The Midgardsblot Diaries started HERE.
When we left off, I mentioned that today would be a very special day indeed – and it was, for our very own Jimmy turned thirty. His first gift was a hearty hangover, one he put up quite an impressive fight against. Looking back, it seemed to take FOREVER to get to the festival’s opening time today. Maybe it was the hangover.
Maybe it was knowing we still had to drag our tired bones through three more days of walking. Maybe it was the fact we took a little music break to go look at a museum. Either way, we eventually made our way to the hallowed festival grounds once more, but I do want to talk a little bit about the history of Borre as we saw it at said museum first.
THE MIDGARDVIKINGSENTER – SMALL BUT MIGHTY
As it turns out, the perfect antidote to a hangover is a museum tour. With the Midgard vikingsenter just fifteen minutes from the campsite, we found ourselves listening to a knowledgeable, entertaining guide who gave us a very personal and informative tour of the museum’s exhibits. These were primarily composed of genuine archaeological finds as you can see below, concluding with some rather spectacular reconstructions at the end.
The Vikingsenter is an absolutely beautiful venue. It has a relaxed yet respectful atmosphere, everything is clearly displayed, and the building itself is a work of art. Combine this with the spectacular Gildehall (which is smack in the middle of the festival site during Midgardsblot) and the Saga Oseberg just fifteen minutes down the coast, and you have a trio of time machines, ready and able to transport you back to the distant past.
Opening the main stage today was local metal outfit Vargvrede. It was easy to tell this band held a special place in the community’s hearts, as there were a couple of very young fans and their families soaking up the performance on a fiercely sunny day. Despite the smaller crowd, the band put everything they had into the show and took time especially to shout out the kids proudly wearing their shirts.
Their energy was impressive, especially considering the size of the crowd, and that was probably the most memorable part of the set. They went from generic metal riffs to some genuinely inspired sound and back again, which made it hard to distinguish between tracks as someone unfamiliar with the band.
And now for something completely different – we headed for our first taste of what has been dubiously entitled the ‘Nordic folk’ genre with Voluspa in the Gildehall. The Gildehall itself is a fantastic venue, adorned with authentic woodcarvings and an atmosphere that matched some of the incredible buildings at one of my favourite places in the UK – Butser Ancient Farm. The Gildehall played host to many of the festival’s more intimate sets and the Night Halls – unique rave-type events that closed each night after the headliner finished.
Unfortunately, we were both too old to stay up for these, but for an hour we sipped beers and listened to Voluspa deliver an enchanting performance. They describe themselves as folk-rock with Viking influences, and that’s a pretty good summary. This was such a welcome change of pace from the crowded, sun-drenched stages so far. I wish we’d spent more time checking out the Gildehall, because I suspect there were plenty of hidden gems nestled beneath that shady, smoky roof.
If not for the audio equipment and men wandering around with massive cameras, we could well have been back in time.
After Voluspa, we found our way to the Grimfrost stand, where holmgangs (Viking duels) were taking place. At first, these were staged between two very experienced fighters, and though the duels ended quickly, they were definitely a sight to behold. Afterwards, these fights opened up to the public (sadly not on both sides, otherwise I would have had a decent go at Jimmy).
Probably the best part of the Grimfrost Holmgang was seeing another little kid get armoured up and have a crack at an absolutely towering opponent. The kid won, and I’m not entirely sure they let them – Norwegian kids are metal as hell.
After watching people smack each other with blunted swords for half an hour, it was time for more metal. Next up on the Kaupangr stage was the mighty IOTUNN, and if you haven’t listened to this band yet, you really need to. It’s a fusion of aggressive metal, sci-fi themes and big, sweeping riffs, all fronted by Jón Aldará’s absolutely remarkable vocals.
Aldará’s voice, especially live, is nothing short of majestic. He is capable of projecting clean vocals like nothing you’ve ever heard, before descending effortlessly into coarse growls and snarls that provide the perfect counterpoint to the band’s lofty cosmic themes. We actually only discovered IOTUNN thanks to their addition to the lineup, and they’re still a band I listen to pretty much every day.
If you’re familiar with the band Gloryhammer, IOTUNN is basically a heavy, gravitational evolution of that. If all the band members got super into DMT and stared at pictures of galaxies. Seeing The Tower of Cosmic Nihility performed live was absolutely a Midgardsblot highlight, and I would love to see them again.
Headling today were the titanic Enslaved – hailing from Norway itself, founded all the way back in 1991 (making them exactly as old as me). Enslaved have travelled through so many different sounds and genres before arriving at their sixteenth studio album, Heimdal – which is an almighty fusion of their black metal/Viking influences with some incomprehensibly vast prog rock. Heimdal, naturally, took centre stage for this performance – the band even unveiled a statue of the god at the festival grounds – but they covered a prodigious amount of ground throughout the show.
This was easily one of the best shows Midgardsblot hosted this year. Enslaved just have such an incredible, weighty presence, and as they powered through tracks like Congelia, Forest Dweller and The Dead Stare, the crowd was bathed in the sheer power of the band. Title track Heimdal and Allfǫðr Oðinn from their first 1993 EP closed out the set back-to-back, contrasting new and old in a way that was just so very Midgardsblot. From the beginning to the end, we were all enslaved by that performance – if only for an hour.
Midgardsblot day 2 overall thoughts
This, for me, was one of the festival’s best days. For a festival that may seem a little on the smaller side (compared to some of the big UK names, at least) it offers an incredible amount of variety and a simply stunning backdrop for big bands. No matter where you’re standing, it feels intimate, with the main stage cradled by trees and lighting flaring up in defiance of the encroaching night.
I was blown away by IOTUNN and Enslaved. Those are two bands I will absolutely need to see again at the earliest opportunity.
We shuffled back to camp in the dark and considered – for a moment – spending some time by the bonfire. Unfortunately by this point, the evening celebrations had expanded considerably, and it was no longer possible to get anywhere close to the fire itself. We enjoyed a few more drinks with our camp friends, another ridiculously overloaded baked potato, and retreated to our tents for the night. Tomorrow was going to be a very, very big day.