Back in Porto to another dark, ritualistic experience at AMPLIFEST. Having again Hard Club as the perfect venue, the northern organization chose this time to add a third stage, at the bar “Mercedes”, at Ribeira, about 400 m from the main venue.
Again in a sunny weekend, the festival overture had Swiss ZATOKREV playing in stage 1#. We remember that their appearance in the SWR back in 2007 was one of our first contacts with the “Sludge World”, but since then, they seemed to have missed some of the weight and paranoia. So, DOWNFALL OF GAIA, at the stage 2# turned out to be the real backside of the Swiss performance. Being one of the most interesting sludge/doom acts coming out from Germany, their concert was intense, dark and heavy, before a crowded room that didn’t went out for one second. They based their performance in their recent album “Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes”, for one top five experience of this year festival.
But don’t you thing that the evolution was ending. No. YEAR OF NO LIGHT pulled out a hell of a concert, leaving us with no spare time to enjoy the previous journey. The French latest work is less heavy than their prior material. But live, we were pulled into a funeral doom moment, especially with the massive “Outremonde (Hieropante)”, played in an ultra-low pace, crushing our head and neck with constant violence. They got slower but even darker than before.
As (fortunately) this year Amplifest didn’t leave any time to rest, we shipped outside, towards Douro River, to take contact with French underground act FROM THE BOGS OF AUGHISKA. Small bar, cozy venue, dark and atmospheric passages, with terrorist morbid pictures and a somewhat atmospheric black metal approach that felt really good after the prior two gigs.
Back up to attend to DEAFHEAVEN’s comeback, now as a headliner, following the success of their first two albums. Full room, great expectation, and a dedicated performance by these North Americans. They presented their latest work “Sunbather”, but it was with Roads to Judah’s “Violence” that they achieve the maximum of their performance. We must say that we weren’t expecting for such a dramatic change in just two years, namely from the frontman, whose gloves and posture remind us something like a young Niklas Kvarforth project. The concert has its good moments though.
After them, we waited a couple of minutes to discover who the surprise band was. Even if we do like CATACOMBE, we chose to descend back to Mercedes to witness a demolishing sludge/core concert by GALVANO. One drum and one guitar, in a full energy show, with no free space to move, listening to “Two Titans” album, played live with anger. The Swedish duo deserved the sold-out venue.
Has the night went on, our dinner time made us loose UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS, and, suddenly, the night ended because HHY & THE MACUMBAS were to strange to us. Something like tribal music, played by eight or nine white performers that didn’t developed the pace, and so we went away.
“À l’Est de l’Enfer” was the perfect and most interesting thing to watch after the second day wake up. This documentary by the guys of Aluk Todolo, showed the underground black metal scene in Indonesia, in a very recommended film.
Portuguese stoners BLACK BOMBAIM played alongside rockers LA, LA, LA RESSONANCE, and created an original set of songs, with saxophones and other “different” instruments to warm the ambience before the 100 brutal minutes that were about to happen.
ALUK TODOLO played “Occult Rock” in its entirety and demolished everything on their way, with a schizophrenic brutal dedication. The French trio seemed to be possessed by Evil during that 1:30 m, always pushing the boundaries of psychological aggression. The incandescent light in front of the stage; the absence of any other light effects; the devotion of the musicians and the weight of their music, made it the most memorable show of this edition. They divided the concert in two parts, the first being more hallucinogenic and the second one more black metal orientated. We don’t know if they are able to do that in all shows, but, for you own profit, go and take a look when you can.
CHELSEA WOLFE was the main headliner of this event. It isn’t exactly the band that one is hungry to see, especially because of all the hype surrounding her. But, we must say that we really enjoyed the concert. Peaceful, sad songs, sang with a beautiful voice, and with a increasing bass pace towards the end of the performance, that surprised and entertained us well during that hour.
As the festival kept going, Canadian project THIS QUIET ARMY offered us a melancholic, dark trip at the Mercedes, where a full house welcomed the black melodies and mournful images coming out from the stage. We found ourselves travelling among darkness, perfectly led by the hymns of those melodies. It was one of the best experiences this year had to offer.
Pretty much awaited was Kim Gordon’s (Sonic Youth) BODY/HEAD project, even if a good part of the audience didn’t seemed that much convinced. We saw that women giving it all on stage, with distorted guitar chords everywhere, someone said that it was a band to love or hate. But can’t we just enjoy it live, without worshiping it? That was our choice.
At stage 2#, Portuguese KATABATIC showed Porto how Lisbon’s post rock can be well executed, before the most awaited band of all: RUSSIAN CIRCLES.
It has been the fifth time they play in Portugal, but they seem to have more and more followers, always expecting something good from their live performances. The stage 1# was almost sold out, before a captivating performance, presenting their latest “Memorial” album. As usual, they delivered a contagious show that could not end before the great “Mladek” song, to end one consensual very good performance.
And that was it for us. As PHARMAKON cancelled the closure show, we had no will to stay for PUTAN CLUB concert.
The band bill this year was less notable yet more appealing. There were more concerts, less empty times, the same contagious crowd reaction and the professional organization as last year. It’s an easygoing festival, which has gained its own space in the national and even international festivals calendar. We hope to go back next year.
Photos by Amplificasom, with Maria Louceiro & Jorge Silva.
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