as their music carried over the trees to the field and what we heard was interesting to say the least. With a drummer on vocals this local Norwegian quartet brings influences from Enslaved, Tool and Mastodon to the table. Don’t make the same mistake as I did and go see them when you have the change!

While at last year’s edition it was Melechesch that provided the Eastern influences at Midgardsblot, one of this year’s highly anticipated acts was Tengger Cavalry. This New York based Mongolian folk metal outfit is making a steady climb in reputation across the world after several positive album reviews and intense videos of their live shows on YouTube. I was a bit surprised, however, to see only three artists taking the stage. Because of this not only the drums, but a lot of the traditional fiddle arrangements were played from tape. Later in the show two vikings came to accompany the band live on their drumskins, but this could not save the show in my opinion. Also the newer material of the band takes a more Western approach which I think is a real shame. I certainly hope this Mongolian stallion is not just a one-trick-pony and they quickly find their way again after the first encouraging critiques. The audience, however, did not let it get to them. The mosh pit was filled with the traditional dressed in black metalheads, battle ready vikings and random enthusiasts on pink unicorn sticks.


“Time is short and our songs are long” is how Winterfylleth‘s vocalist apologized for the few interactions they had with the audience during their set. Since some people in the audience were already shouting “Fucking Manchester!” I didn’t have to look up anymore from which part of England these guys hail. Singing about England’s historical stories, folklore, landscapes and ancestral past this band fits Midgardsblot theme perfectly and they bring it with captivating atmospheric black metal. There were no more pink unicorns at this point, only tacitly enjoying and headbanging to a tight but well filled setlist. A great show!


Wyrd is just one of many of Gaahl‘s projects. Personally, I feel he brings more diversity with this project than in the previous God Seed. The show remains as always a visually powerful spectacle with the band’s corpse paint and Gaahl‘s staring eyes drilling right into you. It is intriguing how in between the flood of intense raw black metal he could get the crowd so quiet while reciting a rune text. He was joined on stage by Kati Ran (formerly of L.E.A.F and now Ran) for several songs. An intense show much to the liking of many fans. Gaahl could be found around the festival site easily after the show, wandering and talking with the fans.


After all the folk and black metal it was great to have some intense death metal on the main stage. The Swedish Unleashed was one of the first death metal bands to write about the viking culture and heritage. It was heart warming to see dads rocking out with their kids on this old school band. In fact, also vocalist Johnny Hedlund himself could be found with his family in the viking playground playing tug of war earlier that day. Classics as Midvinterblot, To Asgaard We Fly and Where Is Your God Now? provided for great moments to shout along and bang your heads. It makes for easy listening death metal. And this is also the only critique I can find for Unleashed, that after a while the choruses can become too predictable and repetitive.


Even though Sólstafir could be considered headliner on Friday they perform for only one hour, the maximum playing time at Midgardsblot. Luckily, they were spared from technical difficulties compared to their Graspop show, so for us it was still a bonus. Iceland was a country that was not represented so far in this year’s line-up and with their unique blend of post-rock/post-metal they bring yet another genre to the main stage. Usually these Icelandic cowboys are not very talkative between songs and they let their music mesmerize the audience. So it was to my surprise that Trygvasson took his time to address the crowd. He spoke not in Norwegian but in English because he wanted to make sure everyone heard the message. The band recently lost friends to depression and suicide and they made a plea to speak up when you are feeling bad and for everyone else to extend a hand when you feel someone could need your help. Remembering In Flames‘ similar personal story back on Graspop Metal Meeting, and thinking back on the sad loss of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, this message hit home with a lot of people, I think. The band played a rendition of the song Necrologue next with even more emotion in Trygvasson‘s voice than Köld‘s album version. One of the most intense live moments of the festival.


It was early in the afternoon on Saturday when the Norwegian Sahg took the stage. Still, the small crowd gathered there should not be disappointed in their efforts. With their blend of heavy metal, doom and stoner Sahg could well be the perfect festival band to please many listeners at once. In the burning – yes burning! – Norwegian sun they gave a set with lots of tempo changes and killer riffs. Definitely a name to remember!


Another eclectic band – and with yet another Nordic country of origin – was Oranssi Pazuzu, or the “Demon of the Wind with the Colour of Cosmic Energy” as they call themselves. The moment they started playing this Finnish band dragged us in a maelstrom of psychedelic stoner with elements of black metal mixed through it. After a first intense assault to open their set, the next song builds up slower with keyboards, backed up by a steady and consistent drum and a very fuzzy bass. Trippy as fuck. The only bit of bad luck during the show was that the strong winds played tricks on the vocals. Oranssi Pazuzu is difficult to corner in just one box as some songs lean more towards sludge or post-black influences. There was never a dull moment in the show as the musicians blended all the songs together with minimalistic repetitions and loops. This way, the last song seemed like a ten minute jam. One of my personal discoveries of the festival!


After a break at the Viking Stage it was time for the black thrash attack of Aura Noir. These musicians are associated with so many other acts (Immortal, Mayhem, Cadaver…) that you must have seen one of them play in at least one different band. Still, with Aura Noir they bring their very own blend of styles. The crowd loved it, causing the set to pass by in a moment.


While I used to prefer listening to Moonsorrow in the comfort of home to delve into their longer songs, nowadays they have evolved to a band that can also keep my attention live with all the variety they bring. At one point they can be really atmospheric, the next immensely hard and fast, only to mix it up with entertaining folk melodies. The Finns admit they don’t actually play viking metal. They still look fearsome enough with their blood and mud stained faces. Viking or not, their long songs which often pass the ten minute mark are definitely epic and grand. And even though it’s all in Finnish the crowd loudly shouts along with the melodies with their fists raised in the air.


The festival’s line-up would be incomplete without a guest of the remote Faroe Islands. While last year the doom metallers of Hamferð could represent their country, this year their countrymen Týr had the honour of closing the main stage on Saturday. I’ve always been a fan of their harmonious style of singing in different Scandinavian languages. As a Belgian, it was an amusing change to actually see them in a crowd that could sing along with many of the lyrics and not just gibber some words like I have to do! Unfortunaly, throughout the show the vocals were not well managed in the sound mix, causing it to be too loud one moment and too quiet the other.


The public seemed a bit passive and still overwhelmed as well after the show of Heilung just before Týr. I did not review their show here in this section because they didn’t play metal. But not exactly folk either… Maybe their show was best described as a primordial experience. Find out more about Heilung and all the folk bands at the festival in the next part!

(Pictures by Gillian – check out the full photo report here)