Black metal act wins MGP semi-final

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A small town in north-central Norway literally had military troops swinging into action this week, to help it mount the first of three semi-finals for the Norwegian version of the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s called Melodi Grand Prix (MGP) in Norway, and a black metal band stole the show.

The band, called “Keep of Kalessin,” won enough votes from viewers to win a spot in the MGP finals, which will be held in Oslo next month. Their song, “The Dragon Tower,” was a marked departure from others Friday evening that fell into the pop and ballad categories.

Hosts called the band’s victory “historic,” but the band clearly was the most energetic and innovative performer of the evening. Norway also has a history of black metal bands that have become popular internationally — and made dubious headlines for various on- and off-stage antics. “Keep of Kalessin” will now move on to the finals along with Maria Haukaas Storeng, an MGP veteran who won support for her ballad “Make My Day.”Two other performers, Bjørn Johan Muri and Gaute Ormåsen, won spots for a “last chance” competition in Sarpsborg before the finals.

Aided by officers and enlisted troops at the local military air station, organizers of MGP in Ørland were in high gear to host the popular song contest, held on the very day that Elvis Presley himself would have turned 75.

Singer Torbjørn Schei and his Keep of Kalessin colleagues did unexpectedly well in the Eurovision semi-final. PHOTO: NRK

The King’s birthday was overshadowed by local enthusiasm for local stars who have a tough act to follow after last year’s event. That’s when young singer and musician Alexander Rybak of Nesodden won Norway’s MGP and then went on to win the Eurovision Song Contest itself, logging the highest number of points ever.

That means the winner of this year’s MGP will represent Norway at the next Eurovision Song Contest on home turf, since the winning nation must host the next international extravaganza. It’s set to take place in late May at the Telenor Arena at Fornebu, just west of Oslo.

Newspaper Aftenposten claimed this week that residents of Ørland had been virtually intoxicated by the contest all week. It draws thousands of spectators, is televised nationally and attracts big-name stars as well as those singing original songs written for the event.Among the contest participants this year was Elisabeth Carew, sister of pro soccer player John Carew, singing a song called Rocketfuel . Storeng won in 2008, but didn’t do very well in the Eurovision finals.

Ørland has a population of only around 5,000, which was due to nearly double during the weekend. Friday’s event was the first of three MGP semi-finals, with the next one to be held on January 16 in Bodø and the third on January 23 in Skien. The final will be nationally televised from the Oslo Spektrum arena on February 6.

Local businesses, township officials, volunteers, school children and local organizations contributed towards arranging the show set on Friday night. Restaurants offered special MGP menus, hotels offered package deals and local military personnel turned over use of their 4,000-square-meter hangar for the glitzy production.

The troops involved, though, were taking it all in stride. They’re used to hosting large crowds when fellow soldiers from NATO countries arrive for joint military exercises.

“Instead of aviation exercises, with participants from several countries, now it’s the Grand Prix show,” said Major Tore Semb. “But the organization and systems are the same for us.”