Til Dovre Faller Metal Fest – Dombås Hotell, Dombås, Norway – September 27–28, 2013
Our first venture to what must be one of Norway’s smallest and most obscure metal gatherings had been among the most elevating experiences of 2012, so returning to the scene of the crime was an obvious choice. Having hyped the excellence of this event to most of our more adventurous festival-going friends, we had managed to recruit another crusader among our ranks for this second round, expanding our (almost) Finnish flock into a trio.
We had learned a bit from our previous visit, so instead of picking the cheapest and most unreasonably timed flights into and out of Oslo right around the fest, we went for a bit lengthier of a stay and an easier schedule this time. Landing on Wednesday afternoon, we headed to the apartment we had rented for the first two nights, situated in a part of town apparently called Bjerke. This solution was actually very convenient, being only a 20-minute bus ride away from the center, considerably easier on the wallet than any of the hotels, and much more comfortable and private than some hostel.
Based on our internet research, pre-festival happenings in the capital seemed nonexistent this year, and even the promising new Kniven Bar that we had been looking forward to checking out was temporarily closed by red tape, having something to do with their liquor license. However, right after arriving, one of our Norwegian buddies informed us about a TDF-related DJ night taking place at the rock cave Revolver. So, after getting settled down in our new temporary home, drinking some Tuborg, and wondering what mysteries might lie behind the locked door saying “Håkon” on it, we headed to the center.
Upon entering the basement of Revolver, we didn’t come across a loud sound wall of metal, or a roaring horde of maniacs, but merely bartender Sindre, DJ Necrodevil, and an otherwise empty room; both of these faces were familiar from the previous year’s festival line-up, though. As the night went on, not many more than a dozen guests joined the party – among them Til Dovre Faller mastermind Morten on crutches – but the mood and the tunes were good, and the small amount of people created a sense of intimacy, with us ending up mingling with almost every damned soul to walk down those steps during the night.
As our corps started becoming weary, it was time to start making our way back to our lodgings. Just a couple of blocks away from the main train station where we would catch our bus, we were ambushed by a swarming legion of black blasphemers, creating a bestially intense storm of open drugdealery. This in-your-face approach inspired our friend to make a spontaneous yet surprisingly satisfactory purchase, with the deal going down as smoothly and suspiciously as on The Wire.
We kicked off our Thursday with a stroll in the neighborhood of the apartment. After walking past loads of wealthy-looking houses, with seemingly most of them having a trampoline on the yard for some odd reason, we reached the surrounding forest area. If our hunger hadn’t started interfering, we could’ve continued climbing hills in the autumnal woods with a gentle rain upon us a whole lot longer, but quite soon, we needed to head back to a more central location to grab a bite.
Following a pleasant food-and-drink stop at the Americana diner-like Ryes, our journey continued by foot towards the Frogner Park, where we were determined to see the Vigeland Sculpture Arrangement before sunset. We reached this weird and impressive park early enough, having a fair amount of time to stare at Gustav Vigeland’s creations in confusion – and some of them in awe. After all this foot force and cultural digestion, it was time to turn our brains the fuck off, and so the program of the rest of the night consisted of beer, hotdogs and some much needed rest before Friday’s early wake-up call.
Wanting to get to “Dumbass” again well before the festival, we caught the morning train, with the arrival time set right after 2pm. As expected, the latter part of our trip took place in considerably more intimate seating, with the majority of the surrounding passengers clearly having the same destination as us. We spotted several familiar faces in the train car as well, but this time, the infamous Slangen was almost disappointingly non-sloshed by this hour. We had learned a lesson from his previous ways of public inebriation, though, now eagerly sipping our own unsuspicious-looking mixture of soda and vanilla-flavored Koskenkorva during our ride on the rails.
As we checked in and entered our hotel room, we discovered that we were one of the few to have the luxury of a balcony; too bad that the view was mostly consisting of a construction site, as they were (still) erecting an additional hotel building right in our line of sight. After a bit of unpacking and chilling later, we headed for the complimentary dinner in the reception building, which was – surprise, surprise – exactly the same beef sauce and rice as on both days of the previous year! Solid food, though – I’ll gladly eat this meal twice a year, since our already aching wallet seems to always leave us with little choice. A whole lot of other guests seemed unaware of or uninterested in this free grub, setting their sights on the Moskus Grillen down the hill instead.
The aural abominations wouldn’t start descending upon us until 8pm, so there was still some time for cozy circle-drinking under the nearby lavvo, as well as attending the quiz at the bar downstairs from the stage, arranged by Stian of Devil. With all of the questions presented in Norwegian, and most of them being pretty hard nuts to crack even after personal translation help from Stian’s wife Charlotte, we didn’t stand a chance competition-wise, but at least it was a well-attended gathering where we reunited with several of previous year’s acquaintances.
After all this, it was finally time for Friday’s first blast wave, generated by the Kolbotn trio Gouge. Despite having only released one 7” the year before, these young guys emitted a convincingly sleazy old-school sound. Heatedly racing forward with infectious riffs, and adding in some dementedly groovy headbanging parts, their sonic slime melted my brain into mutant mush consisting of Severed Survival and Horrified making love to decaying remains while Screaming in Bloody Gore. The stand-out EP track was the closing “Evil Town of Mud,” and a fitting cover was also included in the form of Repulsion’s “Excruciation.”
Magister Templi had caught our ear with their debut full-length and left a favorable impression, and the catchy doom-laden heavy metal of Lucifer Leviathan Logos reached the expected excellence when encountered in the flesh as well. The band performed energetically and confidently, with vocalist Abraxas d’Ruckus displaying a fitting amount of showmanship, giving the performance a lively feel, yet not going farcically overboard with his maneuvers. Staring at his cheat sheet on the monitor during the invocatory part in “Tiphareth” looked slightly lame, though – too lazy to memorize your Levi, huh? Returning to more relevant matters, Magister Templi’s show was an alchemical union of oppressive darkness and uplifting power – just as heavy metal at its best can be. Mightily memorable “The Innsmouth Look” and the album-opener “Master of the TamponTemple” rose up as the favorites of our Finnish mini-militia.
The day’s only band from outside of the borders of Norway were the Swedish trio Rust, whose black/thrash carried a heavy reminiscence of a few particular Norwegian masters of the craft, though, with the ghost of Tom G. Warrior lurking here and there in the riffs as well. However, I don’t have a problem with the lack of originality when the songwriting and intensity demonstrated both on record and on stage are at a level this high. Hell, even the group’s simple moniker is like a condom found in the gutter – used, yet still fits like a glove, and looks fucking mean on a backdrop. My biggest complaint goes to placing Rust right before Audiopain in the running order, as two doses of grimly ripping thrash right after another seemed excessive, especially as there would’ve been several different kinds of acts to choose from, and keep the schedule balanced here. My own extreme excitement towards Audiopain also ate away from my concentration on Rust, but I put no blame on the Swedes, who claimed their place with frenzy.
Seeing Audiopain’s name among the first announcements in January had already gotten me stoked about this year’s Til Dovre Faller, as they’ve been on my must-see list for years. With their gigging habits having been very home-based, so to say, this was a rare and very welcome chance to finally witness one of my very favorite thrash acts live. And they were every bit as face-ripping, ear-raping and neck-snapping as I had envisioned. Sverre’s dry, throaty shrieks coated some of the most annihilating riffs known to man, backed by rhythms that raced through twists and turns technically yet catchily, with all this creating an utterly lacerating soundscape.
Hard-hitting album openers “Hellbound” and “Believer” were accompanied by a few earlier cuts, like “Gospels from Hell” offering some mid-tempo relief in the midst of faster outbursts, and “The Habit of Fear” off of the split 7” with Mysticum, whose shirt Sverre was suitably sporting. Perhaps the most mind-blowing riff-fire was courtesy of “Alliance” from The Switch to Turn off Mankind, though, with those piercing opening chords still continuing to play in my head over and over… The closing number was another older one, as “Revel in Desecration” ferociously finished off the show, which I will surely continue to treasure as one of my most ravaging and rewarding gig experiences for years to come.
While I think that last year’s schedule structure worked well, with the more calmly paced acts playing in the early evening, and the night being wrapped up by some of the faster and wilder ones, this year’s timetable seemed somewhat opposite, with Spectral Haze’s doomy space psychedelia providing Friday’s lullabies. Despite being skeptical how much I’d be able to get into them after being demolished by the preceding thrashers, I wanted to lend an ear to the slowbies as well, and tried to prepare myself for the cosmic journey by enjoying some of the magical herbs that our friend had acquired in Oslo a few days before. Unfortunately, these herbal remedies didn’t manage to cure my unexcitement over the band’s tunes, which were too much on the trippy side for my taste, seeming to lack the crushing weight or heavy metallic energy that might’ve tingled my tastebuds. Simply not my kind of stuff, I guess, but a total thumbs-up to the dudes for their cool-ass outfits.
This year we were more determined to find an afterparty, and more successful as well, as right across the hallway from us there was a hotel room with plenty of friendly faces old and new, ready to engage in random inebriated babble and more lovely liquids. Our Finnish TDF-rookie [and ex-Russian child prisoner] and I also lasted impressively late into the twilight hours, largely thanks to thy editress Lady Enslain passing out in our room while having the only key card with her, making it impossible for us to get in. Attagirl! However, eventually one of our bang-and-yell visits behind the door bore fruit, and we were able to lay down our weary bodies.
As we had been completely unaware of the annual muskoxen safari last year until we saw people packing into a bus around noon on Saturday, we hadn’t been able to participate in this intriguing festival pastime also orchestrated by grandmaster Stian. However, this year we knew what was what, made sure to reserve our spots well beforehand, and so higher into the mountains we ventured. Adoring the barren yet beautiful scenery through the bus window, we listened to Stian babble presumably funny shit in Norwegian into the microphone, with some of the few spottable keywords being øl, brennevin and Slangen. He might’ve been poking fun at us foreign clowns at some point, too, but we can’t say for sure.
We stopped a few times for smokes and enjoying the outdoors, until eventually turning back, and visiting Furuhaugli on the way. Here we were served waffles, as well as a bottle of Moskusøl each, which came with an eeendless-seeming presentation from the brewer – in Norwegian, of corpse. Wow, now I understand how foreigners must feel like in Finland. My hangover started seriously kicking in soon after, and a painful bus ride later, I was totally ready for a nap. No muskoxen were spotted this time either – apart from the one on the bottle label – and the whole experience was quite puzzling because of the language barrier, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t as unique as they come.
After about an hour of rest, I was still feeling quite dead, but forced myself to head to the reception building for dinner, which was the reliably familiar plateful of same as always. Having some decent nutrition, as well as a nice cold Ringnes, started slowly bringing my being back to life. Luckily so, as Saturday’s opening act Flight was already on once we made it to the stage right after dinner. The line-up consisted of the Gouge fellows with an additional guitarist, but the music was totally different, rocking away with the tools of traditional heavy metal. Having only heard the band’s title track beforehand – as that seemed to be the only audial evidence found online – the rest of this fresh foursome’s tunes were all news to me. Despite the promise they showed, the performance didn’t leave a very memorable impression, but was nonetheless an enjoyable starter before the evening’s more extreme endeavors.
There was no rest for the Kolbotn youth, as Mion’s Hill was up next, this being the third time for Chris and Jonas to climb to the stage during the weekend. While obviously nodding towards the East with their Sabbatian moniker, Hellhammer was the dominating musical influence that came to mind, which was further underlined by covering “Messiah” live. The band also summoned a visibly smashed guest vocalist for this one – apparently Erik from fellow Norwegian thrashers Töxik Death – which ended up in a quite chaotic version of the classic. However, Mion’s Hill’s own material was the meat here, with especially the couple of songs I knew from the Festering Curses demo grasping me with their claws. I hadn’t yet managed to delve into the recently unleashed debut album Black Death, but the set had a continuous enough sense of familiarity throughout to keep me interested. Although there was no attempt to hide the influences, the band were still treading a path of their own, with Jonas’ maniacal screams in particular deserving a heartfelt horns-up.
This year’s Til Dovre Faller had faced a couple of unfortunate cancellations, as Lamented Souls, Vampire and Okkultokrati had dropped out of the fold along the way. One of the replacements to the rescue were Swiss Bölzer, whose choice of style isn’t the beer-fueled tongue-in-cheek thrash that their weird name for some reason made me think of, but something entirely different. I had never heard of this duo before, but merely checking out their debut MLP a bit before the fest placed them among my most awaited acts of the weekend. On the field of black/death metal, the all-encompassing ominous aura that Bölzer invoke is one of the most impressive new discoveries I’ve come across in recent years.
Vocalist/guitarist KzR and drummer HzR seemingly didn’t need any back-up on stage either, as just the two of them rained down a monumental sonic storm upon us. While displaying one’s excitement with headbanging, fist-pounding and the like might’ve been appropriate, I was mostly just able to fervently breathe in the atmosphere and observe in awe. Control and chaos, blinding light and devouring darkness – this clash yet union of elements was present in all aspects of the music, be it tempos ranging from an excruciating crawl to a decimating whirlwind, or the vocals ascending from abyssal growls to clean conjurations. While summing up an experience with one word isn’t usually easy or even possible, in the case of Bölzer, I find it surprisingly so: transcendental.
When Lamented Souls’ cancellation was announced, it was stated that the replacement would not be revealed before the festival, and so Saturday’s schedule listed Surprise act as the second to last band. It seemed like all of the natives were already aware of the identity of this secretive sect, and the rest of our Finn-tourage had also managed to pry this information into their realm of knowledge, but I was determined to remain in the dark, and not find out until the last minute. Too bad our Norwegian friend semi-accidentally slipped out the name already on Friday. Oh well, they were one of my first guesses anyway.
The band had already convinced me with their appearances at Hammer Open Air 2010 and Maryland Deathfest 2011, but their first Finnish club gig at Nosturi the year before had left me simply stupefied. Placed in this much more intimate setting, their merciless black thrash attack was expectedly demolishing, and received by an appropriately frenzied crowd. Already between the previous occasions I had seen the trio, they had delighted me with their varying selection of songs, always presenting something different, instead of repeating the same setlist for five years in a row. This had resulted both in exhilaration over the inclusion of unexpected favorites, as well as disappointment about not hearing that obvious-seeming killer that you were just dying to scream along to.
This time, however, I was confronted with almost anything I could’ve asked for. “Black Metal Jaw” put a fierce grin on my face already early on, and “Fighting for Hell” was another violent hailstorm that I was thirsty for – and the master was favorable. While the band don’t have a lack of crushers of their own making to choose from, the covers were picked and executed with mouth-foaming mastery, as “Heaven’s on Fire” was just as demonically ecstatic as I remembered, and “Flag of Hate” was another fitting old school classic for us hungry mayhemic legions to feast upon. However, the crowning moment was finally experiencing “Tower of Limbs and Fevers” live. First heard on legendary Finnish metal radio show Metalliliitto over ten years ago, this old demo track was my initial encounter with the band, and having its chords tear through my flesh far behind God’s back and beyond his grace in Norway felt absurdly awesome.
I still wanted to engage in Altaar’s slow midnight mass, but a quick dash to the hotel room was prolonged by a pleasant run-in with a jolly bunch of new acquaintances, and the band wrapped their set up soon after I made it back. It seemed like I had indeed missed something special, as even a short glimpse of their combination of the crushing and the ethereal was immersive, with projections further enhancing the dreamlike atmosphere. Feeling already very satisfied by the weekend’s aural offerings, I wasn’t too devastated about missing the last course, though, but happily went on boozing and conversing with fellow festival fiends late into the night.
A sense of fulfillment overcame feelings of sleep deprivation and hangover while making our way to the Dombås train station on Sunday noon, as the weekend had granted us such an overwhelming amount of great gigs, fun times and empowering collective metal mania. I wasn’t only walking away with warm memories, though, but also with a few exciting merchandise scores from the Audiopain camp, as apart from shirts, their little business booth had held the A Bomb’s View 10”, the Überthrash II 7”, and even the pre-Audiopain Hæ? demotape – all of which I assumed to be long sold out! Could’ve hardly hoped for anything more…
As our return flight wouldn’t be until Monday evening, we still squeezed out that extra drop of energy once we got to Oslo, drunkenly storming through De Ville’s and Rock In, and catching a remarkably tight and brutal show from Aborted at John Dee. We were unfortunately able to only see a few songs from the openers Revocation, and didn’t stick around for more than one or two from the considerably lamer headliner The Black Dahlia Murder, but holy shit, Aborted alone made it worth the hefty price. Although I was too worn out to go all headbangy at this point anymore, the sheer amount of intensity these Belgian brutalizers were able to pack into about half an hour left me gasping for air.
Until next year.
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