Beyond the Gates is an annual black metal utopia situated in the heart of Bergen, western Norway. Nestled among seven majestic mountains, Bergen has been the birthplace of renowned bands like Immortal, Gorgoroth, Gaahl’s Wyrd, Taake, and Burzum. The inception of Beyond the Gates, an extreme metal festival, took place in 2012 following the retirement of its predecessor, Hole in the Sky (2000-2011).
Every year, Beyond the Gates graces the city of Bergen in the summer month of August, captivating metal enthusiasts. The festival primarily takes place at USF Verftet, a cultural powerhouse that was once a sardine factory. In the 2022 edition, Beyond the Gates expanded its horizons by utilizing the renowned venue, Grieghallen.
Grieghallen holds historical significance as the birthplace of Mayhem‘s iconic album, “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas,” as it was recorded there. In the 2022 festival, Mayhem performed the album in its entirety at Grieghallen, adding to the festival’s allure and legacy.
Beyond the Gates understands the frustration metalheads often face when their favorite bands clash or overlap in performance times. To alleviate this concern, the festival ensures that there are no band schedule conflicts. Attendees can take breaks between performances to relax, savor delicious food, and enjoy refreshing beverages before heading to the next band.
With this legendary festival located just three hours away from my home, I couldn’t resist the urge to witness Beyond the Gates firsthand. Armed with my battle vest and camera, and fueled by a selection of beers, I embarked on my journey to Bergen.
Some of this years highlights:
I was fortunate enough to receive a press and photo pass from the festival, granting me the opportunity to capture photos at the event for the very first time!
With renowned names adorning the festival’s flyers, I was beyond excited (hehe) to finally witness bands like Gorgoroth, Black Curse, Deicide, and Midnight live for the first time!
The first day commenced with sunny weather at USF Verftet, luckily the bar at USF entrance served cold drinks to cool down the sunglass wearing black dressed horde gathered before the main gates opened. Opening at exactly 17:00, the massive venue swiftly filled with crazed metalheads, eagerly anticipating the explosive performance by Spirit Possession, which kickstarted the festival.
With dimmed red lights enveloping the room, Spirit Possession delivered a hard and furious set that was well-received by the audience. Their American black metal reverberated through the venue’s speakers, guiding metalheads still making their way from the nearby pubs to the festival grounds.
Next up, Midnight took the stage at Hallen, an adjacent venue—an industrial hall that Beyond the Gates incorporated into the festival this year. I was particularly eager to witness this blackened speed metal band, known for their black hoodies reminiscent of the MGLA style. Midnight‘s stage presence and energy were nothing short of phenomenal, igniting an instant mosh pit when they performed “You Can’t Stop Steel.” Frontman Athenar and his crew engaged with the audience, delivering a high-quality experience despite some minor guitar feedback issues. As the sun peeked through the industrial gates of the hall, it created a mesmerizing Midnight-sun in Bergen that evening.
The so-called day shift concerts kicked off at 13:00 in Kulturhuset, featuring performances by Sijjin, Black Curse and Dolch. As the doors opened at one o’clock, the venue quickly filled to capacity with eager attendees. Sijjin took to the stage at 13:30, bringing an incredible energy with them. Kulturhuset became a furnace as sweat flew through the air, propelled by the headbanging metalheads at the front. Despite only being together for four years, Sijjin‘s members showcased their extensive experience, seducing the crowd with thundering riffs and rapid-fire drums.
Black Curse followed suit, taking the stage after Sijjin‘s already intense set. In the wake of their heavy performance, Black Curse felt like an atomic bomb detonating in the venue. As a fan of their 2020 album “Endless Wound,” I found their live performance to be uncompromising, seamlessly blending their digital sound with the electrifying atmosphere of the metalheads in attendance. I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to see this band live again.
Gorgoroth holds a special place in my heart, and they were the band I anticipated the most at the entire Beyond the Gates festival. And boy, did they deliver! Gorgoroth‘s performance was scheduled for 20:30 at Hallen, located down at Verftet. Their imposing banner adorned the stage, while crackling fires illuminated the surroundings. The sight alone evoked an evil feeling as soon as you entered the venue. Spiked boots, armbands, and necklaces adorned the musicians on stage.
Standing in the photo pit, surrounded by these ominous figures, made me feel like Frodo or Sam on the plateau of Gorgoroth. Unfortunately, the sound quality in Hallen was somewhat lacking, not only during Gorgoroth‘s set. Given that it was the first time Hallen was being used, improvements are sure to come. Personally, I would love to see Gorgoroth perform in Grieghallen, but overall, the atmosphere was fantastic, and I was spellbound by Hoest’s majestic stage presence.
Issolei was supposed to start off the day at the day shift in Kulturhuset but sadly had to cancel. In short notice the more local band Heimland was announced as their replacements. My colleague and I was excited about this as we had seen Heimland once before at the Black Nights festival hosted by Karmøygeddon last year. Despite such a short notice for the band they put on a crushing show. This hellish gig can best be summarized by the combination of blue lights, corpse paint, and true Norwegian black metal, infused with a furious groove and distinctive style.
Dimmu Borgir, the festival headliner, made their only appearance of 2023 at Beyond the Gates, marking their 30th anniversary with a special show that encompassed the music from their storied career. This was a musical jackpot for the fans of early Dimmu, as they were treated to the performance of songs like “Over bleknede blåner til dommedag” and “Dødsferd,” which hadn’t been played since the 90s.
Shagrath, Dimmu Borgir‘s enigmatic frontman, has truly evolved into a mesmerizing ringleader of this sircus, impossible to ignore even with everything going on during the performance. Grieghallen’s stage was adorned with burning torches, billowing smoke, and a spiked, glowing mic stand, among other props. The sound was pristine and pummeling, most likely tailor-made and tuned for Dimmu‘s 2 hour show this evening. The fusion of synthesizers, thunderous drums, and a haunting choir created a spellbinding atmosphere, heightened by the misty haze emanating from the smoke machine. The entranced crowd became part of the show, transforming into a rabid horde of warriors engulfed in this dimly lit fog.
This all served as a perfectly suited farewell with Beyond the Gates at Grieghallen for this time.
Beyond the Gates festival offers much more than just great music, food, and drinks. The “Beyond the Gates Experience” provides a diverse range of guided tours and activities. Here are some highlights from this year’s offerings:
- Guided tour of Grieghallen with “Pytten” the man behind the “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” recording.
- Black metal landmarks with Tore Bratseth (Old Funeral, Bömbers). Tour of key locations in the Bergen scene.
- Guided tour to Fantoft stave church with black metal oracle Finn Håkon Rødland and Are Mundal.
- Beyond the Ink Tattoo convention. Get tattooed by some of the best artists who are also metalheads!
- Wine tasting with “Gaahl” was an activity this year.
- Black metal quiz in the Mountain Hall tent at Grieghallen.
Accomodations and bars:
Beyond the Gates is conveniently situated in the heart of Bergen city center, where everything is within walking distance. There is a plethora of accommodation options available, including hotels, hostels, and rentals, all in close proximity to the festival grounds.
For rockers and metalheads, several bars and pubs in the area organize special events during Beyond the Gates and often host after-parties. One notable establishment, Apollon, held a special listening party featuring Inculter‘s highly anticipated third album.
Another bar, Hellion, organized a listening party for the upcoming Taake album titled “Ett hav av avstand.” Additionally, during the festival, they had the privilege of featuring Hoest as a DJ on certain nights.
The bands playing:
The festival primarily focuses on the extreme metal genre, particularly black and death metal. However, Beyond the Gates also features bands from other genres such as heavy metal and thrash. For instance, this year’s lineup included Eternal Champion and Kreator. Many of the black metal bands performing at the festival offer special sets that cater to their dedicated fan base.
Enslaved, for example, performed their album “Eld” in its entirety, while Taake exclusively played songs from their first three albums. Dimmu Borgir commemorated their 30th anniversary by showcasing songs from throughout their career, and Primordial treated the audience to a complete rendition of their album “To the Nameless Dead.”
Limited edition merchandise was available for purchase at the festival, including exclusive Dimmu Borgir 30th anniversary shirts and Enslaved “Eld” shirts. Various vendors and record companies also set up merch stalls where festival-goers could find a wide range of items such as limited edition vinyl records, CDs, cassettes, patches, and more.
Beyond the Gates offers a vibrant and diverse marketplace for metal enthusiasts to explore and acquire unique collectibles and memorabilia.
In conclusion, Beyond the Gates exceeded all my expectations for a festival weekend. It truly embodies a black metal utopia, showcasing the richness of the local black metal history. I formed new friendships and deepened existing ones, all while immersing myself in the world of black metal, enjoying beers in the sun, and indulging in late-night kebabs.
As a first-time photographer at the festival, I felt incredibly welcomed. The accreditation process was efficient, and the security team was friendly and helpful, ensuring our safety by keeping us informed about potential dangers in the photo pit.
Despite my repeated instances of losing my photo pass from my necklace clamp, the amazing spirit of the metalheads and attendees of Beyond the Gates shone through. Every time I misplaced it, someone promptly noticed and returned it to me. Their kindness and honesty were truly remarkable, and I am immensely grateful to all of them. Thank you!
This festival is a must-visit for black metal fans, particularly those interested in the Norwegian scene. It offers exclusive shows, unique venues, and an atmosphere that sets it apart from other festivals. I can confidently say that I will be returning in the future.
I would like to give a special shoutout to Høvik Hørsel, a company located at the festival grounds, for providing ear protection options. Whether you forgot your ear protectors or are looking for better quality and more enjoyable options that can eliminate negative sounds, Høvik Hørsel offers basic ear protectors as well as custom-molded protectors that are tailored specifically to fit your own ears.
Beyond the Gates Links:
Have you been to this festival? Please let us know in the comments below what you think, and join our discord, where we discuss all things black metal! Make sure to follow our Facebook page, Black Metal Zine to receive notifications when we publish articles. Also check out our Instagram at @blackmetal.zine for concert pictures and more!