Vagos Metal Fest Vagos, Portugal. 13th, 14th August, 2016

Vagos Metal Fest Vagos, Portugal. 13th, 14th August, 2016

30th August 2016 0 By Carlos Cardoso

Photos from Vagos Metal Fest courtesy of Fátima Inácio Gomes

1st day

I am not going into the whole Prime Artists, Corroios, Vagos debacle, much has already been written about it and there is no need to go into detail about. I will only say that metal is alive and well in the city of Vagos.

There were lots of questions surrounding Vagos Metal Fest, would it have the same quality as the now dead Vagos Open Air? Would the infra-structures be adequate? Could Amazing Events and Vagos actually make a festival worthy of its predecessor? The answer to all of that is yes, the camping area was almost the same, and the infrastructures were almost equal to the previous years. We could perhaps talk about the lack of food options and merch stands, but truth be told, those are things that are secondary to what Vagos Metal Fest is, excellent live metal gigs.

The first day started not with metal, but with some heavy psychedelic rock and roll, Correia are not very well known to metal fans but their sound worked very well in a live setting, the kind of groovy dirty riffs that come alive in an open air scenery, a good choice for an introduction to the heavier sounds that would follow.

Up next were Betraying The Martyrs, a young French deathcore band that got the first real headbangs and moshpits of the day. Their sound is much more powerful in a live show where the guitars really shine through. Aaron Matts deserves a lot of praise, a true frontman with a captivating presence whose intensity enthralled the crowd. They finished their gig with their hilarious (but amazing) cover of Frozen’s “Let It Go” that the audience simply adored.

Vektor were one of the highlights of the festival, the young cosmic thrashers started with the wondrous “Charging The Void” and ended with the breathtaking “Hunger For Violence”, and between those songs we were treated to a lesson in thrashing with multiple moshpits forming and a wall of death to finish it all. The only issue was that maybe the sound could have been clearer because the guitars were sometimes muffled by the drums, this however did not prevent Vektor from delivering the first great brutal dose of metal of the day.

The evening was upon us and the Portuguese veterans Ramp were up, fan favourites for all the Portuguese at the festival, these guys dived into their bag of heavy metal tricks, and although their newer tracks are good, it’s the classics “How” and the closer “Hallelujah” that really get the crowd singing along, and as always, it was Tó Pica in the guitar and Rui Duarte in the vocals giving it their all to bring forth the power that Ramp are.

Fleshgod Apocalypse entered the stage with all the theatrics they are known for, costumes for everyone and an impressive looking Veronica Bordacchini with an intimidating mask. This was symphonic death metal of the highest quality, powerful guitars, impressive drum work and a beautiful soprano voice by Veronica that accentuated the brutality that was Fleshgod’s ode to death metal. The highlights were “The Violation” and the thunderous closer “The Forsaking”. These, however, were just some of the tracks that did not suffer from a shady piece of work by the sound guys. It’s a shame that they were not paying attention to the show as they should, often forgetting to turn on Veronica’s microphone until 3 or 4 seconds after she started singing, it was the only flaw in an otherwise fantastic gig.

It was time for the band everyone had come to see, Dark Funeral were the undisputed headliners of a magnificent first day, and when the Swedes entered the stage everyone in the audience stood in anticipation of what would be a black metal night to remember. Unfortunately this was a disaster during the first two songs “Unchain My Soul” and “The Arrival of Satan’s Empire”, we don’t know if it was due to the fact that Dark Funeral were playing with borrowed guitars (the airline lost all of their guitars), but there was no sound coming from the guitars during these two first tracks. The band continued to play with only drums, bass and vocals, but the right thing to do would have been to stop the show, fix the problem, and then start over, no one would blame them, instead we were treated to two half-songs. After that the guitars returned and the concert went in the right direction, but even if “Vobiscum Satanas”, “Hail Murder” and “The Secrets Of The Black Arts” were great, there were occasional sound problems with the drums overpowering the guitars and the vocals occasionally disappearing between the black metal wall of sound. Still, this did not stop the fans from going mad and the band from giving one hell of an aggressive show, it’s just that it could have been so much more.

The night ended with the gruesome, hateful and powerful display that is a live show by Bizarra Locomotiva, the industrial metal that Rui Sidônio gives voice to cannot be described by a simple genre label. As always their sound is gargantuan, the straightforward way with which they shake the ground beneath the audience with tracks like “Egodescentralizado”, “Engodo” or “Gatos do Aslfalto” would never be matched during the rest of the festival. The concert ended in madness with “O Escaravelho” with Sidônio among the fans, bringing then to pure screaming ecstasy, a perfect end to a great day of concerts.

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2nd day

The second day started with Godvlad, a melodic death metal band with some electronic sounds added into the mix, the only noteworthy thing here is the vocalist Vanessa Cabral, her sensual presence along with a powerful voice breathes life into what would be a pretty boring live band. Also noteworthy was the cringe worthy performance by the lead guitar, if you can’t hit the notes with the guitar behind your head don’t do it, it just makes the whole band look unprofessional and cheesy. Still, the band has been gathering a lot of fans lately and the way the audience cheered them on is proof that they have a future in the national metal scene.

Up next were Heavenwood, they gave an energetic performance that featured new tracks as well as the fan favourite classics “Rain Of July” and “Suicidal Letters”, the fans were happy to see them in a somewhat rare live setting, it’s a shame that their sound does not carry well into an open air venue, furthermore they suffered because the sound guys weren’t able to quite capture the sweet spot to their sound, nevertheless it was a good show to warm the crowd for the next couple of gigs.

The sky was grey when Tribulation entered the stage, and although it would be better to see them in the evening, the cloudy skies and diminishing daylight made for one hell of a scenery. Their progressive black metal is strange enough to capture the attention of even those who don’t appreciate the genre, the track “Melancholia” is proof of that, as soon as they started playing it the crowd started gathering to see who these guys were. Furthermore, if you’ve never seen these Swedes play live you have never seen the androgynous painted hurricane that is Jonathan Hultén on stage, the man is show onto itself that only adds brilliance to Tribulation.

Discharge were the joker card on the Vagos Metal Fest deck, a pure hardcore punk band in an all metal festival is a risky choice, but if there’s one thing that metal heads respect its brutality. From the moment Discharge entered the stage there were moshpits, circle pits, savage headbanging and all around healthy punk fun, so when Jeffery “J.J.” Janik jokingly asks “are we metal enough for ya?” you say hell yeah, a magnificent performance from a kickass band.

Finntroll brought the party with them in true folk style. From the first moment to the last there were circle pits, mosh pits, jumping and singing from everyone (even if most people didn’t know any lyrics) and a happy mood that was simply unique. The crowd went especially wild with “Jaktens Tid” and “Nattfödd”, but everything turned to madness with the closing duo of “Trollhammaren” and “Under Bergets Rot”, and in the end it was just one more great folk metal party in Vagos.

It was finally time for Helloween, the one band everyone came to see, young and old, gathered in front of the stage to welcome the Germans back to Portugal after so many years had passed. From the first moment we saw a different kind of professionalism, the sound was perfect, the band did not miss one single note, the banter from Andi Deris was always entertaining and Sascha Gernster (what an amazing solo piece) along with Michael Weikath gave a guitar show to be remembered for a long time. This show featured some recent songs like “My God-Given Right” and “lost In America”, but it was the classics that everyone came to see: “Dr. Stein”, “Steel Tormentor”, “Where The Rain Grows”, and the phenomenal medley of “Halloween / Sole Survivor / I Can / Are You Metal? / Keeper of the Seven Keys” simply killed it. That would have been enough, but Helloween came back for more and gave the fans “Future World” and “I want Out” to finish what was simply the best gig of the festival.

Was there any way to follow this? It surely would be impossible to keep the spirits excited after such a performance by Helloween, but if there ever was a band in Portugal capable of following this epic performance that band would be Moonspell, the greatest Portuguese band of all time (not just in metal), lead by the iconic cult figure Fernando Ribeiro in the vocals. Having been treated like a second rate show by the previous promotion company, Moonspell set out to prove why they always deserved to be right where they are. The sound was amazing, guitars, drums, voice, everything came together perfectly to allow them to deliver a stunning performance. There is something very interesting with their live gigs, most bands deliver some new songs and the audience tolerates them while they wait for the classics, but not with Moonspell, be it the classics “Opium”, “Ruin & Misery”, “Raven Claws” with the beautiful Mariangela Demurtas, “Mephisto”, “Ataegina”, “Vampiria, “Alma Mater” or the more recent “Extinct”, “Night Eternal” and “Medusalem”, everyone sings, every single person in the audience knows the lyrics, this is something in all these years I have only seen happen with Moonspell. Fernando Ribeiro himself leads this metal mass in perfect communion with the fans, surrounded by flames (excellent pyrotechnics). To wrap it up, the most surprising moment of the evening was when Sidónio from Bizarra Locomotiva, wrapped in black trash bags, joined Moonspell on stage to perform “Em Nome Do Medo”, a truly mesmerizing moment. Whoever doubted that Moonspell deserved to be here were seriously wrong, this is their spot, earned with hard work and dedication, just has everyone in Vagos fought to make this festival happen.

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