Vagos Metal Fest Report by Keith Devereux

Vagos Metal Fest

August 9th to 12th, 2018

Story and photos by Keith Devereux

 

Editors note:  My apologies to the Keith, the readers, the fans the bands, and organizers of Vagos for the long delay in presenting this photo-essay.  Any delays were strictly of my own fault.  It is perhaps appropriate that we publish this story on October 5th, Republic Day, celebrating the  108th anniversary of independence of that great nation!

 


DAY ONE

In Portugal, any metalhead worth their salt heads to Vagos in the north of the country for the annual metal festival. For the third year in a row, Amazing Events alongside the local council took up the baton to provide the best metal festival in Portugal, and for the third year in a row, Vagos Metal Fest didn’t let us down. This year there was a change, with two stages set up instead of the usual one. The ‘main’ stage was the Vagos Stage (Palco Vagos), and the slightly smaller stage was the Stairway Stage (Palco Stairway). Rather than any intention that the Stairway stage was the lesser of the two stages, I think this was a way of keeping the festival’s momentum going, with bands on one stage getting set up while another band was performing on the other. On the whole it worked well, with the crowd happily walking the 50m or so from one stage to the other. It also allowed the bands to really perform. Whereas in previous years with one stage the bands on the afternoon could only perform for about 10–15 minutes before being shunted off for the next band to get set up and do their sound check, with two stages the minimum set was 30 minutes from beginning to end, so we really got to hear what the band was all about. Which was a vast improvement.

The other change was that this year the festival was spread over four days, from about 6pm on the Thursday to the wee morning hours on Sunday, with about forty bands in total and Portuguese metal DJ, Antonio Freitas, performing an ‘after party’ each morning until about 6am. For some this was too much, and even on the second day people were dozing in front of some of the bands. If there is one criticism, I think there needed to be a balance between the length of the festival and the timetable. By all means have a four day festival, but allow everyone to enjoy it and don’t exhaust the crowd who have coughed up their 80€ for a four-day ticket.

The festival kicked off with the local Portuguese band Booby Trap, from Aveiro. Being a local of Aveiro myself, I have followed this band for some time, but this was the first time I got to see them live, and they did not disappoint. This four-piece thrash metal/punk band was first formed in 1993 then split up four years later. They reformed in 2012, for a one-off gig, and have been performing ever since. Fronted by the hyper-energetic Pedro Junqueiro, who leapt around the stage like a dervish, Booby Trap kicked off their performance with ‘No Conformity’, from their Brutal Interventiondemo and their energetic performance was peppered with old tracks from the 90s alongside new tracks, like ‘Survive’ from their 2013 album, Survival.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

Front man Junqueiro, ably supported by Pedro Azevedo on guitar, Carlos Ferreira on bass and Hugo Lemos on drums, got the crowd off to a great start, whirling around and moshing in front of the stage as if the festival was reaching its climax, instead of the first act. After tracks such as ‘O Bom, O Mau E Son Da Puta’ (‘The Good the Bad and the Son of a Bitch’), ‘Drunkenstein’ and ‘I Love You/I Hate You’, Booby Trappaid a high octane tribute to Lemmy Kilmister with a cover of Motörhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ and concluded their performance with ‘Pickadick’ from their 2017 EP Drunkenstein.

Setlist:

No Conformity

Overloaded

Stand Up and Fight

Survive, O Bom

O Mau e o Filho da Puta

Drunkenstein

I Love You/I Hate You

Fight

Ace of Spades (Motörhead cover)

Pickadick.

*****************

The sound quality of this first performance was excellent, and opening the festival with a quality band like Booby Trapon the Stairway Stage demonstrated that the organisers of Vagos Metal fest were treating the Stairway not as a secondary stage, but as an equal, and this continued throughout the festival.

Quickly moving to the Vagos Stage, Destroyers of All,the five-piece Coimbra-based Portuguese prog-death metal band settled quickly into their set, confirming once and for all that using two stages kept the momentum of the festival going, the 50 metre walk being no obstacle to a crowd that had been fired up by Booby Trap’s excellent performance.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

Fronted by João Mateus and with Alexandre Correia and Guilherme Busato on guitars, Bruno da Silva on bass and Filipe Gomes on drums, got the Vagos Stage off to a great start. Again, sound quality was excellent and the band hurled thecrowd into a frenzy, swirling and moshing in front of the stage. With João Mateus’s encouragement we had the first crowd surfers of the festival, the first of many that the security dealt with ably and professionally (this year the security were great, polite and patient with the crowd both outside and in the main arena). Opening with ‘From Ashes reborn’, Destroyers of Alltreated us mainly to songs from their debut album, Bleak Fragments(2016), and their EP Into the Fire(2013). Their energetic set finished with a treat, a sneak preview of ‘Break The Chains’, the title song from the band’s second album out soon, which is something to look forward to.

Setlist:

From Ashes Reborn

Hollow Words

Death Healer

Hate Through Violence

Into the Fire

Break the Chains.

****************

Back on the Stairway Stage, it was time for a treat, the turn of the punk/hardcore band Trinta e Um (essentially, 31). This Portuguese band from Linda-a-Velha, nowadays a suburb of Lisbon, have been around since the mid-90s and are very well known in Portugal. However, this was their first visit to Vagos and they made a memorable debut. Fronted by Zé Goblin, who was clearly moved and happy to be here, and featuring Deris on guitars, Johnny on bass and Rato on drums, Trinta e Umdelivered a powerhouse set full of energy and verve. Peppered with songs like ‘Plano de Fuga’, ‘O Cavalo Mata!’ and ‘Filhos do Divórcio’, Zé drew the crowd towards him, at one time leaping down into the pit and singing along with an ecstatic crowd.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

During one break in the set, as Zé pounded around the stage tossing a near-empty bottle of whisky at someone in the crowd (who gulped it down gratefully), Johnny found time to casually roll himself a cigarette. This was Portuguese hardcore at its best, with a good solid set that drove the crowd wild. There was one minor technical glitch at the end of the set when Zé’s microphone failed, but this was more to do with the beating that the mike received during the set, being thrown around and spun by its cable and tugged off the stage by a clearly delighted front man, than anything else, and if anything added to the rawness of a great performance.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

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Probably because they followed Trinta e Um, the appearance of the Swedish metal band InSammerwas disappointing; not to me, but to the crowd who were still hyped up by the hardcore of the punk band. Fronted by the velvet-voiced Vika Dola, who was impressive onstage and constantly moving and engaging with the audience, and supported by guitarist Dennis Wise, reminiscent of a White Walker from Game of Thrones, with guitarist Oleg Izotov, Nikita Simonov on bass and drummer Alexey Baev, InSammer never quite managed to catch the attention of the crowd, which was a shame as the band was excellent. Leading with a cover of t.A.T.u.’s ‘Not Gonna Get Us’ InSammer gave us a lesson in how to deliver good quality melodic metal. Playing songs from their EP Seeds, InSammer tried their damnedest to get the crowd going, and aside from a selection of the audience who did appreciate good music when they heard it, on the whole the crowd remained unresponsive.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

Then, half way through the set, something amazing happened. As Vika Dola left the stage after playing ‘Seeds’, for a costume change, Alexey Baev suddenly kicked off with a magnificent drum solo. Captivating the audience, his beating drums caught the attention of the crowd, and the second half of the set was completely different to the first, with the crowd increasingly getting behind the band. There was no crowd surfing, or walls of death, but there was certainly more cheering and support and the second half of the set, which included a great cover of ‘Flash in the Night’. Apart from a mike failure during the last song, InSammer was an exceptionally competent band, with some excellent musicians (not least the drummer, Alexey) and it was just a shame they were scheduled to perform after Trinta e Um.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

Setlist:

Not Gonna Get Us (t.A.T.u. cover)

Punk

Wings

Forsaken by God

Seeds

Darkness

Monroe

Flash In The Night (Secret Service cover)

The System

***********

Back on the Stairway stage, the audience was greeted by the Portuguese death metal trio, Theriomorphic. Around since the late 90s, Theriomorphic are an institution in Portugal, though in their twenty years they have only released three discs, Enter the Mighty Theriomorphic (2005), The Beast Brigade (2008) and the new EP released in April 2018, Of Fire and Light. Fronted by the towering Jó on vocals and bass, with João Duarte on guitar and André Silva on drums, Theriomorphic took us through their discography from ‘Silent Moon’ from Enterto ‘Marching Towards the Sun’ from Of Fire and Light. With his guttural voice dominating the stage, Jó, back up by João and André gave us one of the most powerful performances of the festival and the three-piece really went on to show that ‘less is more’. Closing a powerhouse set with ‘Theriomorphic’ from their 2005 release, Enter, Theriomorphic had the crowd swirling and crowd surfing.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

If there was one criticism, it only went on to show how scheduling InSammer between Trinta e Um and Theriomorphic was a mistake. There seemed to be more emphasis on packing in as many bands as possible into the four-day festival and less thought into the music itself.

Setlist:

Intro (Through Mountains Ablaze)

Silent Moon

Burning Freedom

Operators of Triumph

The Beast Brigade

Absent Light

Fire

Marching Towards the Sun

Theriomorphic.

***************

The headliners on the first day were the Israeli ‘Oriental Metal’ band Orphaned Land, and even as Theriomorphic were performing a crowd was assembling in front of the Vagos Stage. The renowned five-piece band fronted by Kobi Farhi with Chen Balbus and Idan Amsalem on guitars, Uri Zelcha on bass and Matan Shmuely  on drums, gave a masterclass in delivering a top-notch concert, marred only by sub-standard sound and the frequent failure of Kobi’s microphone. Coming onstage, Orphaned Landlaunched straight into ‘The Cave’ from their 2018 album, Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, and after a strong performance Kobi stated, ‘get ready for a long set’, much to the crowd’s delight.

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

A great communicator, Kobi introduced their new album, and asked, ‘do you like it?’ After an overwhelming cheer he continued, ‘I heard two noes from over here (pointing off into the distance), only joking.’ This banter continued throughout the concert, once congratulating Portugal for the 1974 revolution against fascism and comparing with the fascist governments of the world, especially in the Middle East, finding divisions where they do not exist. Favouring the new album, Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, the concert was interspersed with classics such as ‘Ocean Land’, ‘The Kiss Of Babylon’ and ‘Sapari’ and included a great, and long medley of In Propaganda/All Knowing Eye/Take my Hand from Unsung Prophets. Sadly the concert was marred by technical difficulties, including a power cut that left the stage in darkness, and Kobi’s microphone, which stopped the front man from introducing the last song of the evening, ‘Norra el Norra’. Despite these faults it was a great concert, as was to be expected from consummate professionals like Orphaned Land.

Setlist:

The Cave

All Is One

Ocean Land (The Revelation)

The Kiss of Babylon (The Sins)

Chains Fall to Gravity

Like Orpheus

We Do Not Resist, Sapari

Let the Truce Be Known

Birth of the Three (The Unification)

Brother, In Propaganda/All Knowing Eye/Take my Hand

In Thy Never Ending Way (Epilogue)

Only The Dead Have Seen The End Of War

Norra el Norra (Entering the Ark).

There were further bands after Orphaned Land, who played into the night, but sadly this was the end of my first day at Vagos. As always, on the whole the first day was very good, with the technical issues largely being overcome by the quality of the bands themselves.


DAY TWO 

 

As always, the first day of Vagos Metal Fest 2018 got off to a great start, but for many metalheads festivals really start on the second day, and with an earlier start, more bands and a bigger crowd Vagos was no exception. This was obvious from the steady stream of people into the venue, causing minor headaches for the security, who seemed surprised at the number of people suddenly queuing up to get in and swelling the ranks of the smaller crowds on the first day (Orphaned Land being the clear exception).

The day kicked off with In Vein on the Stairway Stage – and it could not have been a better start. This five-piece death metal band from Vila Das Aves/Paços de Ferreira near Porto pounded onto the stage with ‘Paranoia’, from their 2017 album, Resurrect, the flame-headed vocalist António Rocha taking immediate control. Ably backed by André Almeida and Paulo Monteiro on guitars, João Costa on bass and the manic Luís Moreira on drums, In Vein powered their way through songs from Resurrect, the band’s powerful sound drawing the crowd to the front of the stage with the formation of circle pits, mashing and crowd surfing. Interacting well with the crowd, António Rocha leapt into the pit at one point and even indulged in a little crowd surfing, much to the audience’s delight. Technically, the sound from the Stairway stage was excellent and the band revealed they are working on their second album. In Vein ended a powerful and all too short set with ‘Satan’, from Resurrect, that brought about a real buzz from the crowd in the form of more circle pits.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

Sadly, there was then some confusion as instead of the next band starting straight away on the Vagos stage, as was organized on the first day, there was a delay as the next band, Blame Zeus, was also scheduled to play on the Stairway, hence there was a slight loss to the high-adrenaline atmosphere and buzz that In Vein had created, which was a shame. However, it gave us a great opportunity to comment on the facilities that the organisers of Vagos put together for the disabled this year. Sitting back from the two stages, but with a good view of both, was a large covered tent filled with cushion seats, benches and a bar. At first glance this was thought to be the VIP/autograph area, but in fact it was a disabled ‘lounge’, where physically impaired metalheads could gain a grandstand view of the proceedings. Disabled metal fans, including a group from the Gafanha do Carmo Community Centre came to sample the best of heavy music, tour the grounds and enjoy the atmosphere of Vagos Metal Fest.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

A couple of years ago, Sandra Oliveira, the vocalist of Blame Zeus, joined the veteran rockers, Heavenwood, onstage and electrified their performance. This year it was the turn of the five-piece rock/metal band to perform at Vagos, and perform they did. Kicking off with a powerful performance of ‘Slaughter House’, from their 2017 album, Theory of Perception, Oliveira, backed by Paulo Silva and Tiago Lascasas on guitar, Celso Oliveira on bass, and Ricardo Silveira on drums, delivered a competent yet all too brief set filled with solid heavy rock that sounded just great. Concentrating mainly on songs from Theory of Perception, Blame Zeus gave Vagos a sneak peek of a great new track, ‘Déjà Vú’, hopefully from a new album, and wrapped up with a powerful performance of ‘The Apprentice’ from their first album, Identity (2014).

However, as InSammer had shown on the first day, scheduling a rock/metal band like Blame Zeus after the death metal of In Vein was not to everyone’s liking, and the delay in setting up the stage didn’t help. Despite gathering a good sized crowd who were appreciative of the band’s efforts, Blame Zeus could not galvanize the audience as In Vein had done before them. There were no circle pits, and the one solitary crowd surfer was carried forlornly to the pit by his mates. It was a shame, because Blame Zeus were bloody good, and it was a performance that deserved a far better reception.

**************

Almost before the notes of ‘The Apprentice’ had died away, and even as Blame Zeus were posing onstage for the now obligatory band/audience selfie, over on the Vagos Stage, the Melodic Death Metal band from Lisbon, Invoke, were getting started. This three-piece band of Pedro Dias (‘Reborn’), vocalist of Gwydion, on vocals and guitar, ‘Anonymous God’ on bass and Pedro Correia (‘Animosity’) on drums created a raw and aggressive sound. Unfortunately, the issues with the main stage made the sound somewhat chaotic at the start of the performance, which was a real pity since Invoke’s style of melodic death metal deserved better. Nevertheless, the Vagos crowd, who definitely seem to prefer the heavy thrash/death metal of Invoke,In Veinand so on over the damn fine heavy rock/metal of InSammerand Blame Zeusgot behind Invoke, forming circle pits in front of the stage and crowd surfing into the pit. The participation of Muffy Karbonsoullater on in the performance added to what was a spectacular, if sometimes incoherent, set.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

From the black metal of Invoketo the muscled stoner rock of Dollar Llamawas a little jarring, but well worth it as the Lisbon-based five-piece set fire to the Stairway Stage. Featuring Tiago Simões   on vocals, Chikko Marques and Hugo Vieira on guitars, José Dinis on bass and Pedro Cardoso on drums, Dollar Llama were electric right from the start. The band has been around since 2002, but the set mainly featured songs from their 2017 release, Juggernaut. Dollar Llamaliterally compelled the crowd to move, Tiago Simões goading the audience into walls of death, circle pits and crowd surfing. Dollar Llama were a revelation, and with a strong, rich sound (the sound was much better) they delivered arguable the best set of Vagos so far. They were head and shoulders over the other bands, which was just as well as during the last song, as Tiago was crowd surfed by the audience from the pit to near the sound tent and back again. I can’t wait to see them again.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

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Although I love my heavy rock and metal, I grew up during the heydays of punk and the new wave, listening to bands like The Sex Pistols, the Clash, and Siouxsie and The Banshees. So it was a real treat, following the great stoner rock of Dollar Llama, to welcome the appearance on the Vagos Stage of Ratos de Porão, the famous Brazilian hardcore/punk band. Formed in 1981, Ratos de Porãoburst onto the Brazilian punk scene with raw songs that were critical of Brazilian society, almost unheard of at the time, and initially borrowed from their British counterparts before settling into a style all of their own. Almost forty years later, the band is still fronted by vocalist João Gordo (Fat João), who was greeted onstage with a huge cheer from the crowd, and backed up by ‘Jão’ on  guitar, ‘Juninho’ on bass and ‘Boka’ on drums.

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

 

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

Presenting a loud and chaotic set, Ratos de Porãoshowed how they remain musically relevant even today. Like any non-Portuguese speaking member of the crowd, the political message behind songs like ‘Brazil’ or ‘Crucificados Pelo Sistema’ (‘Crucified by the System’) was lost to me, but there was no doubting the simple raw energy that Ratos de Porãobrought to their set and the thrall in which João Gordo held the audience. The one exception was ‘Aids, Pop, Repressão’ (‘Aids, Pop, Repression’), introduced to the familiar beats of ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ by Queen, and the excellent performance of ‘SuposiCollor’ and ‘Just Another Crime … in Massacreland’, a title that wears its message on its sleeve. João Gordo never tired of saying that they sing in Portuguese with pride, and it is always a pleasure for them to come to Portugal. This was the band’s first performance in Vagos, but from the reception they received it is likely that they would always be welcome.

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For Masterplan, who took to the Stairway stage, it was a hard act to follow the breathless performance of Ratos de Porão, but they succeeded in giving us a masterclass in melodic power/heavy metal. Originally a side project of guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch of the German power metal band,Helloween, Masterplanhas undergone many changes since but their identity has remained the same. Grapes is still with the band and keyboardist Axel Mackenrott, who was also there since the band’s formation, received a joyful roar from the crowd as he led Masterplan onstage. Now fronted by vocalist Rick Altzi, with Jari Kainulainen on bass and Kevin Kott on drums, Masterplan demonstrated to Vagos why they deserved the appreciation given by a rapturous crowd.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

Kicking off the set with a good solid version of ‘Enlighten Me’ from their self-titled debut album (2003), Masterplandelivered a powerful set. Drawing mainly from their debut album, the tracks sounded as fresh as if they were from a new release. Adding ‘Crimson Rider’ from their 2005 album, Aeronautics, and ‘Keep Your Dream Alive’ from Novo Initum(2013), they even fitted in a Helloweencover version of ‘The Time of the Oath’ before finishing with ‘Soulburn’ and ‘Heroes’, also from Masterplan. To fill a set with songs from a fifteen-year-old album seemed an unusual choice when there were so many songs to choose from, but it was inspired and the crowd rocked along. From this veteran band, it was truly a Master Plan.

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The scheduling of the bands on the second day meant that we had a double-headliner of Moonspell and Cradle of Filth, with Converge almost unfairly scheduled in between them. Moon spell are the veteran black/gothic metal band from Lisbon and the line-up of Fernando Ribeiro (vocals), Pedro Paixão (keyboards, guitars), Ricardo Amorim (guitars), Aires Pereira (bass) and Miguel Gaspar (drums) has remained almost unchanged since their formation in 1992 (Ricardo and Aires are the ‘new guys’, joining in 1995 and 2004, respectively).

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

The stage was adorned with ‘stone’ crosses (which the techies had some problems assembling), giving the area a gothic look, and as the sonorous introduction echoed around the Quinta Fernando Ribeiro took to the stage, dressing in black like some latter-day Shakespearian Shylock and clutching a lamp as he peered around. Suddenly, guitars exploded into sound with ‘Em Nome do Medo’ (‘In the Name of Fear’) from their most recent album 1755 (2017), which set the tone for an outstanding performance. The set was dominated by songs from 1755 (they were on the ‘1755 tour’, after all), but classics like ‘Opium’, ‘Awake!’ (both from Irreligious, 1996) and ‘Breathe (Until We Are No More)’ from Extinct (2015) were rapturously received by the crowd. Fernando also couldn’t help name-checking Cradle of Filth during their performance (Moonspell have supported Cradle of Filth on tour and their relationship goes back several years) suggesting that this performance was a prelude to that coming later in the evening.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

On the whole the sound was excellent, but half way through an excellent version of ‘Ruínas’ ‘(Ruins’) from 1755, the unthinkable happened, again. As the lights and sound failed the band left the stage, returning when situation was resolved about ten minutes later. Although the crowd remained positive throughout, with cheers of ‘Moonspell!’ and crowd surfers being deposited in the pit even though there was no music, the sudden break did interrupt an otherwise flawless performance and when a visibly-rattled Fernando retook the stage he thanked the crowd for their (our) support and stressed that it was the fans that came every year and that keeps the festival alive. The band proved once again that whatever is thrown at them Moonspellare still a Portuguese band to be reckoned with.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

***************

Running a little late following the sound failure on the Vagos stage, over on the Stairway stage it was time for one of the most hotly-anticipated bands of the second day. Converge are American hardcore legends, and it did seem unfair to sandwich them in between the goth metal of Moonspell and Cradle of Filth. Founded in 1990, Converge are Jacob Bannon (lead vocals), Kurt Ballou (guitars), Nate Newton (bass), and Ben Koller (drums), and they were clearly delighted to be at Vagos, and in response pulled off a superb show.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

As a front man, Jacob Bannon was a powerhouse, pacing (sprinting!) around the stage and exhorting the crowd to join him in the performance, which they did, dry dust rising from the ground in the early evening air as the crowd formed circle pits and moshed in front of the stage. Between songs, Bannon would pause briefly and thank the crowd again for being there, and in return the Vagos audience would cheer and haul their weary fellows onto their shoulders for yet more crowd surfing.
The sound quality of the Stairway stage was excellent, not as loud as Ratos de Porão but clearly superior, which did justice to Converge’s performance and skill as musicians. With almost thirty years behind them, and almost as many albums to choose from, Converge delivered a mammoth session. Leading with ‘Reptilian’ and picking mainly from their 2017 release, The Dusk In Us. However, the band also featured songs from their older albums, giving ‘Dark Horse’ (Axe to Fall, 2009) and ‘Aimless Arrow’ (All We Love We Leave Behind, 2012) prime spots at the beginning of the set and concluding with ‘Concubine’ from their 2001 album, Jane Doe.

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Without a doubt, the band that everyone was waiting for on the second day was Cradle Of Filth, who have not visited Portugal for a long time, and like Orphaned Landon the first day a good-sized crowd was gathering even as Convergewere performing. The British goth/black metal six-piece has been fronted by Dani Filth since the band’s formation in 1991, and is currently supported by Lindsay Schoolcraft on keyboards, ‘Ashok’ (Marek Šmerda) and Richard Shawon on guitars, Daniel Firth on bass and ‘Marthus’ (Martin Škaroupka) on drums.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

As the tones of ‘Ave Satani’ filled the night air, the band filed onstage, each entrance cheered by the crowd. As Dani Filth entered stage left Cradle of Filthlaunched into the first song, a hi-octane version of ‘Gilded Cunt’ (Nymphetamine, 2004). The sound quality was excellent and the crowd howled its appreciation. Crowd surfers appeared in the pit almost immediately, the security team, now well trained in dealing with flying metalheads, deftly depositing them onto the ground behind the bustling photographers only to see them run off into the night. As Dani Filth roared out his lyrics and drummer ‘Marthus’ pounded his skins, we knew we were in for a treat. As soon as the first song was over, the band segued straight into ‘Beneath the Howling Stars’ (Cruelty and the Beast, 1998), and this was even better! Listening to such beautiful music from the gothic metallers, I had to concentrate with all my might on taking photographs, otherwise I thought I would just stand there, mouth agape, listening to the music.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

And then, as ‘Beneath the Howling Stars’ was reaching its climax, disaster! Suddenly the lights went out and the music stopped. The power had failed. Again. Suddenly confused, the band left the stage as the technical staff scuttled around, putting things right. The crowd, as amiable as ever, refused to let this get them down and continued to cheer and party. One of the great things of the Vagos crowd, on the whole they are there to enjoy themselves, drink beer and ‘Hidromel’, and have a great time. About ten minutes later the lights started to come on and Cradle of Filth returned to the stage. Immediately Dani came to the front of the stage and apologised: Sorry about that, this is what we always do when we don’t like the end of the song! The crowd cheered, and ever the gentleman Dani exhorted the crowd not to blame the festival for what happened. Which received an even bigger cheer. What would it take to upset this audience?

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

We will never know, as Cradle of Filth launched into ‘Blackest Magick in Practice’ (Hammer of the Witches, 2015) and then ‘Heartbreak and Séance’ (Cryptoriana, 2017). Before ‘Heartbreak and Séance’, Dani name checked Moonspell, the Portuguese goth metal band who preceded Cradle of Filth on the Vagos stage, the first of many, with the band expressing a clear camaraderie with the Portuguese band, which also gave the audience reason to cheer.

Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018
Vagos Metal Fest 2018

And this set the tone for the rest of the festival. Cradle of Filthwere on the world tour for their latest album, Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, but instead of filling the concert with songs from the new album, the band gave us songs from their extensive back catalogue, starting with an epic eleven-minute performance of ‘Bathory Aria’ (Cruelty and the Beast, 1998), each song being delivered with perfection. And then, after dedicating ‘You Will Know the Lion by His Claw’ (Cryptoriana, 2017) to Moonspell, it all seemed to be over. Surely not, that was far too short. But it was all a ruse. As ‘A Bruise Upon the Silent Moon’ (Damnation and a Day, 2003) echoed across the stage, Cradle of Filth returned and delivered an ‘encore’ that was longer than the purported concert, drawing from all of their classic albums including ‘The Forest Whispers My Name’ from their debut album The Principle of Evil Made Flesh(1994). It was a long performance, well beyond the scheduled time, but no one complained, in fact the audience wanted more.

Eventually Cradle of Filth left the stage after a mesmerizing performance and although the (thinning) crowd stayed for more bands, for me the evening, and for this year the festival, was over.

Conclusion

Technical snafu’s aside, which seemed to not bother the crowd one jot, although it caused the technicians some headaches and clearly upset the bands who were affected, the first two days of Vagos were excellent, and it was a shame I could not have stayed longer, as there were bands I had wanted to see, Kamelot, Sonata Arctica and the Lisbon-based Stonerust among them. As always, the organisers did a great job, and I must express my thanks and gratitude to Amazing Events, and especially to Margarida and Manuel for really looking after us. Amazing Events put on a great show, and the decision to employ two stages was a wise move and really kept the atmosphere buzzing. With few exceptions, there was always metal playing at Vagos.

If there was one thing that wasn’t ideal, it was the mixing of genres of music, as happened with InSammer and Blame Zeus, and to a lesser degree slipping Converge in between Moonspell and Cradle of Filth. You can’t please everyone and mixing heavy rock with death metal meant, I felt, that quality musicians did not get the appreciation that they really deserved. But one thing Vagos did show this year is that there are some fantastic bands out there in the Portuguese metal scene, everything from heavy rock to death metal, and readers would be well worth checking out Vagos for next year (and for four days, the price of a ticket was really a steal). All being well, see you next year at the Quinta de Ega.


vagosmetalfest.com

 

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