TONS OF ROCK - Loads Of Musical Fun!

July 2, 2022, a month ago

By Mark Gromen

gallery heavy metal black death tons of rock festival

Not my first time at Tons (when locals pronounce the full festival name, often comes off as "Tonsal Rock," to Anglo ears), but my first trip back to anywhere on European soil since December '19. So within hours of the school year being completed, teaching obligations done, was on a plane to Oslo. In addition to the usual Thursday-Saturday musical line-up, for 2022 organizers included a mico-brewery tent, featuring ten Swedish companies. Other non-musical diversions include pinball/arcade games (instead of the American boxing "Knockout", seeing how hard you can punch, in Europe there's the equivalent with a soccer ball, how hard can you kick), the ubiquitous Ferris wheel and scores of food stalls (virtually any/all nationality cuisine on offer), just make sure to bring your wallet. Norway is one of the most expensive countries and even before the pandemic, the grounds were/are totally cashless. Many common aspects of Norwegian life are transacted through the cell phone, so credit cards or go hungry/thirsty. Since my last visit the Norsk krone has taken a nose dive, against the US dollar, so simply division of prices by 10 was a quick exchange rate calculation: $5 for a paper sleeve of fries, $8 for popcorn, regular beer was $10 a draft (the expensive imports, could be bought in 10 cl increments, up to 40 = 13 oz., were closer to $15 a plastic cup). $15 for pita or pulled pork sandwich. 

There are no plastic utensils: forks, spoons & knives are pressed wood, in a paper wrapper. Environmentalists will be happy to know the mountain of drink cups are recycled. In fact, volunteers scour the grounds for trash/discarded materials throughout the show and each morning finds the grass as pristine as the day before. One unlucky soul (who picked the shortest straw, apparently) gets to sit within a ring of a dozen or so trash receptacles, making sure they don't become overflowing and that patrons place garbage in the correct bin. Almost $18 for a "Philly cheesesteak.” Living near the city, I usually try so-called appropriations of the culinary trademark, but given the meager size and steep cost, didn't seem like a good investment. Besides, the press tent set out a daily array of free snacks (including free bottles of water), cookies, tortilla chips, nuts, candy, even a fruit bowl (with watermelon, blueberries, pineapple and honeydew). Thanks!

At the prescribed 1 PM start time, there were apparently a lot of absentees in the local working community, as the grassy Ekebergsletta grounds environs were already crowded with people who wanted to end a (pandemic) long abstinence from live music/concerts/festivals, myself included. Tons Of Rock was pre-sold out, 30,000 expected each day. Like the '19 go-round, there were three stages, of varying sizes: two outdoors, the third, under a tent, which could accommodate 8,000 people, by itself. A pair of video boards flanked each side of the open air stages, broadcasting the action to those that might not be comfortable inside the giant gathering on the infield. In the VIP era (no artists, just well-heeled who wanted separate bar/bathroom access, alongside exclusive food truck & 7-11 food options, for an extra $150, on top of the normal, almost $400 ticket price), there was another video screen, behind the grandstand obscuring the view of the main stage. Accreditation secured with no hassle (fans have the option of picking up their entry wristbands at spots around town, beforehand, a wise move, if so inclined), a little time to kill before Death To All, so checked out Dueggs' Juicy IPA. A 5% concoction, light and lemony, perfect for a warm summer day.

A slimmed down Gene Hogalan (drums) and Steve DiGiorgio (bass) are reviving their days in Death. This was the third from the end in a string of European dates that celebrated Chuck Schuldiner's legacy, with a selections of classics from the entire catalog. "Overactive Imagination" sees the two newcomers (on guitars) square off face-to-face, against one another, while DiGiorgio is center stage. While he meandered about, the bassist spent much of the set, stage right, foot up on one of the wedge monitors, plucking out some twisted rhythms. There's some really technical stuff within the harsh context. Traversing from the brutal, early days of "Zombie Ritual" to the tangled-string wizardry of stuff like "The Philosopher" and glorious "Crystal Mountain", shame so many are turned off by the vocals. Max Phelps, is similar in size/stature to the late founder Schuldiner, whose role he's reprised. Apart from the odd comment from DiGiorgio, Phelps did most of the talking, which wasn't much. "Spirit Crusher" begins with the bassist alone, center stage. Some may scream "blasphemy" (not bloody gore), but great to hear these songs again.

Invested a little time with Bullet For My Valentine. Frontman/backwards ball cap wearing guitarist Mike Tuck wisely opted for an sleeveless/cut-off Emperor tee, to win over the locals. Opening with "Your Betrayal", in a sea of bikini tops and bare chests, the sun beat down on unaccustomed, pale Norwegian skin. Some would end the day resembling a shade of the national flag! Careful. "It's the fastest song we've got," implored Tuck to get the crowd moving on "Scream Aim Fire".  

Europe, sees smiling frontman Joey Tempest unveil his bag of tricks. Is that black, straight haired guy really the same the same person in all those ‘80s videos? One flash of that winning Pepsodent grin and all is confirmed. "Walk The Night" kicks things off. Speaking of kicks, Tempest uses his white mic stand as a prop throughout, be it twirled, phallic enhancement or even giving it a playful boot, to set it in motion. He plays to the Jumbotron cameras (Hell, he was virtually raised on video!), singing right into the lens. Practically the only time that mic stand wasn't within arm’s reach, was when he strapped on acoustic and/or electric guitars. Not that John Norum needs any six-string help, the Swede pulling out his own bag of Rock God tools, including whipping the chord across the strings, gaping mouth expressions, hunched, forward lean, etc. It all doesn't mean a thing, without his tastefully executed talent. "Rock The Night" and old school "Scream Of Anger" prelude the "Carrie" ballad clap-along. Norum brought out a Flying V for 'Last Look At Eden", while "Sign Of The Times" (which features a sea of overhead clapping hands) begins on keyboards, which remain prominent throughout. During "Hole In My Pocket" Tempest playfully reprises Jack Nicholson's The Shining catchphrase "Here's Johnny" segueing to a Norum solo. A few songs in, the guitarist finally looks to be having fun. Today, the band has an off-day from supporting Whitesnake's continental tour. The smiling frontman adds an acoustic for "Open My Heart", then trades it for an electric on "Ready Or Not". Tempest includes a snippet of the Snakes' "Here I Go Again" within "Superstitious". He flips/catches the wireless mic throughout "Cherokee" before the telltale notes of THAT song bring those who have thus far remained seated/laying down to their feet, like it's the National Anthem or some such call to attention/reverence. Hundreds whip out cell phones to (re)capture a part of their youth, as "The Final Countdown" (how prophetic is that title, as the original fans move towards senior citizenship?) closes the night, as Tempest pogos in place. But it's only not even 6 PM, not that it really ever gets dark, this time of year, in Oslo.

Fun continues with a return to the Swedish beer tent. Unlike the current state of North American breweries, the high, double digit ABV candidates are not here (thank gawd, some of these people don't need an inducement), then again, maybe that was part of the deal. So no real stouts, lot of emphasis on mangos and fruity stuff. Grime Creep is billed as a 4.7% bluecurrant Berliner: purplish in color, the requisite berry produces a sour beverage, for those that like as much, but I don't find it conducive to an 80+ degree day. Schouskjelleren is a local interloper in the Swedish exhibit, but their 4.6% Lasermill Pils is something called a "hazy pilsner". Enslaved were supposed to play a different stage, a couple hours earlier, but switched to the tent, for a darker, (slightly) more intimate setting, beginning with "Isa". Is it possible to be a "guitar god" in Viking/pagan/black metal? Well, Ice Dale certainly is the leading candidate. Guy has the skills and all the moves, as "Caravans To The Outer Worlds" proves. Green lit "Havenless" becomes an audience clap-along, as Grutle Kjellson loses the bass, in favor of the small synth/effects unit that is stationed next to him, throughout. Although 20 years old, the lengthy instrumental passage that leads off "The Crossing" shows how progressive Enslaved have always been. Speking of old times, raw "Allfadr Odinn", from the initial Hordanes Land finishes in unexpected heaviness. Wow!

At Dynamo, in '99, my first Euro-fest experience, closed one night's backstage with Peter Tagtgren (whom I knew from his visits to the Nuclear Blast home office, then in Philadelphia) and a label rep or two. So he's been a music friend of BraveWords for a long time. Tagtgren and mainstay/bassist Mikael Hedund brought some alien obsessed annihilation to the tented stage. Strange, not seeing Horgh, behind the kit (but then he too was a replacement, once upon a time). The drums still sound massive. Opening with "Worship", Peter's voice sounded particularly vicious on a stadium rig, at close range. Head seemingly on a swivel, he and Hedlund savagely headbanged throughout the fast paced set. The grind of gremlin voiced "Fire In The Sky" and relative newcomer "Children Of The Grey" offered counterpoint to the faster stuff. Unfortunately, had to miss the later portion of the set, lining up for the Iron Maiden shoot, which never happened.

Disappointed at being denied photo pass for Maiden, was committed to doing my reporting nevertheless. First year coming out of the pandemic, know they wanted to make sure the event was successful, supported and publicized regionally. However, if Tons is interested in gaining recognition beyond its borders, will need to fight for accommodating the bigger foreign press, perhaps even at the expense of some of their friends in smaller, homegrown media outlets. Growing pains as the event's popularity ratchets up. Could have the event photographer provide a small subsets of shots to shutout zines/sites (via download) or even reduce the number of songs each photographer gets to see, as they do elsewhere in Europe, even employ multiple waves of photographers, to allow more individuals access, not just the "big boys/girls." Wins all around: bands, fans, organization.

Headlining, the venerable Brits capped the initial evening of the 3-day Tons Of Rock festival, in Oslo. In the Internet age, with cell phone video and posted setlists, much of the anticipation is gone, sort of like a blind date with the proverbial "sure thing": the night's outcome inevitable. I see what they're trying to do here, paced to mimic the rhythm of female libido, the set began with nice new costuming: nothing happening. Damn this foreplay stuff is tough! "Keep with it," says the devilish vision on my shoulder, "it will be worth it, in the end." Premature adulation, youngsters in the crowd spurt out the lyrics upon first setting eyes on the band, while old timers couldn't get it (collective voice) up, not just yet. Slow to get the blood flowing, with just one bona fide classic ("Revelations") in the first half dozen, but once shown a firm set of hits, the juices start to flow and a rise is noticeable from the crowd. Energy builds, from both partners in this grand dance (band/fans), sustained passion, working towards the ultimate act and just when you don't think it can get any better, "Bang," the old Maiden climaxes, then goes right back at it! The encore is happy ending #2, multiple orgasmic, if you will. A little light-headed, with a smile on the face and plenty of memories to re-live/re-tell, over and over again, everyone goes away happy. Not that it began that way... 

Regardless of one's opinion of Senjutsu, the title track is just not a rousing concert opener. In fact, apart from pagoda/hutong setting and the appearance of a 15+ foot Samurai Eddie (brandishing an oversize katana), it has to be the most pedestrian/laborious lead-off in Maiden's history. OK, it demonstrates Bruce Dickinson's voice (all the more impressive after throat cancer/surgery), but come on, the guy's known as "The Air Raid Siren," so his abilities are not, ahem, a revelation. After the initial 3-song set change, man-bun/top-not Dickinson is dressed in tatters, as he chews up the scenery for "Revelations". "The last 3 years have been shit. Tonight, it's over," he proclaims, prior to green lit "Blood Brothers". Janick Gers is content to play (stage left) against the overhead walkway/gangplank and amp racks. Military cadence snare, courtesy of Nicko McBrain, starts "Sign Of The Cross", as Dickinson reappears in full vampire cape. Flames shoot skyward. In a rare moment Dave Murray (guitar) and mainstay/founder Steve Harris are together, before Bruce sprints around the stage with a multiple headlight illuminated crucifix. Onstage fireworks ignite over their heads and Gers is more animated, perched atop the wedge monitor. For "Flight Of Icarus" the singer is armed with a flame thrower in each hand (temporarily presents a problem for his right/mic hand). As the song ends, Dickinson is double-fisting the bursts of flames, as the inflatable winged namesake comes crashing back to Earth.

The singer definitely enjoys the theatrical component, adorning a silver mask, top hat and swinging a green lantern (where's Kato?), he gets the audience to sing the titular chorus to 'Fear Of The Dark" without much coaxing. He singer-turned-puffy shirt-actor is on the second tier, behind bars, a noose swings around his head. Cue "Hallowed Be Thy Name", which see the trio of guitars and bassist standing four across the front of the stage. Janick vacating the onstage prop stone onwhich he was seated to join the rest of the boys. Flames galore, repeated jets for "Number Of The Beast" before the signature tune closes the proper set. But we all know they will be back, even leaving the stage at a festival. First up, "The Trooper", Dickinson again on the upper riser, waving an oversize Union Jack. Eddie reappears, and indulges in a sword fight with the singer (doesn't he know Dickinson is an Olympic caliber fencer? Well the behemoth has only a piece of mind!). Eventually Eddie is vanquished from a rifle blast out of the Norwegian flag (cue local cheers!). Harris begins "The Clansman" on a pole mounted acoustic. Another opportunity for the singer to engage in swordplay, wielding a cutlass as he tears across the stage. Gers and Murray alternate leads. Tonight, given the locale, struck by the irony, as the lyrics to "Run To The Hills" decry the European ancestors who were attempting to slaughter the indigenous people (in song). One last set change, for the second encore of "Aces High", one big sing-along, beginning-to-end.

Long day of sun, sounds and suds...can't wait for Day 2!

An almost cloudless sky didn't portent well for Friday's human lobsters, about to boil. Overall, each stage hosts approximately a half dozen bands, each day, between the hours of 1 PM and 11 PM. They try to avoid overlapping times, as well as potential stylistic conflicts: black metal opposite a more melodic choice (figuring the fanbases are mutually exclusive, which they're not, completely). As we've aged and especially after the last three years, the social aspect (meeting friends) has become a much more important part of the festival experience, as much as traipsing from stage to stage, trying to see as many bands as possible (vast majority of whom I've already had the pleasure of seeing). Any event of this scope also provides a chance to see/hear bands you either know nothing about (a bit of a gamble, but then, talking to people, they may recommend something, or pique interest otherwise) or have a pre-arranged opinion: just to confirm, or deny your perception.

Up first, D-A-D, the most dapperly dressed band of the weekend. Most notably, two-string plexi-glass bass player Stig Pedersen, head-to-toe in silver spandex. The drummer wore a pink zoot suit jacket (at least initially) and guitarist Jacob Binzer was resplendent in his usual top hat. "Risking It All" got things off to a raucous start, but it quickly went south. Have seen the band numerous times in Europe and on the 70K cruise (even witnessed an ‘80s label showcase/club date, in Cleveland, OH), but this was different. A lot of talking, extended solos and wasting time. For "Written In Water", Pedersen brought out the Red Baron bass, an Iron Cross body, with a model tri-plane on the headstock. Later, Jesper Binzer (yes, they're brothers) left the stage, venturing into the now vacant pit, simulating a phone conversation with the drummer, all in Danish (which apparently most Norwegians comprehend). A bluesy "I Won't Cut My Hair" led into an extended jam version of their classic "Sleeping My Day Away" and it was over, seven songs in 45 minutes.

Jinjer is not really a band I'd normally check out, but given their troubles getting out of Ukraine (and the ongoing war within), felt obliged to at least look in. There were many thousands cramming the tent near capacity, the ban's logo transformed into blue/yellow Ukrainian flag colors, and throughout, the stage lighting was almost exclusively the same hues. Tatiana Shmailyuk vacillates between a death metal growl and clean normal voice. At the last minute, Katatonia canceled (had nothing to do with playing in afternoon sunlight, as had previously seen the gloomy Swedes outdoors, at Tuska, in Finland) and in their place was Gaahls Wyrd. The band took to the stage first, then the former Gorgoroth singer slowly walks on, from behind. Looking like the bastard child of Marilyn Manson and the Iron Maiden Book Of Souls album artwork, The namesake frontman spent much of the initial two songs wandering side-to-side, checking out the monitor levels. Overall, they'd perform a sampling of tracks from various stops in his career. One thing that was noticeable, down front, were his jittering hands. Not sure if the shaking is due to nerves, substances, physical impairment, medication or what. Hope he's OK. Much of the black metal mysticism is lost on a sun drenched day. Little banter between songs, and what there was, was delivered (much like the early part of the set), in slow, measured tones, in the native tongue. Later, the intensity of the performance, as well Gaahl's shrieks and screams, was greatly enhanced. 

Whipsawing from one sub-genre to the next, it was time for Steel Panther, offering comedic innuendo lyrics and self-deprecating humor. First time seeing them with new bassist, but the mouthpiece was guitarist Satchel (aka Russ Parrish, formerly of Rob Halford's Fight), joshing back n’ forth with singer Michael Starr, although the proliferation of drug use comments, that have dominated past performances, were nowhere to be found/heard. They had a parade of female audience members onstage with them, including ballad "Weenie Ride" and a slew for "17 Girls In A Row", but the best part was when Satchel claimed to have learned the Norwegian national anthem, "as done by TNT." Cue a few bars of "10,000 Lovers In One". He then offered a Randy Rhoads impression, soaring into "Crazy Train", with Starr aping the Ozzy Osbourne mannerisms: smiling, open mouthed, and clapping along. Between the lyrics, he yells asides, like "Sharon?" and "I want a drink." Funny stuff. The rest is an over-the-top satire of the excesses of the Sunset Strip ‘80s lifestyle (most notably Motley Crüe) and the often lurid lyrics of that era: praying for females who are easy prey. Works but only in short spurts.

Accept are running like a well-oiled, three guitar machine these days. Opening with stomping "Zombie Apocalypse", Mark Tornillo (vocals) and longtime guitarist Wolf Hoffmann play off one another. Recent six-string recruit Philip Shouse is also active (and likes to mug for the crowd), while Uwe Lulis prefers to remain in the background. "Overnight Sensation" completes the Too Mean To Die portion of the set, as they've got a lot of vintage material that the fans (regardless of age/era) want to hear, beginning with "Restless & Wild". Hoffmann is stage left, flexing, making faces, pointing, as much to the audience, as well as the photographers, down front. Early on, while the cameras are still allowed, Accept make sure to work through all the possible combinations: Wolf & Mark, Wolf & Philip, the aforementioned trio, together, etc. It's a clap-along for "Princess Of The Dawn", fans singing the "oh, oh" chorus. The pre-recorded scratched vinyl of "Fast As A Shark", sees Tornillo enact the impacting scream (fittingly from the Scream stage, named for the iconic Edvard Munch painting and the long standing Norwegian metal mag of the same name). It's three guitars across the front, with synchronized stage moves, while some honest to goodness skyward fist thrusting takes place in the crowd. During the audience call-back ("oh oh") portion of "Metal Heart", drummer Chris Williams stands. "Teutonic Terror" (even though most live in either Nashville, or Florida these days) and, in a fit of irony, "Pandemic", commemorate the rebirth of the band, via Blood Of The Nations, before ending with "Ball To The Wall", a fan sung offering from start-to-finish. 

Speaking of "Metal Heart", a band who covered that tune, years ago, was the next must-see act, Dimmu Borgir. Odd, seeing them in full sunlight, but my photos of them have never been better! Perhaps that's why they began the day with hoods on (like vampires, afraid of the sunlight), but the cowls were removed after the first song (although later, temporarily reprised). They offered a career retrospective of their 25 years on Nuclear Blast (aka, the English lyric albums). And while there were a pair each off the last two albums, it was arranged in such a way that the set felt fresh and (if not slightly dangerous) at least intense, once again. The emphasis on pretense and atmosphere seemingly having given way to a return of the aggression. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. A coating of thick black smoke (not fog) that would put the Wicked Witch of the East's broomstick to shame, slowly uncoils across the stage, as the principles come forth. The signature tune kicks off: triumphant, vibrant. Next up is "Gateways", a duet between Shagrath and female rock singer Agnete Kjølsrud, made up to look like a corpse painted, two-horned Star Trek mugatu. It's the only such effort. By "Council Of Wolves And Snakes", there are cauldrons of fire. Prelude of what will come, as "Ætheric" commences with repeated skyward plumes of flame. Stunning visuals and one can briefly sense the same late 90s grandeur that they somehow failed to completely translate/capitalize on. Shaggy and Silenoz briefly share the same mic. A half dozen, multi-directional firestorms are hurled across the stage (at obtuse angles), to start "Vredesbyrd". CO2 canisters erupt, for bombastic "Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse", its sing-song (piped in) orchestral fanfare perhaps the most recognizable tune, for many of today's attendees. The final act was an old school "Mourning Palace", telltale keyboard notes to start, minus any sort of embellishments. Grand stuff, can't wait for another installment.

Only a few "snacks" remain, after that "main course," beginning with a different kind of darkness, Tribulation (who were in the tent): plenty of fog and low lights under a stained glass/church backdrop. Bring Me The Horizon are for a different generation. Pretentious little UK snot lecturing the crowd about mosh pits? Tear drops of laughter over here! Come on, the British scene was amongst the last to embrace (or produce a world class artist) in the new/more extreme style of metal (thrash/death/black). And what's with the two gyrating fly-girls on opposing sides of the stage? Lots of visual, video/gamer enhancement (even the Jumbotron screens altered the live images, with effects, something more akin to a promotion vid). Later, the dancers came out, in bio-hazard suits, with pressurized CO2 guns. Apart from the first rate video production, got the impression I was watching some high school battle of the bands contestant: in terms of the (lack of) stage presence, simplistic, open chord riffing, ability to judge/handle a crowd, etc. The one thing Oliver Sykes did well was to challenge the crowd surfers to visit him in the photo pit, during "Drown": not that security would agree with my assessment. The idea of a nearly a cappella/acoustic "Follow You" didn't do his voice any favors either. Soon after, at opposite ends of the field, Scream stage had The Darkness, with oily, slicked back hair Justin Hawkins (in tight blue shorts, sunglasses, no shirt and dress jacket) looking a bit like American film actor Matthew McConaughey, while the packed tent bulged, housing Sepultura (albeit without ailing Andreas Kisser). Hawkins was joined by the Panther's Michael Starr on the hit "I Believe In A Thing Called Love". In reality Korn was the evening's headliner, diverse audiences having differing opinions on the worth of that status.

OK, so the last day brought a somber mood (and not because of the impending finality). In light of the overnight mass shooting, downtown, an affront to all Norwegians, the LGBTQ+ pride, rainbow flags/clothing were out in force, in allied solidarity. There were several onstage recognitions of the tragedy, including a moment of silence (mid-show) from Wig Wam and words from Within Temptation's Sharon den Adel. The nation's police, who like Britain, are typically unarmed, were allowed to carry guns, following the shooting, including those meandering through the Tons Of Rock facility.

Nestor were not a band I was familiar with, let alone planning on watching, prior to arriving in Norway. However, as happens at these events, a few friends had seen an earlier show (Sweden Rock) and/or knew the history (formed in '89, released a couple of EPs, but by the mid-Nineties, families/life intervened, until '21, when they reconvened and created Kids In A Ghost Town, the long delayed, full-length debut), so it blipped on my Tons Of Rock radar. Have to say though, without the international success of like-minded countrymen Night Flight Orchestra, and their over-the-top 80s synth driven soundtracks, don't know if Nestor would have ever gotten back together. While there's a healthy dose of commercial Journey (even a little from the eponymous Toto album) in the studio renditions, there's a bit more umph onstage. It started promisingly enough, lead singer Tobias Gustavsson in shades, Miami Vice approved white leisure suit coat and puffy shirt. The rest of the band outfitted in what appeared to be cast-offs from the Scorpions' Tokyo Tapes photo shoot, apart from the slanted, Jiffy Pop hat keyboardist. The neon lights (sort of looking like 80s lasers), twirled around the stage, as "On The Run" (with its catchy "Call the police" chorus) pumped up the crowd. Danceable, Michael Sembello ("Maniac", from Flash Dance) meets Jan Hammer (Miami Vice) anthems for the title cut and "Stone Cold Eyes" follow-up. While made it through "Tomorrow", originally a piano ballad/duet with UK pin-up girl-turned-singer Samantha Fox, where female accompaniment was provided, although today, not by Fox, but had experienced enough. Ventured to the other end of the grassy field, populated by sunbathers and picnic tables full of folks drinking, and in various states of undress (as it was hot again), to check out a song or two by Kampfar.

Always remember 1349 at Hole In The Sky, 2006 (in Bergen, on the opposite Norwegian coast). Onstage, they set off some sort of phosphorous flares (in a small, indoor venue) that not only choked the audience, but required a pause in the concert, so that the room could be aired out! So today's tent stage should be a breeze...Archaon (guitar) and legendary drummer Frost walk out, each brandishing a lit torch, and proceed to blow twin fireballs across the photo pit, towards the crowd. Luckily, the residual propellant (which falls on us photogs and equipment) is sweet smelling, not medicinal, nor petrol based. Next time I'll be prepared for the shot and not dodging the flames! Stage is adorned with eight lit tiki torches, between the band and the drummer. Four firepits are also situated around the stage. "Incendiary," is a good word for the heavily corpse-painted band, fronted by Ravn, he of the bolts and metal shards embedded gauntlets. "Sculptor Of Flesh" (apropos after my near entanglement with fireball) opens. In near darkness, apart from blues, reds and a blitzkrieg of white strobes, the potent delivery of "Through Eyes Of Stone" and "Slaves" is chaotic and psychotic. Blasts of carbon dioxide cannons erupt across the stage. Beware.

At any given time, a third of the festival crowd is actively engaged with the band(s) onstage, another third pays polite, partial attention, and the remainder (give or take the actual percentages) doesn't like the particular act/genre, ignoring them in favor of socializing/drinking and/or laying/sunbathing/passed out in the grass. I was somewhere amongst that middle third, when Turbonegro hit the stage. Beer replenished, decided to see what all the fuss was about. Have heard the name (and seen the back patches on numerous denim jackets) for over two decades, but never really had the chance, nor inclination to check out this Norwegian institution. A visual spectacle, looking something like a glam band, after a particularly rough night out, drinking and fighting, the music is a similarly beautiful mess of punk, glam and hard rock. At the center of it all is potbelly heavily tattooed singer, Duke Of Nothing, in shorts and with a leather biker's cap. The bearded guitarist Rune Rebellion is in bib overalls, looking more an extra from the country TV show Hee Haw than anything European. Happy Tom is on bass, shirtless, under a denim vest, wearing a white, roll-up sailor's hat. The other guitarist, in silver ‘70s acetate bowling jacket and pink pants is the seemingly emaciated Knut 'Euroboy' Schreiner. Did I mention that each sports an overdone smudge of bright red lipstick? Wouldn't call it dapper, but in terms of "fashion" sense, the only act to rival D-A-D this weekend. The lyrics are straight forward, no veiled references here. Prior to the staccato "Hot For Nietzsche", the frontman is waving a LGBTQ+ flag aloft, on a 20 foot extension. Windmill guitarwork from Euroboy in "All My Friends Are Dead". For the bouncy "Special Education", check out this introductory monologue from the Duke: "How's your summer? I've seen your exam results. All morons. OK, I'm a moron too. Amongst friends." Not sure why, but plenty of flame cannons throughout. Just for showy effect, I guess. They end with "I Got Erection" which Behemoth famously covered on a well bootlegged '08 festival appearance. Extravaganza, in every sense of the word.

Within Temptation are accompanied by an active video wall behind them, on the main stage. "Our Solemn Hour" opener shows computer animation of bombs being dropped, from the plane's perspective. Only for the first song, den Adel, in strapless gold lame top and black skirt, wore a spiked tiara. Afterwards, she played the cheerleader, as flames and multiple plumes shot skyward on nearly every song. "In The Middle Of The Night" is a fan favorite, but during "Paradise (What About Us)" the singer runs between the trio of onstage metal risers and throws the horns. Sharon dedicates "Stand My Ground" to those effected by the shooting, the night before, claiming many gays consider it to be their anthem. It was short of goosebump moment, even for a 58 year old straight man from the USA. She'd deliver an impassioned "Shed My Skin" from the center stage pulpit. When she walked out with a Ukrainian flag, she said, "In two weeks we were supposed to play Kiev, but that's not happening now. Let's hope there will be more world peace, or at least in Ukraine." Although now seemingly vestige of another time, "Ice Queen" and the ubiquitous "Mother Earth" finale remain as glorious as ever.

Abbath will always be linked to Immortal, and at least for one night, in his homeland, he does nothing to dissuade the notion, In fact, offering three cuts from his old mates (alongside a single I contribution, "Warriors"), left just five of nine songs aired from his solo/Abbath days and 60% of those were from this year's Dread Weaver (the trio of video cuts). Looking fit, it was quickly obvious he was thrilled to be back onstage with a new crew of corpse-painted foils. Abbath was not as talkative as in the past, blowing through the material virtually uninterrupted, but when he did open his mouth, it was humorous, willing to laugh (even at himself and his past), talking about how festivals are better in winter, "Fuck the sun!" Old stuff received the best response, especially "One By One" and the glorious "Withstand The Fall Of Time" finale. Tongue waggling and even a few crab-walks, onstage and it the crowd. Now, let's get him back to North America.

Deep Purple entering to the Star Wars themed intro was appropriate,given it all started a long time ago, in a (musical) galaxy far away (from today's metal). The amazing careers and lineage of Paice, Glover, Gillan and Don Airey on keys separately, and together laid much of the foundation for what we call rock/metal, etc. Energetic "Highway Star" gets the crowd buzzing, but maybe it's too much, too soon as the rest of the show is starts and stops, with lengthy instrumentals and jams. "Pictures Of Home" is followed by "Uncommon Man", dedicated to late original/keyboardist Jon Lord, although it is essentially two songs in one, the initial an instrumental/guitar solo that allows the others to rest, and then the lyrical part (with recurrent regal keyboard fanfare), which sees Gillan on tambourine and features an Airey spotlight. The solo segues into "Lazy" (albeit with extended intro) the singer picking up the harmonica, on this one. Not sure the slow, bluesy "When A Blind Man Cries" is a festival type song, even if it is celebrating its 50th anniversary (older than probably 80% of the attendees). In an unscripted touch, the only drops of rain all weekend fall (briefly) during this emotional number. Airey really is the star of the show tonight, and as if the band too are aware of the fact, he's given a legitimate solo/spotlight, after "Blind Man". Knows where he is, tipping the cap to composer Edvard Grieg, witha snippet of "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" during the effects laden interlude. From here on, it's basically the hits; "Perfect Strangers", crowd sung "Space Truckin'" and "Smoke On The Water" finishing off the prop set. They'd come back for "Hush", Glover's bass solo (why?) and the bouncy keys on "Black Night".

Northern Music management's similarly depressive client, Opeth, was playing simultaneously, at the opposite end of the field, from Paradise Lost, in the tent. Prior to "Elusive Cure", Nick Holmes wryly comments on what surely was not a welcome situation (for neither band, nor Andy Farrow, manager on-site), "I can see Mikael there, singing. We're supposed to wave to each other. Guess we should have coordinated it better." Not the only ones... PL played the '95 masterpiece Draconian Times, sequentially, in its entirety. The band was partially visible, but even in the low lights, was obvious left-handed guitarist Gregor Mackintosh only has a few braided, snake-like strained of hair, that danced asymmetrically as he played. Stage opposite, for "Shadow Kings" Aaron Aedy headbangs, bent at the waist, threatening to bang his head and/or guitar on the floor in front of him."Yearn For Change" still reminds me of Big Country, a series of white lights repeatedly get more progressively focused on the drummer. Leaving the tent, attempted to stand on that hallowed land, where I could listen to both bands. Did hear more than a few death growls from Mr. Akerfeldt! What's up with that?

Last band of the festival? 5 Finger Death Punch. Ivan Moody walks on with a vintage hockey mask emblazoned with the Norwegian flag. Even though there have been some changes recently, only multi-strand bearded bassist Chris Kael looks the same as pre-pandemic. Mainstay guitarist/founder Zoltan Bathory was there, but his long braids were piled atop his head. "Wash It All Away" and "Jekyll & Hyde" are up early. The hip hop flavored "Sham Pain" sees 4 confetti cannons shower the audience with slips of green paper. The less said about their cover of "Bad Company" the better, but Paul Rodgers vs. Ivan Moody? No contest! Within "Gone Away" there's an a cappella, candlelight memory to those shot/killed last night. While the show would last a while longer, seemed like a fitting place to step away, "Wrong Side Of Heaven" playing as we exited the field.

Pre-sale tickets (with no announcement of the 2023 line-up) are already on sale. Keep updated on all the events surrounding next year at tonsofrock.no.

More Tons Of Rock coverage:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Featured Audio

EINHERJER – “West Coast Groove” (Napalm)

EINHERJER – “West Coast Groove” (Napalm)

Featured Video

THIRTEEN GOATS - "Return To Ruin"

THIRTEEN GOATS - "Return To Ruin"

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