Mão Morta, R.A.M.P., More Than A Thousand, Éden
Louro, Famalicão (PT)
24th July 2015
Laurus Nobilis is a new 3-day festival in the north of Portugal. Each day is dedicated to a different genre of music – in fact, the alternative name of the fest is “Festa da Música” (Music Party) – the first being “heavy metal”, so off I went last Friday.
“Heavy Metal” in its general meaning, that is, as none of the four bands had such a traditional sound.
The first band, Éden, was supposed to get on stage at 19:30 but the show was delayed for about an hour. It wasn’t the band’s fault, not even the promoter’s. It’s just that it was a week-day, and despite being summer, a lot of people are still at work. Even at 20:30 there was only a fraction of the big crowd that would later pack nicely the area in front of the stage.
Éden is local band that’s been around for 20 years – although I confess it was the first time I’ve heard of them. Metal sung in Portuguese, with an alternative vibe and a very expressive singer. Despite the long career, it seems they only have two albums out – “Kaos” (1999) and “Ciclo Fechado” (2012) – but they’ve always been active, either playing live or working in other musical projects, so there wasn’t any hint of rustiness in their performance. Some people in the audience engaged in their sound right away but others – especially the kids who were already at the front row waiting for More Than A Thousand – were a little harder to convince. But in the song “Voa” (which means “fly”), frontman AguiarS smiled and said “you’re not flying… but we are!”. And that was amusing enough to make the more skeptical let themselves go to Éden’s sound.
For the last song, AguiarS left the stage while a couch was placed in front of the drumkit. He’d soon return wearing a white tunic and holding a staff, which automatically made me think of St. Peter. But since they have a song named “S.º Sinfrónio”, I believe that was the song that closed the gig.
Then More Than A Thousand stormed the stage with “Feed The Caskets”. Like I’ve said before, they had a legion of fans eager to see them – including me. MTAT announced early this month that they’re going into a hiatus, one with no foreseen expiration date, so I tip my hat to Laurus Nobilis promoters for recognizing the band’s talent (trust me – that’s not always the case around here, in their own home country) and giving them one more chance to say goodbye to their fans – some of them who were seeing MTAT for the first time and whom singer Vasco Ramos “welcomed to the family”. I’ve seen MTAT a couple of times before (a lot less than I’d like to, sadly) and the interaction between the band and the crowd feels indeed as if you’re among good friends. Vasco keeps the spirits up constantly, asking for screams, jumps, fists in the air and mosh pits, and the other members, even without a microphone, encourage the crowd just the same by clapping their hands or simply with their lively posture. So what if Vasco went out of tune once or twice? Their music is top-notch metalcore and the way they give themselves to it is a match. I was just hoping for a somewhat longer gig, but that understandable delay messed with every band’s schedule (except for the headliners, that is). Still we heard a fair share of their mandatory songs, the last being the usual “No Bad Blood”.
I’m not sure how famous R.A.M.P. are outside of Portugal, but here they’re close to legends – after all, they were the first metal band to enter the Portuguese music charts, back in 1998. And more than 25 years after their formation, and despite their latest album (“Visions”) being six years old already, they still stir crowds – because they’re one of those bands that always deliver a tremendous show, new material or not.
Also, they’re proof that metal can be as aggressive as amusing – that flood of heavy riffs and sharp beats always hand-in-hand with funny faces and teasing one another (bass player Sales, being the youngest and the shortest, is their favorite target…). Let’s not forget singer Rui Duarte’s remarks. I believe my favorite from this show was when there was a little misunderstanding regarding the next song to play. As I’ve said before, the schedules suffered some changes and it seems that Rui thought they’d be playing even less than they actually would. So he started introducing the ballad “Alone”, which he always dedicates to his mother, but drummer Paulinho called him, telling him there was still one song before that. “Okay, so this one is not for my mother, is for an ex-girlfriend”, was how he amended the introduction to “Clear”.
There were a lot of classics missing from this setlist, but since their last tour was a best-of one, to celebrate their 25th anniversary, it was refreshing listening to songs that I hadn’t heard live in a while. And by the crowd’s response, they were happy too.
I’m pretty sure that headliners Mão Morta (dead hand) are unknown to non-Portuguese natives. Here, they are huge. They’re considered avant-garde/death rock, but personally, I think they’re too unique to fit any label. The songwriting is dark, in a creepy kind of way, and then the lyrics address capitalism and politics in general, as well as human rights and basic instincts – sung in Portuguese, in Adolfo Luxúria Canibal’s overly-deep voice, it was almost impossible not being a success around here.
With 16 albums out – the latest, “Pelo Meu Relógio São Horas De Matar” (according to my watch it’s time to kill), released last year – the band delighted the audience with recent tracks just as “Os Ossos De Marcelo Caetano” (Marcelo Caetano’s bones) and “Pássaros A Esvoaçar” (birds flying), and old ones like “Tu Disseste” (you said) or “Anarquista Duval” (Duval the anarchist). It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but one look at all those people swaying to that sound and it was clear that the headlining role had been deserved.
I wasn’t at the other days of the festival, but this first one was convincing enough – a great place, with very welcoming people, diverse food spots and, of course, some of the finest names in our musical scene. See you next year!
Text & photos by Renata “Pieni” Lino