In early springtime, in the dark, I left Paris and its shiny bridges to return to the lights of Reykjavik’s foggy bay. Here, everything rises again and again and turns into an improbable truth. Follow me on this journey to Reykjavík and forget everything you thought you knew about it.
REYKJAVÍK METALFEST – ORGANISATION TEAM
It’s nice weather today, perfect for thanking the organisation team: Gísli Sigmundsson, Aðalsteinn Magnússon, Unnar Sigurðsson, Ingólfur Ólafsson (in Europe at the time of the festival, managing the Devine Defilement Tour), Nansý Guðmundsdóttir, Steingrímur Óskarsson and Gerður Sif.
The last three gatherings of Reykjavík Deathfest didn’t smash the will of the team that rebuilt a new concept this year—Reykjavík Metalfest—which is stronger and smarter and aspires to expose the masses to extreme metal.
The organisers all have a firm hand, gloved in velvet. These determined, indestructible souls made their dream come true for the Reykjavik music scene with the support and financing from the City of Reykjavík and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. It cannot be forgotten that the French Embassy in Iceland and the Alliance Française of Reykjavík also supported Svart Crown and Benighted.
WEDNESDAY MAY 15thREYKJAVIK METALFEST: THE DESIRE TO COMMUNICATE THROUGH MUSIC
This unusual festival starts tonight at Bíó Paradís with a projection of the mythic movie Lords of Chaos. It’s the perfect occasion to get to know new friends and reconnect with old ones before having a drink together downtown.
THURSDAY MAY 16th
HUBRIS – ALMYRKVI – FORGARÐUR HELVÍTIS – POTENTIAM
The end of the day is the accurate time to go for a Reykjavik metal music walk with Arnar Eggert, who is a musical journalist and lecturer at the University of Iceland and who has a PhD in musicology.
Everything is now ready for the show to start, the doors at Gaukurinn are opened, and the stairs lift you to a place of Heaven and Hell. I always step inside each year with a smile on my face, because I never know what is going to happen or what kind of memories I’m going to fly back home with.
Quite a few people are already here for tonight’s special dedication to Icelandic nostalgic moments, including famous bands like Potentiam, formed 20 years ago.
Hubris (black metal, formed in 2007), performing with Auðn members, will showcase Aðalsteinn Magnússon playing in his own fields. The legendary Potentiam is fervently awaited, and the band plays with some members of Kontinuum: Birgir Thorgeirsson, Engilbert Hauksson, Kristján Einarsson, Einar Eldur and Thorberg Guðmundsson. Almyrkvi (atmospheric black metal, formed in 2013) plays with members of Sinmara. Forgarður Helvítis (black grind metal, formed in 1991) performs with members of Múspell and Beneath. Tonight’s revival crescendos with Potentiam as they play the music from their famous album Bálsýn from 1999. The magic of this majestic black metal masterpiece is still a monument 20 years later!
FRIDAY MAY 17th
PSYCLOSARIN – ANDAVALD – BENEATH – HAMFERÐ – BENIGHTED – DEMILICH – SINMARA
In theory, we should have risen up from yesterday… but… not really. The marathon continues with the alchemy of a new full day of metal. We witness Psyclosarin (USA), Andavald (black metal, formed in 2017) and the remarkably cathartic and hypnotic collective work of Beneath (death metal, formed in 2007). Gísli Sigmundsson, one of our hosts and the first singer of the band, surprises us tonight by performing with his old bandmates from Hamferð (FO). Benighted (FR) creates a real blast for its first gig in Iceland, and the crowd is totally unleashed. Since the opening days of Gaukurinn, nobody has seen such a wild mosh pit. Frontman Julien Truchan does his job with obvious pleasure. Demililch (FI), who previously split into multiple groups, finally reunites tonight. Sinmara (black metal, formed in 2013) performs with members of Svartidauði and Almyrkvi.
SATURDAY MAY 18th
HEIFT – DAMIM – WHOREDOM RIFE – SVART – CROWN – SVARTIDAUÐI – NAPALM DEATH – AUÐN
This ultimate evening spreads into the atmosphere, making it even more electric. The following bands give the best of themselves: Heift (metal, formed in 2018), Damim (UK), Whoredom Rife (NO), Svart Crown (FR) and Svartidauði (black metal, formed in 2002). But our ultimate wish is granted as the English fellows of Napalm Death deliver some heavy decibels. The crowd is on fire, and, as French expression says, Reykjavík ‘will pick its teeth up off the floor’. At the same time, in front of the most violent band on earth, I see on my right a well made-up girl elegantly taking care of a lemon slice in her cocktail while on my left, a tall bearded guy is seriously looking at the stage like nothing more important could be happening in his life. Gaukurinn, the place of contrasts, I love you. Last but not least, the Icelandic black metal band Auðn, again with our host Aðalsteinn Magnússon on the guitar, ends this amazing festival fever.
SUNDAY MAY 19th
Some of us have already left, but the last stop occurs at the cinema Bíó Paradís, where the documentary Slave to the Grind is screened in the presence of Napalm Death’s Shane Enbury, who takes some time to answer our questions.
REYKJAVIK METALFEST SIDES PROJECTS: THE DESIRE TO SHARE WITH YOU
Communication time was a hot spot during this gathering. ÚTÓN/Iceland Music organised a great meeting and later hosted a special and very interesting press conference open to everyone. One of the panel moderators, Gunnar Sauermann, also the Press Officer of the Wacken open air, tried to understand how to grow the audience for this music in today’s world. In one room of the richly historic Icelandic cultural centre Iðnó, many music industry professionals, musicians and managers interacted with Kjerti Espe, head of marketing and PR at Indie Recordings, Henriette Aaberg, production manager at the Inferno Music festival and Tomas Fiala, booking manager of Brutal Assault.
The making of was the topic of the second panel discussion about the goals and strategies in today’s music business in Iceland and abroad. The discussion included Bryndís Jónatansdóttir, project manager at Iceland Music, María Rut Reynisdóttir, project manager of Reykjavík Music City and Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, music journalist, PhD in musicology and lecturer at the University of Iceland.
EATING IN GAUKURINN – VEGANAES, BECAUSE BEER IS NOT ENOUGH!
Veganæs, the famous vegan restaurant run by Linnea Hellström and Krummi Björgvinsson, has been open now for a year inside Gaukurinn. Chef Linnea continues to astonish hungry folks with her succulent dishes, some of which are now classics but far from becoming old. Linnea’s imagination is responsible for creating new audacious dishes, making Veganæs a mandatory stop while in the capital city!
At the dawn of this third and crazy day, after all the feelings I’d been through, I needed to walk in the quiet streets to cool down a bit. I went straight to the shore to listen to the waves under the fresh, drizzling rain. No biting cold, just the still silence and whispering wind.
I hope that more people will come from abroad in the future to share in this authentic event with more Icelanders. I wish I could keep the secret of this festival for myself, but we all need to spread the word about the music we support and the new bands to come, even for the quest of our children’s life. Here in Iceland—and anywhere else, for that matter—everything can come true. Here, every single band is amazing. Here, only the sky is the limit.
Words by Emmanuelle Neveu