Norway´s excellent festival Hole In The Sky took place over the last week in August. 2009 celebrated 10 years running with an absolutely superb lineup of choice national & international acts. Main events took place on Friday & Saturday in USF which has a capacity of 1600 only, and as usual tickets sold out completely (it´s always worth booking as early as possible to avoid disappointment!). There´s something quite nice though about such a small and intimate festival, you feel somewhat privileged to be part of this special event.
For those arriving from destinations outside of Bergen there are hotels/hostels to stay in. There are also several apartments that are available to rent, mainly in traditional Norwegian style houses. And of course, as with tickets, it´s advised to book well in advance.
Compared to last years wonderful sunshine, we had the usual typical Bergan rain, so no sitting out on the decking looking out over the harbour watching the sun set sipping on a cool & ludicrously expensive beer. Aaaah… So, with USF being such a small area inside, due to the weather obviously not many were tempted outside between band sets which led to a feeling of claustrophobia. With one small door leading into the main arena the frustration one felt of being herded in and out was not so good. But these downsides can be fully excused with what was in store for fans of the music… (JO)
Friday 28th August
A brilliant group hailing from Oslo kicked off the weekend, the show being their second at Hole in the Sky after debuting in 2006: She Said Destroy . Playing already at six on Friday there weren´t too many people joining in but it didn´t seem to bother the guys at all. The show was passionate and energetic, spiced with a dancer whose performance divided opinions among the crowd. I think her abstract movements suited well to the versatile style of the band, whose music is a mixture of different kinds of metal, hardcore and you name it. They have released two albums so far, Time Like Vines (2006) and This City Speaks in Tongues (2008). Everything seemed to work perfectly in USF, maybe partially due to having a possibility to choose a perfect spot to see and hear the show. The sounds kicked ass and lights finalized the package. These extreme metal mindfuckers (as strikingly described at HITS booklet) did another appearance next day at HITS for Kidz in Garage. (MT)
Proscriptor McGovern´s ferocious growls came from behind the drum kit, which is commendable keeping up a great sounding vocal for an entire set of songs whilst playing such a demanding instrument. Fans were eagerly throwing out the horns & windmilling while they tore through their black thrash attack, the 3 other members obviously having a shreddingly good time onstage. A band that has a strong philosophical belief in mythological occultism etc, Proscriptor´s passionate ramblings in between songs re. the former were maybe a bit over the top. But then again,a theatric he is. A fine choice of songs played included An Involution of Thorns, The Thrice is Greatest to Ninnigal, Four Crossed Wands & The Coming of War. There was dissapointment in the air though (and in my own heart) as despite the constant calls for the mighty Amy, we were not to be graced. (JO)
Besides killer death metal bands, Florida has produced this very different but perfect act for Hole in the Sky. Cynic with its progressive rockish metal and sensitive moods cooled the air after Absu and caressed the ears of metalheads. Extremely technical songs demand skill and these guys don´t lack it. Cynic has released two albums, Focus (1993) and Traced in Air (2008). The setlist consisted mostly of songs from the praised comeback album Traced in Air and finished with How Could I from Focus. Other songs heard from Focus were Veil of Maya and atmospheric Celestial Voyage. The group sounded adorable in USF and the show was all in all a beautiful experience. (MT)
One other legendary doom act playing Hole In The Sky this year are the Swedish veterans, Candlemass. Having a career spanning 24 years now there is obviously a vast back catalogue of albums, with songs in typical doom style lasting say 10 minutes, not everyone is going to hear their favourites tonight. For those who have seen energetic live performances with Messiah, it´s a bit disengaging to watch the relatively new singer Robert Lowe (from Solitude Aeturnus fame). Unquestionably though, his vocals are soaring and he sounds great live, but he has a weak stage presence which made watching this set a tad irksome. Nevertheless, they couldn´t have sounded better which is the most important element of course! We got the first two tracks from the new album consecutively (If I Ever Die & Hammer Of Doom, Solitude, Emperor Of The Void, Solitude, Bleeding Baroness, Mirror Mirror, Samarithan, At the Gallows End and a cracking cover of Kill The King by Rainbow to finish things with a bang! (JO)
These legendary Canadian metallists´ history dates back to as far as 1982. Voivod entertained the audience with old classics as well as songs from their twelfth studio album Infini, which was released about two months ago by Relapse Records. It´s also said to be their last studio album ever. The Hole in the Sky line-up included founding members Snake (vocals), Away (drums) and Blacky (bass) and Dan Mongrain (a co-founder of Canadian Martyr) on guitar. Their original guitar player Piggy died of cancer in 2005 but we still can hear him playing on Infini. Nevertheless being a novice regarding to Voivod´s music I, amongst others, really enjoyed the gig. These professionals didn´t have to proof anything to anybody which appeared as pure joy of playing and performing. Voivod was undoubtedly one of the most expected bands at HITS this year and there were many fans around but their stage presence was so absorbing and easy-going that it made also those unfamiliar with the songs jam along the whole show. (MT)
Always a great pleasure to catch live, Enslaved rounded the Friday up. There had been rumours of this being a special performance, and these rumours were very true indeed. Their set was split into 3 sections, the first being a selection of tracks from recent era Enslaved. This encompassed To The Coast, Fusion Of Sense And Earth, Ground, Runn and Isa. Next up they played all of Hordanes Land (with Samoth) which was incredible, and great for fans who were there with Enslaved from the beginning. What came next blew away all who were there to witness it. Petrov of the mighty Entombed came to stage to perform Left Hand Path, followed by Atilla we had the amazing Life Eternal thrown out, a new Enslaved song “Disentegrator” with Nocturno Culto & Nocturnal Culto with Under A Funeral Moon.
But the very best was saved to last… and really was shockingly good. All guests gathered up together onstage and covered Bathory – Call From The Grave, it couldn´t get any better than this, could it? (JO)
Saturday 29th August
Some could be forgiven for thinking that Sarke are a Darkthrone side project, but this certainly isn´t the case at all. The main man behind this group is Sarke himself, who is known from Khold & Tulus. This is his own project with Nocturno Culto on vocals. So this is a relatively new outing to be witnessed live.
They play great darkened oldschool thrash, pretty straight forward stuff and fun to watch live, but maybe after 2 or 3 songs it became a little boring, as there isn´t much of a change in style or pace with the songs. (JO)
There was a full house for this next performance, getting to catch a glimpse of anything was difficult (especially for the ´shorter´ members of the community!) unless you were prepared to fight your way to the front and stand like a sardine. Many had to make do with the television projections at various positions throughout the venue. Coincidentally, Taake performed at the first ever HITS 10 years ago (their first proper live performance) and it was quite fitting they play at the 10th anniversary tonight, there was a sense of pride in the air during the set of this Bergen based group who play the purest of Norwegian Black Metal. Høst looked & sounded quite the part and led an exciting set with songs spanning the whole career including Dødsjarl, Ummenske & Lukt til Helvete from the latest album and a shockingly good cover of Burzum´s A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit. (JO)
These Oslo black trashers left nobody cold. Aura Noir was also one of the most expected acts at the festival and filled all expectations for sure. The only minus is that they couldn´t play all songs fans would had liked to hear! The setlist included (not in any particular order) three songs from both Black Trash Attack (1996) and The Merciless (2004), Unleash the Demon and South American Death from the newest album Hades Rise (2008), Mirage from Dreams Like Desert EP (1995) and Blood Unity from Deep Tracts of Hell (1998). This year´s appearance was third for the band at Hole in the Sky since 2001. Again, I don´t have a single bad word of the sounds, well done engineers. Aura Noir shared the black trash spirit with a large crowd and was delightful to watch and listen to. Really looking forward to seeing them live soon again! (MT)
An absolutely legendary band, Pentagram were probably one the most eagerly anticipated acts of this year. These guys hail from waaay back beginning in 1971 and are a doom classic. You are either a fanatic, or you don´t know who they are (I am the former). The set list couldn´t have been more pleasing – like a best of, starting off with Wheel Of Fortune, the atmosphere on stage was charged with electricity. All eyes were on our bizarre and eccentric frontman Bobby Leibling who crawled and gyrated his way around the stage and over his band mates in an almost Gollum-esque fashion. The sound was perfect, and Bobby´s vocals strong as ever, which is rather impressive for his age. Other treats included All Your Sins, 20 Buck Spin, When The Screams Come (which I think Bobby said hadn´t been performed live since 1971!), Sign Of The Wolf, Petrified along with two newly written songs from a promised new album to be entitled Last Rites and judging by the new material, it will be another classic. (JO)
One of Bergen´s prides, mystical Gorgoroth, debuted at 10th Hole in the Sky with a new line-up. The performance was predicted to be legendary and so it was for sure. As decoration and atmospherical elements there were crosses standing upside down on stage and a wooden coffin was carried next to the right side guitar cabin during the intro. As everyone must have predicted Infernus, the maestro himself, came out of the coffin right before Bergtrollets Hevn kicked off the show – Gorgoroth had risen from the dead. They played songs from Pentagram (1994), Antichrist (1996), Under the Sign of Hell (1997), Destroyer (1998), Incipit Satan (2000) and Twilight of the Idols (2003) and a song called Aneuthanasia as a sample of the upcoming album Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt, which will be released in October 21 (Europe) this year through Regain Records. With Frank “Bøddel” Watkins (Obituary) on bass and Pest on vocals that was really something, especially for devoted fans of early era Gorgoroth.
I heard afterwards there was Vyl from Keep of Kalessin on drums but the other guitar player still remains anonymous. Gorgoroth performed at the very first Hole in the Sky in 2000 and again in 2003. One couldn´t hope for a more suitable final act for a succesful 10-year anniversary event, Hole in the Sky 2009. You can read Infernus´ thoughts of the performance here: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=467568936&blogId=508086774 (MT)
Finnish Archgoat cancelled their appearance on Saturday due to some unforeseen events and they were replaced by Cor Scorpii from Sogndal who also played at HITS for Kidz. Besides She Said Destroy and Cor Scorpii also Cynic played two shows at HITS, the first one being an acoustic appearance in Garage on Friday.
Ten years and still counting… Year after year more and more people hear about this relatively tiny and extremely atmospheric Bergen metal fest. As last year, Hole in the Sky was the main festival for me and many others this Summer and naturally, an apartment is already booked for HITS 2010. The organizers did a great job once again and I cannot praise the line-up much more, as already mentioned. (MT)
Running order for the weekend in USF Verftet:
Friday: Technical Ecstacy
She Said Destroy 17:55
Saturday: Revelation of Doom
Aura Noir 21:25
Cor Scorpii 18:00