As Jack Black once said, “no one can destroy the metal.”
And that, at least, seems to be the case up at Heart Six Guest Ranch in Moran, where Fire in the Mountains, a metal-oriented music festival organized by Jeremy Walker and three others, is set to return this Saturday and Sunday.
“I want to create something unique, not only for our community, but also for the world of music,” Walker said.
That something is the two-day festival, which is set to bring bands and crowds from across the globe to Teton County to hear sounds from the heavy metal scene and its offshoots. With music set to run from around 3:30 to 10 p.m. each day, the festival isn’t supposed to be an all-day thrash fest (though death and black metal acts like Blood Incantation and Wolves in the Throne Room are making prominent appearances).
Instead, Walker and Fire in the Mountains are presenting a well-rounded lineup including dark folk inspired by both American and Scandinavian traditions and a classical music ensemble from Maine, in addition to the more attention-grabbing heavy metal acts.
“What we’re trying to do is pair music with landscapes,” Walker said, “and the way I perceive this is that the Tetons are a very heavy landscape, very epic looking.”
The festival’s proximity to rural Buffalo Valley subdivisions has spurred objections from neighbors over the last two years, who (unsuccessfully) urged Teton County to reject the concert’s special event permit. While pre-existing notions of heavy metal abound — a Buffalo Valley neighbor referred to the genre as “devil-worship kind of music” last year — the majority of the acts playing this year sing, scream, or growl about nature. Isaac Faulk, the drummer for Blood Incantation, a death metal band more focused on creating meditative, introspective soundtracks than it is the natural world, called some of the other bands’ subject matter “some pretty hippy stuff.”
“I would say there’s a lot of neo-paganism going on,” he said, “it’s some kind of back to nature stuff that these metal people are into.”
Osi and the Jupiter, which will open the festival Saturday, falls on the less-distorted, folky side of the spectrum. The band’s self-described “northern pagan folk” draws heavily on the Scandinavian tradition.
On the heavier side of the spectrum is Saor, a Scottish metal outfit inspired the Northern Isles’s “heritage, nature and traditional poetry,” and Wolves in the Throne Room, a black metal band from Olympia, Washington.
That genre, a predominantly northern European offshoot of death metal, has attracted controversy for some of its practitioners’ unorthodox, anti-Christian, misanthropic views. Faulk said bands like Wolves in the Throne Room don’t share that tradition.
“I would say they combine a psychedelic take on nature worship and translate that into the grandiose sounds of black metal,” he said.
“They’re definitely not what I would consider a typical black metal band.”
And while the bands espouse their nature-centric views on stage, Walker has been working with the Bridger-Teton National Forest and other organizations in the area to infuse Fire in the Mountains with an environmental angle. There will be bear safety classes for campers (those who take the class will get $5 back from their $10 camping fee), educational signage explaining the significance of the Buffalo Fork River’s wild and scenic classification, and a botanical and medicinal plant walk and, if that’s not enough, a class about nature in Viking mythology.
Walker is also paying for carbon offsets to mitigate the carbon cost of flying in bands from all over the world and plans to donate $1 of every ticket sold to a partner organization of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which will be able to donate the funds directly to the U.S. Forest Service. Walker said he hopes the funds will be used to purchase bear boxes for some of the most-used dispersed camping areas surrounding Heart Six Guest Ranch.
Last year Fire in the Mountains sold about 350 tickets. This year Walker has capped ticket sales at 950, which he called “incremental growth.”
“I don’t want to get in over my head,” he said. “Out of respect for the community and what I think the county would permit us for, I think 950 is reasonable.”
In public comment, neighbors stated their concern that this year’s event was “double or triple” the size of last year’s. In response, Bridger-Teton National Forest has stated that, among other things, the larger size will not pose a problem for attendees’ camping, which will occur on Forest Service land rather than the Heart Six Ranch’s private property. Walker is also attempting to mitigate neighbors’ concerns about noise in the area with a sound mitigation plan that includes a drum shield, a speaker system that limits sound dispersion, and physical blocking with the bands’ vans and other on-site vehicles.
Walker has also taken other steps to placate neighbors. He reached out to their spokesperson as the beginning of his permitting process with the county and sent a personal letter to each of the residents of Buffalo Valley when the permit was approved.
“I’m not trying to create enemies,” Walker said. “I’m trying to create a cool event that is unique, that doesn’t happen here or basically anywhere, and that brings added value to our community.” ￼
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated what instrument Isaac Faulk plays in Blood Incantation. He is the band's drummer. —Ed.