Every year usually on the first weekend of August, thousands of metalheads travel to the small town of Vagos, near Aveiro for the Vagos Open Air metal festival. 2012 is the year of the 4th edition, and in just 4 years, this festival has already become a mark in the Heavy Metal scene in Portugal, it quickly grew to become one of the biggest and most awaited Metal festivals in the country.
Those who arrived one day earlier, there was a reception party that started around 22:00, with the DJ MrKool, a warm-up night for the next 2 days of music, headbanging, drinking and spending time with friends.
On a day with lovely weather and after receiving the festival bracelet (much better looking this year), it was time to enter the site and check out the various stands around the field. From drink stands, to food, festival and band merchandise, it was all there closeby so that you don’t miss not even a bit of the shows. The drinking tokens are shaped as guitar picks which makes you want to keep one just as a souvernir.
At 17:00, the first band was about to start. DISAFFECTED were selected to open the festival. A Portuguese oldschool Death/Thrash metal band from the beginning of the 90’s, which took a huge hiatus between 1997 and 2006, later to change its sound into a more Progressive approach to Death Metal. Complex songs with a strong presence of keyboards. A quite enjoyable performance, unfortunately hard to digest and enjoy for some people, even though the band seemed a bit shy, needing to improve their stage presence, they deserved a more enthusiastic reception… the crowd was not dead, but could be more cheerful. Technically very good, their songs are long (specially the most recent ones) and technical that can bore someone who is not in the right mood to appreciate a quality yet complex band like this. Overall, a positive concert.
The next band of the bill was Spanish NORTHLAND. Coming from Barcelona with a lot of energy, and also unknown to many people, these fellas managed to conquer the crowd’s attention right in the beginning, obtaining a good reaction from the audience, despite of experiencing some technical problems with the vocals, the group always tried to make the people cheer… Delivering a mixture of Melodic Death Metal with Folk elements, you could see the growing interest on the audience as they continued playing during their set. With only one album out, released in 2010, the band presented their fans with a brand new track entitled “Whispers In The Wind”. Interesting concert, a band to check out later again.
The fans of Folk metal music couldn’t be in a better place, for ELUVEITIE was the following band. This time, this band from Switzerland who play a more interesting Folk Metal which made the crowd go wild. Anyone could see that they have lots of fans in this country, and the band gave all they had to satisfy who was there to see them. Their performance was festive, intense and rich. Chrigel Glanzmann, the vocalist plays several different instruments, helping to the band’s sonority to become even more diverse and at the same time, modern and traditional sounding, not excluding female vocal parts as well. Mandatory to highlight Anna Murphy’s performance playing the hurdy gurdy and singing, part of the show that caught a lot of the crowds attention. Even though the show was not very long, their setlist had songs such as “A Rose for Epona”, “Luxtus”, “Neverland” and “Alesia” from the “Helvetios” record, but also “Kingdom Come Undone”, “Inis Mona”, or “Meet The Enemy”. A concert that didn’t seem to disappoint anyone who appreciates Folk elements in Metal.
It was dinner time when ENSLAVED hit the stage, but that didn’t ruin the affluence of people to see this highly awaited Norwegian veteran act. Notoriously comfortable performing, their good mood is captivating and creates a good bond between band and audience. The show started with the interlude “Axioma” which was used as live intro followed by the first 2 tracks from 2010’s “Axioma Ethica Odini”: “Ethica Odini” and “Raidho”. “Fusion of Sense and Earth” followed by “Ground” (dedicated to all the women) continued to grab the audience. Blessed with a great stage sound, always with a great and positive mood, Grutle took the chance to introduce the members of the band, one by one while telling small jokes. One could notice there was a special chemistry going on between band and crowd. The band went on to continue their performance playing hits such as “Return To Yggdrasil”, “Giants”. Herbrand Larsen’s vocals were great and fit perfectly in those more epic chorus in the new songs… Then the band took everyone back to the distant year of 1993 to perform “Allfáðr Oðinn” from the split with Emperor and ever further back in time, to 1970 with a great cover version of “Immigrant Song” originally by Led Zeppelin. It was all over after “Isa”. What a great return to Portugal this was, looking forward to see them again!
After such a great concert, it was time to have something to eat and wait for the next band. Many people didn’t move from the front of the stage at all because the next band on the schedule was another Norwegian group: ARCTURUS, who were highly-expected. Unfortunately, they were also the band with the toughest luck of the day, suffered with several technical problems which deeply affected the impact of their performance. Opening with “Evacuation Code Deciphered”, they didn’t let it affect their mood. Their songs are already quite complex, structure and instrument-wise, but adding that fact to sound problems and the magical aura is gone. “Ad Absurdum” and “Nightmare Heaven” were next, asVortex struggled to be heard in the beginning, sometimes Knut’s guitar would become silent for a few moments. Hopefully the band’s festive and relaxed posture captivated the people to enjoy the show, nevertheless. At the same time it was such a delight to be possible to see such great musicianship on stage right in front of our eyes, like on those special moments such as, for example, the instrumental interlude in the middle of “Nightmare Heaven” where we could see and listen Hellhammer’s creative drumming work. The audience was asked if they wanted to hear more recent songs or old stuff, the reply was “old” and Vortex added “You always say old, haha!” so they performed “To Thou Who Dwellest in the Night” from 1996′ “Aspera Hiems Symfonia”. Stage sound improved as time went by and everything started to sound a lot better. Of course that “La Masquerade Infernale” couldn’t be forgotten so “The Chaos Path” and “Painting My Horror” were some of those moments filled with the magical aura the surrounds the band philosophy, imagery and sonority. In conclusion, let’s hope that it won’t take them another infinity of time to return to Portugal, this time in a closed venue with appropriate sound quality and as headliners because, in the end, the impression that remained was that the show was incredibly short.
Moving from Norway to Sweden, it was time for Melodic Death Metal pioneers AT THE GATES to take the stage. Visiting Portugal for the first time ever, there was a big fuss specially on older metalheads, the ones who grew listening to Melodic Death Metal when the band released their classic albums “Terminal Spirit Disease” or “Slaughter Of The Soul” in the first half of the 90’s. So, after all these years, Tomas Lindberg & Co finally made it to the Portuguese shore to present everyone with one of the festival’s concerts this year! People were growing impatient before the show but as soon as the lights went out and the Intro started to sound out loud right, all hell broke loose when the first riff of “Slaughter Of The Soul” was heard. Right afterwards “Cold”, “Terminal Spirit Disease” and “Raped by the Light of Christ” showed everyone that they were not there to fool around but provide one hell of a concert, worthy for all the years that the Portuguese fans had to wait. Tomas’ voice remains pretty much the same, intense, fierce and if it wasn’t 2012, one could have sworn this year was 1996. All 4 albums were remembered, “World of Lies, “The Burning Darkness”, “The Swarm” and “Forever Blind” kept the moshpit going on and on. Tomas took care of encouraging everyone to headbang and mosh, just to have some more killer songs to continue the musical hostilities in the shape of “Nausea”, go beyond and a bit faster with “Need”. Coming close to the end the highlight of their show was the all-time classic “Blinded By Fear” which created the biggest moshpit of the day. After 19 songs nobody could complain about anything, really… The band ended the brutal show with “Kingdom Gone”. And that was it, a fantastic performance by a band which hasn’t released an album since 1995 and can still show how it’s done, these days.
|At The Gates||At The Gates||At The Gates|
If you thought that after this energy discharge, things would become more quiet, you were so wrong. Another Swedish band were about to prove you wrong, increasing the speed and brutality. NASUM is the name, and as special guests of the festival, were responsible for closing the first festival day. Unfortunately it was sad to realize that lots of people decided to leave after the previous show, leaving the festival site looking half-full. But that didn’t take any of the band’s motivation, they unleashed their hellish Grindcore upon those who had stayed to see them play. Opening with “Mass Hypnosis”, quickly we could realize that the sound was great and perfect for such a brutal discharge. “Scoop”, “I See Lies” followed. And to keep things going fast, there was no time to catch your breath because “The Black Swarm” created a fairly big moshpit. It was a shame that a band who is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary didn’t have a bigger crowd, specially after the immensity of people that was there half an hour before. A good show, not disappointing at all, pretty much what anyone who knew them was expecting. It was difficult to end the first day with a bigger blast.
So it was time to get something to eat, have some fun at the after-party and give the tired body a break, only to save energy for the second day which promised to be great as well.
You can read what happened on Day 2 by clicking here.