Ironwsword, Bloodbath, Overkill, Orphaned Land, Alestorm, Ne Obliviscaris, Midnight Priest
Quinta do Ega, Vagos (PT)
9th August 2015
Promoted by Prime Artists
Last year, Prime Artists added one more day to the festival and the change was meant to stay. So here we were, on the third, last and more diverse day of Vagos Open Air 2015.
Personally, I still see Midnight Priest as an Iron Maiden and Judas Priest rip-off, but whether the crowd thought the same or not, they didn’t seem to care, banging those heads to songs like “Into The Nightmare” or “Rainha da Magia Negra” (Black Magic Queen). It’s a festival, a party, and they’re making copy+paste of some legendary riffs, so not even the broken high pitches of singer Lex Thunder ruined the mood. It was the shortest set of the day and it finished with “À Boleia Com o Diabo” (Hitchhiking with the Devil).
Ne Obliviscaris are touring the world thanks to a crowdfunding but I didn’t know so many of their fans came from Portugal – besides the wild crowd they had during the show, the signing session/meet & greet lasted more than the one-hour gig itself! I guess the guys from down under were just as surprised, but obviously happy. And it was deserved. Their extreme prog is exquisite and seductive enough to stand out from the other bands on the bill, but then the way they performed it – even in hot daylight – was more than enthralling to everyone who’s into that kind of music. And some of them had the chance to hold singer/violinist Tim Charles on the last song, “And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope”, as he jumped into the crowd and crowdsurfed. Promising to come back as soon as possible, they all left the stage smiling.
The original bill featured Halestorm and, as I think I’ve told you before, here in Portugal we like stronger stuff. There was a lot of moaning on how they should bring Alestorm instead. Then Halestorm had to cancel – not sure why and don’t really care, as cancelling a gig due to “a scheduling conflict” sounds like a poor excuse, and therefore disrespectful to their fans – and the “bring Alestorm, you only have to remove the H!” request was all over the place. And Prime Artists answered the call! The Scottish pirates (who claim coming from the “darkest depths of the Caribbean”) came and conquered with their inebriating (yeah, pun intended) folk. Talking about how they could sense our smell when introducing “The Famous Ol’ Spiced” or how they weren’t here to steal our potatoes but to drink our beer (“Drink”), this was probably the happiest show of the whole fest.
I’ve seen Orphaned Land a few times and know how popular they are here, but still Kobi Farhi felt the need to explain to the crowd that he wasn’t Jesus Christ, he only looked like him. In fact, he couldn’t be Jesus as he wasn’t a virgin and made a lot of sex. After such a fun gig of Alestorm, so much different from the soberer Middle Eastern metal of Orphaned Land, I guess an ice-breaking remark like this was needed, but Kobi always has something amusing to say. Not sure which song he introduced by singing some The Doors verse, but that early evening we could hear oldies such as “Sapari”, “In Thy Never Ending Way” or “Norra El Norra” mixed with more recent ones like “All Is One”, “Let The Truce Be Known” or “The Simple Man” (the latter dedicated to us). All with a lot of clapping-to-the-rhythm and sing-alongs. Beautiful concert, so the news of an upcoming acoustic tour, which will include Portugal, was more than welcome.
Thrash metal returned to Vagos in the form of Overkill – our “ugly cousins from New Jersey”, as Bobby Blitz himself described them. They indeed have a solid, crazy fan-base here – fans that make Bobby feel like he’s fifty again. Yes, fifty, not fifteen – he’s not only a top thrash metal singer and owner of a chocolate shop, he’s also a humorist. The chosen tracks to represent their latest “White Devil Armory” were “Armorist” and “Bitter Pill”; the rest were the usual classics such as “Necroshine”, “In Union We Stand”, “Rotten To The Core”, “Horrorscope”, “Hello From The Gutter”… I confess that after the little speech about brotherhood, my brain whispered “bastard nation” when Bobby said “’cause we are”, but the sentence finished with “Ironbound” after all. I wonder if I’ll ever hear “Bastard Nation” live ever again. The gig finished with the mandatory “Fuck You”, and just like three years before (see here), Bobby provoked us with “is this Portugal or España?”, when he wanted to hear us louder. And just like in that other V.O.A. edition – in fact like every time someone tells us such words – it worked.
If you’re one of those who saw Nick Holmes joining Bloodbath with very skeptical eyes, it’s about time to dismiss that feeling: the guy is definitely up to it! I had the confirmation with the release of “Grand Morbid Funeral” last November, but the ultimate trial by fire is always on stage. And when you’re a Paradise Lost fan for about 20 years, like I am, you also know that it may take you a couple of shows to get that proof, as Nick’s mood affects his performance proportionally.
But as soon as “Old Nick” addressed the audience, by the way he said “We’re Bloodbath from Sweden and Yorkshire. I’m the one from Yorkshire” I could tell he was in an excellent mood, meaning he would also excel in this show. And he did. Bloodbath played a little something from the four albums they’ve released so far, pleasing old and new fans, and giving Nick the chance to show how the songs once sung by Mikael Åkerfeldt and Peter Tägtgren weren’t lessened at all by his vocal tone and skills. “Eaten” and “Cry My Name” were the encore of the probably most brutal gig of Vagos 2015.
It’s not easy for an underground band to wrap up a festival with so many international famous names. Many people left after Bloodbath, but many also stayed to see national heavy metal veterans Ironsword. Along with Filii Nigrantium Infernalium the previous night, they were also special guests in this festival, and once more I believe it was anniversary related – the band celebrated their 20th this year. But also have a new album out, “None But The Brave”, released last May, which their setlist was pretty focused on. In the end of its title-track, singer/guitarist Tann said something about how we were entitled to a special version of this new song, but since I’m not that familiar with their work, I don’t know if it was really some “special version” or if someone messed up and they had to improvise. Whatever the case, they did good and some vigorous fans screamed “IRONSWORD, IRONSWORD!”. “Burning Metal” wasn’t just the last song but also the description of the show.
And it was over. Three days that seemed to last forever and, at the same time, so quickly went by. That’s how good memories feel like, I suppose. Well, let the preparations for Vagos 2016 begin!
Text & photos by Renata “Pieni” Lino
Note: we weren’t granted access to the photopit, so no gallery this year.