Once again, the town of Vagos hosted the anual Vagos Metal Fest, which already became a Meca for metalheads in Portugal. Three days of good concerts, a lot of beer and meeting friends in a relaxed place.
Tales For The Unspoken received the responsibility of opening the first day of concerts. The band from Coimbra showed up in good shape, playing their melodic and groovy Death Metal quite efficiently. Right from the start, they managed to grab the audience’s attention and it didn’t take long for everyone to be conquered. The set was mostly focused on the latest record “CO2” but there was time to visit some of the band’s older classics such as “Say My Name” and the angry “N’Takuba Wena”. It was a very successful opening gig. Same thing cannot be said about the next band: And Then She Came. The German band was visiting Portugal for the first time and had a rough time getting the audience to react effusively. Perhaps it was the fact that most of the people didn’t seem to know the band at all (that’s what festivals are also for), or perhaps it was the confused sound mix that didn’t help either. Nevertheless, the band didn’t lose motivation and gave all they had, specially the Korean lead singer Ji-In Cho who was tireless in her efforts on cheering by the people. The highlight of the show was the song “Five Billion Lies”.
Another Portuguese band took the stage: Revolution Within picked up where Tales For The Unspoken left. Once again, the audience was moshing and headbanging like crazies. Rui Raça and his buddies obtained a great reception and it didn’t take long until the moshpit started going in circles. “From Madness To Sanity” was great, and there was also time to invite Tales For The Unspoken singer Marco Fresco to scream on a song. Last but not least, the big wall of death showed how devoted the fans were to the band on stage. Continuing on fast paced speed, Gama Bomb brought their Thrash Metal full of humor. Led by Philly Byrne, a frontman who is now afraid of wearing an eccentric suit on stage, the band continued the party as songs like “Ninja Untouchables”, “Mussolini Mosh” or “Terrorscope” were performed. There was enough time for all this and for a quick poll about who prefers Robocop 1 and who prefers Robocop 2. A strange poll but worked out as an intro for the song “OCP”.
Rhapsody was one of those bands that had a lot of people waiting for them. This show was part of their farewell tour so it’s understandable how a lot of people were eager to see live for the last time this huge Power Metal band. Luca Turilli showcased why he is one of the most influential Power Metal guitarists around during the band’s set, which was mostly based on the Symphony of Enchanted Lands” and “Power Of The Dragonflame” albums. According to the audience’s reaction, this was a show to remember. Swedish Arch Enemy have, once again, returned to Portugal, and this time, in great shape. While some people continue to raise the question about the singer role change, Alissa White-Gluz proved to be up to the challenge. The whole band seemed very tight together and had a well staged and timed performance. Since Jeff Loomis joined the band, everything seems better, and it’s a pleasure see an amazing guitarist like Jeff shredding live. Alyssa got everyone cheering and headbanging and there was a true feeling of union band-crowd. Since they’ll be releasing a brand new record later this year, a sneak peek was unveiled in the shape of the song “The World Is Yours” taken from “Will to Power”. The greatest moment of the show was when “We Will Rise” was performed. Arch Enemy are strong and show signs that it will stay that way for a long time.
Finnish Wintersun were up next. Another highly awaited band on this year’s edition. Jari & Co did not disappoint the fans, judging by the action in the audience. Presenting their latest record “The Forest Seasons” we could notice some anxiety about the setlist which would be presented, due to the fact that a lot of people wanted to witness “Time I” live, specially after such a different album as “The Forest Seasons”. It was a good concert, and Jari was amazed by the reaction of the Portuguese crowd. From one awaited band to another: Therion came to meet a different, older audience, who discovered the band through groundbreaking records such as “Theli” or “Vovin”. Featuring 2 female singers and Thomas as male vocals, their performance was quite nice and classy, just like we would expect. Fortunately the oldtime classics were all there: “To Mega Therion”, “Cults of the Shadow”, “Lemuria” and the awesome “The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah” (starting the show!). Let’s hope it won’t take so long for this Swedish act to return.
Grunt raised the stakes when it comes to freakishness and the bizarre. Dressed as if they were going to a BDSM session, the band brought along a submissive girl. Starting with 2 new songs, which are yet untitled, they didn’t spend much time fooling around and delivered a heavy and tight gig, powered by the man behind the drums, Mr. M. “The Sweet Smell of Servitude” and “Teratoid Latex Feudalist” managed to generate a moshpit on a crowd who seemed to wonder what the girl was there doing. Closer to the end, Boy-G teased the audience “If you wanna see tits, you’re gonna have to ask for it, Vagos!” and it didn’t take long for everyone to start cheering. Consequently Boy-G proceeded to undress the girl while keeping her submissive, through the whole thing.
For sure, it was a bizarre way of ending the first day of the Vagos Metal Fest, leaving big expectations for the other two days.
After a good starting day, the second round of bands came up with Implore opening… This German machine exploded with the Vagos Metal Fest stage with their filthy blackened Crust/Grind resembling Rotting Sound mixed with Dismember. A great and brutal surprise which seemed perfect for a “wake up!” slap for the sleepy ones. Brutality Will Prevail came all the way from Wales to unleash a wave of hardcore and Metal mixed altogether. The band slowed the pace down but their heavy distorted guitars didn’t make the speed change that noticeable because the demanded heaviness was still there. Songs like “The Path”, “Fallen Apart” or the slow and dragging “Trapped Doors Moving Walls” raised a lot of dust between the crowd and showed that you don’t need to play very fast in order to be heavy.
Continuing with “core” bands, Portuguese Hills Have Eyes played like if they were at their local venue. There were a lot of fans and friends, which helped the band to be more comfortable on stage. Known for the energetic shows, this was no surprise for those who already saw what these guys can do live. Cohesive as a collective, it was a good show, overall and the stage didn’t seem too big for them. Speaking of big, the American titans Metal Church returned to Portugal after a 3 year period. This is one of those bands which you can notice that they’ve been doing this forever, everything seems timed, yet so natural and spontaneous. Very communicative and in high spirits Mike Howe and his buddies showed how a Heavy Metal show is done the old fashioned way. Classics such as “Fake Healer”, “In Mourning” and “Needle and Suture” proved that there is no need for stage props or any other decorations, it’s all about the vocals, the guitar solos, the fat bass and the pounding drums. Not all bands have the privilege of having the Terminator 2 intro, either. It feels good to see a veteran band like this still kicking ass.
Starting a few minutes late, Primordial stood still “Where Greater Men Have Fallen”. Led by the charismatic Nemtheanga and his impressive vocal performance, the band has quite a fanbase in Portugal. “As Rome Burns” led everyone to sing along “Sing to the slaves… as Rome Burns” followed by a nearly 10-minute-long journey, while “The Coffin Ships” became another beautiful highlight of the concert. This band does not disappoint, nor bores one, as it is impossible not to headbang to their ritualistic melodies and rhythms. And time did flew by… Amazing!
Changing into a more festive mood, Finnish Korpiklaani infected most of the audience while their were performing their alcohol-themed mythical stories. Unfortunately the band had to deal with some sound issues in the first couple of songs, but that did not prevent anyone from having a good time. There was dust in the air once again, but this time it was due to the frantic dancing that was taking place in the front rows. “Wooden Pints”, “Vodka”, “Beer” and “Pilli On Pajusta Tehty” were part of the setlist that delighted hundreds who corresponded with their dancing, jumping and cheering.
After a long time, Max Cavalera and Soulfly were back. After a 7 year hiatus, the band came to promote their latest record “Archangel” (2015). Featuring Max’s son Zyon Cavalera on the drum duties, this return turned up to be quite a ride! For some who might think that Max is old and tired, even though he seems not to play guitar sometimes, Soulfly didn’t seem tired at all. For more than 1 hour, thousands of fans heard classics like “Prophecy”, “Back to The Primitive”, Tribe” or “Jumpdafuckup”. Across the concert, Marc Rizzo showed why he is one hell of a guitarist with an awesome solo performance. And because the comparisons with Sepultura seemed inevitable for some, Max & Co presented the audience with a furious rendition of the Sepultura classic “Refuse/Resist”. What a great comeback this was. Moving over to Power Metal territory, German Powerwolf gathered everyone for the first ceremony of the second night of the Vagos Metal Fest. These guys put up quite an entertaining show, full of interaction and communication with the audience. Singer Karsten Brill aka Attila Dorn cheered and demanded quite a lot from the fans, specially their singing abilities during the song “Armata Strigoi”… Attila didn’t start the song until everyone was in tune, even though after a few moments most of the people didn’t remember the whole note sequence, but it didn’t matter, really. The band finished their set with the song “We Drink Your Blood”
Last, but not least, one unique band which many waited a long time to see: the mysterious Batushka. Hailing from Poland, the 8 anonymous men came to preach their Orthodox liturgy. It was a shame that after such a long soundcheck, the sound wasn’t fantastic. Muddy guitars, faded drums and the vocals couldn’t be heard sometimes, specially when the main singer reached the really low notes. That was quite obvious when the band performed the best song of the entire mass “Litany III: Wisdom”. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was fantastic. There was fog in the background and despite the late hours and the mediocre sound, this was a concert to remember. If we try to remember a concert with a similar atmosphere, we have to go way back to 2009 when Sargeist played at the now extinct Caos Emergente festival.
The last day started with Spanish Reaktion. The third day was the day with the less audience showing up for the opening bands. Nevertheless, these thrashers brought their debut record “Blackmailed Existence” (2016) with them and performed quite well even though, the reception was not as effusive as one would expect. Portuguese Attick Demons were up next. Starting with “Circle Of Light”, the opening track from last year’s “Let’s Raise Hell”, it didn’t take long until there was a big group of headbangers right in the front. As the band continued to play “Endless Game” or “Let’s Raise Hell” one cannot mistake the biggest influence of these guys: Iron Maiden. Even though the set was short, it was powerful and convincing. The band closed their gig with “Atlantis”.
Stoner rockers Miss Lava could seem to be a misplaced card in the deck, but they showed that they are no strangers and that they fit in the roster. 35 minutes of heavy, slow and catchy riffs. There was time to present the audience with “Black Unicorn”, a song from the upcoming EP. Celebrating their 10th anniversary and their visit to Portugal, Salt Lake city Chelsea Grin were the first deathcore act of the day. Featuring 3 guitarists, an unusual characteristic for a Metal band, the band brought their Deathcore to the Vagos masses. By this time, the crowd was increasing as well as the aggressiveness of the moshpit, where the rather nonsense looking hardcore dancing took the moshpit by storm. On stage the band gave all they had, but totally exaggerated on the number of bassdrops per song.
Havok, the 2nd American band in a row were highly awaited. And it didn’t take long for them to make all hell breaking loose. Furious and ruthless Thrash metal without a moment to catch a breath. One of the biggest circle pits could be seen during the classical “Covering Fire”, it was crazy! Crowdsurfing never stopped, giving the security guys a lot of work, and judging by the reaction of the audience across the show, Havok did not disappoint! Whitechapel, the other Deathcore act promised a heavy show, and that’s what they did. Rather different than Chelsea Grin, their attitude was much more focused and aggressive, mirroring their own style of brutal breakdowns and low tuned palm muted riffs. The violence started with “The Saw Is the Law”. “Faces” and “I, Dementia” quickly followed. The audience reacted with the same amount of energy you would expect. “Elitist Ones” showed some of Phil Bozeman’s best vocals. The sound was good and really loud, the low-tuned guitars weren’t clear sometimes, but people didn’t seem to care much about it. “This Is Exile” was the last song of the show.
Things were about to soften a bit as Heavy / Power Metal veterans Hammerfall came on stage. There was a legion of fans waiting and hungry for some classics. First of all, the band was very communicative, specially Joacim, who never stopped cheering and pushing for a reaction from the audience. With a setlist mostly based on the band’s previous pair of records “Built to Last” and “(r)Evolution”, but some songs just couldn’t be missing, like the classic “Renegade”, that put everyone singing and jumping. Truly a great moment. The show scheduled was anticipated, so there was time for a 3 song encore, which ended with “Hearts Of Fire”. These Swedish guys are no amateurs and seemed totally comfortable in the Vagos stage. This was, for sure, one of the most competent shows of the whole festival.
After a long soundcheck, Canadian Gorguts stormed the festival stage and delivered perhaps the most flawless show of the whole festival. Technically irreprehensible, their dissonant and complex sound may not be for everyone, but for those who know and understand what the band does, it was a show to remember. The band focused on their biggest hits, so it was no surprise to see “From Wisdom To Hate” and “Obscura” right at the start. The sound was crystal clear and we could listen to every single detail played by Luc and the rest of the guys. It was a total delight to see Dominic LaPointe (First Fragment, ex-Beyond Creation) fill in the bass duties replacing Colin. Goddamn, the band played “Inverted” and we could actually understand what the hell was going on! Going from oldies to newer releases, the band closed the (too short) concert with “Le Toit Du Monde” dedicated to a screaming fan who grabbed a laugh from Luc due to his french accent while screaming and requesting that song… “An Ocean Of Wisdom” followed and to end an amazing concert “Forgotten Arrows”.
Last, but not least, Cough came all the way from the United States to close the Vagos Metal fest in a heavy, slow, intense way. The band’s sludgy Doom riffs echoed throughout the entire festival campus, while Parker Chandler’s and David Cisco’s screams made people close their fists in anger. Without being in a hurry to finish these doomed souls dragged their corpses while the fuzzy heavy guitars accompanied by the distorted bass created a wall of sound which no one could escape. This concert was the last drop in the full cup, it made you feel a heavy weight on your shoulders demotivating you about life and everything connected to it.
Overall, this second edition of the Vagos Metal fest was a success, proving that a bold band roster pays off. The conditions were better, but having the toilets so far away was a negative side. The merch stands were also very far away. This measure seemed pointless but it also made people visit the rest of the camp.
We witnessed the improvised press conference and were told that in 2018 there will be another edition, improved in every way. We hope the organizers continue to assemble courageous band bills and bringing bands which have never been to Portugal or haven’t been there for a long time.