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Fjords, Black Metal Rituals, and Vikings Making Out: Scenes from Iceland's Biggest Metal Festival

Part I of our coverage of Iceland's Eistnaflug metal festival: check out photos of fjords and festival-goers in the land of fire and ice.

All photos by Grace Hollaender

Each year, in the midst of the fleeting Icelandic summer, thousands of people make the trek out to the small Eastern town of Neskaupstaður for a weekend of heavy metal mayhem at the Eistnaflug festival. Some travel by car, taking in the country's heart-stopping natural beauty along the arduous ten-plus hour drive from Reykjavik; others fly to the airport at nearby Egilsstaðir and take a bus through the snow-capped mountains. The majority of these travelers are Icelanders, but more and more foreigners—myself included—discover the magic of Eistnaflug each year, and the festival has grown exponentially as a result.


This year saw the three-day (or four-day, counting Wednesday's all-ages show) event pulling in its biggest headliners yet—Carcass! Behemoth! Rotting Christ!—and moving into more spacious digs at a nearby school gymnasium, encompassing three official venues in total. The main venue hosted the big names and foreign bands, while the fest's former home, Egilsbúð, bore witness to some of the more underground acts (including the incredible Ulfsmessa II collaborative live ritual with NYIÞ, Naðra, and Misþyrming—more on that later), and the basement venue, Blúskjallarinn, offered us a glimpse into the strangest and most intriguing corners of the Icelandic metal and experimental scenes.

Despite its extreme bill, the overall vibe of Eistnaflug is one of joy. It's the happiest, most welcoming metal festival I've ever been to, save for the Netherlands' iconic Roadburn. It's the biggest metal event of the year—a Nordic Maryland Deathfest, if you will—and the camaraderie between attendees, bands, and festival staff was wonderful to behold. As the thousands of members of the extended Eistnaflug family milled about drinking Tuborg beer and sharing shots of Brennivin (the brutal Icelandic schnapps also known as Black Death) beneath the midnight sun, I felt totally at home, even if I usually lay my head two thousand-odd miles away.

We'll be running a full festival report tomorrow, but for now, check out the following photos taken by our incredibly talented photographer Grace Hollaender, who just happens to be in Reykjavik right now completing an artist residency. The many smiling (and casually corpsepainted) faces below, juxtaposed with the soaring fjords and intense performance shots, give you only a slight idea of just how special Eistnaflug is, and how lucky I felt to be back.


Kim Kelly wants to move to Iceland—she's on Twitter for now: @grimkim