You probably reckon you know about all the best metal festivals but you’ve almost certainly never heard of Eistnaflug. No, that wasn’t a sneeze. Vasilis Panagiotopoulos travelled to the east of Iceland to witness the eighth installment of this awesome festival.
Neskaupstaður is a small town built on the fringes of an isolated fjord that lies 700km from Reykjavík. Steep mountains, endless green valleys, persistent fog and inhospitable seashores complete the imposing Icelandic scenery. The 24-hour daylight adds to the location’s mesmerising wilderness. Such an unconventional and extreme destination is home to a fittingly extreme event: Eistnaflug – Iceland’s prime heavy rock and metal festival.
Eistnaflug started out in 2005 like as a friends’ gathering with a line up of 11 bands and was attended by merely 100 people. Festival organiser Stefán Magnússon remembers: “It all started when my family and I moved to Neskaupstaður in 2004. We noticed that there were no metal events – and nothing else for that matter – happening on the eastern coast of Iceland. So then I called my friends in local bands like Sólstafir, Innvortis and Momentum and decided to organise something here.” How did the name come up? Magnússon explains: “It’s basically a joke. There is another festival taking place in the area called Neistaflug, meaning Icelandic for flying sparks. I cunningly flipped the letters around calling it Eistnaflug, which translates into ‘flying balls’!”
In the years to come Eistnaflug grew steadily. Former lineups have included big names such as the likes of Napalm Death, Tyrant and Triptykon. Nowadays it has become a much bigger affair attracting more than 1,500 fans of heavy rock and metal from all over Iceland and boasting a lineup of over 40 acts.
Many of the Icelandic bands play regularly, underlining the very strong community feeling within the local metal community. Guitarist in alternative rockers Hellvar, Elvar Geir Sævarsson observed: “I like playing Eistnaflug because the audience is so passionate here. Having to travel such a long way to come to the festival excludes all the assholes. No asshole would travel for such a long time just to see his favourite band for half an hour.”
The festival takes place in a seaside venue called Egilsbud combined with a number of gigs in a warehouse-turned-into-venue suitably named the Mayhemisphere. In the course of three days, Thrash Hits saw numerous brilliant noise-makers (and some admittedly not-so-brilliant…) while indulging ourselves with local kick-ass liquor Brennivín.
Here are our favourites from the weekend:
Beneath – Facebook
Beneath managed to create some buzz in 2009 by winning the Icelandic finals of Wacken Open Air Metal Battle and becoming the first Icelandic band to perform at the festival. They specialise in technical black metal and successfully delivered a staggering and claustrophobic 45-minute set. I look forward to their first full-length album to be released soon.
Sólstafir – Album review: Svartir Sandar
Sólstafir are one of Iceland’s most accomplished heavy acts. Their Thursday headline show was absolutely packed. The band presented their eclectic blend of dark rock with psychedelic elements (long arrangements, e-bows, saxophones etc.) and were in great shape. Aðalbjörn Tryggvason’s distinctive voice added to a triumphant performance.
Muck – Future Hits
Post-hardcore specialists Muck were definitely amongst the best bands at Eistnaflug this year. They used dynamics very cleverly, while avoiding the use of unnecessary guitar pedals. The winning recipe was completed with well-thought out arrangements and riffs.
Skálmöld – Facebook
For some strange reason Icelanders have only now discovered epic folk-metal. Having said that Skálmöld are superb representatives of the kind, complete with huge choruses and Blackmore-esque solos. The band were greeted with an equally epic reception by an ecstatic audience that turned the room into a giant screaming sauna. If Viking metal is your cup of tea, then Skálmöld won’t disappoint you.
Cephalic Carnage – Facebook
Everybody was gearing up for the much-awaited headliners: technical deathgrinders Cephalic Carnage. After having travelled for so long the seasoned US extremists were finally onstage. The sonic assault that followed turned the whole floor into a giant mosh pit. Singer Lenzig Leal boasted: “You guys are brutal!” After their gig Cephalic Carnage guitarist Steve Goldberg enthused: “This was one of the top three shows I’ve ever played! The kids go crazy here. I’ve wondering how could it be some many people in a small town like this at a metal show like this… it just blew my expectations!“
Further festival highlights included the ridiculously young and extremely talented hard/stoner rockers The Vintage Caravan, reformed local hardcore legends I Adapt, melodic thrashers Synarchy from the Faroe Islands and female-fronted alternative punk-rockers Hellvar.
Eistnaflug 2012 is now over. Looking back at it organiser Stefán Magnússon summed up: “In the beginning the locals thought that we would tear the town apart. They were just watching us behind their closed curtains… They were scared! And then they’ve seen how peaceful metal fans are. Now they love it! I’m really happy how things are turning out…”