TALES FROM THE WASTELAND: SWR BARROSELAS METALFEST 22 – DAY 2 AND 3
Some say the cure to a hangover is to keep drinking. Others say the secret is to stay hydrated. In my humble opinion, though, the best one is to eat brownies, loads of them. Don’t ask me how or why, it just works and it saved me during the entirety of this end-of-the-world festival of apocalyptic proportions. Yes, I am still going to throw Mad Max and other post-apocalyptic pop culture references at your face and you people are going to love every single one of them. So, after a lengthy breakfast filled with chocolaty goodness and some sautéed vegetables for lunch, we headed back into the “fury road” to return to the ‘Dome, as two more days of concrete, spikes and metal madness awaited us.
This day in particular started at the Loud! Dungeon stage with the British quintet Vacivus. Focused on presenting their most recent record, Temple of the Abyss, the Brits demonstrated how beastial they can be on stage by showcasing an oppressive and chasmal form of death metal that is not often heard these days. From the intense concerto of riffs delivered by guitarists Ross Oliver and Daniel Rochester to the rhythmic mauling by drummer Ian Finley and bassist Daniel Jones, without forgetting the ever-present asphyxiating vocals of Nick Craggs, this was a gig that will certainly remain in our memory forever. Not as intense was the performance by Barshaketh, who came after the Brits to suffocate the air of the Dungeon with their left-hand path black metal. The performance by the New Zealanders was nothing to write home about, as it was a performance equal to most black metal bands out there.
The apocalyptic party continued on the Warriors Abyss stage with the Finns Demilich, who proceeded to mind-blowjob the audience with their technical and sometimes avant-gardish death metal shockful of songs with really long titles. We are talking stuff like “The Sixteenth Six-Tooth Son of Fourteen Four-Regional Dimensions (Still Unnamed)” and “The Planet that Once Used to Absorb Flesh in Order to Achieve Divinity and Immortality (Suffocated to the Flesh that it Desired…)”, both songs from their only full-length to date, Nespithe. Don’t let the somewhat goofy names fool you though, this was a really cool showcase of technical prowess and a testament to why Demilich is considered to be one of the hidden gems of the genre. Well, after this, they should be hidden no more. Goddamn, they were awesome and frontman Antti Boman never ceased to introduce each song and thank the audience for being there. A true class act.
The gears then turned to a slower pace as we returned to the Dungeon to catch the Polish stoner doomsters Dopelord. On tour with Saint Vitus – that played later in the night -, the Poles gave a lesson on properly written stoner/doom metal by conjuring a powerful wall of sound that forced the audience to stay in its place throughout, without hiding any hints of satisfaction. Over at the Abyss, Benediction were getting ready to turn things up a notch. Talk about a violent show – these guys gave no fucking rest to anyone present and I swear I haven’t seen this many bodies moving and flying around since the last time I saw Napalm Death, which is fitting considering the Birmingham heritage both bands share. Frontman Dave Hunt was a complete monster on stage, spewing every spiteful syllable of songs such as “Unfound Mortality”, “They Must Die Screaming” and “Subconscious Terror”, all the while addressing the audience as much as possible to not only thank them for their presence but also invite them to participate in the impending devastation that each track provided. The rest of the band didn’t fall behind either and absolutely killed it with their veteran skill and expertise. Another definite highlight of the festival, which ended up being one of Dave Hunt’s last performances with the band, as he will soon be leaving them to focus on his doctoral degree in philosophy. To him we wish all the luck in the world.
The cataclysmic highlight reel continued on as we ventured back into the Abyss to witness the one true golden ritual. Yeah, you guessed right, it was time to see the abrasive New Yorkers Imperial Triumphant finally perform live on Portugese soil. Despite the technical difficulties that plagued the first half of the show – thanks to a PA system that was way fucking louder than it needed to be -, we were still able to enjoy the intricate sonorites brought forth by the masked trio, who sounded a selection of themes from their latest record, Vile Luxury. Songs like “Swarming Opulence”, “Lower World” and “Gotham Luxe” filled the air with an opulent and luxuriously decadent vibe, straight from the deepest bowels of New York City. A quick note about their drummer, Kenny Grohowski, who is quite possibly one of the best drummers out there today and who completely mesmerized our eyes and minds with his ritualistic way of playing. Overall, a tad disappointing experience given the initial technical issues, but hopefully they’ll come back soon in a more deserving state.
At this point, it was time for Saint Vitus to take the Abyss by storm with their slow and gravelly doom. Being one of the founding bands of the genre – alongside names such as Candlemass, Trouble and Witchfinder General -, Saint Vitus hold a legendary status among their peers and despite their relative old age, these fellas don’t shy away from giving their all in every performance and their show at SWR was no different. Armed with a brand-new self-titled record that calls back to their ‘84 debut, Saint Vitus gave a lesson on doom metal, their charisma and veterancy emanating from every riff, every drum beat, every word spoken. New songs such as “12 Years in the Tomb” and “Hour Glass” where intertwined with classics like “Dark World”, “White Magic/Black Magic” and “Born Too Late”, in what was an authentic demonstration of classic doom metal performed in outstanding fashion. Special note to Scott Reagers who, having reunited with the band in recent years, demonstrated to still be a brilliant frontman on stage, with his vocals still on point and his incredible humility untouched.
Things then turned to a darker state, as our tired bodies automatically moved to the Dungeon to catch Ascension live. Unnamed and hell-bent on creating dark atmospheres, the German quintet showcased a more pensive version of the occult black metal made famous by Watain, present in their latest record, Under Ether. A good performance overall, but nothing to write home about. Over at the Abyss, we had the unfortunate cancellation of Birdflesh, who were replaced by a rapid fire performance by the Czech gore bastards Purulent Spermcanal. At the SWR Arena, the night came to an end with a show of force by the old school death metal of Grindead and the bass-and-drums sludge of Greengo. The founder of Roadburn Festival, Walter Hoeijmakers, then gifted everyone still standing with a DJ set teeming with old heavy metal classics. A perfect way to end the second day of the festival.
Waking up on the last day of SWR is one of the worst feelings possible. The problem, you see, isn’t the fact that you are coping with all the hardcore partying of the previous days. It is, in fact, the feeling of trying to come to terms with the sudden realization that this year’s edition is coming to an end and you’ll have to wait a whole year until the next one arrives. You almost feel empty inside and have an urge to cry about it. But we are all adults here, we all have our lifes properly oriented, so what is there to cry about really? Yeah, yeah, we are all dead inside but that’s one of the reasons we come to this end-of-the-world spectacle: to get shit-faced drunk and enjoy some good fucking metal. Onwards, we say: with no fear we will make this last day count. And by God, we did.
Returning to the wasteland, we meet up with some old friends while Auroch make the first chords sing to a deadly tune at the Dungeon. Formed by members of Mitochondrion, the Canadian trio ripped a black hole of destructive energy that would have caused greater damage where the sound in tip-top condition. It seems abrasiveness and SWR didn’t really match at all this year – remember what happened with Imperial Triumphant on the previous day? Nonetheless, it was nice to finally see these gents on stage. Over at the Abyss, the Portuguese Martelo Negro kicked things off with a good dosage of Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost worship. Willing to present their brand-new record, Parthenogenesis, of which they played tracks like “Arcanjo das Sombras” and ”Rameira Necromante”, the quartet proved to be more than just a copycat tribute band – like many that exist nowadays -, playing with a ferocious energy that is not commonly seen in our times, in a set that included a special guest appearance by Carina Domingues (Disthrone), who joined the band on vocals to perform “Hierofante em Chamas” from their debut record, Sortilégio dos Mortos. After them, the Brazilian Rakta filled the air of the Dungeon with a red haze as they distorted reality and perception with their unconventionally rhythmic melodies. Not long after they finished, we had to split our bodies in two in order to catch the worst clash imaginable. On the one hand, we had Wormed eviscerating the audience at the Abyss with their cosmic technical death metal. On the other hand, we had Crowhurst warping space and time with their insane experimental sound over at the SWR Arena. Tough decisions, but we ended up catching a bit of both, which is certainly better than seeing neither. However, Crowhurst did play a cover by Britney Spears, so I don’t need to tell you who the real winner was.
It was then time to witness the coming of Arkhon Infaustus in the Dungeon. The French quartet led by DK Deviant wasted little time with introductions and proceeded to assault everyone present with blasphemous hymns of perversion and depravity. Great tracks like “When They Have Called”, “Ravaging the Nine Pillars”, “M33 Constellation” and “Trigrammaton” penetrated our ears and punched our faces and bloody hell, we enjoyed every minute of it. A monumental performance by the Frenchmen. The aggressive pace continued in the Abyss with what was arguably the most awaited name of the entire day: Vomitory. Recently reunited to celebrate their 30th Anniversary, the Swedish death machine stopped by SWR to teach us the true meaning of brutality. Entering on stage to the sound of an orchestrated version of “Ack Värmeland, du sköna” – a traditional Swedish folklore song also known as “Dear Old Stockholm” in the English-speaking world -, Vomitory wasted zero time and shot a duo of fast and destructive songs – “The Voyage” and “Gore Apocalypse”, that caused the opening of a vast circle pit that would endure throughout their entire performance. The Swedes responded to the enthusiasm by journeying through almost their entire discography, playing such death metal classics as “Regorge in the Morgue”, “Rotting Hill”, “Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize” and “Chaos Fury”, and proving they are still a force to be reckoned with. The immensely powerful “Raped in Their Own Blood” finished what was, without a doubt, the highpoint of this last day and, possibly, the entire festival. Our only hope now is that they don’t decide stop again and keep on destroying stages for years to come.
Following the annihilation caused by Vomitory, their fellow countrymen in Craft emerged from the shadows to haunt the Abyss with a somewhat underwhelming performance. Perhaps the fact that they showed up after a considerably brutal show hindered our perception of how good they were. Or maybe the culprit was the lack of live experience within the group. Be that as it may, getting to catch such a cult band perform live is a rarity, so we were sort of satisfied with what we got. But we can’t refrain from saying that Joakim Karlsson and co. work much better in a studio setting than in a live one. The speed and aggression was recouped moments later with the Brazilian thrashers Nervosa. This was a thrash metal gig the likes of which we hadn’t seen in a while. Relentless in their onslaught, the trio led by Fernanda Lira spewed rapid-fire messages that manifest anti-homophobia, anti-misoginy and gender equality. Fernanda herself, revealed to be a true beast on stage, constantly moving around with an agressive expression, characteristic of the genre the band inserts itself into, and never restraining herself from giving a speech or two in between songs – going as far as indirectly shutting down a few deplorable chants from some undesirable members of the audience. On the set itself, Nervosa were focused on presenting their latest record, Downfall of Mankind, of which most of the set was based on, without forgetting their past releases. Songs like “Kill The Silence”, “Raise Your Fist” and “Never Forget, Never Repeat” from the aforementioned record were intertwined with older but equally strong songs like “Guerra Santa”, “Masked Betrayer” and “Into Moshpit”, the latter ending what was a great show all around. Our last gasp from all this madness was spent on a mad show by the adorable Portuguese bumpkins of Serrabulho, who organised a rave party to end all rave parties, shockful of classic Lusitanian memes, folklore ranches, pop culture references and, of course, a good dosage of party grind.
With our bodies almost tumbling down for the increasing tiredness and overall lack of sleep, all we can say is that this was another great fucking edition of SWR Barroselas Metalfest, the lovely wasteland festival that brings all the metalheads, punks and other freaks to the yard to drink the best metaphoric milkshake of them all. Eternal thanks to the organisers and all the staff that make it possible for us to be there every year, as well as all the friends, old and new, who we met during the festival. For the future, we suggest getting Hellhammer, some spiked cars and a few dozen molotov cocktails for some good ol’ ultra violent drag racing. But until then, we will eagerly await the announcements for edition number 23. That is if the world doesn’t go kaboom for real in the meantime.
Words by Filipe Silva
Photos by Marta Rebelo