After a 2-year hiatus due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, where the whole world saw countless concerts and festivals canceled or postponed indefinitely, behold, SWR is finally back!
Despite the festival presenting a smaller version of itself, both in terms of the number of bands and in terms of space, this return to normality could not have come at a better time. A sense of relief was felt in the air as this was one of the first events where restrictions no longer applied. It was finally possible to reconnect with friends and acquaintances in an open and relaxed environment.
Featuring a format consisting of two stages, one outdoors and the other indoors, the latter located at the SWR Café, this edition of SWR brought with it a wide range of bands, something that the organization has already accustomed us to.
Speedemon came from Vila Franca de Xira and had the honour of opening the concerts on the first day of the SWR Feast 2022. The quartet played at the SWR Café, which little by little filled up with people as time went by. Outside, many people were still queuing to exchange wristbands or simply get acquainted. They started the show with “Atrocity Divine” from their debut album “Hellcome”, which was the focus of their performance. Their traditional heavy-speed metal set seemed short for so much energy on stage, and before the end, the venue was full. Speedemon’s solid performance was matched with a big moshpit set to a new song “Words of Fire”.
Debuting what would be the main stage for this edition, the Portuguese grindcore beast (Besta) brought with it all the chaos and destruction that the band has already accustomed us to. Paulo Rui & Co delivered just over half an hour of pure distilled hate, where the stage seemed too small for so much anger and movement. It was impossible to remain indifferent to the chaos on stage and the public did not take long to react. Each of the band’s short songs is like another punch in the face for the most unwary who didn’t know what to expect. Paulo Rui behaved like a caged tiger. The beast is unstoppable. What a fantastic gig. The band ended with “A Cidade dos Malditos” from their 2014 album “John Carpenter”.
After a few minutes, we move from one definition of heaviness to another that is completely similar, but at the other end of the speed spectrum. The SWR café turned out to be too small for the crowd that gathered at the Boulder concert. This is a name that fits the band like a glove and represents what they are: heavy. This quartet from Porto brought with them the more drawn-out and slower sounds characteristic of stoner doom metal, but always with groove and atmosphere. They started the performance with “Guide the Spirit”, the last song of their debut work “Boulder” (out via Gruesome Records). The concert was excellent, they revealed a lot of confidence on stage, in addition to great interaction with those present. The concert turned out to be affected by the sound, which was not the best.
Skeletal Remains came over from the US to rock the main stage at SWR. When the concert started and their death metal sound inspired by classics like Morbid Angel, old Pestilence and such echoed through the SWR Arena, the reaction was immediate. Once the first riffs of “Illusive Divinity” kicked in loaded with the band’s characteristic heaviness, the headbang frenzy followed. The band brought “The Entombment of Chaos” as the most recent album, which turned out to be a very solid album. Without a word, another great song “Beyond Cremation” followed. Over time, the sound on stage improved and the power of their riffs became more noticeable. Unfortunately, their concert was plagued by some technical problems that arose from time to time. The moshpit quickly appeared, having remained present throughout the performance. The Americans ended with “Eternal Hatred”, a longer and slower song than usual for these death metal giants. It was a great concert, an hour that passed quickly.
Back at the SWR Café, the audience was treated to two black metal concerts in a row. First, there was Grievance, a national band from Caldas da Rainha. By this time of day, the venue was already too small for so many people, which forced some to follow the concerts from the outside. At the same time, it was a good sign, as the attendance at the festival was massive. Grievance delivered a convincing performance, perhaps a bit shy onstage (there wasn’t much free space to move anyway), but what mattered the most was the music and that was powerful. Koraxid is a competent frontman who confidently led the concert which lasted half an hour.
A lot of people didn’t move away from the main stage, just to save a place closer to where Mgła was going to be. With the traditional static blue lights in the background, the faceless members of the Polish group stepped onto the stage and quickly got into the action. Mgła does not communicate orally with the public, only through their music and seldom through casual gestures. And they don’t even need to talk, because the authentic wall of sound that the group led by M creates is absolutely overwhelming. Despite playing black metal, there is a great melodic component in their compositions. The sound was good, but the drums could be more defined, so we can admire all the details for which the drummer Darkside is well known. What followed was just over an hour of minimalist black metal without props, without making a scene and hypnotic, above all. The band visited most of its discography with a setlist focused on “Age of Excuse”, “Exercises in Futility”, “Mdłości” and “With Hearts Toward None”. It is always a pleasure to see a machine as fine-tuned as these Poles, delivering incredible riffs, one after another, so well composed that you get to sing them along, supported by super detailed drum patterns. The concert was closed by the magnificent “Age of Excuse VI” which, throughout its almost ten-minute duration, infected the entire audience. This is a band that if they came to SWR every year, you couldn’t get enough of seeing them.
The night was drawing to a close, but there were still two bands left. Swedes Nekromant were the last band to play at the SWR Café, which was completely sold out pretty much all day. Visiting the Iberian Peninsula for the first time, the band’s performance was endowed with a heavy sound featuring a vocalist with a high register reminiscent of the timbre of Bruce Dickinson. The set was a parade of catchy tunes, with ripping solos and the very friendly and communicative leadership of Mattias Ottosson. They managed to get everyone stomping their feet and shaking their heads in the air to songs like “Sileni” or “Wolves Mountain”. The band ended with “This Is My Time”, a song released on the “Nekromant” album when they were still called Serpent. It was a concert full of good moods and a very positive vibe.
Finally, directly from Norway came Deathhammer to close the concerts on the first day. The Nordic quartet brought all the frenetic energy of their eardrum-ripping thrash/speed with black metal influences reminiscent of bands like old Destruction or Nifelheim. Over the course of 40 minutes, the audience was overwhelmed by a savage, fast, and merciless concert. Deathhammer had just released the album “Electric Warfare” two months before, but it was the song “Ready to Destroy” that best portrayed what the concert of these crazy people was like. Beer, mosh, headbang, destroy!
The second day kicked off in the same manner as the prior one: with the thunderous sounds of blackened thrash metal. Alcoholocaust took to the stage at the SWR Café, greeted by an already packed venue that was well aware of what was in store. Their opening number was “Abysmal Solution”, and the band charged forth like an “Infernal Bulldozer”, obliterating everything in their path. While songs such as “Thrash Metal Attack” and “Hecatombe” showcased Alcoholocaust’s more serious side, “Anti-Gothic” displayed their more irreverent “beer, fuck you!” attitude. Despite the electrifying atmosphere and festive vibe, the band was plagued by technical difficulties with one of the guitars.
Midnight Priest took to the main stage, eager to prove why they are one of the best classic heavy metal bands in Portugal. The crowd welcomed them with open arms, forging an undeniable connection with the band. Zed Razor, the new vocalist, had big shoes to fill after replacing Lex Thunder (of Toxikull), but he demonstrated that he was more than capable of rising to the challenge. Although he may have appeared a bit reserved, Jose eventually let loose and won over the audience. Naturally, the setlist included plenty of classics such as “Rainha da Magia Negra”, as well as selections from their latest album “Aggressive Hauntings”, including the standout track “Holy Flesh”. To close out the show, the band delivered “The Count” featuring The Priest, their original vocalist.
Next up were Equaleft. They are a band that needs no introduction for anyone who follows the Portuguese underground scene. Led by Jedi Miguel Inglês, Equaleft came out swinging with full force in this concert on a stage that was too small to contain the incredible weight that this quintet possesses. The initial blastbeats of “Fragments” showcased what the band had planned to massacre the audience. It didn’t take long before Inglês was crowdsurfing over the amassed crowd. “Overcoming” sent everyone into a frenzy, headbanging as a group to the absolutely infectious rhythms and riffs of Equaleft. The concert concluded with the bizarre “Uncover the Masks”, with Miguel Inglês giving the warning, “We only have one minute, let’s destroy this!”
Back at the SWR Arena, straight from Germany, Sijjin arrived, played, and conquered. Their old-school death metal with huge influences from the 90s, especially Morbid Angel, was absolutely crushing. With an album to promote, “Sumerian Promises”, Sijjin proved to be a band that, despite only being around for three years, has a lot of experience and are not amateurs. With excellent sound quality, the Berlin trio showcased song after song, with a procession of blastbeats, d-beats, infernal riffs, solos à la Mr. Azagthoth, and harsh but discernible vocals. Unfortunately, the set had to be cut short by one song, with the band finishing with “Condemned by Primal Contact”. Possessing a good sense of humor, this German trio’s concert was an excellent surprise. After this performance, purchasing their debut album was an immediate decision without regrets.
Next up, the lineup featured yet another band that is already a veteran in these circles: Simbiose brought their angry and merciless crust to stir up the waters even more. And they did not disappoint. What followed was approximately 40 minutes of an intense outpouring of fury that left no time for rest. The crowd was consumed by the raw power of their sound. Simbiose’s music was a force to be reckoned with, and they proved why they have been a mainstay in the Portuguese underground scene for so many years. Their energy on stage was palpable, and they left everything they had. The audience was left wanting more as the band departed, but nobody seemed unsatisfied. The experience of seeing Simbiose live is not one to be missed, and their performance at the festival was a testament to their enduring legacy as one of the most formidable bands in the scene since 1991.
The time had finally come for the highly-anticipated headliners of the night, Autopsy, an American death metal band widely regarded as one of the most important institutions in the global death metal scene. The packed SWR Arena eagerly welcomed the veterans, who promptly introduced themselves with a casual, down-to-earth and upbeat attitude, proudly proclaiming “We are Autopsy, and we are death metal!”. Without any hesitation, they launched into “In The Grip of Winter,” the perfect opening track to showcase their incredible energy and musical prowess. Throughout the concert, the band members wore smiles of pure joy and enthusiasm, clearly thrilled to finally perform for their Portuguese fans. “Severed Survival” followed, and Chris proved to be in exceptional physical form behind the drums, his powerful voice resonating throughout the venue. The majority of the setlist focused on classic albums like “Severel Survival” or “Mental Funeral,” which elicited ecstatic reactions from the devoted fans. However, Autopsy also took the time to revisit “Acts of the Unspeakable,” a fan favorite from their extensive discography. As the concert drew to a close, the undeniable connection between the band and the audience was palpable, creating a truly unforgettable experience that will undoubtedly go down in SWR history.
Shortly after, the SWR audience was treated to the presence of another veteran band, this time Portuguese: Filii Nigrantium Infernalium, one of the oldest still active bands. The iconic stage presence and voice of frontman Belathauzer are unmatched. The band had prepared a special concert where they played the four songs that make up the EP “A Era do Abutre,” considered one of the most important releases from the early days of the Portuguese metal scene. Such a performance deserved to have happened on the main stage, but the band played to a completely full SWR Café. It was undoubtedly a phenomenal concert, always unmistakably led by Belathauzer who maintained excellent interaction with everyone present through his introductory interventions. Songs like “Calypso” were great moments with so much great guitar riffing and consequent headbanging. The highlight of the night was the performance of “Abadia do Fogo Negro,” possibly the most anticipated song of the night along with “A Forca”, which immediately followed. Finally, the last song “Cadafalso” saw Belathauzer devote himself only to vocals due to “not being worthy of playing such riffs composed by Mantas”. If the band did not disappoint, neither did the reaction of the audience! The show was truly unforgettable.
The band that had the responsibility of closing this edition of SWR were the Swedish trio Birdflesh, who returned to Barroselas 13 years later and brought with them a discharge of grindcore full of good humor. Dressed and masked to perfection, Birdflesh may like parodies, but their music does not lose weight or become less violent because of it. Songs like “Teenage Mutilator” were an excellent example. The sound was excellent and the audience responded enthusiastically to the bizarre mix of grind and other genres where there was still time for great thrash moments like in “Bowelthrasher”, where, if we closed our eyes for brief moments, we could affirm that we were at an oldschool thrash concert. The Swedes also gifted the resistant with “Let’s Go Grave,” a new song.
Overall it was a great return for one of the most important and influential metal festivals in the country. Even though it was a smaller version, the organizers didn’t hold back and the affluence of people proved that it was a success.
Text & photos by: Filipe Gomes (@fgphoto_)
Special thanks to SWR inc.