BEYOND THE GATES 2022 (Bergen, Norway)
August 2-6, 2022
by Jorge Patacas
Every August, both locals and people from all over the world gather in the city of Bergen in Western Norway to attend Beyond the Gates, one of the best metal festivals in the Scandinavian country. At this point the fans know there’s going to be a good lineup every year, but this time the organizers went a step further when they announced that Grieghallen was going to be one of the venues, besides the usual former sardine factory building USF Verftet and Kulturhuset. For those who don’t know, Grieghallen is a concert hall named after the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and it was here where some of the most iconic black metal albums were recorded with the producer Eirik “Pytten” Hundvin. Enslaved, Emperor and Mayhem were going to play live at this venue for the first time which was going to be an event for the books. Not only that, but the headliner the last day of the festival was going to be Mercyful Fate. However, that wasn’t the only thing that would make this one a special edition. This year they came up with a new concept called Beyond The Gates Experience with lots of features. In addition to the concerts there was Beyond the Ink Tattoo Convention, listening parties of the new Sahg and Blodhemn albums at Apollo Records, beer and mead tastings, culinary experiences and guided tours in Grieghallen, the Lysekloster ruins where Immortal took the picture for their “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism” album cover, the WWII bunker where Euronymous was photographed and the place where Mayhem rehearsed just before recording their legendary album “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”. So there was going to be a lot of different activities during those rainy days in Bergen.
Due to personal reasons, I arrived in the city the second day of the festival and went straight to USF Verftet. There wasn’t a lot of people when the Swedish band Year of the Goat started their 40-minute set. However, they got a really good response thanks to their well-played occult rock with great riffs, melodies and the overall 70’s vibe. If you don’t know them yet, do yourself a favor and check them out. Their latest album came out in 2019 and it’s called “Novis Orbis Terrarum Ordinis”.
The audience grew by the time the legendary NWOBHM band Satan took the stage. Some time ago it was almost impossible to imagine these guys coming back after so many years, but they did and they still deliver with new albums and live shows. The beginning of their performance was a bit accidental since Russ Tippins’ guitar didn’t sound at all during “Trial by Fire”, so they had to cut it short to solve the issue, but the vocalist Brian Ross dealt with it in a good way by interacting with the audience and making jokes. When everything was solved they kept going with “Twenty Twenty Five” and “Break Free” from their most popular album “Court in the Act” (1983). Their new album, “Earth Infernal”, which was released on April 1st this year, was represented with two songs, “Burning Portrait” and “From Second Sight”, and the last song was “Alone in the Dock” which left people chanting the name of the band and asking for more.
Funny enough, Satan left the stage and Lucifer took over, but they have very different styles despite their similar names. The band that features Nicke Andersson (ex Entombed, The Hellacopters) on drums and his wife Johanna Sadonis (ex The Oath) on vocals delivered an amazing performance that led them to get the best response from the crowd at that point in the evening. They played at the same stage three years ago, but this time was even better. Charisma, talent, pure energy, great musicianship, all the elements that a good rock and roll show must have were there. Their music and aesthetics flirt with Black Sabbath and the good old school 70’s rock with Sadonis’ great vocals complementing the heavy riffs perfectly. The setlist was focused on their latest album “Lucifer IV” including some of its best songs like “Bring Me His Head” and “Crucifix (I Burn For You)” and to finish their 40-minute set, they chose two of what could be considered classics of the band at this point: “Dreamer” and “California Son”.
Right after, it was time for the Icelandic post-rockers Sólstafir who played for the first time at Beyond the Gates. In their one-hour performance, the band engaged the audience with their epic songs full of emotion and mystifying atmospheres. The vocalist/guitarist Aðalbjörn Tryggvason even got off the stage to sing while shaking hands with those in the front row, which clearly shows what the spirit was in the venue.
The headliners of the day were Opeth who played in Norway two months before at the Tons of Rock festival in Oslo. Those who were not able to see them there had now a new chance at Beyond the Gates, but this time in a venue indoors which fits them better in my personal opinion, specially during the intimate climates created in many of their songs. The set was eclectic but more focused on the slower and more prog rock stuff like “Hjärtat vet vad handen gör”, “Cusp of Eternity” and “In My Time of Need”, but the death metal influences appeared in the form of “The Drapery Falls” from the acclaimed “Blackwater Park” (2001) and the title track from “Deliverance” (2002). Mikael Åkerfeldt’s clean vocals and growling are still flawless even after being around for more than 30 years now and the rhythm section by the uruguayan Martin Mendez on bass and Sami Karppinen on drums was very tight. They decided to close their show with the aforementioned “Deliverance” after playing for over an hour leaving people satisfied, but now it was time to rest and get ready for a new day.
When entering USF Verftet on the third day of the festival, it was clear that there were more people compared to the previous day. This evening was going to be more extreme in terms of the lineup, starting with Misþyrming, a black metal band from Iceland that has been getting positive reviews from the critics and the fans alike. They have released two albums, “Söngvar elds og óreiðu” in 2015 and “Algleymi” in 2019, so they played songs from both releases and blasted the place with their thunderous sound.
Whoredom Rife is a band from Trondheim that appears quite often in Norwegian festivals and it’s one of the “new” names that keep the black metal flame alive. As usual they had goat skulls hanging from the microphone stands while executing their blasphemic songs with no words to the audience from the intimidating figure of the vocalist K.R. The band opened with “Curse of the Moon” from their latest album “Winds of Wrath” (2021) and closed with “Gitt til Odin” from their debut EP “Whoredom Rife” (2016).
There was a ten minute delay before the Finnish death/black act Archgoat entered the stage, but the crowd went nuts when they did. Finally we were able to see a moshpit while the trio performed aggressive tunes such as “Heavens Ablaze” and “Nuns, Cunts and Darkness”. The drummer Goat Aggressor deserves to be mentioned since we’ve been blown away by his superb drumming, while one of the memorable moments was seeing the bassist/vocalist Lord Angelslayer smoking while singing and playing at the same time. Just an anecdote, but you don’t see something like this everyday!
Next on the bill were the polish black metal sensation Mgla who were actually formed in 2000, but it was with their third album “Exercises in Futility” (2015) that this mysterious band made a name of themselves. This effort was represented on their set with four parts of the title track and there was focus on their latest album “Age of Excuse” (2019) as well by playing four of the six parts of its title track. The faceless guys delivered a pretty solid performance as usual resulting in the crowd being satisfied.
One of the best concerts on this festival’s edition was the one from Sodom. The German thrash metal legends gave their 100% in a very energetic performance that made the audience go crazy. They opened with “Sodom & Gomorrah” from their latest studio album “Genesis XIX” (2020), but they are very aware that Scandinavians like their old school stuff and how those first efforts such as the EP “In The Sign of Evil” (1985), their first album “Obsessed by Cruelty” (1986), “Persecution Mania” (1987) and “Agent Orange” (1989) influenced the Norwegian metal scene. So they had no mercy and attacked us with “Agent Orange”, “Equinox”, “Tired and Red”, “Christ Passion”, “Better Off Dead”, “Sodomy And Lust” and “Outbreak of Evil”. There was even time for a couple of covers, “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen and “Over the Top” by Motörhead with Tore Bratseth (Bombers, ex Old Funeral) as guest vocalist. One unique moment that probably won’t happen again and there was, of course, standing ovation for Lemmy at the end of the song. Amazing. To close the show they chose “Bombenhagel” which was originally featured in the “Persecution Mania” album and re-recorded for their “Bombenhagel” EP from 2021. This was a masterclass on how to play thrash metal. What a great way to finish the day!
A lot of people were waiting for Friday to witness a very special event in the history of black metal. It was the day that Grieghallen was going to open its doors for metal once again, but this time for a live concert with three of the bands that had their iconic albums recorded at this emblematic hall that was founded in 1978 and mostly used by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.
But first we stopped by Kulturhuset to check out the Norwegian band Nekromantheon who plays a very aggressive form of thrash metal. This is a must-see band for those who love this genre the old school way. Fast, tight, raw compositions that make you headbang as if there’s no tomorrow. As for the setlist, they went through their discography with songs from their three studio albums: “Divinity of Death” (2010), “Rise, Vulcan Spectre” (2012) and their recent “Visions of Trismegistos” (2021).
Finally it was time to head to Grieghallen where there was a Mayhem exhibition curated by Finn Håkon Rødland (some of you may know him as “The True Mayhem Collection” in social media) with pictures and texts about the band and “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, which was very interesting.
Time for the shows. The first band on stage was Enslaved who decided to play their debut “Vikingligr Veldi” (1994) in its entirety, an album that was of course recorded there. They don’t play these songs very often, so it was a great opportunity to see them live and it worked great despite the technical issues right after the first song “Lifandi Lif Undir Hamri” where vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellson had to improvise to entertain the audience while waiting for the issues to be solved. For “Heimdallr”, the original drummer Trym Torson (now in Emperor) was invited to sit behind the drum kit while their current drummer Iver Sandøy played the timpani. The last song was the instrumental “Norvegr” as expected and the crowd clearly enjoyed it.
The mighty Emperor were next and they came up with surprises for that special evening. They kicked-off with “In The Wordless Chamber”, “Thus Spake the Nightspirit” and one of their all-time classics “The Loss and Curse of Reverence” from their “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk” album (1997). Once again, the sound at Grieghallen is great and the band sounds very tight.
Later on, two well-known former members of the band, Mortiis (with the mask on) on bass and Faust on drums, joined the guitarist Samoth and vocalist/guitarist Ihsahn to play some of the older material. They went back in time first paying tribute to Bathory with “Call From The Grave” and Celtic Frost with “Innocence and Wrath/The Usurper”, and then their own songs such as “Wrath of the Tyrant” from their debut EP of the same title and “I Am The Black Wizards” from the legendary debut LP “In the Nightside Eclipse”. Then Mortiis left the stage and Secthdamon came back to his duties, but Faust stayed behind the drum kit for the next song “Inno A Satana” as well. The drummer Trym Torson came back for “Ye Entrancemperium” and that marked the end of this special show celebrating their 30th anniversary.
Mayhem has been playing “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” in its entirety for some years now, so many of us were lucky to see them a few times before, but this time was special because of the venue and the historical aspect of it. It was just incredible to see Hellhammer playing drums on the same room where his parts were recorded and it sounded massive. As usual, Necrobutcher (bass), Teloch and Ghul (guitars) were all dressed in black, while Attila Csihar was wearing a large priest robe and had his face painted creating the sinister atmosphere the music demands. One could truly feel what that phrase “The Past is Alive” means. There was no encore this time, it was all about their iconic record played from start to end with “Freezing Moon”, “Pagan Fears” and “Life Eternal” being the highlights that night.
Last day of the festival and four bands left to play at the amazing Grieghallen. Personally I was very excited to see Unto Others, who were previously known as Idle Hands and had to change their name for legal reasons. You can hear a wide range of influences in their music, from Iron Maiden to Sisters of Mercy or The Cure, and that’s pretty unique. In addition to that, they have great and catchy songs, so it makes sense that they got a spot in the festival lineup. Grieghallen was not yet full, but those who were present were able to enjoy tunes like “Can You Hear The Rain?”, “Dragon, Why Do You Cry?”, “Double Negative”, “Nightfall” (dedicated to Candlemass) and the single “Give Me To The Night”. After the show, there were positive comments from both fans and those who were not familiar with them. This is a band that deserves a lot more attention, no doubt about it.
Up next was the Swedish band Tribulation with their particular sound that nowadays has a strong gothic influence, contrary to the aggression of their early death metal albums. They released their latest effort “Where The Gloom Becomes Sound” last year and played “In Remembrance”, “Leviathans” and “Funeral Pyre” from the same, while the fog was covering the stage. Towards the end of their performance, it was time for “Strange Gateways Beckon” which was the first single for “The Children of the Night” (2015), their third studio album, but the first one released via Century Media. To finish their 40-minute set they chose “Lacrimosa” from their “Down Below” album (2018).
The legendary doom metal masters Candlemass performed at Beyond The Gates in 2019, but this time they were not only going to play at Grieghallen, but they were going to play their masterpiece “Nightfall” in its entirety. The vocalist Johan Längquist who sang in their debut “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” (1986) is still amazing and manages to sing the songs that Messiah Marcolin used to sing in a perfect way. As expected, “Bewitched” was one of the most well-received songs by the crowd who sang along the unforgettable chorus. It was bassist Leif Eidling’s birthday that day, so they got the audience singing “happy birthday” to him, and then there was time for two bonus songs from other albums as well, “Mirror Mirror” and the epic “Solitude”. Brilliant performance!
Finally what everyone was waiting for, Mercyful Fate! They were touring Europe for a while at that point, so it was time to see them in Norway for the first time ever. Their current lineup is Hank Shermann and Mike Wead on guitars, Joey Vera (Armored Saint) on bass, Bjarne T. Holm on drums and, of course, King Diamond on vocals. A large luminous upside-down cross towered over the stage, which also had a large pentagram, when King appeared wearing a goat mask for the first song “The Oath” and right after that he replaced it with a spiky black crown. Right from the start we could notice how his characteristic vocals still sound amazing and he’s in a good condition despite his age and all the health issues he had been through, including the triple-bypass heart surgery he underwent back in 2010.
The focus of their 75-minute setlist was on the earlier material and the audience loved to listen to gems like “A Corpse Without Soul”, “Doomed By The Living Dead”, “Melissa”, “Curse of the Pharaohs” and “Evil”. Also the new song “The Jackal of Salzburg” sounded great and had a really good response. They have returned to the stages after 23 years and the tour has been a success so far. Totally deserved! Long live the King!
All of a sudden Beyond the Gates was over, but everyone agreed that this was their biggest production so far. Everything was well-organized and worked as expected. Congratulations to the organizers for a successful edition and see you in 2023!