Inferno 2016 revisited

Inferno 2016

Inferno Metal Festival needs no introduction, but for the unfamiliar, it’s an extreme metal festival held in Norway to coincide with the Easter weekend. It’s an indoor event spanning over a few venues across 4 days, limited to 1200 capacity, showcasing about 40ish bands. 

In 2015 I attended for the first time, attracted by My Dying BrideBehemoth1349BloodbathSecrets Of The Moon, to name but a few. It was simply fantastic. Accommodation is solely based in a nearby high class hotel, in which the bands also stay; I effectively ate breakfast with My Dying Bride and Enslaved one morning! 

Anyway, it was a fabulous festival, the bands were fantastic, but the event itself was just magnificent. I suppose the whole “Norwegian Black Metal” has a lot to do with it, but it did feel like a special event, certainly very different to my annual trip to Hellfest. 

Fast forward 10 months and the band in which I helped form in 2014, THE CRAWLING, received the most peculiar of emails; subject: “Offer to play at Inferno Festival 2016.” It was midnight when I spied the email, whilst working a night shift in some shithole around Belfast. To say I was thrilled was an understatement, and I had no one to tell; my work colleague seemed, at best, bemused as I ranted and raved until the following morning about Norway, snow, black metal, burning churches, and murderous band members. He hasn’t worked with me since.

Later that day I was finally able to inform the rest of our power trio we would be playing Inferno. From that point on, the journey began. It’s a very cool thing for a band of our stature to be asked to play a gig in general, never mind an international festival where the ‘big boys’ hang out. We would be playing the Revolver bar, which is kinda like an after show event, when the main stage finishes. It has a 150 capacity and is located around the corner from Rockefeller, the main stage hall. I had watched Doomraiser play the year before, it was a cool place, with great sound and it was very busy. I figured it was as suitable a place as any for The Crawling, as i didn’t fancy playing an enormous venue to 10 people.  We would be the only band playing that night in Revolver, and had been allocated a 45-minute set.

The excitement dragged on for nearly 2 months until we were actually allowed to ‘announce’ we were playing. It was very odd to be contracted to such things, along with supplying stage plots, channel lists, and a rider. A social media frenzy followed, along with me torturing as many Norwegian mags, radio stations, and webzines as possible! It was a fun time.

Our gig was on the Friday night at 01:30, so we decided to head for Norway on the Thursday, and return on the Sunday, allowing us to catch the bulk of the festival. Thursday morning was finally upon us, and we loaded road cases and suit cases into the car and headed for our flight from Dublin. The drinking began immediately, providing a sturdy foundation for the 18 hours of alcohol abuse that would follow. 

We arrived in Oslo, grabbed the guitars, which thankfully arrived in one piece, and nodded to Vader, who were evidently awaiting the same; although the pro’s appeared slightly less perplexed than we did, whilst awaiting our stupidly priced instruments. Luggage cart ahead, we pushed through the exit gate to be greeted by our driver, who was waving an “Inferno” placard at us. 

It was much too cool. Any band can tell you there are always moments when you feel ‘famous,’ and of course it is a relative term, but it felt like fame at that moment in time. We laughed, and were escorted to a mini van and driven to our hotel.

The Clarion Hotel Royal Christiana is a cracking place. As a hairy metal head from Belfast, it always feels a bit odd to be in a nice hotel, but it felt even more peculiar to be in one during a festival. That said, we adapted well to our plush surroundings, ditched the gear and sampled the hotel bar. Inferno continued to stroke my hyper-inflated ego as the TV screens animated the running order of the coming days; featuring THE CRAWLING of course. It was quite surreal. 

The Crawling on Inferno TV

The drinking hit a staggering pace as we hit the main hall containing the John Dee (second) stage, and the Rockefeller (main) stage. At that point we realised we hadn’t actually told Inferno we had arrived. Stuart spied a guy from Inferno’s Instagram, introduced ourselves, and were escorted to the main backstage area. Backstage was a hive of activity, littered with laptops, telephones and people fussing over iPhones. We were subsequently issued all access wristbands, conference passes, meal vouchers, and officially welcomed to Inferno. I just chuckled as we were shown back into the main area. 

Beer, Shores of Null, beer, Vader, beer, Marduk, beer, and finally Mysticum concluded the main event. By this point I was beyond hammered, and had been torturing various punters and Norwegians in typical Norn Iron fashion. I have a vague memory of staggering back to the hotel, losing the other two guys, then attempting to drink the hotel bar dry, accompanied by some Colombians. I may have proved too much for a few locals, but by 4.00am I was just soaking the whole thing in, and finally retired to my posh room.

The following morning was a shambles. I was rather unwell. I did manage to attend breakfast, and have a vague recollection of eating something. Before sobering entirely, we made use of our conference passes and attended FROST’s drum clinic; but not without a quick vomit, before convincing myself I could hold it together long enough to watch the Norwegian legend beat a big noisy thing for an hour. Surprisingly I really enjoyed the clinic. I’ve never done one before, but I found Frost spoke well, was friendly, eloquent, and ultimately extremely passionate about his musical instrument. 

When he finished, a few people began approaching Frost for signings and stuff. Still blocked, I decided fuck it – I want my pic with this guy. I don’t usually bother with such things, as I always feel I’m annoying the famous people, but I think the drink was still strong in me, so I blattered away. Frost gave me a hearty handshake; we had a quick chat about Satyricon, and then snapped a photo. It was just a really cool thing for me to experience. I’m so pleased I was so drunk.

Andy and Frost
Stuart and Frost

After the clinic we had to meet some guys from Symphonium, a Norwegian Radio station. They had been in touch via email before we came over, and had arranged a quick interview at their hotel room. Three guys met with us in their uber-posh room, they had a sofa and everything, and proceeded with the interview. The drink lying around the room, spoke volumes; not to mention the enormous Jack & Coke the main interview guy poured himself. It was much too heavy metal for me; I declined bourbon, swallowed some vomit, and we all began to have a chat about the band. It was a cool interview, some interesting questions, but most of all the guys were just really cool metal fans. An hour later we headed out for food and to get ourselves organised for the gig.

We had planned to go and see more bands, but to be honest; I think we were just too wound up about playing to truly relax. Instead, we chilled out in our rooms, sorted the gear, got more food, and finally made moves to hit Revolver. Lumbering the guitars down to the lobby, we got the hotel to book us a taxi and we were finally on our way to our Inferno show!

When we arrived to Revolver at the allocated time, a handler was waiting for us. I was continually surprised how well organised the event was. Our new friend led us down to the Revolver stage and introduced us to the sound engineer Erik, and Sarah, who was looking after our rider. Erik asked us what we needed, and Sarah pointed us in the direction of a table of food and most importantly – a fridge full of beer. We got started. 

Stuart had an awesome Orange bass rig supplied, Gary did a tremendous job reassembling the house drum kit into a highly functional death metal set, and I managed to make a Fender amp sound pretty damn heavy, once coupled with my Full Metal Hatchet distortion pedal. It was only us playing, which again, was a new experience. In a weird way it was a headline show, so we were able to sound check for an hour, and really get ourselves comfortable in the room. Erik was a complete pro, obviously knew the trade, and I was in heaven enjoying a proper monitor mix. It sounded great, looked the part; all we needed now was the doors to open and the masses to pour in.

Doors were at 01:00; we were allocated stage time of 01:30-02:15. Under normal circumstances, this would be a terrifying set time, but this was a festival – so everything was cool. Right? We set up what merch we had managed to squeeze into a suitcase, the doors opened, and we waited. No one came. By 01:20 my stomach was in my throat, and the realisation hit me like a ton of shit; oh fuck… we’d come all this way, been do excited, got so drunk, had such a great time, and hadn’t actually appreciated we were the sole draw to bring people to a bar round the corner from Rockefeller, having just watched NILE. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played to poor crowds over the years, 14 people an all time low for my previous band, but I wasn’t in fucking Norway, attached to a major metal festival. We were going to let everyone down. So many people had wished us great things, so much money spent, so much time dedicate to the set. So much misery. The following 9 minutes that led to our stage time was dreadful. Every time I looked at the other two guys we just shrugged and said; “fuck it, what can we do?” At about 01:27 a guy came over to our stall and bought everything. I fucking love that guy. He explained he was a huge fan, was really into the music, couldn’t wait to see us, and had been listening to us on Spotify all week. Instantly everything seemed worthwhile. 

At 01:30 we manned up and went backstage. Our intro had started, and we appeared in due course. Looking out from the stage I realised there were fucking people in the room, not a lot, but there were definitely people. I convinced myself we could do it, Gary counted us in, and we launched into the set. The sound was good, heads were bobbing, and I noted a few smiles and nods amongst the small crowd. By the third track, 15 minutes in, Revolver had really started to fill up. I was elated. Banging heads soon lined across the front of the stage, and rows back I could see faces swaying left and right trying to get a glimpse of the doom death spilling off the stage. By the closing few tracks from our latest EP, it was clear some folks knew the words better than I did! It was bonkers, and I was draining every minute of it. 

photo credit: Pablo Guerrero Arcaico 
photo credit: Pablo Guerrero Arcaico 
photo credit: Pablo Guerrero Arcaico 

After 45 minutes the set closed. I put my guitar down, shook some hands, allowing the ECG sample to beep on as the three of us walked off the rear of the stage into the dressing room.

Stuart was last in:

People aren’t leaving. I think, they think, we’re gonna do another song?

Fuck off?” In true Northern Ireland response, posed as a question.

I’m serious. We have to do an encore.”

Well, we’d better do it fucking now then. It’s twenty past fucking two.”

I walked out, and lo and behold, the crowd was still lined up, chanting for another song. I quickly lifted the guitar, thanked everyone profusely for supporting us, and banged out another track. It was just hilarious, in an awesome way of course! I turned the amp off, and brought my guitar back stage with me. Our merch was unattended, so I lifted the merch bag and headed for the stall. To continue the madness, there was a queue for the merch stand. I frantically sorted out a load of shirts and CDs, whilst calculating and recalculating NOK to sterling, and back again; whilst simultaneously cursing my two band mates who were nowhere to be seen – that transpired to be drinking the beer rider. Fuckers.

After flogging a reasonable amount of shirts and discs, Sarah accosted us, in order to drink a suspicious looking shot from the bar – “The Revolver.” I don’t do shots. It was horrendous, fucking Tabasco sauce in it or something equally unthinkable. It was a good laugh though. Erik appeared just as I was upending a bottle of beer to kill the taste, and seemed rather sad he’d missed it.  

Finally, we packed our shit together, crammed the beer into the merch bag, and Sarah escorted us to the street, and arranged our taxi back to the hotel. It was a perfect end to a great day as the three of us (plus a German metal fiend named Gina), headed back to the room to annihilate the rest of the beer. By 6am we were done. 

The next day, suitably hung-over, we enjoyed some of Oslo’s finest attractions; Helvete, the opera house, a ferry across the Fjord, the city itself, and the Viking museum. We then ventured back to Rockefeller for more beer, OrderMoonsorrow and the climactic Mayhem. After that it was the arduous journey back to reality. 

photo credit: Kerri Clarke

In conclusion Inferno was a once in a lifetime experience, and hand on heart; it couldn’t have been better. I would like to thank everyone involved with Inferno, especially Erik and Sarah; you guys were great. I just wish I could do it every weekend. I have the depression.

The Crawling
photo credit: Kerri Clarke



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