Svalbar trip

My passion for witnessing live events has so far brought me a lot of insane experiences in a wide variety of places, each of them with its own flavor and memories to cherish for life. But until few weeks ago I never thought this hobby would fly me all the way to Svalbard to cover an album release in the that land of far far away, where sun shines at 1AM and people spend a long time remembering when they last heard of anything being stolen. This happened due the fact that the Norwegian thrash/black/death metal band CLAYMORDS decided to pack their instruments, invite a photographer (that somehow turned into a team of three people with cameras of all types) and two pole dancers and fly everyone and everything to Longyearbyen.

We took off on a Friday and once I started noticing the white triangle peaks coming out of the clouds and realising that we are actually approaching Svalbard, the ‘real’ world was instantly forgotten and all I felt was that kind of childish excitement at the moment you see the presents under the Christmas tree. We landed on one of the shortest landing stripes ever (or at least it felt like that), made everyone feel pretty special on their way out from the plane as we were waiting outside with cameras ready to document each step of the five band members and then we were taken to our rented apartments by the nice crew at the Svalbar bar, the same place that hosted the concert.

The rest of Friday was used to find out how cheap the alcohol is at the local Liquor store and how you can only buy it if you have your boarding card with you. If you are a local, you have a certain quota that is carefully watched by an old man and noted in his green book. And if you already bought your wine quote for the week, you simply can’t get a new bottle until the next one. If you choose not to spend money on booze, it seemed like you can choose between the remaining 5 shops with winter/sport clothes or 2 with souvenirs and furs. But the advantage of a place with only one supermarket is that you can stand by the entrance and handle concert invitations to whoever passes by. The band’s vocalist, Nils Ivar, probably managed to attract a lot of the crowd through this and also by topping random people on the streets and offering the same invitations.

Saturday was fully dedicated to waking up after Friday night party, setting up the dancing poles, taking down one of them, rehearsing the dances, setting up the stage, painting the backdrop, connecting cables, taping them, setting up cameras, charing batteries, sound checking, putting on makeup, improving the German accent, napping or just looking busy when needed. 10:30PM was the time when the Northernmost metal concert ever started. Actually, the Northermost pole dance ever started with the two talented girl from Bergenpole dance performing daring moves that were paid back by many ‘oooohhs’ and ‘aaahhs’, applauses and whistles. Once the dancers ended their intro, Claymords took over the stage and stayed there for about three songs beyond the original playlist.

Initially it all was a tad shy. The crowd was not allowed close to the stage as the pole dancers would return later during the show and they needed a certain area to be people-free. But Nils Ivar Matilla wasn’t comfortable only in the company of his bandmates (or maybe it was because there was hardly any room for him on the stage), so he spent most of the time walking through the crowd or climbing on the couches and he slowly managed to bring people closer and closer to occupy the empty place in front of the stage, turning the whole place in seriously the hottest spot in Svalbard for the duration of the last songs. People were headbanging like crazy, raising gheir fists and horn in the air as if they knew the songs since forever, the musicians would hardly find a free empty square centimeter on stage to do some cool move with the bass or guitar, while avoiding hitting another band member and we the photographers were sweating like hell trying to capture all the madness. I don’t think the band would have minded to be paid a huge amount of money after the concert, but I’m pretty sure that the amount of applauses and cheers from the people gathered at Svalbar were worth much more than money can buy. It was so surreal by the end. And it’s impossible to describe how it felt to saw the sun rising from behind the clouds, few minutes after the concert ended.

I walked with my video camera through the crowd in the bar and asked what they thought about the concert, and by the people’s reaction it really felt like the band could have played few more concerts and it’d be as successful. They really loved it and I gathered a bunch of big smiles as proof for that. So, I can only conclude that the release of Claymords’ ‘Scum of the Earth’ album must have been one of the most genuine metal releases ever and I don’t think there’s an appropriate word in the dictionary to express how it felt to actually be there. This review will not debate the music on the album, I will let you either read other reviews or offer your ears a metal treat with the Northernmost released album.

The concert night turned out to be pretty long (provided you can define night a time when the light outside is brighter than during a full day in Oslo), so I think most of us found their pillows somewhere between 6 and 7AM, after trying various beverages and even the local kebab shop. It was a pity that the weather on Sunday didn’t allow a snow-scooter safari, so we ended up discovering a bar that has one of the biggest variety of beverages in Europe (if not in the whole world), after having had visited some of the old mining sites and encountering a reindeer in the middle of the city.

Monday saw us back in the plane and on the way back to Oslo. It was sad to leave that place. It was weird to come back to noise and warmth and people and cars and worries and sirens. But now we have plenty of videos and photos to put together in order to offer you the visuals of such a magic weekend. Stay tuned!

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