From Iceland — Darkness Rising: The Ascension MMXIX Metal Festival Shrouds The Midnight Sun

Darkness Rising: The Ascension MMXIX Metal Festival Shrouds The Midnight Sun

Published June 7, 2019

Darkness Rising: The Ascension MMXIX Metal Festival Shrouds The Midnight Sun
Photo by
Void Revelations & Woda i Pustka

As the summer light increases and festival season takes off, Ascension MMXIX brings together the blackest of the black metal and dark music in Iceland. Risen from the ashes of the Oration festival, held for the past three years, the newly christened festival is set to be a bigger, more all-encompassing event, with a diverse lineup of cutting-edge metal and oddball bands.

Put together by Stephen Lockhart, an Irish import and producer at Studio Emissary, and his partner in crime Gunnhildur Edda Guðmundsdóttir, Ascension is an altogether new experience. “Sure, there is a red thread, as it’s organised by the same people with the same aesthetic values, but that’s about as far as it goes,” says Stephen. “Our aim was to create a different atmosphere to Oration—a more festive vibe, as opposed to just three nights of long gigs at a bar.”


Vision / execution

For this atmosphere to flourish, Ascension will take place in the Hlégarður hall in Mosfellsbær, on the outskirts of Reykjavík. “The venue is far better suited to our needs than just about any venue downtown, or at least a venue that actually allowed us to execute our vision to our liking,” says Stephen. “If people can travel 15 hours across the country or go to a different country to see a festival, they can travel 20 minutes to Mosfellsbær.”

“Ascension aims to exceed the standards of any metal-related festival that has taken place in Iceland.”

The lineup consists of 30 bands from over 13 countries on three continents. In fact, only 13 of the acts are Icelandic. The styles are dark and diverse, with a strong emphasis on black metal, but also comprising darkwave, post-punk and esoteric doom acts. “When the decision was made to start a new festival after Oration, we were certain that we wanted to host more than just black metal bands,” Stephen continues. “I believe there is an aura given off by certain bands that transcends genre tags, an indescribable feeling that binds our line-up together.”

Exceeding standards

Among the standout acts are Swiss powerhouse Bölzer; first-ever live performances by the bands Akhlys, Aoratos and Kaleikr; exclusive one-off sets by Sinmara, Carpe Noctem and Sólstafir; and Drab Majesty and King Dude from the cult American label Dais Records. “They all provide an excellent twist on the dark side of things, but without the overt metal leanings,” says Stephen of the latter. “ There’s certainly something for everyone to check out.”

Along with the three days of non-stop music, the festival will host art exhibitions and be an all-around immersive environment. “We are constantly trying to push boundaries and raise the bar with our festival,” says Stephen. “We are not content with just having a ‘cool gig’ at a bar that you forget about in a week, we want to create experiences that leave a mark. Ascension is a festival that aims to exceed the standards of any metal or metal-related festival that has taken place in Iceland, and we are determined to do so.”


Info: Ascension MMXIX takes place June 13-15 at Hlégarður in Mosfellsbær. Tickets are 14,900 ISK and are available here.

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