“It’ll be one hell of a time,” Ingólfur Ólafsson says with a grin. One of the creators of Reykjavík Metalfest, he’s seen the festival evolve from a small one-day affair at Gaukurinn to the three-day extravaganza it is now. This year features a world-class lineup of local and international heavy hitters and Ingólfur beams with pride as he talks about what has become one of the highlights on the Icelandic metal calendar.
“It’s never been this big before,” fellow organiser Unnar Sigurðsson adds. He joined Reykjavík Metalfest after its first year in 2016. Co-organizer Gerður Sif Ingólfsdóttir nods. “I’m so excited for this,” she adds.
For the previous three years of the festival, you might have heard it called Reykjavík Deathfest, but this year, the team made the executive decision to pivot to Reykjavík Metalfest. “We felt that the lineup wasn’t really all death metal anymore, so it was time to rebrand. The name Deathfest just didn’t apply anymore,” says Ingólfur. “We wanted to bring in more black metal and grindcore and other kinds of heavy music. Reykjavík Metalfest is a more fitting name.”
And he’s not exaggerating—this year’s lineup is truly diverse. From Auðn’s atmospheric black metal to the unrelenting extremity of Napalm Death, most metal forms will have a representative—a point the organizers are particularly proud of. Getting Napalm Death to come to Iceland was a particular achievement, they emphasise. Anybody familiar with the genre will agree that the very idea of seeing Napalm Death in as intimate a venue as Gaukurinn is pretty crazy. You really won’t find that anywhere but Metalfest.
Bringing Potentiam back
But Reykjavík Metalfest won’t just highlight the best of new metal, the festival also makes it a point to highlight the oldest and greatest hits of Icelandic metal. “We have this trend where we resurrect old Icelandic bands that haven’t played for a long time,” Ingólfur says. Last year saw the beloved black metal group Gone Postal reform, while this year’s iteration will have Icelandic black metal pioneers Potentiam play their entire 1999 effort ‘Bálsýn.’
It’s a show that Gerður is particularly jazzed about. “It’ll be the first time Potentiam plays the entire record, start to finish,” she explains excitedly. “It’s the 20th anniversary of the album this year.”
More than a show
Alongside the actual festival, Metalfest will host a screening of ‘Lords of Chaos’—Vice’s black metal biopic detailing the feats of Mayhem, Burzum and more—and the grindcore documentary ‘Slave To The Grind,’ after which will be a Q&A with Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury. The festival will also be hosting panels with metal industry representatives and journalists at IÐNÓ.
“I’m just excited to stand here and experience it,” Unnar says. “To see it happen finally.” Ingólfur nods. “When we started, we basically wanted to throw a kick-ass death metal show in Reykjavík,” he explains. “And it snowballed and now we’re here. It’s amazing.”
Info: Reykjavík Metalfest 2019 is from May 16th to 18th at Gaukurinn. Tickets are 13,000 ISK.
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