From Iceland — Full Metal Racket!

Full Metal Racket!

Published August 12, 2011

Full Metal Racket!

The annual sweaty moshfest that is the Eistnaflug metal festival descended upon the tiny Eastfjords village of Neskaupstaður like a bearded raven of the Apocalypse. As Eistnaflug features more molten metal and noise than a dozen volcano eruptions, we sent our most rugged reporters to cover the event. What follows is their account of three days of metal, hardcore, punk and… an Alice In Chains cover band.

Thursday: Moonshine! Elf abuse! Nipples! Fifteen hour road trips! Eistnaflug 2011 had all that, and more!

Who played: Dánarbeð, Manslaughter, Hamferð, Dimma, Carpe Noctem, Innvortis, Atrum, Alice in Chains Tribute Band, S.H. Draumur, Sólstafir, Secrets of the Moon
Thursday dawned upon us with intense cold. Last year was chilly, this year felt as if God himself scooped up Neskaupstaður and showed it into the back of his freezer. Surveying the campsite as everyone nursed their hangovers, everyone seemed in need of fireworks and searing metal heat.
Shame it didn’t really kick off with festival openers Dánarbeð. A bunch of kids from Akureyri, they played what one friend described as “the sound you get when you try to recreate a demo of a Swedish death metal band from 1992.” They were a bit all over the place. The drumming struggled to keep up with the pace, the singer’s guitar solos were rudimentary, and there wasn’t much stage presence to speak of. It felt like the start of a long day.
Thankfully my spirit was heightened with the arrival of Manslaughter and some decent moshing to bring out my inner bastard. Or rather lonely bastard, as once again I find myself forming a moshpit of one.  And this is a shame as Manslaughter were shockingly fast, brimming with violent energy and, surprisingly, very funny. Also, their song ‘Eistnaflugslagið’ sums what’s so great about the festival in under 2 minutes.
Unfortunately due to my exertions, and the fact that this reviewer has a BMI of a pork scratching, I suffer a bad wardrobe malfunction and spent all of Hamferð’s set in a bar across the road while I sewed up my shorts.
After a beer and a couple of shots I ventured back to take in the performance from Dimma, but I really wished I hadn’t. Their ‘90s hard alt-rock sound was bland enough, but their stage presence was the most preposterous I’ve seen from an Icelandic rock band since… well, ever! Like the ‘serious’ band from the film ‘School Of Rock,’ their cock rock antics were so full-on I could feel the tangy manfat from their mighty metal wangers at the back of my throat. They made Magni Ásgeirsson look like Black Flag.
My psyche is soothed a little when I come in to see what Carpe Noctem were up to. Despite being slightly nonplussed with their take on black metal, it was certainly 100% better than what preceded it. They all looked like fetid zombies with smudged corpsepaint and great big spikes coming out of their arms. Hmmm perhaps things are finally starting to look up.
Having seen Innvortis a few times, I can understand why people like them (especially those pogoing in the crowd that they commanded), but their folk tinged punk doesn’t do it for me.
Atrum are next up. Their sound is harsh, intense and probably the tightest of the local death/ black metal bands this evening. And the lead singer with his lovely Adam Ant corpsepaint and pouty lips looked rather cute and handsome.
Alice In Chains Tribute Band were up next. Admittedly these guys had been cast as the whipping boys of this year’s festival (‘Why?’ was the word that often followed their name), and truth be told, I’m not a big AIC fan either, so I watched their rendition of ‘Them Bones’ and went straight to the bar. But imagine my surprise when I came back 30 minutes later to find not only were they still playing, they had a big crowd and everyone was singing along! Goddamn these metal fans are fickle. But I doff my cap to AICTB, they were going for it big guns and their sheer, bloody-minded presence won the crowd over.
After all the slightly downer moodiness, we need some proper fashioned bopping and who better for the purpose than S.H. Draumur? There he was, Dr. Gunni along with bandmates Steini and Birgir wringing every ounce of energy from their post-punk sound. And there we were jumping up and down at the front like total fools.
I grab a spot by the mixing desk to take in the set from Sólstafir. And my giddy aunt, they were absolutely mind-blowing awesome. After their so-so performance at last year’s Eistnaflug, this year saw a completely different approach and attitude. I daresay those of us lucky enough to witness the night’s show were seeing a bands chrysalis moment as they transcended from local metal legends to international rock gods. Playing a mix of new material and stuff from their ‘Köld’ album, each track felt pounding and supercharged, and they went back to their classic blood red light show after last year’s white arc lights and dry ice debacle. It was truly music to lose yourself in. By far the best band of the night.
I, like many other people, ventured outside straight afterwards to drink and go “woah, dude” and “man, that was immense!” In fact so many people left after Sólstafir that Secrets Of The Moon ended up playing to a venue that was only two thirds full. And to be fair to SOTM, they gave it a really good go with their rumbling take on death metal. But alas everyone’s thoughts were still on the previous act and getting totally wasted.
Words by Bob Cluness

Friday: The cynical, elitist ravings of an aging metal nerd
Offerings offer a nice take on mid-tempo blackened death metal and I fully expect their road to a higher billing will be short.
Saktmóðigur on the other hand should seriously reconsider picking up their instruments ever again, because seldom before have I felt as abused and transgressed upon aurally.  When the police shows up mid set, the thought crosses my mind for a second that they might be here to lead the ‘singer’ away in shackles. But the public response is ridiculously roaring given the vile nature of the dreck imposing itself on the sound system, albeit mostly coming from the more age-challenged segments of the audience, who probably grew up with these men in the ’80s punk scene, before songwriting talent and skilled musicianship invaded the metal and hardcore community.
Ask the Slave refuse to be put in a box, but suffer a bit from a lack of identity. All the elements are there and often well put together with a top-notch delivery from a fervent vocalist who commands the stage yet threads awfully close to the edge of pretence.
Apocalyptic Sludge deities Plastic Gods however suffer from nothing, except perhaps an unfairly large helping of awesomeness. Allotted a longer set time than the bands immediately preceding or following them, Plastic Gods make full use of the entire 45 minutes and put the entire audience in a deep, somnolent trance. As meandering waves of hypnotic heaviness wash slowly over the listener one feels compelled to close ones eyes and be bathed, nay, drenched in sonic euphoria. With the rabid death growl underscoring the untold tonnage of repetitive slow motion riffs issuing from no fewer than three guitars, the experience is like that of a rapt believer finding salvation in the demented barked sermonising of a raving cult leader backed by terminally stoned drone of some demonical gospel choir.
While not deserving of the same degree of adulation bestowed upon the Plastic Gods, Muck still shouldn’t have to suffer the draining of the dance floor that occurs before their set. These kids have gone from strength to strength and have shed their former songwriting immaturity in favour of heavier and slower passages rife with catchiness and accompanied with a serious tightening of performance.
Agent Fresco – OH PLEASE!
Celestine are often dubbed the heaviest band in Iceland, and with good reason. Their set, although resting on a solid foundation of churning post-metal, explodes with a feral fury of epic proportions in songs that twist and turn with progressive passages akin to some kind of a Converge/Isis supergroup. The venue grooves, trashes and sweats along with the vocalist, who is seemingly hell bent on a personal catharsis, writhes around in a state of utter abandon and leaves the crowd clamouring for more, while content to go out for a smoke while the Agent Fresco loving mobility flocks back inside to revel in more easy listening á la Skálmöld.
The rise of Skálmöld in the last year has been nothing short of meteoric. Apparently Viking Metal is the soup of the day for people looking to get into metal at the ground floor. The place is once again packed and the sounds oozing out of the back line are palatable in their competence but abhorrent in their stench of cliché. The set is a bit of fun and whole lot of silly and people get to rock their collective socks off for a good 45 minutes until the kid wonders in Gone Postal destroy the stage…
Or not. Gone Postal seem a bit off tonight, sad but true. Their death metal is upper tier, but just a bit short of top shelf. The compositions are a bit askew, but not unconventional nor forward thinking enough to put them in Momentum country—i.e. breaking from the herd and shining through with brimming originality. But Tobbi, the boy with the limitless vocal range, works wonders with keeping shit gripping and the band manages to hold onto their stellar live reputation by the breadth of a baby hair.
Eiríkur Hauksson however sets the gold standard for a motherfucking live show. The old man just doesn’t seem to age when it comes to balls out crowd rousing. His set of straight up heavy metal tinged with the odd Metallica cover and so forth is goddamn wondrous. While every move is undoubtedly well rehearsed, the man still seems spontaneous and effortless while his well-oiled vocal chords inspire euphoria in the listener. And the man just goes on. The set is as long, as are his wails, yet you want him to just keep chanting at you until he empties out his bottomless repertoire. Or at least long enough to spare us the upcoming bore storm of The Monolith Deathcult.
Yes, The Monolith Deathcult—an imposing name, I know. The bigger the disappointment it turns out. MD are previously unknown to me, and for good reason it would seem. These guys bring an endless mid tempo barrage of muddled guitars topped with the mother of monotonous growl. Shit Monotone Deathcult is more fitting!
Dr. Spock finish things off with their usual theatrics. A lot of fun as always and not much more to say on the matter.
Words by Bogi Bjarnason

Saturday: Do your balls hang low—do they headbang to and fro?
Arriving at Eistnaflug three days earlier after a twelve-hour drive with three tall metalheads, an angry arctic on our right, fields of ash to our left and storm clouds ahead of us it’s hard not to be swept into the evil necrocult spirit of Eistnaflug. Like corpse-paint Kerouacs with Black Sabbath on repeat and a bottle of Brennivín in pineapple juice being passed around among the passengers, we pass a pair of eight-year-old girls selling knick-knacks for a charity raffle in the friendliest fishing village in the world—Neskaupstaður.
It’s now Saturday and the hoodoo bullshit needle is quivering in the red. A member of Sólstafir is placing a complicated salad order at the quaint local café; I think it was the drummer that remarked he looked like he was compiling a rider. That same night I heard the drummer went for his annual naked swim off the pier while flipping off the 5-0. Not the wisest decision when you consider the fish-gut smeared dog that emerged from that same glacial water the day before.
Most of my Saturday was spent with the kids at Mayhemisphere, which is the other, wilder, venue of Eistnaflug, based in an abandoned steelworks factory where many of the headlining bands would hang out in the dense fog from smoke machines and droning noise bands. It’s a beautiful place for urban exploring in its own right, packed with vintage maritime tools and mysterious engines. When you add a flock of 101 artists hell-bent on mayhem it’s hard to tear oneself away in time for the main stage at Egilsbúð. Having said that, I humbly apologize to Elín Helena, Witches, Chao, Black Earth, Beneath, Mammút, Benny Crespo’s Gang, Momentum and Sign for missing what I heard were some intense performances.
The first performance at the Mayhemisphere venue was a lovely lecture/performance by Goddur (Guðmundur Oddur Magnússon) a professor at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts who, with antlers on his back and a guitar in his arms, imitated a proggy gargoyle. On his heels came Auxpan, who like most of those who followed plays some variety of noise or drone music. Intersecting seismic drone overlaid with sawtooth squeals like a broken gas valve bent the windows outward. Accompanying was a homemade foam machine that spilled over the floor along with a smoke machine in front of a light source that pulsated in tune with the music. It was hard not to think of the volcanic eruption we had been told was taking place a few hours to the west of the metalworks.
Next was Krakkbot with a more clicks-n-beat-driven variety of noise that later merged with the grindcore band Manslaughter to form Krakkslaughter. A corpsepainted Labrador retriever running around to melodies buried six feet under grime and baleful distortion.
Things were getting blurry at this point but I seem to remember two members of the group taping beer cans to their naked torsos and spilling blood over naked women lying on the floor of the freezing art space. This was the only time during the performances that the visiting metal heads weren’t seen shaking their grim heads in dark confusion.
Then AMFJ emerged from the darkness with a song based on Eldmessan (fire sermon), which was delivered by a legendary Icelandic priest and is presumed to have stopped the flow of a nearby volcano. This makes him the only Christian Kraut Noise Emo Black Metal on this plane of existence. Aggressive white noise. White noise supremacy.
Then it was off to the main stage at Egilsbúð to catch the end of the Brain Police set. I got held up by a girl who insisted on showing me all of her favourite metal poses while screaming in a language of her own, but I managed to catch the very the end of some freewheeling belly-painted mayhem with Brain Police.
The veteran metal god of Celtic Frost fame, Tom G Warrior (!!!) headlined with his recent project Triptykon. The old fart made a wise decision when he chose a heck of a beautiful bass player to provide some eye candy to their brand of deathened black prog metal. The songs are a little long and seem to have repeated endings. The drumming are heavy, slow and bare boned (but not doomy) and bring the band back down to earth during the proggier parts. I was in the front risking neck injury every second of a tight, brutal set.
After a quick three burgers and a couple of misappropriated beers I was primed for one of the biggest and most beloved bands in Icelandic music history—HAM. There’s not much that can be said about HAM that hasn’t been said before. HAM specialise in deadpan inside jokes on top of catchy pop songs ensconced in Rammstein-ish opera metal. While that idiot Jónsi from Í svörtum fötum was on stage at Besta Útihátíðin calling women ‘whores’ and asking them to take their tops off, several of the women in attendance at HAM were surfing bare-breasted on top of the crowd (without being prompted, as shit like that should be left at an Aerosmith concert where it belongs). HAM ran through a few of their new songs (‘Dauð hóra’ being particularly awesome example) before running through the big sing-along numbers and sending the crowd into hysterics. Awesome time had by all.
I probably would have toned what followed that Saturday down a bit had I known that the Sunday would involve a bare-knuckle ride in a suicidal Daihatsu with a busted battery, no muffler and the key broken in the ignition—all of which amounted to a 12-hour controlled slide into Reykjavík. And it was still worth it. Eistnaflug is always fucking worth it.
Words by Ragnar Egilsson

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