UNDER THE SIGN OF DOOM: SONICBLAST MOLEDO 2019
And God said, “Let there be Doom,” and there was doom.
Whether you’ve been following us since the very beginning or only more recently, you already know that we have an yearly ritual that takes place in August: visit Moledo. And our yearly visit to Moledo does not just mean going bare bones into the cold water at nightfall with a bottle of Jack in hand or blowing up air mattresses – God only knows why we or our friends would even consider such extracurricular activities -, but it also means that a new edition of SonicBlast is at hand and this year, it would be the biggest one yet. Not only it boasted an impressive cast of bands that ranged from the most elegant psych rock to the heaviest and nastiest sludge/doom, it was also the first time the festival was held on three days. That’s right, three days of madness, hangovers and hazy sights. We could barely contain our excitement.
But three days of doom seemed a more appropriate way to describe the whole experience this time around and I ain’t just talking about some of the bands. The weather this year didn’t help much, especially on day one, as it was pouring heavily for the most part. In some cases, it helped to create an ambience. Most times it was just annoying as hell. We all did our best to find cover during those heavy rain times and still manage to enjoy some shows. And despite being tough at times, we managed it. And the sun did shine on the last day, so it wasn’t that bad. But that’s just the short version of the story. The full, uncensored one is coming up next via long, dragged out and nonsensical texts and beautifully detailed photographs. Enjoy the ride.
The first day started in a very wet and slippery manner. Much of the camping site was a bit waterlogged but nothing anyone couldn’t handle. Getting dry was a bit of a challenge since this day was full of drizzle – at least, that’s what the weather sites call a fucking tempest -, though that’s all part of the fun, right? This shitty weather incursion forced the festival to make some changes in the activities and so, instead of watching the first gigs in the awesome Pool stage, everything moved to the Main Stage. This ended up being a blessing for more reasons than one, but we’ll get there in a moment.
Jesus The Snake opened the festival this year with some heavy prog riffage, as heard in their debut record, Black Acid, Pink Rain. They didn’t have much time to play but what little time they had, they used in full, entertaining the audience that was entering the Main stage area like droplets. Next up were High Fighter, an energetic stoner group from Germany that caused the first signs of headbanging with their cocktail of heavy riffs and even heavier vocals. At this point, the rain was starting to be felt again and, after a bit of a plane delay, the Swedish MaidaVale entered the stage. Earlier I mentioned the fact of these sudden change from the Pool stage to the Main stage being a blessing in disguise for some reasons and this was one of them. These four gals brought it all on stage, their intensity and mystical sound captivating an audience that wanted nothing more than to forget about the deluge. From the rhythmic playstyle of drummer Johanna Hansson to the hypnotic dancing and singing of vocalist Matilda Roth, without forgetting the experimental rock riffage that was poured by guitarist Sofia Ström and bassist Linn Johannesson, this show became an instant highlight for us and we are eternally grateful for them having played a bigger stage than planned, as the impact just wouldn’t have been the same had they played on the Pool. Let’s hope they come back soon.
Such a great performance was followed by another good one, as the Japanese psych rockers Minami Deutsch gave way to the kaleidoscopic daydreaming that is well loved in the genre. The Devil and the Almighty Blues came afterwards to play some blues-inspired stoner rock and looked just like preachers in the midst of a storm, but at that point, everyone’s hearts and minds were focused on one thing and one thing only: the coming of Lucifer. Well, not Lucifer, the fallen angel from religious myth or the comic book character that was butchered on TV, but the occult rock band led by Johanna Sadonis. Quite possibly one of the most anticipated debuts of the festival, Lucifer presented themselves on stage as some sort of cult leaders in a congregation and despite the intense rain that was being felt at the time, most of their followers stayed to witness live the occult magick that they so devotely listen to on record. And they were not disappointed. Johanna and company gifted the audience with a selection of songs from their two records to date, the aptly named Lucifer I and II, including “Phoenix” and “Dreamer”, to which the audience responded with enthusiasm. An all around, great performance by these Sabbath worshippers.[smartslider3 slider=38]
And speaking of Sabbath worshippers, the Swedish Monolord came next in what was their second visit to Moledo. Opening their show with the powerful title-track of their debut record, Empress Rising, the trio played live as heavily as they play in the studio. From “Rust” and “Lord of Suffering” to the more recent and brand-new song “The Bastard Son”, this was a Monolord show as you’d expect it to be. No suprises and no bullshit, just bone-crushing riffs and reverberating voices.
Earthless were another that had played SonicBlast before – last year, to be exact -, and much like Monolord before them, their performance didn’t hold many suprises. In fact, apart from Nicke Anderson (The Hellacopters, Lucifer) joining them on stage at the end, this was almost exactly the same performance as last time. That’s not to say it was bad, but repetition is not always your friend. Even more so if you are a band that tends to have really long improvised sections in its music. And if last time we were just a bit too tired to fully enjoy their intricate melodies, this time we were just too tired to hear the same gig all over again. Besides, the Swedish Graveyard were playing next and most of us wanted to conserve the last bits of energy for them.
I’ll be straightforward on this one – I never really did like Graveyard all that much. Last and only time I saw them was in 2014 and they gave a pretty cool show that grabbed my attention. But listening to them on record afterwards, I just couldn’t get it. Still, everyone around me was really enthused to see them at SonicBlast so fuck it, let’s see how much they’ve evolved. Turns out, not much has changed even after their breakup in 2016. Their shows, however, still hold up as being pretty good demonstrations of how to properly fuse psych rock with hard rock and they are as lively on stage as you’d expect. Pretty much no one was left indifferent to their presence – not even me -, and the audience either chanted or mumbled the riffs and lyrics of songs such as “Please Don’t”, “Siren” and the classic “Uncomfortably Numb”, all to their hearts content. And that turned out to be a cool end to what was still going to be a pretty cold and soggy night.[smartslider3 slider=39]
After a depressing time trying to sleep properly and with our bellies full of whatever we found to eat in the bars by the beach, it was time to head out to the Main stage area again, as the Pool stage was still closed for renovations. Well, not really, but the dangers of a storm were still very present and it was better to be safe than in a hospital. We moved our asses at a good pace and we got there in time to see Mr. Mojo deliver a cheerful performance, which served as a great warm up for what came next: Petyr, led by the one and only Riley Hawk. Being the son of a legendary pro skater has its perks but it can also be a bit of a burden, as a sense of “wanting to prove yourself” is imbued in your spirit and can become an obsession. Thankfully, this psych rock group doesn’t back down from any challenge and with the San Diego aura emanating from them, they let go of any sense of fear and demonstrated why they should be put next to their peers in the San Diego scene. Zig Zags followed suit with a good dosage of crossover thrash that put some bodies moving and some hearts pumping at a fast pace. The iconic Spanish group Viaje a 800 came afterwards with a more hard-hitting psych rock than is usual and we are glad to have seen the band at least once in our lives, as they are not known to frequent stages too often these days.
The main course of the day was about to be served and, coincidentally or not, we had a quick dinner around this time too – at least, I did. Nevertheless, we didn’t lose sight of any band and while the burgers and ciders were being digested, we watched Kaleidobolt be the kings they are. Mixing prog rock with blues and the ever-present bits of psychedelic music, the trio played themes from their brand-new record, Bitter, without forgetting their past material. Stuff like “I Am The Seer”, “Steal My Thunder” and “Another Toothpick” resonated with an audience that was enthusiastic about seeing the band play on a bigger stage. That same stage turned bright green after Kaleidobolt left and that could only mean that a certain dank Polish group were about to play. Sensing a green haze filling the air, we were ready to stand in awe of the maximum dankness Belzebong would provide. From the dope-filled “Bong Thrower” to the nefarious “Pot Fiend” and the mind-altering “Diabolical Dopenosis”, this was a show that was as monolithic and awesome as they come. And keeping up with that entertainment factor, a well-known and well-beloved group of British gentleman made their way to the stage as soon as the green haze cleared. Yeah, it was time for round two of Orange Goblin. There is always a fear, as demonstrated in day one of the festival, that when a band returns to a festival in such a short time, the entire thing will be watered down and the show will be pretty much the same. That might be the case with more than a few bands, but not with Orange fuckin’ Goblin, no sir. Not only did these fine gents come back with a brand-new record, The Wolf Bites Back, they once again gave us a lesson on why they are one of the best rock n’ roll bands of all time. Opening their performance with the always excellent “Scorpionica”, the band distributed knuckle bruises, high kicks and fist bumps with their intense, vigorous and overpowering sound. There were classic songs such as “Saruman’s Wish”, “Some You Win, Some You Lose” and “Time Traveeling Blues”, and some new stuff from the aforementioned record like “Sons of Salem” and “Renegade”. There was even time for a heartfelt tribute to Lemmy Kilmister, as the band played Motörhead’s “No Class”, much to the delight of everyone present. An almost perfect show that included two very gruesome and fucking satisfying walls of death. Come back again in two years, please.
Such a high octane performance is incredibly difficult to follow up and were not for a few changes in the running order, the next band would be up to the task. But alas, we were not going to see Dopethrone yet and had to suffer through Stoned Jesus first. Say what you want, but I just don’t get the hype surrounding this band and their performance dragged on and on. Hell, I’m pretty sure “I’m The Mountain” was completed and restarted three times during the show. What a torment is was. And just when you thought it was over, they still played an encore of sorts, consisting of “Here Come the Robots”. I’m sure their fans were pleased to see them again but personally, I just wanted it to be over with. Eventually, they did leave the stage and even though strength started to fail me and those with me, we powered through just so we could finally witness the Hochelaga bastards of Dopethrone. Now this was a proper end of night. As their first time in Portugal, the group spared no time for introductions and eventually sounded the crunching slutch riffs of “Snort Dagger”, followed by what was a quick but punishingly sweet journey over their discography. Let me tell you, there are not many things sweeter than seeing such deadly anthems like “Dark Foil”, “Scum Fuck Blues” and “Tweak Jabber” performed live. The devastating “Killdozer” ends what was an exciting and emotionally-driven second day of the festival.
And on the third and final day of doom, the sun shone bright and the gates to the Pool stage were finally opened. And oh boy, was it fucking hot! Some might even say that this was the actual start of the festival, as the other two days didn’t really serve as a proper demonstration of the spirit of SonicBlast. Despite that and the intense heat, no one shied away from a quick dip in the pool to freshen up and watch a couple of gigs. Case in point, Maggot Heart and Giöbia. The first were a group led by vocalist and guitarist Linnéa Olsson and played a Sabbath-inspired version of doom complemented by Linnéa’s own mesmerizing and sometimes ominous voice. The latter were an Italian acid rock group that managed to grab the attention and entertain the crowd by the Pool. A slow and steady start to the last day.
Things shifted gears as we walked back to the Main stage one last time. Toundra were about to hit the scene and naturally, we were all very expectant. The Spanish quartet quickly envolved the audience in a mantle of rich melodies that invoked atmospheres and fables that were both elegant and melancholic. Using the opportunity to showcase their latest record, Vortex, Toundra played material that spanned almost their entire career, such as “Cobra” and “Tuareg” from the aforementioned record, as well as earlier songs like “Bizancio” and “Kitsune”, which the audience received with joy and passion. It was a very strong performance all throughout, with a flock of birds flying over to the sound of Toundra’s music. And amidst all the excitement between band and audience, both guitarists Esteban and Macón shared a kiss, sort of mimicking what Rammstein did in Russia a few weeks prior. A beautiful gesture that showed all that, in the end, love always wins. San Diego’s Sacri Monti then had the difficult task of following up such an exciting show and despite not wanting to falter, the intensity just wasn’t there. But the self-described loud five piece rock band did manage to pull a few headbangs and applauses while playing themes from their sophomore record, Waiting Room For The Magic Hour.
What succeeded a warm gig was a trio of bands that most would say were the most anticipated in the entire lineup. It all started with Windhand, a band that was compensating for their previous cancellation at the festival back in 2016. Armed with an arsenal of great songs, Windhand gave a whole new meaning to the whole occult music genre. The conjugation of the guitar and bass’ “heavy as all hell” tone with the stunning drum pummeling that is characteristic of the genre really does reach new heights when you mix it together with one of the best voices in today’s doom metal scene. Despite her modesty, Dorthia Cottrell dispels any sense of timidness, singing with a powerful and otherworldly voice that very few have. From classics such as “Old Evil” and “Forest Clouds” to the more recent “First To Die” and “Diablerie”, the band performed each song immaculately, while accompanied by video projections that set the tone and were thematically relevant to the overarching feeling of the music at hand.
After them, came an hurricane from New Orleans. Rest assured, the storm wasn’t returning. No, this was another kind of storm and its name was Eyehategod. The nasty kings of NOLA sludge were also making it up to us for their unfortunate cancellation back in 2016 and they were ready to give their all that night. And so were we. Without much delay, the quartet distilled filth, hatred and brutality in every riff played and every word spewed. Stuff like “Lack of Almost Everything”, “Agitation! Propaganda!”, “Sisterfucker”, “Medicine Noose” and “New Orleands Is The New Vietnam” incited intense movement within the crowd, who responded by opening mosh pits left and right and causing overall havoc. With an onstage persona that called back to his conflicts with his own self, vocalist Mike IX Williams introduced each song with an act that caught a few people off guard, especially those that didn’t know the band very well. And that is all part of EHG’s plan – catch you defenselss and blow your fucking face off. But those that are well-versed in this sort of thing know all too well that that is just the band’s way of doing things. It was an amazing exercise in violence and misanthropy, one that most will never dare to forget.
We then reached the third band of the terrific trio we mentioned earlier. If you are familiar with a little band called Sleep, then you most likely know who Al Cisneros is. And if you know that, then you must know about OM. Named after the Hindu syllable that is known as the natural vibration of the universe, OM are considered by many as a true institution of esotericism and spirituality within the stoner and doom metal scenes – all thanks to their sound that is deeply rooted in various religious influences. Catching a band like them live is rare, incredibly rare. So it’s no wonder that the entire festival gathered to meditate and contemplate the vastness of the cosmos at the stroke of midnight. The whole experience was, for lack of a better word, cathartic, and to be honest, there isn’t much else that can be said about it. The set was focused on two particular albums – God is Good, which they played in its entirety, and Advaitic Songs, of which they played “Gethsemane”, “State of Non-Return” and “Sinai” -, and during the entirety of OM’s performance you could see the audience in a trance, breathing in every word professed by their cult leader, their spirit animal, all the while watching in awe at the incredible rhythmic precision of Emil Amos and his astounding synchronisation with keyboardist Tyler Trotter and Al Cisneros himself. There aren’t enough words to describe such a vibrating and cadenced performance – it’s one of those things that needs to be seen to be fully comprehended. And after such a brilliant metaphysical trip, we walked back to the camping site, stunned and with words still failing us. We gazed at the night sky and pondered our own lives and what we were after what we had witnessed. There was still an entire trek back home, but we felt home. We always feel home in Moledo.
Words by Filipe Silva
Photos by Marta Rebelo