Under The Doom 2018: A summary of all our failures
For the unaware, Under The Doom is a two-day festival dedicated to the darkest trends within metal: doom metal, black metal, avantgarde, gothic, ambient and post-metal join hands to form a chain that, year after year, has been reinforced with names of ever-increasing caliber. Held every year in December (of course!) in Lisbon, the festival has had the presence of Samael, Lacuna Coil, In The Woods…, Liv Kristine, Ahab, Esoteric, Saturnus, Primordial and a handful of top names from around the world belonging to the genres described above. One of the particularities of this festival is that the public can often watch rare moments – for example, the complete act of Ahab’s fabulous “The Call Of The Wretched Sea”. However, the 2018 edition, the sixth, has strongly bet on bigger and contemporary names, unequivocal proof that the festival is growing exponentially. If in previous years the roster was divided between the stages of the RCA Club and the LAV venue, this time the latter was the only one chosen due to the larger space it presents.
Another particularity of this festival is to present bands from all over the world, from the most famous to the least known, which indicates a careful and informed selection of what is happening in this musical niche. Proof of this was the inauguration of the roster by the Israelis Wyatt E., a trio of drone/doom metal who performed on stage sporting burkas-like costumes. They were too brief and unfortunately played to a practically empty room, one of the evils of being the first band of the day in this type of festivals. Within their genre, doom/drone with sludge strokes they are like fish in water, and managed to catch our attention during the brief time they played. The Dutchmen The Wounded then played and presented their depressing and melancholic rock to an already frankly fuller room. Although they have an unequivocal quality, their performance was more curiosity oriented, because it is not a metal band, which often annoys the most fanatical audience. To make up for this annoyance, the Portuguese legends Desire took to the stage and did everything they had to do: a solid, emotional and mixed-feeling old school doom metal performance. Although I saw them last year, and with a virtually unchanged set, they are one of the bands that marked the genre worldwide with “Infinity… A Timeless Journey Through An Emotional Dream”, a portentous record full of grief and drama.
One of the most emotional moments of the evening followed, as we attended the final concert of the Americans While Heaven Wept in Portugal. The band gathered for a last tour. You could feel it in the air in the end of “The Furthest Shore”, the song chosen to start the farewell. The good general sound throughout the performance helped to celebrate instead of suffering, and in the end we could only thank Virginians for their dedication over almost 30 years. They warmed up the place to the Swedes Draconian, a doom/gothic/death metal sextet long awaited by dozens of fans. It was easy to hear them on specific songs, such as the initial “Stellar Tombs” or “Morphine Cloud”, which explain well live the huge Swedish entourage. To finish the first day, Under The Doom had the rare opportunity to present the Norwegians Arcturus. After such a long absence from the stages, especially in Portuguese ground, we were very curious about the result. In the afternoon, during soundcheck, we talked to Skoll, who was very excited about the return to live concerts. On stage, not everything went as expected, with several technical problems with Hellhammer’s drums and sound, which presented a legendary band below expectations. Still, for about 60 minutes they convinced the audience with classics like “Master Of Disguise”, “The Chaos Path”, “Kinetic” or “The Arcturian Sign”. The band itself felt powerless after the concert, which went well, but in a clearly limited way.
On the eve of the release of “Lights Flashing in Mute Scenery”, we were able to witness the progressive death/doom metal of Finnish Oceanwake, which convinced the few attendees with its dedication and an attitude on stage that deserved more. Then followed the Portuguese-Finnish Collapse Of Light, and what a good concert it was! The improbable duet of voices by Carlos d’Água and Natalie Koskinen brought an aura of mysticism to this edition of Under The Doom, which features more and more national talent in what really matters. Practically unknown to the public, their concert was one of the best lessons in unpretentious metal, relatively uncomplicated and 100% honest.
Still at the same level of quality and honesty, the Portuguese Sinistro took to the stage soon after to bless the congregation with a rain of thick and sick riffs, always accompanied by the almost androgynous reveries of Patrícia Andrade. Live, Sinistro can create atmospheres within atmospheres without blinking. For them it has become as natural as breathing, and songs such as “Relíquia” help to explain their originality, their own cruelty. The British Antimatter, formed by Duncan Patterson (Anathema), have lowered the bar for interest a bit, perhaps because they play dark alternative rock. In order not to be misunderstood, it’s worth mentioning that the British know what they do and, within their style, are considered a reference, but in a concert dedicated to metal we always feel that something is missing. Although less inspiring than all the previous groups, we realized that they had a considerable number of fans among the audience and had their justified weight in the festival roster. Songs like “Partners in Crime”, “Paranova” and “Leaving Eden” grabbed the crowd. There was time for a special performance of “War” by Sleeping Pulse with Luis Fazendeiro as a guest.
The best concert of the weekend followed, with Niklas Kvarforth and his Shining, a big name in the black metal community who is still as much loved and hated by it. As soon as Niklas stepped on stage, the iconic Swedish vocalist began to lure the crowd; of course, as this was not enough, he took the opportunity to forcefully put the bottle of Jack Daniels he was holding in the mouth of a photographer in the pit. Clearly amazed, the dude drank and, from then on, the initial chords of “Svart Ostoppbar Eld”, the initial track of the brilliant “X: Varg Utan Flock”, the most recent (and, in my personal opinion, most ingenious) album of Swedes, were heard. With clear sound difficulties, the vocalist repeatedly asked the sound guy to take measures to make sure the concert went as smoothly as possible. However, even though Kvarforth slowed down the intensity of his live shows, his face of despair and frustration towards his issues didn’t lie to anyone. After the concert, between vodka shots, Niklas considered that it was a good concert, but that the sound problems were making him impatient. Even with the absence of the crucial member Peter Huss (although well replaced by Charles Hedger, aka Ghul, the Mayhem guitarist), Shining taught a lesson in professionalism and perpetuated the cult of suicide in the LAV room.
Finally, it was the turn of Icelandic Sólstafir, the festival’s headliners, to prove what they are made of. The performance was an average minus, much to blame for the flu that afflicted Aðalbjörn Tryggvason. Still in the promotion round of the well-received “Berdreyminn”, we felt what we expected: what used to be one of the most promising bands within viking/black metal has become a post-metal rock collective with some interesting themes and ideas. The house was packed, given the cult that the Icelanders enjoy in Portugal. For a change, they shredded songs from their more commercial works, focusing mainly on “Köld” and, of course, “Berdreyminn”. They had a generally good sound, but an almost calendar presence, almost forced, perhaps due to the aforementioned symptoms.
Under The Doom 2019 was again a reference in the heavy music scene in Portugal, managing to bring to Portuguese stages very specific bands from one of the most ignored subgenres within heavy metal. Next year there will be more and, certainly, better and better.
Special thanks to Notredame Productions
Text by João Correia