Månegarm Open Air 2019
Report and photos by Serena Solomon & Sophie Roy
We had the pleasure of participating in the very first edition of Månegarm Open Air in Norrtälje, the hometown of the Swedish trio. This year seven bands were on stage : Mercury X, Wormwood, Grimner, Ereb Altor, Fejd, Thyrfing and of course, Månegarm.
The simplicity of the festival was welcome. One stage, seven bands, enough time between bands to breathe. Off a small street, in a small town, the entire festival was “cozy” to say the least. The outdoor stage was situated in the yard of an industrial museum, which you had to walk through (though gated off from the things on display) to get to the merch area, which also housed the signing sessions, a second bar and the accoustic set on the first night. The main stage area had benches and two choices of food and drink. For a first time festival, I think it was perfect. I hope it expands with time.
DAY 1 – Friday, August 23rd
The first day was reserved for the 150 people holding a VIP ticket for the acoustic show that took place on Friday night inside the Pythagoras Industrial Museum.
Guitars, percussion and some candles on the stage, the atmosphere was warm. We were ready to dive into the folk side of Månegarm. The band has already played some acoustic shows before, especially at Thorhammerfest (Brazil) in August 2018 but this one was surely the longest set they’ve played live.
The presence of Ellinor Videfors (who sings on several albums) was a nice surprise but we already had the pleasure of hearing her at the 20th anniversary of Månegarm on December 5th, 2015 in Stockholm.
Don’t believe that the evening was calm because if the festival started smoothly, the atmosphere was great! However, the second day was more « rock’n’roll ».
The show was divided into two sets :
Set 1 : Himmelsfursten / Hemkomst / Döden / Blot / Delling / Allfader.
Set 2 : Utfärd / Eld (with Grimner) / Raadh / Dödskvädet / Bärsärkarna från svitjod / Vigverk del II / Mother earth, father thunder (Bathory cover) / Segervisa.
DAY 2 – Saturday, August 24th
If the bands were 100% Swedish, the fans came from all over the world, with no less than 35 nationalities represented (Japanese, Mexican, French, Italian, American …)
The festivities began with Mercury X, featuring Martin B. who has accompanied Månegarm on guitar and violin for several years. It was a good opportunity to discover them live as well as give a listen to their album “Between Worlds“. Mercury X was a bit of the oddball of the festival, the other bands all brought at least abit of folk, pagan, black or all three sounds to the stage, while Mercury X was more traditional metal, some might say melodic or progressive. Either way, their performance was memorable and its definite they gained new fans opening the festival.
By the next band, the courtyard of the Pythagoras Museum was full. The atmosphere changed with Wormwood, which was surely one of the most anticipated bands of the festival. They got a warm welcome from the crowd chanting their name as they came on stage (which only happened for one or two other bands during the day). It was obvious many in attendance were there to see Wormwoood. Had they been booked for the festival after their new album released, I’m sure they would have been given a later, and longer set. Darker than the previous album, their newly released album “Nattarvet” kept its promises. If Månegarm returned to its Black Metal origins, we could almost imagine a similar album ; Therefore it was the perfect opportunity to see these two bands on the same stage. Although they had some technical difficulties in the beginning of their set, they made up for it in the energy and passion they exuded on stage. Specifically in the second half of the show, where it seemed they had all become fully engulfed in their music and really let go. It was such an amazing experience to also hear the entire crowd singing along to one of their older songs “Tidh Ok Ödhe“, and seeing how into the music the crowd was as well. It was also almost intoxicating to hear a few of the new songs live for the first time, specially the chilling guitar solos and intense vocals that resonated through your bones. They were supposed to end the set with the first single off their new album “The Isolationist” but unfortunately had to end sooner due to the time constraints. The 11+ minute song had to be traded for a shorter one off their previous album. It would have been really special to see “The Isolationist” live, specially in that atmosphere, but instead they played one of the best songs off the previous album “Beneath Ravens and Bones”, so it was a win in our experience anyway. Hopefully another chance to see them play “The Isolationist” and the rest of the album again comes soon, the show left us wanting more!
Now the mood moved on to a lighter atmosphere with the Folk Metal band Grimner. If we found a common point between all the bands bands, it would probably be… Månegarm. In addition to borrowing Martin B. and Tobias R. from Mercury X and Wormwood, we can hear Erik G. as a guest on some of Grimner’s titles. I admit to being a little disappointed that he didn’t join them on stage for a duet on “Fafnersbane” but they are excused because they were very busy with the preparation of this fabulous festival ! Grimner was the somewhat comic relief of the festival. Their upbeat music and stage presence and interaction with the crowd along with their garb and stage gear brought the pure folkiness we may have been missing with the first few bands. They brought a welcome lightness to the festival that was place well between possibly the two darkest acts of the day.
Ereb Altor was next. No surprise there since they’ve been seen on many of the same tours and festivals as Månegarm, including “Niflheim Festival” in 2014, “North Winds Over Europe” in 2016 and “Härnad i Norden” last year. The quartet tells us Nordic mythology in its own way by sailing between Black Metal and Doom. With two new songs released, the performance definitely left us looking forward to the release of their next album in September 2019, “Järtecken“. Ereb Altor brought the mood down once again, probably even farther in to the depths than Wormwood, but it was a beauiful darkness. Again, the atmosphere was chilling and the band really seemed to get into the music as well as interact with the audience. Their setlist consisted of a well balanced mix and nothing left for wanting. Except maybe seeing them again just to experience the live performance once more. This band is definitely a live band, though their albums are amazing, you cannot get all that there is to get out of their music from the recorded versions versus the live performance.
And once again, the mood is lifted with even more traditional Folk music with Fejd. Not only did they rival Grimner with their pure folk aesthetic, they brought the more exotic looking folk instruments out. It was a good surprise to see them, because we don’t hear too much about them. The Rimmerfors brothers have been associated with the band Pathos for almost 20 years with no less than 4 albums to their credit (and 3 EPs). The fairly recent addition of electric guitar brings something new and it’s good on the ears! Though Grimner also brought the folk vibes, Fejd really got the people dancing. Though the crowd was smaller than Wormwood and Ereb Altor, they were the most energetic!
As the sun set, the Vikings of Thyrfing took the stage. They’re also rarely touring outside of Sweden and Germany, so many foreign fans came all the way to this small town to see them. You could tell how anticipated the crowd was for this band, since only now the venue got a bit clausterphobic as the crowd tightened and it became difficult to move. Dawning warpaints, « black » vocals and catchy guitars, the atmosphere was at its peak. For the faint of heart, it’s better not to hang out in the pit! The dancing from Fejd turned into intense moshing during Thyrfing. The band was at full throttle the entire set and the audience didn’t let up either. They definitely got the crowd amped up for the grand finale.
And finally, the stars of the festival, Månegarm ! After a 24 year career, they can be proud that this first edition of Månegarm Open Air was sold out and very successful.
The setlist was a perfect mix of new and old, consisting of songs from their latest album, “Fornaldarsagor” but also some songs from “Dödsfärd“, “Månegarm“, “Legions of the North” and “Vredens Tid“. And as usual, the show ended with the title “Hemfärd“. With the sun finally set, and the stage fully lit, the small town, first ever Månegarm Open Air felt like it had doubled in size. Maybe there were actually more people, or maybe it was the anticipation and epic mood of the entire festival finally getting to the thing we had all been waiting for, either way the vibe was tangible and everyone in the venue could feel it. You could also tell everyone in the band was feeling it too, by the way they played, by their interaction with the crowd and each other, and by the expression on their faces. It was an incredibly special gig and moment to witness and be a part of.
Setlist : Blodörn / Krakes sista strid / Vedergällningens Tid / Hervors arv / Ett sista farväl / Fimbultrollet / Fiolskränet (violon solo) / I evig tid / Sveablotet / Hordes of Hel / Odin owns ye all / Hemfärd.
Månegarm Open Air closed with special thanks to the festival crew and fans. Two intense days full of emotions and unforgettable moments. If you were unable to be here, join us next year ! Stay tuned !