We need to defend Asgard and Valhalla

The President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, will be an …

The President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, will be an honorary guest at the Wacken Open Air Festival i Germany this weekend. Composite image

The President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, will be as many Icelanders this weekend present at an outdoor festival. However, it is neither the popular “Þjóðhátíð” in the Westman Islansd, nor “Innipúkinn” festival in Reykjavík because the President is going to rock like never before in the heavy metal festival Wacken Open Air in Germany.

Speaking to mbl.is, Jóhannesson says that heavy metal bands play an important part in sustaining the Nordic heritage and Icelandic language.

The president says Wacken is the first outdoor festival he attends. This year he is a special guest of honour at the festival. He said he is particularly excited to see the four Icelandic bands that are playing there; Skálmöld, Sólstafir, The Vintage Caravan and Krownest, but he is also excited to see the world famous band Iron Maiden.

Wacken Open Air is the biggest heavy metal festival in …

Wacken Open Air is the biggest heavy metal festival in the world. AFP

Doesn't want to talk about high versus low culture

Asked if he has a favourite heavy metal band, he said he does not want to choose between the bands any more than he would like to choose a favourite between his children, but he is a fan of all kinds of music.

“I’m accepting the idea of having fun with a certain type of heavy metal, including the bands at the festival I know.”

However, he points out the importance of not creating unnecessary gaps between genres or cultures. Rather than viewing music as a matter of personal preference, it is often referred to as high culture and low culture.

“This interview may be a sign of that, I attend a number of symphony concerts every year, but that is more expected and doesn’t get into the news, of course.”

Heavy metal often gets its inspiration from the nordic saga …

Heavy metal often gets its inspiration from the nordic saga heritage, but Jóhannesson says it is important to keep that heritage free of hatred and use by actors with ulterior motives. AFP

History and the Icelandic language

The President participates in a panel discussion at the festival, discussing the importance of heavy metal culture to the Nordic cultural heritage. He then mentions two aspects of heavy metal and Viking rock culture in Iceland that he deems important to raise awareness of.

It is, on the one hand, the exploitation of Iceland’s historical heritage and, on the other hand, the use of the Icelandic language in lyrics that delights the President’s historical heart, but he is a professor of history.

“We want to promote the Icelandic language, and we certainly do that by singing and grunting,” he says and adds:

“Let me assure you that there are lots of Icelanders who were fascinated by Skálmöld, for the sake of music, but who got the Icelandic heritage references as the icing on the cake.”

The president also said he wants to draw attention to the existence of people who abuse and misinterpret the same Nordic heritage in the interests of extremism, hatred and evil.

“We need to defend Asgard and defend Valhalla and defend this heritage from those who seek to abuse it. We do this by celebrating it in a different way, ” says the President, noting that Skálmöld lost a lot of followers on social media when the band expressed support for the Pride Parade.

"They were not upset, however, just said: 'Haters can go if they want.'"

It looks like the President will be rocking his rubber …

It looks like the President will be rocking his rubber boots during the visit, but the festival area has been pounded with rain and is aparently very muddy. AFP

Will be rocking the rubber boots

However, the president says he is not only looking forward to seeing Icelandic bands, but also the legendary heavy metal band Iron Maiden.

The President says that Iron Maiden has a pleasant connection to Iceland, because the band’s singer, Bruce Dickinson, has a pilot’s license, and he was flying for Iceland Express at the time.

Heavy rain has battered Wacken, making the festival area one big mud puddle.

The president says that he does not let a little rain stop him and though he denies that he will wear the traditional raingear of fleece sweater and water trousers, he says he will be rocking his rubber boots at the festival.

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