Kreator, Paradise Lost, Abbath, Schammasch, Equaleft, Soldier
Quinta da Marialva, Corroios (PT)
6th August 2016
Promoted by Prime Artists and PEV Entertainment
This year saw a new start for Vagos Open Air, now simply known by its acronym VOA – new partnership among the promoters, new venue in a new city… The quality? Same as always. Of course all these changes brought along a lot of complaints (humans…), which I don’t see relevant to talk about; but regarding five out of the twelve bands being “recidivists” in the festival, I will say something. Sure, we live in a little country in the most Southwestern corner of Europe where it’s not always easy for an international band to reach – meaning the list of well-known names that never played here is endless and yes, it would be nice to shorten that list through a fest. But at the same time… if the band’s good, what’s so wrong about seeing it a dozen times? Hell, this was my 10th time seeing Paradise Lost and I loved it!
I’m not sure if this new place is smaller than the previous one. At first glance it seems so, as it’s definitely shorter in length. But it’s considerably larger in width, so… What really matters is that the stage was placed inside a natural amphitheater, surrounded by small hills, and if that prevented the wind to ease up the unholy heat (it’s been said this is the hottest summer since 1931), it also didn’t let the sound wander off beyond the festival zone.
Back to its original 2-day format, I sadly could only attend the second day. From what I’ve heard, Dark Oath did pretty well as the opening act. Not in front of the biggest crowd, but everybody knows how unfair playing first can be; still, it seems that a fair share of people enjoyed the symphonic/melodic death metal the national band had to offer, introducing the debut full-length “When Fire Engulfs The Earth”.
Italians Adimiron followed next and apparently also focused just on their latest release “Timelapse” (or so it says on setlist.fm). I confess I had never heard of them before, even if they’ve been around since 1999. Apparently, the same happened with most of the crowd, although eventually they surrendered to the band’s sound and performance.
Mantar’s “Ode To The Flame” has received a good feedback but the duo’s live performance not so much. Or maybe their fusion of black-doom-sludge-rock isn’t the right one for a festival, especially in day light. But then again, so shouldn’t be the depressive metal of Katatonia (I know I’ve seen them live in broad daylight a few years back and didn’t like it, despite being fond enough of the band) but I haven’t heard one single bad comment about the Swede’s performance – by the contrary! But I guess Katatonia will always be Katatonia. Played a few songs from the latest “The Fall Of Hearts” along a bunch of older hits.
When Anathema got on stage it was already dark. They haven’t released anything new in two years, but they’ve got a very special place in the hearts of our metal community – always had, not since Daniel Cardoso joined their ranks. So it’s only natural that I also heard only good things about their gig.
Finally, Opeth. I remember the last time I’ve seen them, precisely at this festival, two years ago, the show was pretty disappointed for the majority of the fans, as the band seemed uninspired. They made up for it now. The title-track of their upcoming album has been rolling on Youtube for over a week but they didn’t play it, sticking to the older stuff their fans love the most.
Now the second day, that I actually witnessed. I arrived around 15:20, the “Blackhearts” documentary was still playing on the video walls. There were a few people watching it but not many – I’ve mentioned the heat already, haven’t I?
In previous editions, the first band of each day was always Portuguese, so having a Spanish opening act was a first – thrashers Soldier did the honors. VOA is part of their “The Great Western Oligarchy tour 2016”, named after their latest album. Solid riffing, a clear invitation to headbanging, to which the crowd – once again, not that big at that early hour – took pleasure in oblige. Not much talking between songs, as there was only half an hour to play, but one could see how pleased they were for being there, given the constant funny faces and broad smiles. Happy and nice bunch of people, I believe, and competent musicians. “Revolt”, from the debut “Gas Powered Jesus”, closed their set.
Equaleft was up next and the national underground could hardly be better represented. I can’t find the right words to express how proud I am for them and their achievements in these past years. After opening for Gojira last month (see here), I believe playing in a fest like this was one of the few milestones they had to reach yet on Portuguese soil and now it’s done. Go Equaleft!
The follow-up to “Adapt & Survive” is in the making but nothing ready to be shared yet, so they focused on their acclaimed debut. It’s “Maniac” now that closes their sets, not “Invigorate” anymore, but this hit still features singer Miguel, a.k.a. Jedi Mig, wielding a light saber. Soldier’s thrash was entitled to some mosh circles, but it was Equaleft’s groove that made “the dust rise up from the ground”, as I heard someone say.
The promo pic of Schammasch on the festival page shows us four guys in bare upper-bodies. I bet they regretted deeply not going on stage like that – 34ᵒC is “a bit” too much to wear long robes. Singer/guitarist C.S.R., with black paint on his face and hands and whose robe included a hood, was probably who suffered the most, even if he barely moved throughout the whole gig. He even admitted at some point that it was “boiling” up there. So kudos for their resistance.
The music itself deserves some applause too, even if their avant-garde black metal cut down the adrenaline that both previous bands rose up. Still, mainly songs from their latest “Triangle” and at least one off “Contradiction” (“Golden Light”, if I’m not mistaken) were cheered by the crowd.
It’s always hard to distinguish a solo artist from a band when the latter is named after said artist – and even so when most of the setlist is comprised of songs the artist played with previous projects. That’s what happened with Abbath. With a 75-minute slot, I understand that even if he/they had played the only released album in full, there would still be plenty of time to kill. But playing four Abbath songs among one of I and six of Immortal… I know they’re not seen exactly as covers by the fans, especially when they were thrilled to listen to “Nebular Ravens Winter” (this one’s even recorded in “Abbath”, the album) and “Tyrants” and “All Shall Fall”, but it still felt weird. Apart from the weirdness, it was super. Black metal lovers were offered a great show of the genre – even if the sun was still high up – and those who didn’t like it particularly could always enjoy Abbath and bassist King’s “evil” faces.
As aforementioned, Paradise Lost made my day. Nick Holmes acknowledged the “beautiful new venue” of the fest and said how good it was to be back. And with such a rich and diverse setlist, I doubt someone didn’t feel the same way about their return. From recent songs like “No Hope In Sight” to tracks from “a time when most of you weren’t even born” like “Rapture”, we revisited some of Paradise Lost’s highlights through time.
While drinking Super Bock, probably Portugal’s most popular beer, Nick mentioned its alcohol content – 5,6 % – and said that such beer would be banned in the U.K. because it could turn them into animals. When he associated it with football, the laughter was even louder.
As co-headliners, they could afford an encore, which happened after “Say Just Words” – by the way, from the same album they also played the title-track “One Second” that, according to Nick, they hadn’t played in a while (I checked and apparently the last had been two months prior). ”Flesh From Bone” was one of the four songs of said encore, its death-doom nature – so old-school PL in such a recent song – leading Nick to say “it feels like the last 25 years never happened”. “The Last Time” wrapped it up and I really, really hope this was far from the last time that I’ve seen them.
When entering the photo-pit for Kreator we were advised to stay somewhat away from the stage during the first song – “Enemy Of God”, as it turned out – so we were hoping for some fireworks. Imagine our disappointment when it was just confetti… Oh well. On the other hand, I’m glad it wasn’t anything dangerous, as staying away meant closer to the barriers and that was nearly impossible – the mosh and crowdsurf began with practically the first riff and the security guys needed space to attend to all of them enthusiastic metalheads. Mille Petrozza did ask more than once for circles and screams “Portuguese style” but he really didn’t need to – he was already getting that from the start.
I hadn’t realized until now that their last studio album was already four years old (review here). But worry not – Mille said they were working on the follow-up to “Phantom Antichrist” and that it should be out next year. The reception of this news was loud, but when Mille said he wanted to come back as headliners of their own tour, the crowd’s roar was thunderous. Say what you will about thrash and all these “dinosaurs” like Kreator doing the same thing over and over – legends are legends and will always be welcomed.
VOA experienced “Extreme Aggression” in a “Violent Revolution” brought up by “Hordes Of Chaos” filled with “Pleasure To Kill”, and this year’s edition finished with the “Flag Of Hate” raised by a “Betrayer”. Looking forward for next year’s experiences!
A special thanks to the promoters, to Raising Legends and Equaleft for the ride and Mosher Clothing for keeping an eye on my stuff and letting me enjoy the shade of their merch stand.
Text & photos by Renata “Pieni” Lino
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