ICS Vortex

Wacken - 2014

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

One of the biggest reasons for me going to Wacken 2014 was at the same time one of the small bands playing there. ICS Vortex, the band, was set to play at the W.E.T. Stage, and even though he has a famous history with Dimmu Borgir, I had a really hard time imagining how many people would actually show up for this show. For one thing, his solo material lies about as far away as he could possibly get from the Dimmu Borgir years, and for another thing, he was playing at the same time as Germany’s über-darling Avantasia was headlining the big stage outside.

“Alles gut? We’re ICS Vortex, hit it Baard!”
- Simen ‘ICS Vortex’ Hestnæs (vocals/guitar)

For the two reasons mentioned above, I was pleasantly surprised to see that quite a lot of people had in fact gathered in the tent before the show, and that people seemed rather pepped up about getting to see Hestnæs doing his solo stuff. It’s not often that this chance presents itself, and I had almost given up on the idea that I’d get the chance all together.
The reality of it hit me as Hestnæs took the stage, together with band-mates Baard Kolstad whom we of course know from Borknagar, guitarist Petter Hallaråker (Rendezvous Point) and bassist Steinar ‘Azarak’ Gundersen (Sarke), and after a short greeting from the big man’s side, the band went straight into When Shuffled Off.
For the duration of the show, music of the highest quality was intermingled by amusing comments made by Hestnæs, who seemed to be in a very good mood this evening, better even than when we saw him recently together with Borknagar at Metaldays. The band was rocking hard, and Hallaråker and Gundersen (both of whom I didn’t know before this) proved great musical assets to the band – Hallaråker especially did a great job as the lead guitarist, whereas Hestnæs who took the duty of rhythm guitarist displayed a very singular way of playing his instrument, treating it more like the bass that we are used to see on him. Kolstad proved that he could easily handle this calmer (for the most part) musical style as well as the blastier style of Borknagar.
If there is one way you can always recognise Hestnæs, it is his very personal tone of voice and way of singing – admittedly, the pitch wasn’t always where it was supposed to be this evening, but the feeling that it was delivered in made up for it in a big way. In fact, it was the relaxed, almost jamming style of the show that really grabbed me – this was just four guys on stage, doing what they like and having fun with it. Unpretentious, not to be taken too seriously, always with a smile on the face and a wink in the eye.

“For the rest of the set we’re going to do Dimmu Borgir covers exclusively! Yeah, you liked that, didn’t you?”
- Hestnæs (vocals/guitar)

I admit, when I first got hold of the Storm Seeker album, I was a bit disappointed. I had not, as I’m sure many others had, hoped for a continuation of the Dimmu Borgir sound, but I had instead imagined up a part two of Borknagar’s The Archaic Course. Both ways of thinking were equally unjust though, and in the end proved equally wrong. Still, I stuck with the album, having it pop up every once in a while on my playlist, and the more times I heard it, the more it grew on me. No, it wasn’t a black metal extravaganza, nor was it a display of avant-garde taken to the extremes – it was simply a guy pouring his heart out through the use of music, a heart with a love for rock ’n’ roll, but also slower, more introspective and soul-filled pieces.
Overall, this translated quite well to the live stage. It was, of course, a totally different forum than an album, and the party pieces were what got to set the tone of the show, but the slower pieces got their time in the lime-light as well. The title track, which at the moment was one of my favourites on the album (it changes a lot), was the only one not to do the transition very well – it sounded good of course, but it got a bit harder than it is on the album, and so some of the feeling got lost.
Despite the threat (or promise, depending on how you see it) of filling our ears with Dimmu Borgir songs, none showed up. This didn’t mean that ICS Vortex stuck entirely to their own material though, as two Borknagar songs had found their way into the set – in the middle we got Frostrite, which is one of the top songs from Urd, an album filled with great material, and as a surprising end, the band gave us Colossus. If your heart didn’t melt at this point, you were either deaf, or at Avantasia!

Much like the album did back when I got it, the ICS Vortex live show took me by surprise. This time however, I was quicker to get it, and can honestly say that I loved every single second of the concert. I might have been a nuisance to the people around me as I sung/shouted along to all the lyrics, but there was no stopping it, the atmosphere was simply gripping! Had I only seen ICS Vortex at Wacken this year, it would still have been worth the trip.


When Shuffled Off
Odin’s Tree
Storm Seeker
Frostrite (Borknagar cover)
Oil In Water
The Blackmobile
Colossus (Borknagar cover)

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