Barbara The Witch

So much stuff to listen to and seemingly so little time! Tomorrow is my last day at work before an elongated weekend, which sees me driving about 400 miles for an impressive ten bands or so over two gigs.

First up sees our annual pilgrimage to Cymru for this years Hammerfest. This year marks the festivals tenth anniversary. It’s a shame the line up didn’t offer something a bit more remarkable for its decade of existence. For that reason I’m only going for the Friday bands. Four of which are stopping off on their UK trek, so hardly something exciting or exclusive to make people travel.

Having said that though I’ll get to see at least seven decent bands and all for a measly ten quid. There isn’t a band on Friday’s line up that I would pay to see where a ten pound note would gain me entry to their show. The four band Sepultura tour would set me back £25. Ex Iron Maiden frontman Blaze Bayley is another £15 minimum. Last year when I saw Acid Reign who have just been added to Friday’s proceedings cost me £17. So yes, I’d say £10 is an absolute steal.

The band I want to see most though takes to the second stage around 9pm and is one of two bands playing that I’ve never seen live before. All the way from Norway is highly melodic thrash band Critical Solution, who will take to a British stage for the first time in almost five years, and possibly only their second ever show on this lump of rock.

Needless to say I’ve been brushing up on my horror thrash (a term I saw in an advert for their last album) quite a lot lately. I’m an avid King Diamond fan and amongst their nod to bands like Metallica and Maiden, there’s a definite influence there from the Great Dane.

They both like a concept album and have multiple characters running throughout the album. Christer Slettebø doesn’t have the falsetto range that King has, but that might make the latest album, Barbara the Witch, slightly more accessible to metal heads than hearing the shrill vocal delivery on something like Abigail.

They’re a band I’ve been listening to for quite a few years now, probably just prior to their second album Sleepwalker which was released in 2015, and easily one of the main reasons I’ll be driving for nearly three hours on Friday through the winding and often picturesque country roads of North Wales.



Well I’m finally on my “week” off work, only three days late. It’s been a hectic few days at work and at home, but now Hammerfest is insight. I haven’t had time to dedicate to writing about music over the last few days, but after browsing early morning TV I decided to put the remote control down and have a peruse of some of this weekends festival bands via YouTube. 

One of Saturday’s bands that I’m not familiar with, but one of our travelling party needs to experience is Norwegian black metal band Kampfar, and those five words are all I know about the outfit. So from the annals of Wikipedia…

They formed twenty three years ago in Fredrikstad. Like many of the Scandinavian bands they are heavily inspired and influenced by native mythology and folklore. There was a hiatus within their two decades, but they returned and in 2015 won a Spellemannprisen award for services to metal after the release of their latest album Profan (where Tornekratt rounds off the release.) The recognition is comparable to receiving a Grammy award if they were presented in Norway. 

After listening to a few of what appear to be more modern tracks they aren’t one of the shrieking black metal bands that I can’t stand. I’m getting more of a Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir or Satyricon vibe. 

For some reason I had ideas of them being more war inspired like Marduk as I imagined the name to have some World War II connotation.  It might have reminded me of a combat formation from the Luftwaffe, Kampfgruppe. Apparently though it’s a ancient Norse battle cry to Odin. 

On Saturday they clash with Beyond the Black who I’m also unfamiliar with, so I can check out the Norwegians and if I’m not getting it I can stroll across the pathway and experience another new band – one of the best things you can do at a multiple stage festival. 

Take On Me


For almost the last nineteen years my working day revolves around driving a van. So far in that time I’m yet to have a vehicle with any capability to play my 2,000 plus tracks stored on my iPhone through the inbuilt stereo. I’ve got a load of CD’s stashed in the groove box that I’ve gone through numerous times, so I just end up listening to the radio. I listen to a local radio station early doors as they play no music until 9am then chop and change as the FM signal strength dictates. 

At 9 they have the staple local radio feature of guess the year, renamed differently here and there but essentially the same thing. This morning was 1985 so that’s spoilt that for you then! They actually played some half decent stuff from the 52 week period which got me thinking to my musical life before I bowed down to the altar of metal. Unbelievably I wasn’t born with heavy metal pre loaded into my cerebellum. 

Over the course of almost twelve months I’ve posted a few pop songs from my pre teen years, so I thought I’d dial down on the speed and aggression that has been on display lately and reminisce of a bygone era. 

First up one of the songs that was featured on the radio today, Take On Me by Norwegian trio A-ha. It reached number two in the UK charts in 1985 on its second release, this song is taken from their debut album Hunting High and Low. This sub four minutes of synth-pop is backed up by one of the most iconic music videos of the era. I’m sure most people have seen the comic book drawings coming to life and manoeuvring people between its pages and the real world with the use of rotoscoping – a combination of live action and animation. 

In my early days of my first year at high school in 1985 when I was nearly 13, I knew a boy in what was then the second year through a cub and scout pack I was associated with. I don’t think I owned any music then and one lunch time we went to his house and he was going to knock up a mix tape and this track was going to be on it. To try and save time he was going to press record and fast forward on the tape player and play the 7″ single at a faster speed. Needless to say I’m still waiting for that tape! Thirty one years later though and in the safe, solitary confines of my van I still sing along (badly) and try (and fail) to hit Morten Harket’s high notes. 

A-ha are my go to answer when the topic of band member longevity is brought up in conversation on the way to a show. Can you name any bands that have been together for say fifteen years and still have the same line up from day one? The only two I can think of are these guys and London hardcore band Knuckledust. It’s a harder task than you suspect.

Mother North


Taking another delve into the Bloodstock line up I’ve come across Norwegian black metal outfit Satyricon – one of the bands at the forefront of the second wave of black metal that arose at the start of the 1990’s. The word satyricon comes from a first century AD Latin work of fiction – just for you fact junkies!

Later I’ll be having my debut blast of their third album from 1996, Nemesis Divinia, that is being played in full during their live performances this year to mark its twenty year anniversary. 

It’s black metal post 1993 so I’ve never listened to it. I’m pretty confident that the last black metal album that I would have brought that didn’t say Behemoth on the spine was by New York based band Havohej. At that point I had a bit of an epiphany and moved away from the black metal movement and unfortunately a lot of the death metal stuff fell by the wayside at the same time. 

Looking back on those first few years at the start of the 90’s I now feel I never had a connection with the music and I think I was only ever into the style of music due to an element of peer pressure. It seemed as if my friends at the time and I just aimed to search out and acquire the most obscure and underground release that we could. Also by the time of me bailing on the genre I was watching in disbelief from the sidelines at the shenanigans mainly going on in Scandinavia. Church burnings, inter band murders and band members seemingly commuting atrocities on a weekly basis that have left many imprisoned. But as a vast majority of the fans expected and enjoyed the controversy they never appeared to question any of the going ons and in a way encouraged things to continually move onto the next level. 

Over the intervening years I’ve seen a fair few black metal bands – mainly appearing on festival stages – but when some of the more established bands incorporated some more rock ‘n’ roll influences into their sound it became much more accessible. Not all that accessible that I was buying black metal releases left, right and centre, but odd songs here and there were much more pleasant on the ear. One such example of this is K.I.N.G. released a decade after Mother North by Satyricon. 


Out Of The City

Well you know what they say about judging a book by its cover, that’s something that I should have learnt with music after all this time! 

Norway’s Audrey Horne are one such book. They’ve been about for some time now and I’ve seen their logo pop up here and there, but never had the urge to listen to them. For some weird reason I thought they’d be some variant on the metal core sound. Wrong. 

As, up until an hour ago, I’d never heard them I thought I’d do some research as they just happen to be on stage at the DMF (read the last post to see what that means) on Saturday. Ah, a super group formed by members of Norwegian black metal bands. Yeah, I was right I won’t like them. And twice wrong. 

The few reviews and biographies of the band – named after a Twin Peaks character, just incase it sounded familiar – all seem to start with variations of the same theme. “Contains / featured members of Sahg, Enslaved, God Seed, Gorgoroth BUT sound nothing like them.” 

Now I’m intrigued to some point, so let’s switch to my now non premium Spotify account. After the adverts something that to me didn’t sound too dissimilar to Shinedown kicks in. Obviously my first assumption is that Spotify has randomly switched artist. No, it still says Audrey Horne and from the Le Fol album. Song two is up and with its Hammond organ in the background sounds like a modern take on Deep Purple. 

So after half an hour or so of listening to them they don’t sound half bad. If moody, mid paced melancholy with addictive sing a long choruses is how you like your rock then you probably would like this. Obviously listening on shuffle I had album tracks thrown at me and I didn’t come across that big anthem, but I’m sure there’ll be one in there somewhere. 

Out Of The City has a very Blackstar Riders, or a slower VolBeat feel to it, and looks like the video could have been lifted straight out of Avenue Q. It is taken from their latest album Pure Heavy released a couple of years ago. I think I’ll be listening to more of these Scandinavians later. 



Warming the crowd up on the Slayer tour is Norwegian mob Kvelertak (meaning chokehold) – who for some reason I thought were Icelandic. To be honest, if I had the cash and time some of the Scandinavian dates with At The Gates and Lost Society as the openers are more appealing to me.

I missed them in Birmingham, so hopefully I’ll catch some of them in London tonight. I’ve never seen the band, as far as I’m aware, and besides hearing this track on the radio a few times I’ve never listened to either of their albums.

I don’t really know anything about the band apart from the vocalist performs with a huge owl on his head for a song!

This track is from their latest album Meir – named after a town in Stoke on Trent, sorry, meaning more in Norwegian.