The last 2 years have been hard for all of us. We ran out of concerts, out of events, out of (almost) everything. But the underground didn’t stop, because to stop is to die. Lots of albums came out, bands were created and dismantled, besides other initiatives such as online festivals, something that until then was done very little. And finally, things calm down and a new edition of SWR is announced, even if it is in a lite format.
Since the distant year of 2004, I have been heading there religiously, year after year. Little did I know that a kid who got on the train by himself because he was going “god-knows-where in the North” to see Akercocke, would surrender this way to one of the most important events of the year?
But Barroselas is not only about concerts… It’s above all about socializing. It’s coming and seeing familiar faces, many of whom you only see once a year. It’s bearing the nocturnal cold, withstanding the occasional rain on your back, hunting for records in the stands, catching up on conversation, walking around the usual three stages, and above all, discovering new bands in a festival that has already accustomed us to the eclecticism of its line-ups, where I have seen many of my favorite bands. Sometimes you walk by a stage, there is a band you have never heard of, but suddenly it makes you stop because they are playing great music. Other times you think “sweet Satan, what the hell is going on over there?”, but the memories always remain… SWR is all this and more, it’s the pig on a spit, meet & greets, soccer matches, the pilgrimage on foot through the streets of the village, buying moscatel wine at Mr. Dario’s wine shop, and having every meal at the unbeatable Big Mannu’s. SWR is life, SWR is love.
And this year I have my eye on:
Mgla (pronounced “mgwah”) is one of those gems that as it is polished, reveals its hidden richness. Hailing from the landscapes of the Vistula river in Little Poland, more specifically Krakow, this duo (officially) has been revealing itself as an iceberg when it comes to the solidity of its work. Just when you think an album is phenomenal and hard to top, another even better one comes out. And this is a very rare characteristic to find nowadays. If having a quality band was not enough, M. and Darkside manage to be creative enough to create two distinct musical entities with their own qualities. In 2005, when Kriegsmaschine released their debut album “Altered States of Divinity” after a series of demos and other releases, these gentlemen raised eyebrows all around. The same year of 2005 saw the debut release of some such Mgła, an obscure band with a name difficult to pronounce, hidden faces, (a trend that caught on) but that started strongly, with a split alongside Deathspell Omega, Clandestine Blaze and others. The debut album Groza consolidated the duo’s creativity, but it was in 2012 that the Holy Trinity (pun intended) of the Poles was spotted with the release of the overwhelming With Hearts Toward None. With a cover that could have been taken at Penedo de Castro where a certain Portuguese band that released an album called Anatman in 2021 took promotional photos, With Hearts Toward None represents a complete upgrade in the band’s sound, production, and songwriting. The melodic riffs, full of catchy leads that make you hum while you’re watering your garden, coupled with Darkside’s superior performance on drums are undeniably glorious and triumphant.
Exercises In Futility (2015) and Age Of Excuse (2019) contributed to consolidating the brilliant discography that M. and Darkside have been developing, having made Mgła one of the most refreshing names and standard-bearers of European Black Metal of the last decade. It is impossible to single out one song from this golden triumvirate of albums, it is possible to listen to them in their entirety, in a row, without a hint of boredom or saturation emerging.
All this while Kriegsmaschine released the fabulous Apocalypticists, an album where they can brag “‘so you see? We can make great songs, without speeding up, and where our drummer can come up with even more wacky patterns on the drums.”
It’s definitely going to be one of the highlights of this 2022 SWR “feast”. Definitely the one I’m most looking forward to seeing, in these 18 uninterrupted years of pilgrimage up north. Just thinking about that “trlintintin” of the cymbals at the end of Exercises in Futility V gives me goosebumps…
The groove masters from Porto will return to Barroselas, to once again infect everyone with their heavy but catchy riffs and the commanding voice of Miguel Inglês. Live they transmit a very positive vibe, and it is a pleasure to attend their shows. “Adapt & Survive” was the album that grabbed me. I remember clenching my teeth listening to the beginning of “Maniac”, with that Meshuggah guitar tone, full of breaks and contagious breakdowns. (And I’m not even a big fan of breakdowns)… But something grabbed me, and it did until today. The second full-length proposal from these gentlemen is even more solid, where I emphasize Marco Duarte’s excellent drum work, a pleasure to listen to… More fluid songs, with more careful and mature composition. “We Defy” came to confirm Equaleft as a resonant and established name in the national heavy scene. After my fair share of Equaleft concerts already seen, I can say that the band is guaranteed groove and heaviness live. I mean, groove and cookies to eat, what more could you ask for? I hope they play “Maniac” and “Once Upon a Failure”, here’s a hint, guys!
Autopsy is one of those veteran bands that we have all heard of, but “never got to listen much”. There are so many of them, and there’s no harm in admitting it. “Whoa, but dude, Autopsy is one of those you should listen to if you appreciate the early pinnacles of Death Metal!”… Fine, but there are so many within that category. With the announcement of Autopsy for this edition, I ended up getting more familiar with the discography of these Americans, and after listening to albums like “Severed Survival” and “Mental Funeral”, filled with songs like “Torn from the Womb” or “Charred Remains”, I quickly realized what I had been missing all these years. Simply… death metal, old-school production, and a variety of songs that revealed more creativity than I expected. These Americans present slow songs almost bordering on doom, and then suddenly the next song explodes into a frenzy of riffs, skank beats, and piercing guitar solos! The fact that the vocalist is at the same time the drummer is something rare to see, I remember Proscriptor from Absu/Apsu, Mike Browning from Nocturnus, Blackthorn from Thornspawn, and only a few others… A concert I will pay special attention to.
An excellent example of the revival in the last years. Excellent bands have been appearing that breathe from the 80s sounds, bringing with them a kind of time travel. Midnight Priest, a band with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage, is one of the groups with the highest quality. From the days of “Rainha da Magia Negra”, featuring great tracks, ending with “Aggressive Hauntings”, whose cover could easily be featured on a King Diamond record, Pita & Co are a great example that traditional heavy metal is alive and well. Let’s all “À boleia com o Diabo” and bang our heads at the SWR Feast to the sound of these gentlemen.
Oh and I heard a rumor saying that Filii Nigrantium Infernalium might be playing the entire “A Era do Abutre” record, what else can you ask for?!