The Midgardsblot Diaries started HERE.
Well, here we are. This festival had been something we’d anticipated for so long, and now we stood at the final day. Our excitement for Midgardsblot reached back for almost two years, and even now the festival’s legacy has continued as a labour of love with this series of articles. It was surreal. As if the weather itself was in line with our change of mood, the heavens were set to open later in the day, promising a deluge of rain we were unsure our tents were sturdy enough to deal with.
So it was, at this point, we finally gave up on Camp Utgard. Our Norwegian friends had left, having seen all they wanted to see, and it was just me and Jimmy really not relishing the idea of breaking down wet tents in the morning rush. We retreated to the nearby RS Noatun, an extremely cool hotel that promised a hearty pancake buffet in the morning. Say no more.
MIDGARDSBLOT: CAMP UTGARD
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t blown away by Camp Utgard. It’s quite a cramped site, although efforts are made to ensure tents are fairly spaced out. The campsite’s smaller size makes life loud even in the “quiet zone”, which is a bit of a pointless statement when there’s drumming on the beach at full volume into the wee hours. Maybe this is just a personal preference thing, but I go camping to be closer to nature, and you can’t really achieve that here.
The famous beach bonfires are very cool, but as the festival builds momentum and more people arrive, it becomes a bit more difficult to get involved if you haven’t already been initiated into the festival’s various tribes of regulars. Maybe that’s just my good ol’ fashioned English awkwardness, though. I do feel as though we would have gotten more out of the camp experience if we’d put more into it.
If you want to party and drink all night surrounded by trees, Camp Utgard is probably the place to go. But if – like me – you like a good night’s sleep after your beer, food and music, you probably want to consider alternative accommodation. Luckily there’s plenty around.
ESCAPE FROM UTGARD (AND A DETOUR TO TONSBERG)
With heavy hearts and heavier hangovers, we broke down camp and packed up Jimmy’s Volvo, saying goodbye to the lovely mead-making friends we’d made not far from our tents. We’d actually already passed the RS Noatun when we took the Saga Oseberg tour, and I didn’t even realise it was a hotel. Our room was in a new-ish building that seemed to be made of shipping containers, but it was comfortable, clean and most importantly, dry.
After a couple of much-needed showers, shaves, and other such ablutions we decided a little break from festival life was in order, and found a couple of internet strangers who successfully lured us into their car (big thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Nakedsheep). We headed to nearby Tonsberg for a meal and a very quick taste of Norwegian city life. I actually preferred Tonsberg to Oslo, although we ended up spending much less time there.
This was also a great opportunity to stock back up on the Smash chocolate bars I’d been mainlining into my veins all week, and our new (well, kind of new) friends sent us on our way with a bag full of quality Norwegian beers as a parting gift.
TIL VALHALLA – OUR LAST NIGHT AT MIDGARDSBLOT
Back to the hotel, and those quality Norwegian beers went down very quickly. By now the rain was here in full force, but we refused to let our spirits be dampened. Mainly because we stayed safe and dry in a hotel room loading up on snacks and booze before we headed to the festival for one last show.
I’ll be totally honest, today was all about My Dying Bride – I was intensely anticipating seeing my countrymen take to the main stage and close out the festival tonight. As a result (and thanks in no small part to the intense rain) we did not pay a huge amount of attention to the other bands. We took a seat by Brage’s Corner – a new addition to the festival, a small space for artists and poets to perform – and took in the ambience of the Gildehall one last time over a few more beers.
This felt like a real finale. We bumped into some of the cool people we’d met throughout the festival one last time, and shared conversation with complete strangers. In a way, it felt like the rain was a sign of the end. It washed away the dust and heat, huddled people together, and brought a cool end to what ended up being a scorcher of a week.
MY DYING BRIDE
Holy shit, this was an amazing set. My Dying Bride lived up to expectations and then some, delivering, for me, the best set of the weekend. Their monolithic, misery-laced brand of metal was a welcome refreshment after three heavy days (I’m still a little goth teenager at heart). The band is known for epic, doom-laden drawls, telling stories straight out of gothic fiction with songs that oscillate from slow melancholy to an almost pained level of aggression and emotion. They were potentially a little held back by the size of their slot at Midgardsblot, but they made the absolute best of it.
The set definitely catered more to the heavier side of the band’s catalogue – Catherine Black and She Is The Dark were both mysterious, churning beasts on stage, each song seeming to draw frontman Aaron Stainthorpe deeper and deeper into a mad, despaired trance. His presence on stage is commendable – he physically embodies the band’s sound perfectly, and he almost seems to live the pain of the stories they tell.
The band finished with Turn Loose The Swans, a ten-minute-long poetic epic that rang out through the hills and woods of Borre with an umbral intensity. I will never forget that show, and I don’t think there could have been a better setting for it than Midgardsblot.
THE SPIRITUAL SIDE
Part of me came to Midgardsblot looking for something deeper. This is probably why Camp Utgard ended up being a little disappointing for me. I was looking for a tribe and some sort of spiritual connection to the land we were all standing on. I wanted to feel closer to the Nordic story world that had fascinated me for so long, and I think I was looking for a sense of belonging there.
I didn’t find it. But that’s not to say that Midgardsblot gave me nothing spiritually. I would love to return to that sacred space in another year or two to enjoy the special, intimate feeling the festival curates so carefully. But this isn’t the place to talk about my spirituality (so I’ll go into more detail about that elsewhere).
MIDGARDSBLOT 2023 OVERALL THOUGHTS
It seemed like after Midgardsblot‘s 2022 instalment – which saw an absolutely stacked lineup headlined by the likes of Wardruna and Heilung – many people were disappointed with 2023’s lineup. Those people were insane. This year’s festival brought a carefully designed mix of musical genres, activities and craftspeople together to entertain, mystify, educate and inspire.
With a range of music, and historical and spiritual elements as diverse as the international crowd the festival pulls every year, this was an incredibly unique experience I felt very fortunate to be invited to. You can experience life in another time. You can watch some amazing bands. You can bathe in a cool fjord after a hard day’s rocking. You can hippy rave until the wee hours, or you can just go eat delicious, overloaded baked potatoes on the beach.
The Midgardsblot festival site is clean, safe and friendly. Kids are allowed to go free as long as the festival hasn’t sold out, and it was great to see people of so many nations and cultures coming together just to have a good time. It’s the chillest festival with the heaviest music. If that sounds like your vibe, consider making Midgardsblot your next festival. I honestly do not think there is another festival quite like this. It’s heavy metal Glastonbury (but it hasn’t sold out to the man).
You can find all the entries of our Midgardsblot diaries in our Lifestyle and General section. Or you can just use our search feature and search “Midgardsblot” to find our previous four entries. If you went yourself, let us know how you got on, and what you did or didn’t like, and feel free to share your images too. We’d love to see what others got up to at Midgardsblot.