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Show Recap

1349 and GATE TO KHAOS Live In Norway Review

See the full photo gallery from this show.

Last April presented an extraordinary opportunity to cover two 1349/Gate to Khaos shows in Western Norway in two cites I’d never before visited – Bergen, and Stavanger.

Never one to turn down an opportunity to go wherever the music wishes to take me, (especially if it’s a place I’ve never been before) I packed my camera gear, and my trusty photographer’s assistant, Rachel, and headed to the cold, damp, rainy, but extraordinarily beautiful western coast of Norge.

The first thing that struck me about Bergen, (our first stop) was the breathtaking view of the terrain from the air. Normally, I’m far too sedated on Benzos and wine to ever glance out of an airplane window (and way too afraid of flying to ever be on a plane while conscious, period) but I somehow overrode the sedating effects of Xanax and Cabernet Sauvignon to take a gander at this extraordinary wonder. I’d like to be able to say I took a picture, but sadly, this isn’t the case. The fact that I was even able to open an eye is miraculous in itself.

The astounding view that I am now extraordinarily grateful l that I was able to witness, was far more miraculous than even that, though.

A vast wonderland of pristine waterways and jutting green mountains stretched out as far as the eye could observe. Some of the higher peaks were still dusted with snow. It was that quintessential moment of awe when you realize that there are some gifts that planet earth bestows upon us that possess such purity, and such majesty, you really cannot describe them, much less look upon them, and not feel completely overwhelmed.

Whether or not a photo would have even done this justice, I can’t be sure, but I promise, there will be one next time. And, I promise there WILL be a next time. Bergen, count on it, before you know it, I WILL be back in you.

Upon arriving at the small, friendly airport with the name that never ceases to make me chuckle, “Flesland”, I started to make an immediate beeline for the exit after collecting my bag. I could not WAIT to inhale that glorious air, and feel that cool, damp rain.

Norwegian customs had other plans for me, though, and of course, as fate would have it and Murphy’s Law invariably dictates, I am the one person that RANDOMLY got stopped by an overbearing customs officer who immediately jumped in front of me and began rapidly speaking at me in Norsk. My “Pimsleur Language Lessons” did not adequately prepare me for this, and I stood staring stupidly at her and finally said, “Beklager?” (Sorry?)

She quickly switched to English, and said “How long are you staying in Bergen?” A simple enough question – for someone who isn’t gorked out on anti-anxiolytics. I tried to search my brain for the answer, and she promptly demanded “You don’t have a return ticket?!”

I chuckled a bit, internally, for two reasons:

One, the officer could tell right away, that of all the people getting off that plane, I was the one bit of riffraff Bergen did NOT want permanently befouling their immaculate, verdant landscape.

Two, it must have been obvious how much I never wanted to leave.

Eventually, the matter was ironed out, and I was graciously allowed to hit the streets.

I was stunned by the brisk, icy chill in the air, and the whipping wind, and being one of the most extremely cold intolerant persons on planet earth, it’s a wonder I fell in love with Bergen at first glacial breath…but I did.

Fortunately, Rachel and I arrived in town a day early, before the work began, to take in some local culture and sights, visit a nearby pub or two, and grab a meal. We made mental notes of all the things we wanted to see and do when we came back again, which we vowed would be in less than one year’s time if it killed us.

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The following evening we headed toward Hulen, a former air/raid bomb shelter, located in Bergen’s city center. Hulen is literally an underground cave which was transformed in 1969 into one of the coolest venues I have seen in all my years of attending club shows. Staffed and run by students, many on a volunteer basis, it is kept alive and open by the hard work and effort of local youth and supporters, despite apparently having been threatened by bankruptcy in the past. Way to go, local grassroots music supporters! I tip my hat to you.

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We arrived early enough to be able to watch soundcheck and stock the dressing room fridge with some potent microbrews WE thought should be on the rider. Rejecting anything with an alcohol content less than 8%, we made it our mission to be sure that this would be a show completely devoid of anything that either came in a can, would willingly be consumed by a hipster with swoopy hair, an ironic mustache, and/or a trucker hat, OR could easily be seen through, period. We also managed to find some extraordinary wines and the requisite massive bottle of Jager. You have to be sure that when the work is done, you have the suitable provisions with which to properly unwind.

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It was nice to note that not only do the staff at Hulen bust their collective asses to keep the scene alive, they also provide delicious food for the bands, much of which they prepare themselves. Cupcakes with toothpick impaled licorice warriors atop them, and delicious french pressed coffee were in abundance. Right on the table next to the lighting fluid and torches used by Archaon and Frost to illuminate the stage, sat an dazzling, fresh, and delicious Caprese Salad that could have easily been featured on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine. Classy!

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I was also thrilled beyond description that two very cool and unwaveringly supportive 1349 fans from Japan whom I had met on 1349’s tour of the UK last October were in attendance as well. We all remembered each other on sight. They brought some of the most delicious chocolates, which were custom made with 1349 wrappers. The window dressing wasn’t all that ruled, though. The chocolate itself was top notch also.

This is the textbook reason why I have always felt 100% at home in “The Metal Family” more so than anywhere else, or with anyone else. It may not be terribly “kvlt” to say so, but this kind of worldwide hospitality and camaraderie warms the cockles of the blackest of hearts. No scene is without its issues or bad apples, but overall, the metal community is a damn good one, which I’m both pleased and proud to have been a part of for so many years.

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Providing direct support for 1349 were Gate To Khaos. Formed in 2008, and also hailing from Norway, they’re a band that I had never seen live before, and what a pleasantly heavy surprise they were. Possessing a discordant and chaotic black metal core, and elements of melodic/death thrown into the mix, they succeeded in kicking things off with a fiendish and sadistic bang.

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In addition to their ferocious sound, rather atypical of most black metal bands, they dressed in white rather than black, and utilized a great deal of blood and red lighting which lent the entire set a ghastly and beautifully unsettling appearance akin to a Michael Hussar painting. Aesthetically captivating appearance aside, once they began playing, they were punishingly heavy and relentless.

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It was then that the amazing atmosphere of metal bands playing in an underground cave/bomb shelter really took on a whole new meaning. With the vehement crowd, the theatrical lighting, and the subterranean darkness, plus that earthy, dank smell that can only come from being underground, it was the perfect environment for such a show.

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By the time 1349 appeared, the place was overflowing with unbridled, lawless energy, and the crowd fully threw themselves into the somewhat brief but blistering 12 song set. Opening up with “Manifest” from their 2003 offering, “Liberation”, they offered a juicy smorgasbord of material old and new, including two of my personal favorite bits of ear candy, “Nathicana” and “Riders of the Apocalypse” – performed back to back no less! They closed out with the brutally satisfying “Atomic Chapel”, and I couldn’t have made the set list any better if I’d created it myself…except I’d have made it a whole lot longer.

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The evening was a smashing success and concluded nicely with a sampling of some of the finest beer and wine selections Norway (and duty free at Frankfurt Am Main!) had to offer.

I remember little, if anything, about the flight to Stavanger the next morning, but I do know we got there.

Another scenic and ruggedly beautiful city on Norway’s western coast, Stavanger was a little warmer and sunnier than Bergen, though not by any significant margin, if I can recall. And…I really can’t. It was that kind of weekend.

The venue the show would be taking place at, “Folken” was more of a traditional theater type venue, boasting a large stage, and fantastic lighting (should the bands choose to use it.) :) While perhaps not as historically interesting as Hulen, the selling point about a venue such as this is that the performers have far more room in which to play, and the overall sound and sight quality enjoyed by the audience really gives them their money’s worth. It was interesting and rewarding to see the same two bands perform in such drastically different environments two nights in a row, and how they “worked the rooms” so to speak. I wouldn’t say either show was “better” than the other, they were just different, and both great. Carpathian Forest’s Vrangsinn also came out to the Stavanger show, which was pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

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Fortunately, some of the liquid provisions that we did not manage to consume in Bergen made it to the Stavanger show, where they were enjoyed by all.
Overall, Gate To Khaos/1349 in Western Norway was a memorable experience not only for the killer music, but the amazing scenery and geography, and the remarkable people who all worked together to make these shows such a success, and a good time altogether. Humble thanks to every one of you.

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Special thanks to Rachel Strickland, 1349 and crew, Gate to Khaos, Yngvild Kristensen, Suzanne Selvfölgelig, and everyone at Bergen and Folken.

See the full photo gallery from this show.

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Shout out to photographer Rae Chatten.