By the time day three of Tons of Rock had rolled around, I had actually realised the benefits of waking up in a bed. Throwing back some whisky and an extravegant, traditional Norwegian breakfast of bread and cheese, we were ready to join the masses.
Starting the day with Norwegian progressive folk rockers, Tusmørke, after seeing their live show a few years ago, the lacking of spectators was disappointing. There is so much to look at and listen to at a Tusmørke performance. From the wizard who plays intricate flute lines throughout the set to topless frontman, Benediktator with his Monty Python-esque, complete with feathered collar and bowl haircut. The drummer has some slo-mo drum stick yoga action going on in the air and the crowd is actually dancing, which is nice for so early on in the day. Their songs are whymsical and layered with Norwegian history, yet still elude comedic value for most. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the flute melody of EkebergKongen and singing along with the chorus as they didn’t play this made me put my dancing shoes on and get ready for the day, and beer!
Next up was another surprise act, from Germany, the two piece madness that is Mantar. On Drums and backup vocals is Erinc and Hanno on vocals and guitar. Despite having no bass player, together, this unlikely couple create a barricade of sound that you would expect to hear come out of a much bigger band. The stage is set so they are facing each other and not the crowd, perhaps this is why they are so enveloped in what they are creating and as the viewer, you can’t keep your eyes off the stage. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what genre they fall into, its harsh, blackened with elements of punk and death. Hanno lurches over the microphone, in a dirty backwards cap, the veins in his neck protrude as they display their music in it’s raw form. This is art. Hanno speaks to us, “We chose to play early so we can drink more. Now join us and let’s have a horrible afternoon.” They left us with Era Borealis before Erinc falls deflated over the drum kit and Hanno smashes the microphone down to play the last part of the song on his knees. A first for me seeing them, but it wont be the last.
Soulfly had clearly started, as the notable voice of none other than Max Cavalera bounced off the fortress walls, “Norway can you hear me?” His microphone stand is wrapped in bullets, camo guitar is strapped tight and his matted dreadlocks smash into his face as he headbangs, this is the Max we know and love. True gritt and tribal glory as they bash out Prophecy, Max demands a circle pit and the herd is jumping up and down like a bunch of mountain goats. There are guys in their pyjamas dancing with banana’s and even He-Man is in there doing push ups in the middle of the circle pit. It’s mental, everyone has gone Back To The Primative. Before they start Eye For An Eye, Max starts a chant that you could still hear everyone singing on the train back to Oslo, “Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Soulfy, Soulfly!”
Now with a belly full of smuggled in Scottish Whisky (Sorry Norway), I was pumped and excited for what myself and a lot of others had been waiting for since the first day. It was time for occult rockers, Coven to awaken our intuitive senses. After hooded members unleash her out of a smoke covered coffin, Jinx Dawson reigned supreme over Tons of Rock and her pull is magnetic. As the Black Mass begins, her wicked cackle roars, red lights beam off her diamond covered mask and gloves. She has brought with her, her new members of the coven, on lead guitar we have Chris Wild, on bass CVon Owens, Wade Parish on drums and Alex Kercheval on keys. “Much to popular belief, I didn’t die 40 years ago,” Jinx wails as she floats around the stage in mystical black garments. Transporting us back to 1969, they treat us with much from the highly underrated Witchcraft Destroys Minds And Reaps Souls Album, including Black Sabbath and Coven in Charing Cross. Although Jinx’s vocals are frightening, her seductive undertones could lure you into the darkest of pits hell by free will. After they perform, Wicked Woman , Jinx screams, “You’re all gonna go to Hell Motherfuckers! Meet. Me. There!” The crowd response was exceptional, wide eyes all around and I felt lucky enough to be seeing them for a second time, in this lifetime. Wrapping up with Blood On The Snow it was great to see Coven reanimated in such an entrancing way and for us to worship Jinx in the way that she always deserved. She thew the devil horns right at us and we threw them right back, they were hers to begin with, after all.
And now for something completely different and for Pumpkins to be united! German power metal founders Helloween struck the main stage to show us how it was done in the 80’s. United with original vocalists Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen for an extensive world tour, you could tell they were all ecstatic to be back on the stage together. The monumental drumkit setup is surrounded by an inflatable pumpkin crown and the visuals for this show were very well planned out, they went all out for this one. The backdrop screen is full of pumpkins, cartoons characters of the band and at one point one of the members even takes a fly swat and swats a cartoon fly on the screen, very entertaining. The vocalists sing songs intermittently performing everything from Halloween to Keeper Of The Seven Keys while constantly surprising the crowd with onstage antics. There were many moments of synchronised guitar solos, it was cheesy as hell and that’s why we love them. They even threw in the tune of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s- In The Hall Of The Mountain King to show their affection to Norway. By the time they came out for an encore of Future World and I Want Out, you had no idea where to feast your eyes. Helloween then unleashed dozens of giant, orange Pumpkin balloons onto the crowd, it was a mix of chaos and bedlam as people both tried to scramble for the balloons and watch the band. The balloons added a tremendous atmosphere to the sky with the fortress barrier as the backdrop and even at 3 am you could see people walking back to their tents struggling to hold onto their prized balloon.
For the final act to the main stage for this year it was well deserved to be Norwegian’s Kvelertak, who’s catchy riffs and irresistible songlines, brought everyone out to the front for one last time. They are a party metal band, everything they play makes you want to party forever and crowdsurf until you die. A topless Erland Hjelvik roams around the stage singing with absolute conviction, the band are committed to putting on a display to write home about every single time. Their audience go nuts when the beginning of Ulvetid starts, Tons Of Rock belt out a communal “KVELERTAK!” Flames shoot out from everywhere possible, fireworks spray the crowd and Erland is down the front many times screaming lyrics into the faces of his fans. Their finale for the evening was indeed Kvelertak and they released every last bit from the pyro kit. Erland lands back on stage with his colossal flag, waving it back and forth across his people before finishing on top of the crowd, still managing to sing and hold such a massive flag pole. They certainly went out with a bang and were beyond a doubt one of the best acts of the festival.
To draw the festival to a close for a fifth year in a row, were Norwegian, short-short wearing, motorbike riding, comedic metal act, Black Debbath. Their music is self-proclaimed ‘heavily, politically incorrect humour-rock’ and they have everyone at the fest ready and waiting to see what they come out with this year. On stage fans blow their hair like Beyonce and there is half a motorbike as a microphone stand. They sing songs about why it’s important to change a tea towel in your kitchen regularly and songs about their dislike for naked statues in the nature parks of Oslo. The real fun starts in the comedic interludes where they talk super fast in Norwegian and this year they jumbled up the names of bands playing this year to sound like insect names, except when they got to W.A.S.P and Soulfly, which resulted in a pit of laughter. I guess it’s not only one of those ‘had to be there’ things, but a ‘must understand Norwegian’ thing as well.
Another year at Tons of Rock was over, as we packed our bags and rolled back down the mountain. Of course the sun was shining now because it knew the festival was over, but it wouldn’t be a festival if it didn’t rain right? If you get the chance and the savings to take a trip next summer to Norway, to this incredible festival, just outside the capital, I can highly recommend it. Not only is it held in a picturesque location, but its small enough that you can always make your way to the front of the stage and large enough for you to see such big name acts.
Until next time Norway, “Skål!” Oh and don’t forget to use a clean tea towel for God’s sake!