Great atmosphere, great audience, great festival...

Three men dressed in black spandex, decorated with studs and sporting the make-up of unhappy clowns are going through the motions on a stage that overlooks a fjord. In front of them, audience members who were probably not even alive when the band formed show their appreciation as the sun’s rays catch a wall of dried ice.

Clash is witnessing Norwegian black metal statesmen Immortal, founded in 1990 and living up to their name. They’re Norway’s version of a ‘heritage’ act and make for a pleasant change to many of the Madchester bands recently resurrected to cash in on the British festival circuit.

But Immortal struggle to live up to the brilliance of local band Shining, whose weird time signatures, obnoxious sax interludes and tight musicianship makes them one of the highlights of Slottsfjell’s three days. 

The festival’s bookers like to mix it up, and its relatively intimate size – 12,000 punters, a short walk between stages – is to its benefit. The line-up involves a musical alchemy that manages to combine some of the best talent in Norway with unusual veterans and a healthy dose of newcomers.

This festival is not so much about individual tastes, more about the opportunity to experience a diverse bill with the best audience in Norway. Unlike the Oslo hipsters, the Tønsberg crowds know how to show their appreciation, and rather than hanging out in the camping area guzzling moonshine like their northern brethren, these people are committed to checking out the full musical offering.

At times their enthusiasm seems misplaced – the sing-along stadium plod of Imagine Dragons or the pedestrian Swedish singer-songwriter The Tallest Man On Earth spring to mind. But more often, pleasant surprises are discovered. Truls, a portly former metaller turned falsetto pop singer, wins over the mainly female audience, coming on like the revived spirit of Barry White.

In the mosh pit for Kvelertak, Clash realises just how diverse this crowd is. Looking up after something grazes our heads, we see a 16-year-old girl crowd-surfing, sober. No RnB pish pumping out of her phone – she’s one beside the typical array of tattooed guitar fiends.

At this year’s Slottsfjell, it is overwhelmingly the Norwegians who provide the highlights, with the showmanship of Kaizers Orchestra, the warmth of rap duo Carpe Diem and the festival’s closing set by Susanna Sundfør adding to the great performances by Kvelertak, Shining and Truls.

From an outsider’s perspective, they look and sound better than many of the British buzz acts, such as Alt-J, Daughter and Dan Croll, who are rather unexciting and frequently look like their mothers dress them.

Nevertheless, fellow Brits Hot Chip deliver a performance befitting of the seasoned festival veterans they have become, lifting the atmosphere and bringing joy to the day. Add to this an impressive headline show by Scottish rock gods Biffy Clyro, who have been around almost as long as Immortal, and you have the makings of another great Slottsfjell.

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Words: Olaf Furniss

Photos: Jannica Honey

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