EISTNAFLUG FESTIVAL: 11 – 14 JULY, NESKAUPSTAÐUR
For many, the last weekend of June has been synonymous with plans for Tuska festival. For me, it meant the start of road trip around Iceland.
I managed to visit the desolate island after years of listening to mind-blowing Icelandic metal: music stretching from the masters of the so-called atmospheric Icelandic rock ‘n’ roll Sólstafir through to viking-inspired Skálmöld and black metallers like Auðn or Svartidauði. Luckily, I had time for something more than Eistnaflug Festival.
As one could expect, my trip started in Reykjavík.
A lack of metal bars in the capital is not a problem when you can go to a decent record store instead. Geiskadiskabúð Valda has more than just a great selection of Icelandic records, and Sundlaugin [meaning swimming pool, from which it was converted] studio in the neighbouring Mosfellsbær may not look impressive, but it’s the legendary place where works of bands such as Sólstafir and Sigur Rós got their sound.
Moving up north, one of the road trip’s several stops was Húsavík, not surprisingly linked to one of Sólstafir’s albums. The recognizable intro preceding every show of the Icelandic band comes from Masterpiece of Bitterness and its title is “Náttfari:” having exactly the same name as one of the boats in Húsavík harbor. The boat, for instance, took its name from a story according to which a runaway slave was called Náttfari. When the boat is not out on a whale watching trip, it’s worth taking a look at, and not just for Sólstafir’enthusiasts.
Going further to the east, I visited a place which inspired another band. A visit in Dimmuborgir was undoubtedly one of the trip’s highlights.
The road trip’s second week only got more interesting, thanks to Eistnaflug festival at Neskaupstaður. The venue, at nothing less than a local sports hall, is not the place you would expect to host a festival. Neskaupstaður is not even a town easily pictured as a festival site.
To be honest, Iceland is not necessarily a country associated with metal events.
How did such arrangement work out? I have to admit this has only made the whole Eistnaflug experience more interesting.
Did I mention the festival’s main message ‘Bannað að vera fáviti’? Well, it basically translates to ‘Forbidden to be an asshole’. Quite obviously, it can also be seen on the festival’s merch (including bright pink shirts with the festival’s motto).
This year’s lineup has also been wonderfully diverse with world-famous names and lesser-known Icelandic bands alike. Not surprisingly, Wednesday’s lineup consisted mostly of bands hailing from Iceland; the event’s warm-up day and early weekend shows were a great opportunity for all the foreign festival-goers to catch the local bands.
For me, the first band at Eistnaflug was Legend. With few shows outside of their home country, Legend remained an act I haven’t seen until the festival. Hypnotising electronic music performed by the band was a perfect intro to Eistnaflug.
Festival-goers were lucky enough to watch more excellent performances even before the weekend had started. Thursday turned out to be really interesting… One of the festival’s discoveries for me was the Icelandic Nexion. Despite the fact that the band has been formed in 2016, its members have already played in several bands before, and their experience was easily noticed onstage. Nexion delivered an intense, energy-filled death metal show.
Next band on the bill was Order. Bringing some much-needed darkness upon the venue, the Norwegians played a decent set. Along with their own songs, Order played Mayhem’s Deathcrush as well, a song which was a perfect ending to the band’s gig.
Shows filled with harsh sound and grim atmosphere continued on and Thursday ended with Watain’s set. The performance was by far the best one I have seen from the Swedish black metal veterans. Starting with “Stellarvore” and ending with the unforgettable “Waters of Ain,” the set was more than impressive and Watain’s frontman Erik Danielsson was just as dedicated as ever. The band once again proved that their mind-blowing shows are sure to make a great impression.
Friday the 13th was the date marking the long-awaited extended show of Sólstafir. As Eistnaflug regulars and masters of atmospheric, emotion-filled music, Sólstafir didn’t disappoint. In addition to the obligatory “Fjara” and “Goddess of the Ages,” the band played, among others, four songs from their latest release Berdreyminn and a title track from their classic Köld. A worthwhile gig to say the least!
Three festival days passed unbelievably fast. Luckily, Saturday sounded promising with acts such as Auðn, Batushka and Kreator.
Still, one of the bands I’ve been looking forward to the most was Kontinuum. The Icelandic formation combines clean vocals with growling, Icelandic lyrics with English texts and atmospheric style with a more progressive approach. The list goes on and defines Kontinuum’s unique sound. Kontinuum’s Eistnaflug gig proved that in addition to the band’s brilliant albums, their live performances are far from boring. The setlist included mostly songs from the newest album, No Need to Reason, which was released earlier in July.
The following Icelandic act was quite a contrast to Kontinuum: Auðn’s cold and harsh black metal mesmerized the audience. After their excellent concert at Inferno festival earlier this year, Auðn stood up to expectations and made sure to do their best at Eistnaflug as well.
The black orthodox mass by Batushka was among the festival’s last performances. Judging from the receptive audience, it was also one of the event’s most awaited shows. Vertiginous smell of incense, chants, an impressive backdrop and stage props proved how much of a spectacle Batushka’s performances are. The crowd’s reactions were another proof of the band’s popularity. At some point of the gig, the frontman threw a rosary and a fight for it broke out in the first row, kicking and biting included!
Another long-awaited band played just after Batushka: the German thrash legends from Kreator. Their gig ended my Eistnaflug 2018 – four days of rock and metal in Neskaupstaður, just as the festival’s website says.