Katie’s review of this year’s Tons of Rock is, like the festival itself, massive – so we’re splitting it into three bite-size chunks. Even then, they’re still bite-size to a large, scary Viking. Here’s the first serving, covering June 22nd at Fredrikstern Fortress, Halden, Norway.
At ridiculous-o’clock in the morning on Thursday I headed to the airport to catch my flight to Norway for Tons of Rock festival. The festival takes place in the Fredriksten Fortress in Halden, just a hour or so on the train from Oslo. This was my third year at the festival, having attended the previous two years as part of a photography workshop. It is a fantastic festival set within the walls of the historic fortress which sits up above the quaint town. The line-up is always a brilliant mix of Scandinavian metal and big name international acts. It has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and I always feel very welcome and have an awesome time!
After collecting my passes and dumping my laptop in the press room I headed straight to the main stage – Fort West – to catch Marky Ramone. The only surviving member of The Ramones, the iconic rock drummer and his band played a set of mainly Ramones songs that was well-received by the early arrivals in the crowd. Sadly I didn’t manage to get any pictures of the man himself as the stage was very high and I am quite small and equipped with just a 24-70mm lens (short photographers at festivals know the struggle).
I then headed over to the tent stage for Bölzer who had filled the large blue tent with the smell of burning incense. The Swiss three-piece played their black/death metal set to a good sized crowd, most of whom were already enjoying their first or second pint of BORG (a snip at just 86 Krone…).
After Bölzer it was back to the main stage for Eluveitie‘s folk metal extravaganza, featuring a harp, mandolin, tin whistle, bodhràn and hurdy-gurdy (yes that is a real thing – “a stringed instrument that produces sound by a hand crank-turned rosined wheel rubbing against the strings”). The Swiss outfit claim to “fuse Gothenburg styled melodic death metal with ancient folk melodies and themes”, and they certainly produced a multi-layered, multi-instrumental metal performance that was something I had not seen before.
The next band I went to see were Entombed A.D. – formed in 2014 following the break-up of the original Entombed as a result of the departure of guitarist Alex Hellid. Arguably one of the pioneers of the Swedish death metal scene, Entombed A.D. continue the legacy that the original band began.
A slight change of musical genre next as I headed to the main stage for TNT; a Norwegian hard-rock band founded in 1982. The band didn’t show their age as they strutted around the stage with the energy of someone half their age.
Up next on the tent stage were Swedish doom metallers Candlemass from Sweden. Like TNT, Candlemass were also celebrating thirty years of music. Mats Levén (a longtime friend of the band) is now the permanent vocalist and did some great poses – which makes life exciting for photographers!
I then trekked up the cobbled path to the Huth Stage for Myrkur. The Danish multi-instrumentalist caught my attention after popping up on a “things you might be interested in based on things we know you are interested in” post on social media and I was intrigued. Her live performance was just as I had expected; white smoke softly blew onto the stage as she floated onto the stage in a flowing beige gown and positioned herself at the wooden mic stand – all very ethereal and beautiful. The first song was very soft and showcased the amazing range of sounds Myrkur is able to make with her voice. The second song was quite different and I was a bit taken-aback when screaming growl vocals came out of such someone who had just been making very delicate and beautiful sounds…but it worked! Her performance was really engaging and different from anything I had seen before. [Note: Myrkur has just been announced as support for Sólstafir’s UK / European tour later this year].
Headlining the main stage was Rob Zombie who, for me, was the absolute stand-out performance of the day. I had seen photographs of Rob Zombie’s live performances on music photographer sites and always thought he had a great look, but somehow his music had passed me by. From the moment the band played the first chords I instantly loved the dirty, heavy bass and drums. Stand-out track for me was “…Get High”, but they played an absolutely belting set, which featured inflatable aliens and huge multi-coloured balls being passed around the crowd. When photographing a festival with many stages and bands it is hard to find the time to watch an artist’s whole set, but I managed to catch almost all of Rob Zombie’s set, accompanied by a gloriously cold pint of cold locally-brewed craft lager and watched the sun set on the first day of the festival.
However my work for the day was not yet done and I headed to the tent stage for one final band of the night; Black Debbath. Black Debbath have played at Tons of Rock every single year since its inception in 2014. Every year they are dressed in some ridiculously-entertaining outfit and this year was no exception. To a roar from the heavily-intoxicated late-night crowd, the four men stepped onto the stage wearing leopard-skin fluffy dressing-gowns…which on a couple of occasions threatened to reveal whatever was underneath due to some poorly (or intentionally) placed fans. They are always a delight to photograph and their political humour-rock went down tremendously with the crowd. My poor understanding of the Norwegian language meant that I missed the majority of the jokes, but there did seem to be one song about a tea-towel – which adds a little explanation to the photograph in the gallery!
All photos by Katie Frost Photography