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Beyond the Gates – The Rebirth of Hole in the Sky: Day One

Stefan Raduta covered Bergen, Norway’s previous metal festival, Hole in the Sky, for us in 2011. He returned to Norway this August to check out the new-ish iteration, Beyond the Gates III, at Bergen’s Garage.

There’s a beautiful feeling of familiarity surrounding Bergen, Norway’s Beyond the Gates. Already on its third anniversary, it’s now clear this is the long awaited rebirth of Hole in the Sky, once Europe’s best indoor metal party that ran for 12 consecutive years before finishing in 2011 with the appropriately titled the Last Supper. Beyond the Gates has the same spirit of Hole in the Sky, and the team behind Beyond the Gates is made of some the key Hole in the Sky people: Torgrim Øyre, Martin Kvam, Stian Smørholm, Silje Wergeland, and a one-of-a-kind character/party animal by the name Ole A. Svendsen (Terratur Possesions Label), who seems to be in charge of entertainment. If you’re not having a blast, he’ll make sure that’s going to change, and quickly. Sound lad, but a genuine menace.

Some of the usual suspects were back in town for the festivities, starting with Roadburn’s very own — known by all/loved by all — artistic director Walter, who DJed at the upstairs bar all throughout Saturday night, following Primordial’s Alan Averill who did the same on Friday. Speaking of, Beyond the Gates learned from the major mistake of Hole in the Sky’s last edition: namely to hold a heavy metal trivia contest at the venue, Garage, during the day, so Averill felt obligated to participate. There were five or six teams of five people each, and needless to say, no other team stood a chance — including his own team members. Averill, metal’s walking encyclopedia, nailed every answer before the question was even finished.

Season Of Mist’s unmistakable duo, Michael and Gunnar, were also present, always on the lookout for new talent. (I’m glad that Bergen’s local post-metal group Krakow got to make an impression, really good act!) My good friend Martin Kvam was there, as well. He handled press for Hole in the Sky and now is at it again. He shared that this new adventure will always stay at Garage and be kept special, unlike Hole in the Sky which also took over Bergen’s famous USF venue located right by the water. We don’t need to grow bigger, he said. I couldn’t agree more. They did it all with their past festival, anyway.

At a capacity of 330 people, Garage (probably Norway’s most notorious venue) is the ideal place to experience some of the world’s best acts in an intimate atmosphere you could never get at monster festivals such as Wacken or Hellfest. Wacken’s 75,000 festival goers? No thank you. Not for me, anyway. I never really understood these massive festivals, to be honest; tens of thousands of people, and the bands you’re there to “see” are a mile away and look like ants. To each their own, I guess.

Something like Beyond the Gates, though, is just right. It’s intimate, everyone gets to know everyone by the end, there are no VIP rooms, and bands and fans alike are sharing drinks at the same bar without any attitudes. Because of that, the memories last much longer.

Thursday started with a rare feeling of Icelandic grimness, courtesy of Sinmara. I say rare because this was the first live show for the band outside Iceland. Having just released their debut earlier this year under Terratur Possessions, they managed to make a strong impression. These guys have potential. I hope they work hard and play every festival they get offered. They’re straight forward black metal performed without holding anything back, nor do they have any stage gimmicks. The band showed a lot of determination and played with passion. Nothing new under the sun but they were really good.

Sweden’s Irkallian Oracle are a mystery to many, and were quite a curiosity to witness. They performed a very complex, multilayered, muddy, and chaotic blackened death metal; dark, claustrophobic, and nightmarish. A delight! The music really sounds like it’s coming from the depths of the Earth. They have a thick sound and apocalyptic vibe: think Portal, Impetuous Ritual, Antediluvian, Grave Upheaval, etc. Live, they had quite a stage presence, very ritualistic, wearing cloaks and using everything from a large bell to an animal skin tambourine. One thing I have to say is that they don’t work as well as they should as a three piece on stage. Music as complex as this needs a second guitar live, period. If you’re going to put the effort to look really scary and menacing, the sound should match your intentions. I’ve seen Portal enough times to leave any room for doubt.

Dødsengel were easily one of the most anticipated bands of the festival for me and many others. This Debemur Morti sensation has gained quite a following in the scene and for good reason: they’re truly amazing! They’re one of the very best authentic black metal acts in Norway right now, as opposed to the never ending copy/paste outfits. Dødsengel have a raw, organic vibe, but quite a distinct avant-garde feel to them. Seeing Dødsengel perform on stage was a real treat, especially since it’s a rare occurrence. Thankfully they did not disappoint. In fact, they were spectacular, on ever level. They wore very cool outfits and the vocalist was interesting to watch. He’s a great stage performer, theatrical and genuine. Pictures should be enough to prove this performance was fantastic. In a way they were the equivalent of having Slagmaur on stage last year, another one of Norway’s jewels, a band that also follows their own unique voice. They’re the main reason I’m so bummed I couldn’t be at Beyond the Gates last summer.

The Ruins of Beverast blew my mind. Here was a performance that was truly immaculate and perfect, from the very beginning to end. Holy. Fucking. Christ. Leaving aside that their albums are absolutely spectacular and their blackened doom is unparalleled and unmistakably theirs, the band sounds so perfect on stage; so cohesive, just plain flawless. The sound was thick, heavy, and full of passion.

The Ruins of Beverast’s Alexander von Meilenwal is really doing everything right with this band. I have nothing but respect and admiration for this incredible multi-instrumentalist! After playing for years in one of Germany’s most devastating black metal outfits, Nagelfar (besides his involvement in Kermania, Heemat, Truppensturm, and Vendurkeln), he started the Ruins of Beverast in 2003, composing all music on his own and playing all instruments. Today he has a solid line-up for live shows and these guys are really gifted.

Watching Alexander von Meilenwal, though, was just. . . surreal. Such a powerful performer! He imposes respect, plays guitar like a demon, and his vocals are still sending chills down my spine two weeks after I saw them. My skin crawls when I think of their performance of “I Raised this Stone as a Ghastly Memorial” (taken from their third, magnificent opus Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite) or every song they played off their last and most devastating record yet, 2013’s Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer. If I had to choose the best set at Beyond the Gates, I would say it’s damn hard, but the Ruins Of Beverast stole the festival for me, personally. It’s rare that I get to see such a devastating and heartfelt set, and I have seen thousands. I want to see them get invited to major fests. They deserve it far more than others names that are everywhere all the time. Thank you, Germany!

Inquisition ended the night, and when it was all done and over with, it felt like they destroyed everyone in that room inside and out in the most morbid way possible. I can’t have enough Inquisition in my life. I love these dudes. They’ve always had a cult following but it seems they reached perfection on that day. Tens of thousands of miles of touring the world from corner to corner, playing everything from the nastiest dungeons to the best festivals out there, these two Colombian demons have sharpened their teeth and have become a real threat.

I’ve seen Inquisition in New York City quite a few times, but it felt really special in Bergen. They came, they destroyed, and then they left. Veni, vidi, vici. What I like about them is that they’re always cool and down to earth, always respectful and eager to have a chat after the show. Four years ago, we had a blast at Brooklyn’s Europa when my friend Scaesar put on a killer show with Inquisition, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, and Agrath. They had a lot of stories about their shows in Romania. They remembered all those details in Bergen four years later and sent their best regards to my friend. Cool people. Can’t wait to see them again.

[Ed. note: In the interest of full-disclosure, Inquisition were quite controversial this year. You can catch up on that here.]

— Words and photos by Stefan Raduta

Sinmara

Irkallian Oracle

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The Ruins of Beverast

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Inquisition

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