WELCOME TO THE WASTELAND: SWR BARROSELAS METALFEST XXI – DAY 2 AND 3
Ahh, rain, how I abhor thee. Okay, abhor may be a strong word. After all, rain is actually pleasant when you’re at home, covered in a blanket, with some hot cocoa in hand and perhaps Netflix. Here, however, I didn’t have a blanket nor hot cocoa, and the use of data for Netflix was out of the question. So, watching some concerts to pass the time was the only solution.
Rain wasn’t the only bad news of the day, however. Amputate had canceled their appearance on the festival the day before, so things actually kicked out with Carnal Decay, playing at SWR Arena. Nothing really noteworthy about them, to be honest. In fact, this day was pretty straight forward for the most part, with some interesting exceptions. Necrobode reopened the LOUD! Dungeon with an uninspired performance that looked and sounded too similar to many other black metal bands. Warriors Abyss, on the other hand, reopened with Looking For An Answer, who were a bit more enthusiastic in their performance even if, again, it was more of the same. Interment followed suit on the same stage with a more frenetic concert than the previous band and, at the same time, Gaerea enveloped the SWR Arena with a dark and numbing aura. Hooded and with a small tree protruding from the stage which served as a mic stand, the Portuguese band played songs from their self-titled EP as well as a couple from their upcoming full-lenght, Unsettling Whispers. It was a much needed change of pace and it was from here on that things started to become engaging. Back at the LOUD! Dungeon, Process of Guilt were preaching sadness and solitude, playing songs from their most recent opus, Black Earth, but most were eagerly anticipating the next concert at the Warriors Abyss. And with good reason.
Returning to SWR Fest after 10 years, Nifelheim graced the stage like a hurricane, spitting blasphemy and praising evil. Led by Hellbutcher and Tyrant, the infamous Bröderna Hårdrock, or Hard Rock Brothers in English, the band played songs from their entire discography, including “Evil Blasphemies”, “Sodomizer” and the much-lauded “Storm of the Reaper”. Saying it was an epic concert would be somewhat of an understatement, as the Swedes were truly in their best form, showering upon the audience both an unrelenting assault as well as words of praise. The look of satisfaction was well noticeable on the band’s faces, despite all the paint and metal spikes. One of the highlights of the entire festival for sure.
Another highlight was definitely Suffocation. Well-known for their technical approach to death metal, the band stepped onto the Warriors Abyss for a relentless onslaught. Opening the show with “Thrones of Blood” and “Return to the Abyss”, the band made quick work of everyone present, delivering an incredible performance that also included classics like “Catatonia” and “Infecting the Crypts”, leaving no one indifferent. A special mention to Ricky Myers, who is one hell of a frontman and a really nice guy, just like the rest of the band. Frank Mullen may be gone, sadly, but the band’s aggresiveness and spirit are left in very good hands.
Returning to the LOUD! Dungeon, we see Filii Nigrantium Infernalium starting their gig with an incantation which served as an introduction to an all too familiar song: “Necro Rock N’ Roll”. This was a fun concert to watch, as is always the case with FNI. Vocalist and guitarist Belathauzer is a true showman, professing his love for religious profanity, always with a tint of ridiculous humor. Stating that on the day after we would all go to church – because, you know, “tomorrow” would be Sunday and Church of Misery were playing -, the band went on to play classic songs like “Matéria Negra” and “A Forca de Deus”, but also “Cadela Cristã” and “Pó”, two tracks from their brand-new release, Hóstia. “Abadia do Fogo Negro” ended what was a pleasurable 40-minute-long ride, filled with humorous moments and lightheartedness. It’s always nice when a band doesn’t take itself too seriously, but doesn’t exaggerate on that feeling either.
Evil Invaders were up next. The band were presenting their latest release, Feed Me Violence, but also played some tunes from their debut full-length, Pulses Of Pleasure. If there was still stamina left in anyone’s tank, it was now about to run out, as the Belgium speedsters raided the Warriors Abyss stage, kicking ass, taking names and leaving no soul untouched by their high-velocity riffs and blast beats. What a way to close the night on the main stages.
Over at the SWR Arena, the night came to a close with the fine tunes of Galician pagan black metal band Lóstregos and what sounded like a Celtic Frost tribute band. I mean, it’s in their name, Totengott, and at times it really seemed they were doing some covers of the legendary band. They weren’t. But the resemblance was uncanny and that might have thrown some people off. On to the final day.
Oh, final day already? Mixed feelings about it. Apart from waking up sick and not having a whole lot of appetite, the rain was subsiding. Alas, some good news, even though that wouldn’t last. Still, got a job to do, am I right?
For some, the last day of the festival started at the LOUD! Dungeon stage with an Andralls concert. Brazilian thrash metal is always welcomed and the band seemed to be in good spirits as well. Might have something to do with the weather. But I digress. Next came the void that is Altarage. Boy, was I psyched for this one. I watched the band’s first ritual back in 2016 when they released their debut album, NIHL, and was hooked to their sound since then. This time they brought a new record, Endinghent, but the will to cover all in a cloak of darkness and torment remained the same. As the first riffs of “Incessant Magma” started bursting through the speakers, all I could think about was that everyone was in for a treat. I still think they could benefit from the usage of background visuals, but to each their own. Maybe in the future. “Barrier” closed what was another great gig by the Spanish black/death metallers.
After the void cleared, Dyscarnate took over the Warriors Abyss stage with all their might, as the title of their latest record suggests. It was quite the show of light and heaviness, with songs “Backbreaker” and “Iron Strengthens Iron” as the main highlights. At the same time, over at the SWR Arena, Portuguese death metal outfit Dead Meat bashed some skulls to the sound of their latest release, Preachers of Gore.
So, now how about we ask you a little trivia question? What’s the name of an iconic grindcore band that keeps on releasing stuff almost every week, even after 30 years of activity? Little hint: they also play over 30 songs per show, the good ol’ grindcore way. If you said Agathocles, then you guessed right. And no, I am not joking, they did play over 30 songs. Hell, for a moment I even thought they had already played 50 songs and weren’t going to stop any time soon. Just goes to show what grindcore truly is about. Or in Agathocles’ case, mincecore. Fast, unforgiving and at the same time, pleasant, as all things should be. Afterwards, things slowed down for a bit, with Suma playing their brand of stoner/doom reminiscent of bands like Yob and Bongripper. It provided a breather for those that had partaked in the intense physical education class from moments earlier.
The closing of the LOUD! Dungeon stage was reserved to Nekromantheon, a band featuring members from Obliteration who had played two nights prior. While the latter is a more apocalyptic-oriented death metal band, the former is a faster and more lethal, deity-worshipping thrash metal, with a few dropplets of death. Playing songs from their two records, Divinity of Death and Rise, Vulcan Spectre, this gig was a testament to the fact that thrash is far from being dead. It is bands like this one that give the genre a much needed breath of fresh air, something that has certainly been lacking as of late.
Church of Misery closed the Warriors Abyss stage with a slower performance than the previous band, but a very good one, nonetheless. It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping it to be, truth be told, but getting the opportunity to hear live songs like “I, Motherfucker (Ted Bundy)” and “Brother Bishop (Gary Heidnik)”, felt really good. It wasn’t the best of endings, but… Wait, there is more! How could I forget the megalithic, paleolithic, construction druids Raw Decimating Brutality? Now this was a proper sendoff to the 21st edition of SWR Fest. A concert that included everything from happy dances to menhir surfing. Yeah, a giant cardboard menhir surfing the crowd. Preposterous? Maybe. Entertaining? Absolutely.
In the end, it was a rather enjoyable festival that still had plenty to do besides gigs. Visits to the Metal Market for some merch, the SWR Café with talks, documentaries and karaoke nights, the traditional Brutal Soccer and, of course, the after parties. After all of this, it was time to pack and go home, but the feeling of longing starts to seep in, making me wish 2019 would come faster. The memories will have to do, for now.
Words by Filipe Silva
Photos by Marta Rebelo