Published Mar 04, 2009Norway - the land of church burnings, charred black metal, the Turbjugend of Turbonegro and the saccharine pop of Annie right? Well sort of. This year's By:Larm festival hoped to blow the cover off of their best-kept musical secrets and with the discoveries you are able to make over the three-day festival it should be only a matter of time until Norway's finest are no longer on the q.t. With over 500 bands gracing the 37 stages the eclectic programming is guaranteed to appeal to any stripe of music fan, be it the black metal of Iskald or the panoramic pop of Le Corbeau.
Almost all of the clubs hang off Oslo's main drag Karl Johans Gate, which made running from show to show a cinch, with friendly locals only too glad to help navigate you towards Norway's most unsung bands. Clubs like Revolver, Sub Scene, John Dee, Last Train, Funhouse and others were comfy small capacity rooms but despite their minimal size managed to feature crystal clear sound and modest but effective lighting systems that would easily make similar North American haunts blush.
The one thing you need to know if you plan on making the trek next year is that Oslo unfortunately bears the title as being the most expensive city in the world and the general rule of thumb is that you will pay roughly twice as much for food, drink etc as you would in most North American cities but when the bands are this good the pain of paying seven dollars for that cup of filtered coffee won't hurt that much.
Now the highlights. Although he is not Norwegian, Peter Brotzman and his Chicago Tentet did manage to squeeze in a three-day stint over By:Larm festival and was nothing short of stunning. His trademark iron lung blast sent shivers and was the perfect first act to catch. The small 200 capacity seated theatre Nasjonal Jazzscene guaranteed nobody came out with their hearing fully intact.
Having already recorded with Billy Anderson (Melvins, Sleep) and Steve Albini you kind of knew what you were getting into with Arabrot (pictured), but this three piece took Unsane's blueprint of teeth clenching noise rock and actually amped it up to the point of liquefying the fillings in your chompers.
Having shed their black metal roots Haust rolled up their sleeves and delivered a great set of damaged hardcore that had more to do with Arab on Radar than corpse paint.
A three-guitar onslaught with their Chuck Taylors proudly stepping on the monitors. probably helped expose Kvelertak's love of new wave of British heavy metal but it was the anthemic Turbronegro-esque choruses all served up with punk rock attitude that really made them stand out.
Who let the Swedes in? With Brotzman starting off the festival with a bang this last show of By:Larm provided the perfect bookend. Having worshipped their 2007 record The Alchemy bell bottomed sludge slingers Witchcraft did not disappoint in the live setting. Hitting all of the proto metal touchstones they were easily my faves of the fest with a set that blew over an hour before putting the festival to bed with a cover of Pentagram's "When The Screams Come" - perfect!