Festival Report
Til Dovre Faller 2012
TIL DOVRE FALLER METAL FEST Dombås Hotel, Dombås September 28-29, 2011

A trip to Norway had been on our to-do list for a while already, but we just hadn’t gotten an irresistible excuse yet, until at this year’s Jalometalli, when meeting Sindre and the other Nekromantheon fellows after their festival gig, we started talking about Norwegian thrash.  Infernö’s name naturally came up, and as the two bands share some members, they were able to tell us that there would actually be a rare opportunity to see Infernö live at this small festival in the mountains the next month.  After looking into the event a bit more, it sounded way too fascinatingly obscure to pass, so plans were made, and even put into motion after drunkenness and hangover had faded the following week.

So, on a Thursday about a month and a half later, we began our relatively spontaneous Norwegian crusade with a 5am wake-up call and a quick dash to the airport for our morning flight.  We safely landed in Oslo an hour and a half later, and went on to explore the city for the day.  Before heading to a Til Dovre Faller pre-show of sorts at Revolver, featuring Swedish Witchgrave and Antichrist from the festival line-up, as well as the excellent Nekromantheon, we wanted to check out some of the more metal-oriented watering holes in the center.  After grabbing a couple of cold ones at Rock In, we proceeded to a smaller drinkery called De Ville’s, where we ran into a couple of native metalheads who were not only going to attend the show, but also the festival.  It’s a small metal world!

After joining this friendly duo, we strolled to the venue, which was an intimate space in the basement of a bar.  The place seemed quite crowded already by the time Witchgrave commenced the night with a rough ride of demonic heavy metal.  However, before the second band even went on, our close-to-20-hour day got the best of us, and the bar staff advised us to go hang out with Mr. Sandman somewhere else, so we decided it was best to take a cab to the hostel, and cop some long-due Z’s.  I felt a little sting for missing Nekromantheon, since they had been so impressive at Jalometalli, but on the other hand, at least I had caught them there.  Please just nobody tell me that they played “The Usurper Command” this time!

The view from the train to Dombås

Friday didn’t allow us to sleep in either, as we had to catch the train to Lillehammer, where we would then change to a smaller one taking us to Dombås.  While the first hours on the rails were spent adoring the breathtaking scenery passing by with its forested mountains and endless-seeming lakes, the latter part of the ride had something else to offer as well, as on the other side of the aisle we found a character that our acquaintances from the night before had already told us about: the infamous Slangen (“The Snake.”)  This well-aged diehard was eagerly sipping his moonshine-coke in the midst of loud rants that he would always end with a heartfelt “UGH!”, which didn’t seem to entertain the conductor as much as it did us, as he came to ask our already inebriated fellow traveler to tone it down multiple times.

View from our hotel window in Dombås

Upon arrival to the charming village of Dombås – or “Dumbass,” as we had nicknamed it – we met more of the crusaders that had come for the event, and headed for a drink with some of them before checking in at the hotel.  After settling in at our room with a nice view of the valley, it was time for a simple yet pleasant dinner in the reception building, followed by mingling with more new Norwegian faces at the hotel before the first band.  Although none of the attendees we met confessed to be locals, it seemed like almost all of them had already been at the festival before, and knew most of each other beforehand.  However, rather than feeling like awkward invaders who didn’t belong, we felt welcomed and privileged to be a part of such an exclusive and obscure get-together.

Resonaut @ Til Dovre Faller 2012

The bands were playing in a separate building just a few-minute walk uphill, where downstairs we had the bar side with couches and DJ’s playing appropriate background music, as well as another room with merch, and upstairs the small stage.  Resonaut’s warm and fuzzy doom metal gave the festival a slow start, with candles placed on stage enhancing the intimate atmosphere.  They were among my least anticipated acts of the weekend, but the set managed to keep me in its grasp without inducing yawns, even in the absence of musical marvels, and the lack of a bass didn’t hinder the outcome either.  Despite roaming around groovier territories than I usually prefer my doom in, the songs didn’t sound like a soundtrack to smoking a joint while riding your motorcycle, but invoked more desolate desert images, with riffs soaring through the air lazily like hungry vultures above your dehydrated soon-to-be-dinner body.  A more rapid number indicating their non-metal influences was also heard in the form of “Suicide,” which I suspected to be a cover due to its stylistic departure, as well as Sindre’s enthusiastic response to it from the audience.  Indeed, it turned out that the song had been borrowed from 70’s rock band Dust.

Infernö @ Til Dovre Faller 2012

Hearing that Infernö would be playing live for the first time since 2005, and possibly for the last time ever, was my biggest motivator for making the trip.  I was quite impressed by Downtown Hades’ furious thrash attack when a friend of mine introduced me to it several years ago, and Infernö’s blades seemed to be even sharper on the four songs they unleashed on smaller releases in 2004-05.  For this performance, the beast had been injected with some boiling young blood, with Sergeant Salsten (Deathhammer) spitting into the mic and Arse (Nekromantheon) torturing the six-stringer, while original members Bestial Tormentor and Necrodevil were in charge of bassturbation and drumfire, respectively.

The front soon filled with us blood- and beer-thirsty headbangers, as the band kicked off with one of their newer killers, ”Thrash Metal Dogs of Hell,” and followed it with a merciless set of Downtown Hades onslaughts, spiced with a few more newer ones, namely “Metal Commando” and “When the Children Die.”  Unfortunately the equally ripping “Death Squad” was omitted, but at least the band knew better than to waste time on playing anything off of the considerably poorer debut Utter Hell, so overall the song selections left very little to moan over.the infamous Slangen and Infernö @ Til Dovre Faller 2012  What I was most worried about was how Infernö would do without their most stand-out quality, the over-the-top vocals of Hazardous Pussy Desecrator, and while Salsten’s execution wasn’t quite as sleazy and insane as his predecessor’s, he did a great job screaming through the songs.  Also respectable was his old-school-to-the-bone look, as well as the amount of passionate thrashing mania that he displayed in his performance, even doing a couple of hazardous stage dives.  Although the set only lasted for about half an hour, after the climactically raging chaos of “Alcoholocaust” I was so overwhelmed by exhaustion and fulfillment that I didn’t even mind them playing nothing more despite the audience’s loud “Infernö” chants.

Dead Lord @ Til Dovre Faller 2012

After a short visit to the hotel room for a less extremely expensive beer, we returned to the party in time to hear Dead Lord performing the B-side of their debut single, the confusingly Finnish-titled “Onkalo.”  That two-song effort is indeed all that these Swedes have put out so far, but it seems that they’ve managed to stir a bit of a buzz in the underground already with their catchy tunes.  Dead Lord’s heavy rock had a warm old-school sound to it, and brought to my mind names like Thin Lizzy, as well as the early recordings of the mighty Pentagram.  Although the majority of the songs weren’t obviously at all familiar, the show turned out quite enjoyable, thanks to the boost given by the band’s energetic stage spirit.  The crowd reactions seemed favorable as well, with the natural highlight being the closing hit “No Prayers Can Help You Now.”  Now that rock and metal with a focus on the past seems to be in the limelight, I could easily see Dead Lord becoming a household name in the scene in some years, even without having to sport occult sigils or hide behind an artificial shroud of mystery.

Antichrist @ Til Dovre Faller 2012

It became evident that the schedule I had was outdated, as upon my next entrance to the room upstairs, the band on stage wasn’t Witchgrave, but their fellow countrymen Antichrist, who I had previously seen on their summer visit to Finland.  While their debut album Forbidden World is a powerful display of their ability to create frantic yet memorable thrash metal, I didn’t sense an equally demolishing vibe in the band’s live performance.  The members can’t be accused of being half-assed or static on stage, as there isn’t a lack of energy or headbanging, but with the raging riffs and hysterical vocals churning a musical Molotov cocktail that is at times as explosive as early Whiplash, the band would have to be going possessedly nuts to live up to that supreme intensity.  Perhaps the closest to this came the drummer, who was attacking his kettles and cauldrons with a heart-warming craze.  Nevertheless, it was a solid set from one of today’s finest young thrash militias, which delightfully also included a few tracks that only appeared on their demo tapes to accompany the LP material.

Friday’s darkest and visually richest offering had been saved for last, as One Tail, One Head from the Nidrosian plains concluded the evening after midnight.One Tail, One Head @ Til Dovre Faller 2012  I was already familiar with their demos and EP’s that have presented above-average black metal, yet are hardly as unconventional and eyebrow-raising as their moniker.  However, when performing live, these blood-soaked bastard sons of the Devil are driven by fervor and madness that cannot be ignored.  This is most visible and audible in vocalist Luctus, whose delivery reaches the level of possessed wrath needed to carry out his arcane incantations more than convincingly.  This time the band didn’t have the same element of surprise as when they impressed me at last year’s Black Flames of Blasphemy festival in Helsinki, but they nonetheless managed to plague the room with a strong presence of wretchedness that is always a joy to revel in.

Dombfossen Waterfall @ Til Dovre Faller 2012

As Saturday’s agenda didn’t include more than five bands either, there was plenty of time to explore the natural surroundings of the village.  While some of the festival attendees had arranged a bus trip farther into the mountains to try to spot some musk oxen, which apparently turned out to be unsuccessful in that regard, we took a Pokal-fueled walk to the small nearby waterfall Dombfossen.  Although we could’ve adored the stunning scenery and listened to the serene sound of running water for hours, we eventually had to make our way back to the hotel through secluded forest paths and manure-odored country roads.  The long excursion had stirred quite a hunger in our stomachs, so we gladly devoured the hotel dinner without minding that it was exactly same as the day before, and prepared for Saturday’s musical festivities about to begin.

First off was Obliteration, sharing members not only with Nekromantheon from the pre-party, but also with Infernö from the actual festival line-up.  Musically, however, the band was far from the thrashing bashing of these two, and standing firmly on deathly ground – or rather putrefying in it.  Obliteration @ Til Dovre Faller 2012While Obliteration’s debut album was a decent starter, it wasn’t until 2009’s Nekropsalms that the band developed into something special, adding a strikingly personal touch, as well as more thought and length to their tracks.  Therefore, it was justified that the set was dominated by material off of Nekropsalms, accompanied with a bunch of newer, still unreleased compositions.

The start wasn’t a very impressive one, as the band ran into a technical problem of some kind quite soon after, and completely stopped playing mid-song.  Not that I minded the additional beer-fetching break, but I don’t ever remember seeing a band just suddenly quit playing when facing a small technical issue  – perfectionism or quitter-mentality, you decide.  Luckily the rest of the gig left no room for w(h)ining, as the quartet raced through a balanced mix ofObliteration @ Til Dovre Faller 2012 frantic pummeling and slimier steamrolling, conjuring very potent atmospheres of desolation and dread.  The most triumphant evocation had been saved for last, though, as “The Worm That Gnaws in the Night” crawled through the room, vomiting forth its ultimate obscurity.  Crushing rhythms and twisted yet catchy riffs were topped with Sindre’s particularly delirious vocal performance that didn’t only encompass a variety of growls, snarls and screams, but also clean chant-like expression at the end of the song, spine-chilling in its ghastly ardor.

High Priest of Saturn @ Til Dovre Faller 2012

Playing on a candle-lit stage wasn’t the only thing High Priest of Saturn had in common with Resonaut, as they had a couple of the same faces in their fold, and their slow, heavy and lengthy tunes weren’t roaming totally different musical paths either.  The structure of the band was quite different, though, with a female vocalist-bassist and an organ player in the line-up.  While the monotone vocals didn’t manage to excite or annoy, the organ added a nice dose of depth into the sound.  The songs themselves, however, sounded quite forgettable, and I’m not sure there’s anything to prevent High Priest of Saturn from drowning in the grey mass of female-fronted occult-themed doom/rock bands swarming around these days.  Well, I’m not a big fan of the genre anyway, so good riddance, and another beer for me.

Occvlta were the only band of the weekend from outside of Scandinavia, and although I hadn’t heard of them before reading their name on the bill, lending an ear to their demo recordings and 7” split with Salute quickly made seeing these Teutons my top priority for Saturday.  The band’s sound was leaning towards Germany’s southern neighbors known for their chocolate and watches, though, Occvlta @ Til Dovre Faller 2012with a Frostily Hammering drive strongly present in the riffs.  While the influences were clearly detectable, Occvlta was no pointless tribute or half-assed bundle of clichés, but clearly had brewed their own poisonous concoction that I gulped down ravenously.  The songs were smoothly and catchily constructed, as demonstrated by the likes of “Return to the House I Once Lived In” and “Black Wind Desecration Horde,” which kept on playing in my head for days after the festival, as well as the poser-bashing “Where Is the Winter,” reminding of newer Darkthrone with its scathing lyrics.  There was no room for disappointment, as the punishing aural assault combined with the songs’ inherent live applicability made this a top-notch display of merciless metal.

Sweden’s Morbus Chron had attacked out of the blue and completely blown me away at last year’s Hammer Open Air, so I was quite excited to see whether they’d be able to stir up another deathstorm and sweep me into the sewer again.  Well, the show was surely enjoyable, but hardly mind-melting.  Seeing the band as a five-piece with Robba concentrating solely on vocals also made me wonder what fucking line-up I had seen them in previously, Morbus Chron @ Til Dovre Faller 2012as this curly-haired fellow didn’t look at all familiar…  Although there was no shortage of action on stage, I have to say that the band left a more intense impression as a quartet.  Nevertheless, the Autopsian death metal of Sleepers in the Rift did the job with its sluggishly mangling groove and morbidly demented leads, while the newer A Saunter Through the Shroud tracks demonstrated a more complex and personal way of exploring the unknown.  Selling out is definitely not the word I’d use, but it seems like there’s been a shift from sleazy gore to – at least superficially – a more serious approach with Morbus Chron’s signing to Century Media.  I’m afraid these guys might be losing their adolescent charm…

Witchgrave @ Til Dovre Faller 2012

Just like Witchgrave had kicked off the metalized part of our venture, they were the ones to deliver the final blow as Saturday’s closing act.  With a high dose of Venom in their veins, where savage rawness and energizing NWOBHM spirit flow together, the band ended Til Dovre Faller 2012 on a triumphant note with their authentic and gratifying heavy metal thunder.  These Swedes have defenestrated originality, but armed themselves with memorable choruses and wildly galloping riffs that are sure to prevail at beer-stained battlefields like this one, subjugating heads and fists to bang in ecstatic frenzy.  If the band will be able to keep up the quality displayed on the debut EP The Devil’s Night, their full-length is going to be one hell of a bang!

After this fine bunch of gigs, there was still some time to chill out in pleasant company downstairs while enjoying pricey malt beverages, but what we were surprised by was the seeming lack of afterparties at the hotel.  Either we didn’t meet the right people, or then Norwegians don’t have the unending thirst that Finns have been cursed with.  Nevertheless, I suppose getting some sleep before having to wake up and drag our asses to the train station the following morning didn’t hurt…

Celebrating a victorious weekend @ Til Dovre Faller 2012

For underground enthusiasts with an ear for the traditional ways of metal, and an appreciation for Nordic nature, Til Dovre Faller is a very recommendable festival destination that is sure to provide a unique experience.  If Fenriz’ Band of the Week choices are to your liking, it’s hard to go wrong here, since the majority of the bill consisted of names that were also found on his list.  Not so surprisingly, the man himself was also among the attendees, and eagerly following the performances – at least when he wasn’t busy cuddling or sucking face, that is.  The best excuse for not making the trip is the high price level of pretty much everything in Norway, but for those with some buck, it’s totally worth it.  For us, at least, an annual autumn trip to Dombås might very well become a tradition.

People of Finland: If you’re thinking this sounds awesome – feel free to get in touch, since we might be arranging a larger scale Finnish invasion in 2013!

~ Ossi Turpeinen with photos by Lady Enslain

Photo Slideshow : Til Dovre Faller Metal Fest - 2012