Tons of Rock, Oslo Norway – June 27-29
Tons of Rock started back in 2014 with bands such as Volbeat, Anthrax, Slayer and Ghost as headliners. Back then the festival was in an old fortress called “Fredriksten Festning” located in Halden, Norway. A lot of history went down in this place, a lot of people died and the scenery is amazing. It was the perfect fit for a metal festival.
However, the festival moved to Ekeberg, Oslo this year. It will now be much easier for festival-goers and artists to get to the festival (including me, it took me an hour to get there). Ekeberg is “the top of Oslo” and you get to see the whole city from there. While still being in the capital, it feels like you are miles deep in a forest. There’s a lot of nature surrounding the festival grounds.
As I approached the festival grounds from the forest trail I could hear heavy guitar riffs from the soundcheck, loud voices from the camp-area and the sound of birds, sheep and horses. I looked forward to seeing how Tons of Rock looked in Ekeberg. A big ferris wheel caught my attention as I exited the woods. It is very common for European festivals today to have a ferris wheel and Tons had one as well (more on that later).
The first thing I did when entering the gates was to take a stroll to have a look at all the things: lots of different food shops, bars and clothing stores. Neseblod had their own tent where you could buy merch, CDs and vinyls. Quick history for those who don’t know; Neseblod is now located where Helvete used to be. Helvete was the infamous black metal shop owned by Euronymous of Mayhem. There is a lot of history in this place and it is still visited by people from all over the world. Helvete was shut down in 1993, but Neseblod took over the location in August of 2013.
Now it is time for the first band of this years festival to hit the stage and it is the Norwegian stoner rock band Black Debbath.
Black Debbath opened this years festival. It is not their first time playing Tons of Rock, but their sixth. It’s become a tradition – they even made a tribute song to the festival called “Tons of Rock”. They play stoner rock with hilarious lyrics about Norwegian politics. Between almost every song there is some kind of stand-up going on, making it more of a comedy-band with rock music as a backdrop. It was the perfect way to start the festival.
I had some time to kill so I went in to the Scream Stage to take a look at While She Sleeps. They killed it – one of their guitarists hurt his knee a few days before the festival, but every member of the band was jumping all over and the crowd was in a constant circle pit. Fun!
While walking to the Vampire Stage to see Heave Blood and Die, I checked out some of Behemoth’s stuff and they really slayed it. They played on the main stage in the sun and it was quite strange, but they delivered 100 % and it was fire all over the place.
Going into the Vampire Stage I could hear heavy guitars and alien synth, Heave Blood and Die had just started. They are very young and play some kind of heavy doom metal. A bit of sound issues in the beginning, but after a few songs it all sounded great. I have never been a big fan of doom, but these guys played very well and I was quite impressed – they kicked ass.
Right after it was time for Amaranthe. The tent was full of people. Melodic metal music is very popular amongst the Nordic crowds, especially the Tons of Rock crowd. A voice could be heard from the speakers followed by a very techno-ish eurobeat. The band then entered the stage and I was surprised to see that they had three vocalist – one growler and two clean singers, a man and a woman. I am a big fan of melo-metal, but this sound is a better fit for Eurovision. The crowd seemed very pleased, however, and they did put up one hell of a show.
All in all they played great, but it was not my cup of milk. I had to leave in the middle of the set because the Norwegian rock band Djerv was gonna play. I looked forward to the show because I’ve been a fan ever since I first saw them live back in 2011 at the Norway Rock festival in Kvinesdal. It took a very long time for them to get on because of some technical issues (seems like the Vampire Stage was the home of technical problems this festival).
Agnete Kjølsrud entered the stage finally. She looked like her hairdresser had a lot of work to do that day – her hair was shaped like the horns of Satan. Anyways, they are always tight and they put up a great show. What sucked was that there were still some technical problems, but the band did everything to please the audience.
After Djerv I could finally take some time to gather my notes and do some writing in the sun. It was all very poetic – I was sitting on the grass in the press area eating Godt & Blandet while drinking coffee. I was interrupted by the sounds of drunk people and the sounds of bagpipes from afar – Dropkick Murphys was playing the main stage. These guys know how to party and they played their asses off.
At 19:00 the sun is still shining bright and people are smiling. An air balloon can be spotted in the sky. It must be great to see the festival from up there. It all feels wonderful, this is the perfect time to go watch the next band – Satyricon.
20 years ago they released an album that got a top score from Norway’s most read newspaper, VG – only a few years after they wrote about black metal being connected to Satanism, murder and church burnings. Much had changed, in 2000 black metal was more commercially accepted and this album took the genre to new heights. That is 20 years ago and they will perform “Rebel Extravaganza” in its entirety in front of thousands of happy, smiling people on this years most beautiful day.
Torches were lit, the lights went out and Satyricon came in. They started with the song Tied in Bronze Chains followed by the rest of the album. I had a great time watching this, as this band was one of the first bands I started listening to when my taste in music went from A1, Backstreet Boys and A-HA to more extreme metal.
After they finished playing Rebel Extragavanza they pleased their fans with the more friendly song Phoenix – with Sivert Høyem joining in on the vocals. After this it was time for one of my favorite songs of all time, a song I used to listen to when I burned bibles back in elementary school, K.I.N.G. It was one of my favorite concerts this year, everything was great and the sound was massive. Satyricon truly are the kings.
The next band up is also a Norwegian band that has its roots in black metal, Ulver. They are something special, they evolve a lot with each album. Their first three albums (known as the black metal trilogy) was, surprise, black metal. After this they started playing around with electronics and all that shit. They even have pop-albums.
This evening they played a lot of the new stuff, but it was very magical. It is hard to describe their sound, but imagine seeing SlipKnot without their masks playing softer and looking less like murderers. I did not get to see all of Ulver because of Satyricon taking up much of my time, but from what I heard they did a great job and the fans were pleased.
The first day is now soon ending, but first Kiss has to play some songs and shoot fire. I have actually never seen Kiss before so it was cool to get the chance. I watched until the drum solo started and then I packed my bags. I walked out of the festival grounds, through a forest, walked past a couple of fields and through a neighborhood, climbed down a rocky path and as I walked out to the streets Kiss were still playing that damn drum solo.
Day two is as warm as a burning stave church, people looked like a hangover as I walked through the festival grounds. Mongolian folk music can be heard from The Hü. Today will bring lots of different genres – we have the British metalcore giants Bury Tomorrow, but also the super black metal band Mayhem. The first band I will check out is the Swedish band Hällas – they will bring that old school rock, a very good fit for this weather.
Hällas entered out of a time traveling machine, looking like they were from the 80s. They played old skööl rock that was really fucking great. Imagine if Black Sabbath and early Iron Maiden had a baby and that baby had a baby with Jethro Tull. One ugly baby that would be, but it would sound great. It was very mesmerizing, their music took us all to another dimension. I really hope to see these guys again real soon.
Conception also made their return at tons of rocks main stage. They are quite unknown to me personally, but by the looks of many I can see that they are very popular. The vocalist is dressed blacker than every single member of Behemoth combined and that must suck in this heat. Melodic metal on a main stage this early does not seem to work. The crowd is still very exhausted after last nights drum solo by Kiss. Even though the crowd does not seem to be “in it”, the sound is great and they did put up a very good show. It will be interesting to see what they will do next.
It is closing in on 30°C as I sit on the grass drinking a cup of coffee – a great choice for a drink in this weather. As I chug the rest of the coffee I hear Tesseract playing. I checked out their set as I had some time to kill and they really surprised me. This is a band that must be checked out by everyone.
Vreid is a blackened death metal band from Norway. They are extremely tight and their sound is much more modern than other bands in this genre. It is a very refreshing feeling to see this band play and I was hooked right away. Funfact: their bass player Jarle Kvåle is actually the guy that books all the bands for this festival.
The heat is now literally killing me. My plan was to bring my PC to write with after each concert, but I said “I will not bring it”. So I am using ink and it almost catches fire on my paper as I write. Another thing that I know for sure can be set on fire is a church and that brings us to our next band, Mayhem.
Mayhem played in a dark tent and it was absolutely packed. I have seen Mayhem lots of times the past ten years, in fact when I was born I got a cartridge belt, corpse paint and a ticket to the next Mayhem-gig. I am no stranger to this band and I looked forward to seeing them in this weather. I like a lot of black metal, but I have never really liked the music as much as I like the history and the vibes. This night Mayhem turned a beautiful sunny day into the darkest night – it was evil and loud. Although they do not really dress up as much as before, they still look evil on the stage and scare most of the people at their show. The only negative thing was that I did not see any butchered pig heads on the stage this time.
It was time for a break with a glass of water and some coffee, Bury Tomorrow and Slayer. Slayer played their last show in Norway this evening and ended it all with a very good show.
Raga Rockers plays rock and has done so a long time. They are concidered one of the “greatest rock bands” in Norway. For me they are more of a cozy band I listen to when the first snow falls in the winter, not a band I see performing live during the summer. I did take a look and there were a lot of old people standing around enjoying the show and thinking back to their youths.
Last band of the night is Volbeat. I have a love/hate/love-relationship with this band and I can’t seem to argue why I hate them, nor why I love them. This night they played some new songs that sounded fresh and a bit more “punk” than rockabilly, which for me is a really positive thing. They also played all their classics and the crowd seemed very happy and drunk.
I took another route to the festival on day three. I heard Black Viper on the other side of the forest so I knew I had to speed up. As I was running I met a bunch of lambs (all alive, Mayhem did not sacrifice them all yesterday. Last black metal joke, I promise). Reaching the grounds I could see a lot of sun burnt people trying to force beers down their own and other throats – it was the last day of this festival and the news were telling us that it would be the hottest day of the year. Black Viper were still playing and I got to see their last song. A heavy metal band from Norway, lots of Judas Priest-vibes. They really rocked their socks off and it gave me a lot of energy to see them performing with so much power.
Circus Maximus were also playing at the same time, but I only managed to see the last part of their set. A very dreamy set with hard-hitting riffs, lots of people banging their heads. This is a band that has been popular in Norway for a long time and it was strange to see them this early, but they did not care. A lot of people showed up and everyone seemed to enjoy it – myself included.
I ran over to the press area to get some coffee before I went to see the Norwegian death metal band Obliteration. They play a really great style of old school death metal and they do it well. This was one of those moments when I found myself banging my head uncontrollably while trying to take notes about how great they are. All in all it was probably one of the best gigs this festival, but they should have played much later. Hopefully they will play in a club in the near future so I can get the real feeling.
Next up is The Dogs. Fronted by Kristopher Schau, a mad man known from bands such as The Cumshots and Mongo Ninja, but also from podcasts, TV-shows and whatever. He is a great idol of mine and I admire this guy a lot. It was cool to see them play on the main stage, although it was quite early people were forced to mosh as Schau told them to. Their songs are catchy, but also dark and with often very sad lyrics. They are becoming very big very fast and they deserve all of this – seeing them this day they proved themselves as the next big band in Norway.
Now it was time to get some water and watch Dream Theater. I had to leave in the middle of their first song to see Kalmah. There were not a lot of people in the tent to see them, but that was a huge mistake. This band played a lot of great songs in a great way. I can compare them to Children of Bodom, but I don’t really want to because they do play their own style and it is all very unique to me. I felt like a knight on a horse riding my way into battle.
After Kalmah were done playing I went back to the main stage and Dream Theater were still playing their first song. I took a break to write some, eat some and drink water. The weather was completely off the charts this day.
Next up are the Norwegian punks Oslo Ess. This time the vampire stage had no issues with the sound, but it seemed like the entire festival tried to watch the band. It was almost impossible to get a look at the band playing, but I could hear it and it sounded really good. They clearly get a lot of inspiration from Bad Religion and/or other punk bands from that era, but they put their own little twist to it. Each year they sell out Rockefeller, one of Oslo’s most known venues. These guys will only get bigger and greater and I look forward to seeing them next time.
The last band for me this festival was gonna be one of my all time favorite bands. In Flames has played a huge part in my taste in music and I used to live and die by the words “In flames we trust”. I have always liked the “old” In Flames more than the new, but I am one of the few who actually liked everything up to A Sense of Purpose. After this they started playing a type of music I did not really like and I was sad to see my favorite band going down this path. They have also added a keyboard player and a new bass player since I last saw them.
I was hoping they were gonna play at least six or seven songs from their old catalouge, but I was wrong. Oh boy was I wrong. They started the whole set with Voices from their newest record and continued with another new song before they blasted into Pinball Map from the album Clayman. This was really cool, but personally I would have preferred another classic from the same album.
The entire show was mostly new songs from their two latest records and I was sitting in the grass crying. It was hard to write on my paper as my tears made the paper all wet. If I try to look past my own ego I must admit that it was a great show, the sound and lightening was over the top and they really gave it all this night. In the end they only played four songs of their old albums, but I have to admit that it was one of the best shows of this festival.
Many festivals in Europe got lots of different activities. Tons of rock tries the same thing, but fails in doing so. The many different booths look cheap and way too colorful. By doing this it all feels schizophrenic. You know the “Claw machine”? Tongs got them. 38 of them. Rumor has it that approximately zero people won this year.
There is nothing wrong with a ferris wheel, merry go-round and so on, but it feels out of place because of the colors. Paint it black, some band from the UK once said. If you want a circus in your metal festival, go all the way – you don’t wear a suit jacket and a Hawaii-shirt to a funeral.
However – Tons does something very right. The stages look evil and very well done. In my opinion the area is an upgrade from Fredriksten Festning. Norway got Inferno Metal Festival, but when Norway Rock failed (they have just started up again) we had no big metal festival during the summer. Tons will be that festival. Just remove the claw machines, put in a tiny stage for underground bands. We need to let new bands shine.