All posts by Annika


Throughout the years, Ulver and the mastermind behind the band, Garm, have broken the boundaries in music and proven that ‘black metal’ and ‘metal’ labels can easily become too limiting.

How’s the live experience of the band’s music then? On my way to the Circus I was more than curious to see the ever-changing legends of Ulver onstage…
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Two flights, three bus rides and a ferry crossing might not be the simplest way to get to a festival, but Karmøygeddon was an event worth every moment spent on traveling.

The lineup was promising to say the least, and the harbor area in Kopervik, where Karmøygeddon Metal Festival was held, could only be called gorgeous.
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As summer inevitably crawls closer, cold and harsh black metal is the best way to spend an evening in withdrawal from the sun.  Especially if the performing band is none other than the legendary Taake from Bergen, Norway.

My expectations were high, and the closer it was to the show, the more impatient I was getting.  But fast-fowarding ahead, the gig fulfilled all my expectations to say the least, so it was definitely worth the wait.

Just like during their last show in Helsinki, Taake were supported by Finnish bands; this time the warm-up acts were Väki from Tampere and Hexhammer from Helsinki.

Väki could be described as your typical opening band: slightly repetitive but far from boring, their set helped the audience to immerse in the mood of the black metal evening.  Even though the sound suffered at first, it improved throughout the gig and the vocals were made more audible.  Though the venue was still far from crowded, the audience was already clearly having a good time.

After the sinister pagan metal atmosphere Väki created onstage, Hexhammer brought forth their black ‘n’ roll vibes to Korjaamo.  The gig’s overall ambiance was not really something one could expect as a support to Norwegian black metal, nor was it something I would usually listen to – and such a change from what I mostly listen to was an interesting one.  One of the best things about Hexhammer’s gig was the bass lines, audible and powerful throughout the gig.

When the opening bands were done, the long-awaited headliner made sure to mesmerize the crowd with an aggressive black metal storm.

Taake (Photo by Marco Manzi)

Not every black metal gig includes such intense interaction with the audience. Well, Taake’s gig did and Hoest, the mastermind behind the band, had seen to it.  With the dedicated (one could almost say: possessed) frontman handing the mic out to the audience, giving fist bumps, holding fans’ arms (or almost hugging them) and more of the like, the gig was literally in-your-face.

The eerily melodic intro which preceded “Jernehaand” from the newest album opened the show.  And what a show it was… Taake drenched Korjaamo in northern darkness at its finest.

Taake (Photo by Marco Manzi)

If the first song hadn’t gripped the crowd yet, “Nordbundet” surely did.  The song from Noregs Vaapen, stunning as it is on the album, was an experience beyond words played live.

The night went on with “Bjoergvin IV” from the early material.  A classic from the album of the same title, beginning with roaring black metal cacophony and moving smoothly to a far more melodic part, was just as perfectly balanced as the Norwegian masters can do.  “Inntrenger” was to be played next, and the Kong Vinter madness didn’t end there, and “Havet i Huset” with its incredibly danceable passage rocked the hell out of the venue.  It could be seen also among the enthusiastic crowd, who were clearly having a great time.

Taake (Photo by Marco Manzi)

“Orm,” the only song from Stridens Hus which had been played that evening, ensured the setlist included works from all of Taake’s discography.  After all, the band has been around for 25 years, which Hoest didn’t forget to mention.  In light of recent controversies, a cancelled US tour and the Stockholm gig being moved to a secret location, the frontman made sure to praise the Finnish attitude as well.  Those who were at the gig surely remember both the musician’s words of approval and the cheering audience appreciating his words.

Taake (Photo by Marco Manzi)

The first song from Taake’s debut album was left for the end – “Nattestid I,” more melancholic than the band’s latest material, made just as great of an impression as more aggressive songs from the newer albums.

With the set drawing to a close, “Doedsjarl could be heard.  This song from Taake’s self-titled album sung by Hoest and the bassist V’gandr was definitely one of the concert’s highlights.  And the evening’s last song was “Myr,” unmistakable with its banjo solo.  With the setlist stretching to 12 songs and the concert lasting nearly an hour and a half, the Taake gig was entertaining beyond words as well as professional and delightfully dark.

Full photo gallery by Marco Manzi here.

Taake (Photo by Marco Manzi)


Auðn were among the bands I was most looking forward at Inferno Festival and I was lucky enough to get to interview them.  With Auðn‘s second album Farvegir Fyrndar being released last November and more and more festivals coming up (including the Icelandic Eistnaflug [which I’m planning to visit for the first time this year], the band’s vocalist Hjalti Sveinsson and guitarists Aðalsteinn Magnússon and Andri Birgisson give more insight into the visuals behind Auðn‘s music, atmospheric mood and why writing lyrics in Klingon might be a good idea.

ENSLAIN: Starting with the basic questions, how’s Inferno Metal Festival 2018 going so far?

Alli: Great, everything’s been alright. It’s second time in a row, we played last year as well, so this time everything was more familiar and you get to know more people.

Hjalti: We’re getting to know a lot of people around, a lot of familiar faces.

Alli: Great atmosphere and great bands as well.

ENSLAIN: Now, if I remember well, Hjalti and Andri, you’ve been at Icelandic Film School, and I was wondering if the background you have has influenced the visuals of the band – from album covers through to artwork and even to your stage outfits?

Andri: We always have the visual way of creating music, or at least I have. I like to ‘see’ a song when I’m trying to write it.

Hjalti: The look came about to be a bit of a minimalistic approach to let the music speak for itself.  So the music itself, I think, is a bit visual. Earlier we were working with more of juxtaposition of melting together the harsh ugliness of black metal with beauty of melodies.  We kind of did it with the look – that’s when the jackets came in – but we were still experimenting with corpse paint. But we kind of simplified that.

Alli: Don’t google those pictures.

Andri: …now we know what pictures she will google.

ENSLAIN: So it’s been mostly minimalistic, but there’s also a cinematic approach to it.

Alli: I like to look at the whole picture as pretty cinematic. The atmosphere in the music – it’s the whole thing. To me, it feels a bit cinematic.

Hjalti: It’s also the way we think about how the album works. We don’t just put songs together, every song has to serve a certain purpose and it has to be in the right spot in the album.

Auðn’s debut album (Metallic Media) & Farvegir Fyrndar (Season of Mist)

ENSLAIN: The atmospheric feel to your music creates a certain space the listener can get lost in. Was it one of the goals for the listener?

Alli: Yeah, that’s what I do with this music – get lost in it. I’m really happy with the reception we are getting on both these albums. People basically describe what I was trying to do with music and I think we all achieved this goal.

Hjalti: I think we managed to do what we were trying to do. Especially with the second album we let the songs ‘breathe’ more, vocals are also a bit different, so the atmospheric part of it was definitely something we nurtured a bit more.

Alli: The first album was more structured to the rhythm with more folk elements, maybe.

ENSLAIN: Another important aspect of your music is your beautiful language.  What role would you say Icelandic plays in the music you write?

Alli: It started with me writing lyrics in Icelandic; all the lyrics I write are in this language.  I’m used to thinking in Icelandic and it’s easier to express.

Andri: And in the first album we used more of songwriting on certain rules.

Alli: Yeah, we follow the old Icelandic rules very vaguely, but elements are there.

Andri: It creates a certain rhythm in lyrics when you write them like that.

Alli: When you master the form of writing that, it makes it really easy to find the next sentences and to express what you’re trying to say.

Hjalti: I think the first album was a bit more traditional in that sense.
And for me, I have a tendency to express myself over music in English. I rarely ever listen to Icelandic music so when I’m thinking of stuff we’re working on, it’s usually in English. So for me to do it in Icelandic was a big challenge. But with a new album, I think I distanced the vocal patterns from the traditional styles we used more on the first album.

Alli: Honestly, the phrasing isn’t Icelandic at all in many of the lyrics of the new album. Lyrics are, of course, in Icelandic, but the way they are presented is not the traditional one.

Hjalti: It’s more chaotic. I wanted to express the feelings not in the way I think of them but more in the way they would fall into the song and the rhythm. Every language has its different style of songwriting. You’ll hear music with a language you don’t know which is the situation for most people hearing us and that instantly is different. A lot of Norwegian bands are now doing the lyrics in English; we might still do it one day, I don’t know, but that definitely gives the unique touch, I think.

Alli: There are not that many people from Iceland, so…

Hjalti: Yeah… I actually think more people speak Klingon than Icelandic.

Andri: So if we want to reach out to more people, we should release the next album in Klingon.

Alli: And also, with playing this kind of music, unless you have the lyrics in front of you, how much of it would you understand?

Hjalti: It’s about expressing the feelings.

Alli: It’s about expressing the feelings and, as you’ve said, the way you experience it. That way we know the message is being delivered. It doesn’t have to be the lyrics, you don’t necessarily need to know what the lyrics are about, it’s about expressing the feeling. Because the lyrics are about that as well.

ENSLAIN: Did the lyrics shift from more traditional themes with a black metal spirit to song lyrics which are more poetic, then?

Alli: Yes, the first album drew inspiration from folk tales, maybe more in the way of traditional Icelandic storytelling. On the second album, it’s more about creating imagery for landscapes or emotions related to that and trying to paint the whole picture with the song.

ENSLAIN: I know it’s a general question, but would you say something on the difference between festivals you’ve played at? What’s special about Eistnaflug in your home country or what were the differences between Inferno this year and the last year?

Alli: There’s always a difference.

Hjalti: You can’t really compare Eistnaflug to other festival.

Alli: No… that’s special.

Hjalti: In some ways you can, of course, it’s a festival, but…

Alli:…you’ll see!

Andri: I think it might have similarities with Roadburn in a way.

Alli: In a way…

Hjalti: In a way, but still, it’s not Roadburn.

Alli: Every festival has its identity or at least that should be the goal. If it doesn’t have identity, you shouldn’t have a festival. Every festival is different, depends what aspects you think about. Each festival has its own spirit.

ENSLAIN: Related to the Icelandic scene, with black metal bands emerging and events such as Oration festival where you also played this year, what do you think the future holds for Icelandic black metal?

Hjalti: Hopefully, there’s gonna be some younger kids who will start playing in a band…

Alli: We can’t speak for the whole scene, of course, but I think that’s the most important thing, to not forget to play frequently. We were discussing it with the rest of the Icelandic people here, the Eistnaflug crew and also the guys from Naðra, how important it is to keep playing shows at home as well.

Hjalti: And to all ages audience, especially.

Alli: Yeah, because that’s how we got into metal: seeing shows and seeing the older guys playing in the bands.

Andri: If someone keeps carrying the torch, then we have a future ahead.

Alli: I think that was kind of a turning point when you had this really strong string of releases from Icelandic bands. The scene is really strong with many bands and all of them released their first album. Some of them, like us, have just released their second album, and I just think we need to see which bands are going to continue and which bands are just going to fade away.  And what happens next, I’m not sure. Hopefully good things, but…

Hjalti: No one knows, but there’s a lot of excitement around what will Misþyrming do next, what will Naðra do next, it might be that you have to ask them.  But it’s not that many guys forming all of these projects. I get this feeling that they always want to do something new, so there might be just new projects from them.

Alli: And that has already started, probably hundreds of bands, and that’s also a part of expression if you keep writing music and you feel that the music isn’t fitting the criteria of the direction you’ve created for your project, then you still want to get it out.  What do you do? Do you ruin the reputation of your band or do you do another project?  It’s always a question of staying true to yourself, I think.  And doing what you want to do, that’s black metal.

ENSLAIN: Thank you for your time and for such thorough answers. Sjáumst á Eistnaflugi!

Read the full festival report from Inferno Metal Festival 2018 here:



With four days of black metal, music conferences, art exhibitions and much more, Inferno Metal Festival Norway has sounded like one of the most intriguing metal festivals in the Nordic countries for me.
And it was more than exciting to find out that this year I’m going to attend the event too!
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Let the chaos begin

The month of death calls for a proper festival. What could work better than two days filled with metal’s most extreme genres?  Last year lacked such an event, and this year definitely didn’t disappoint with its obsidious offering of SteelChaos. With the announced lineup reaching from raw through oldschool black metal and extending to a few death metal groups, the festival looked extremely promising. Continue reading


When it’s cold and when it’s dark, the freezing moon can obsess you…

Regardless of many who would prefer Mayhem to end with the death of its former frontman and of the even larger group of people complaining about Attila Csihar’s emotion-loaded performance, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in its entirety was a gig I didn’t want to miss.
Another very positive side to Mayhem’s October performance in Nosturi was the autumn mood at its best: misty mornings of the last months of the year, evenings getting colder, deathlike trees and the northern landscape looking wonderfully grim. Continue reading



Introduction and interruptions by Lady Enslain, full report by Annika.

[Immediately when I heard that Thyrfing and Kalmah were teaming up for an extended weekend tourney across the frozen flatlands of southern Finland, I thought – I need in on that!  And by the graces of the norse gods, I was granted a merching spot, and so I set forth on my wintry way early that Thursday morning to the airport to meet up with Thyrfing, who would be my van companions for the next few days.  But those same gods that put me there, also had a humor as bitter and brutal as the biting cold, which seesawed between plus and minus 1 degrees, creating dangerous road temperatures, and combining with atypically maelstromic winds, sought to sway our van every which way, were it not for the stalwart steering of our brave (yet terribly rattled) driver/TM, Iiro.  Despite the danger, I must say it was quite a sight to spectate; the swirling snow patterns majestically whisking across the highways, erratically, resembling ocean currents of misty condensation.  Too bad Iiro was so frazzled with keeping us alive that he couldn’t enjoy it quite like I did… and the sleep-deprived Swedes who’d flown their red-eye flights were out like lights before we could even notice.

We arrived unusually early to Tampere; early enough that the guys could powernap at their hotel while I began rummaging through their merch before soundcheck.  Thyrfing’s official Finnish tour shirt bore an uncanny resemblance to our road trip, as if it was predestined, and it was also a very cool gesture to make a design exclusively for a 3-day trek.  But before I began, a few of us shared a drink at the hotel, where me and the drummer Dennis [who also used to play for Raise Hell…] reminisced about his first trip to U.S.A., and how I got us arrested on his first night in the country, how we dined-and-ditched at Hooters for no apparent reason other than… we could, and about other sordid misdeeds in Vegas, D.C., Los Angeles, and everywhere. [Did I raise your interest yet?  Perhaps one day I’ll share this tangential story.]

 Now, customarily I’d tell the rest of the tale of this tour, but this time I’m going to leave the words to Annika, the diligent member of what we’ve dubbed the “Enslain FlaskForce,” who joined up with us in Tampere to help with the Enslaining and the merch; and, after I realized that our van had extra ass space in the front, I negotiated for her to come along for the remainder of the trip – thus, in honor of her first tour, here she goes!]

There’s no better way to start 2017 than a Finnish tour!  And touring with Thyrfing and Kalmah has definitely made my mid-January unforgettable.  The journey started in Tampere, we spent the second day in Turku and saved Helsinki for the final gig on Saturday.  After a bus ride and a visit to a local black metal record store [I couldn’t resist!] I headed to Klubi.

You could see from the very moment you got into the venue that the bands were doing a great job preparing for the first gig of the tour, and helping to count and set up the merchandise while Vorna and Kalmah had their soundcheck didn’t feel like a task at all; it was a pleasure!

When the doors opened, though, I had to ask myself: why were there so few people?  Luckily more fans arrived after a while, and as soon as Vorna started playing I had to ask myself another question: how the hell is the vocalist’s voice so good?  His combination of excellent harsh vocals and the melodic intro was simply wonderful, and the growling matched perfectly to the heavier stuff as well.  The second song performed in Klubi was “Tie Varjoista,” the band’s new single which was released just a week before the tour and never played live before – how cool is that?  The single was noticeably more complex, and included heavier riffs.  It was clear that the band developed their musical style and added a darker feel to it, which created a delightfully grim atmosphere.

It was also at that moment that I realized that with Vorna singing in Finnish, Kalmah’s English lyrics [and undecipherable Northern Swampland Finnish välispiikki ~ed] and Thyrfing’s songs in Swedish, the night featured three bands each singing in different language; for a language freak like me, it was quite a fantastic discovery…!

The next song Vorna played was “Lehväin Varjoon,” which was slower but just as eerie as the earlier part of the gig.  I’d say the song was slightly repetitive, but very far from boring!
The melancholic mood continued with melodic “Yksin” and its long, sorrowful intro.

The venue became more crowded just before Kalmah’s showtime.  Their gig, which was beyond entertaining, kicked off with “Seventh Swamphony,” the title song from the band’s newest album from 2013. The contrast between Vorna’s dark, melancholic performance and Kalmah’s fast and incredibly energetic show was one of the best parts of the evening in Tampere.  I probably couldn’t have admired it more than at the moment when “12 Gauge” started.  To tell the truth, I couldn’t wait to hear this live!  The energetic and very rhythmic song manages to balance melodic and aggressive at the same time; the combination of insanely fast drumming and low growling vocals with intense melodic riffs had a wonderfully dramatic feel to it.


The following songs (“The Black Waltz,” “Blind Leader” and “For the Revolution,” to name a few) created the further opportunity to appreciate how well Kalmah function not just as a band, but as a team.  Their energy and enthusiasm seemed to be everlasting at the gig!  Besides their interaction onstage, the band clearly appreciated the crowd, too.  It was palpable how much Pekka Kokko enjoyed talking to the Tampere audience!

The songs I’d been listening to so many times before made an even better impression live.  The vocals, both main and backing, sounded significantly deeper and harsher live as well, which was a very positive thing.  Listening to the classic “Heroes to Us” with its wild riffs combined with powerful growling vocals was quite an experience.  Last came the unforgettable “Hades” from Kalmah’s debut; with its characteristic intro and furious vocals it wrapped up the gig in a classical, melodic way.

This amazing show called for another beer – I mean for just as epic a continuation.  I was getting really impatient for Thyrfing, and their performance was worth waiting for!  One of the things I appreciate the most about their music is how their songs range from wicked-sounding, black metal cacophony to those heavily influenced by folk, like the first one on Thursday’s set, “Mjölner,” which is an excellent classic with a very strong folk feel to it.  Nothing could be better than admiring this rhythmic, punchy song and the band’s aesthetics at the same time.  Their corpse paint made an otherworldly, ‘Moonsorrowesque’ impression, and the backdrop and huge side banners with Norse motifs all over decorated the stage.

Despite how it began, this viking metal mood didn’t conquer the entire show (even with “Sweoland the Conqueror” from one of the older albums.) Folk tunes didn’t overshadow the songs from the newer, more sinister albums which soon haunted the stage.  One of these was the grim masterpiece “Far Åt Helvete,” ending with a haunting chorus chanted in Latin at the very end.  Frontman Jens Rydén masterfully created a dark atmosphere with his menacing growls and demonic wails.  His dramatic gestures, insane energy and beyond impressive showmanship were simply brilliant throughout the gig!

The show’s overall ambiance couldn’t be described in other words than mind-blowing to the very last songs.  When “Kaos Aterkomst” ended, the crowd’s enthusiasm made it clear how positive the audience’s response had been.

[Clearly also the bands were in high spirits on this exceptional evening, as, despite the long journeys in the wicked weather we all withstood, nearly the entire tour brigade was in full force for afterpartying and getting to know one another the Nordic way – through the lens of a bottle.  Vorna, being mostly locals to Tampere, regrettably had to depart early, as some of the lads had to work that Friday morning.  But the rest of us most definitely consumed their share of liquid hangover, and silliness ensued!  It made me wonder why Kalmah doesn’t hit the road more often these days, with their last tour having been in 2013… They really seem to enjoy the party life!  After very little sleep, an emptying of the minibar [sorry! and thanks! but mostly sorry!] and quite many of us too zombified to awake to our hotel breakfast alarm, we sallied forth to Åbo for round two. ~ed]

Such a beginning of the tour was very promising and left me extremely curious for the remaining two shows.   It was my first time going to Gong in Turku [the venue that used to be called Klubi], and it didn’t look like a very entertaining place initially – I couldn’t really imagine a gig going on there, and impatient fans began entering the more and more crowded club.  I couldn’t have been more wrong though… It was quite a surprise (a good one!) to see hordes of people flooding into the venue as soon as the doors were open.  [And it was particularly remarkable for so many Turkusians to arrive already for the opening act! ~ed]

Gig-goers needed their time to get more excited about the concert, since the first song by Vorna definitely had a calmer and quieter audience… it wasn’t until the band’s second song that the crowd really got into the spirit, and the chanting, clapping and headbanging started.  Such a reaction during the evening’s first concert was promising, and seeing fellow metalheads getting more and more excited after every new song was nothing surprising! [And resultingly, you could see the glowing pride on the Vorna guys’ faces, both on stage and afterwards, really soaking up the energy of the roaringly appreciative audience.  I felt shivers from the gratification and delight the band exuded!  I really don’t think they saw that coming at all.  And their merch sales spoke the same story – we found ourselves “battling” over shirts sold between the three bands, and Vorna was outperforming the others for quite some time! ~ed]

As the next bands appeared onstage, Gong’s audience cheered even louder.
Kalmah’s bold and bombastic music couldn’t just stay unnoticed!  I’d even say that the Turku show had a more dramatic mood than the night before.  Thyrfing’s part of the Friday night was memorable as well.  With its very sinister, thicker sound, my post-gig impressions were definitely more than just positive!  [Curiously, though, while the first two acts played in front of a packed room, you could see that the audience had dwindled to a fraction by halfway through Thyrfing’s set, and it was thoroughly unwarranted and perplexing. ~ed]

While the placement of the merch stand in Tampere’s Klubi made it possible to watch the merchandise and see the bands playing at the same time (awesome, huh?), Turku, on the other hand, forced us to be more creative.  At Gong, the main stage was up the stairs and around the corner from the merch stand, and we needed to take turns in watching the gig and making sure that our stuff was safe and sound, and customers attended to.  We were lucky enough to have company and enjoyed conversations that sometimes even made sense.  (We were also opening a beer using a chair and a roll of duct tape.)  As a result, we found ourselves overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time, and did some mathematics while converting shots into a whole pint of vodka (let that sink in and imagine a pint full of vodka for hell’s sake.) [and Googling about this made us learn two important things: one, something about jiggers.  Two, this pint would cost approximately 150€ at the bar!  But, how cool would that be!! ~ed]

More mathematics had been done during breaks between the bands.  When selling merchandise we’d actually been mistaken for an ATM [by a belligerent Finnish “lady” with a crackwhore voice ~ed] and my phone was saved probably only by a miracle when a glass crashed exactly in the same place where the phone had been loading just seconds earlier.  The glass obviously didn’t crash itself; an extremely angry and unruly gig-goer who had definitely downed a few glasses beforehand smashed it on the floor and was quite physically escorted – or rather, carried – out of the venue never to be seen again that evening (which was relieving if you ask me).

Quite fortunately the crowd in Helsinki was better-behaved (and definitely more generous at the merch stall!).  The last day of the tour was an evening to remember… With a huge crowd in Nosturi, more energy onstage than ever and an afterparty [courtesy of Enslain] that could only be called epic, Saturday was the right way to end such a journey!

IMG_3232 IMG_3249 IMG_3254

Shortly after the gig we found ourselves in a group of absolutely awesome people, most of whom we’ve accompanied during this unforgettable tour. Armed with countless amounts of beer we could already tell the evening would be a very good one!

As we’ve found out quite soon after, not only was there beer everywhere at the party.  Thanks to our Swedish company, snus was omnipresent too. And bright pink sticky notes with silly names on them, thanks to… whoever it was, this remains a mystery.


Those who missed Sadistic Intent’s show at last year’s Steelfest were lucky enough to have the opportunity to see the band in town again. The small but great venue Kuudes Linja hosted both Obscure Burial from Turku and Sadistic coming all the way from Los Angeles.
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