Part one here
Saturday – Day Two
After time to explore or just to nurse the first hangover it’s a very civilised two thirty when Arkansas Pallbearer open Saturday afternoon solemn proceedings on the Bürostage with thunderous funeral doom. Rumbling bass is punctuated by wailing guitars and the soaring sorrowful vocals of Brett Campbell. Opening with the epilogue from Of Sorrow and Extinction ‘Foreigner’ The quartet play a mixed set of old and new but the newer more proggy classic material really sticks out when the punishingly heavy doom build ups lead to a far softer rock vibe that arguably breaks the doomy spell they have cast.
As one of the bigger names on the Bürostage on the bill it is strange but refreshing to see stoner band Elder play early in the day but they have over an hour to play a vibrant and varied set of old and new favourites. starting the journey through peaks and valleys with the explosive drums and meandering riffs of ‘Compendium’ from 2015’s Lore is a wonderful way to keep old fans happy and the later more progressive tracks interspersed throughout the set are played with a heavy and fiery gusto, they finish of course with crowd favourite ‘Sanctuary’
Telepathy from the UK play next door at Beerfreaks in between the American big hitters, and they have an infectious explosive energy that matches their textured, instrumental soundscapes of doomy post metal. Shimmering tremolos and heavily distorted layers of guitars are met with portentous bass lines while the slow considered drumbeats peppered with dynamic fills reach crashing crescendos.
Also on Beerfreaks, Irist from the USA are probably the least experimental outfit of the weekend but their groovy sludge and metallic breakdowns with hardcore vocals and speedy guitars prove a hit with the fist pumping crowd.
Back on the Bürostage, Belgian post hardcore/punk trio Brutus have been making quite a stir in the scene over the last few years or so and it is shamefully this reviewers’ first time to witness why. Holy shit, they are ON FIRE, the energy emanating from powerhouse drummer and vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts is electric and infectiously invigorating. The performance is far heavier than recordings and Brutus absolutely brutalise and astonish the audience in equal measure. The relentless dynamic drum rolls and visceral cymbal and throat shredding, howling attacks – coupled with Mannaerts impressively broad and endearingly piercing vocal range – ensures a steady build-up of sheer intensity and awe from the crowd. Delighted fans sing along with all their heart and the climactic finale is met with an eruption of applause and a whole lot of picking up jaws from the floor.
Even on the outlandishly exploratory line up of the festival the Finnish avantgarde progressive psychedelic black metal outfit Oranssi Pazuzu still stand out. Following the release of the phenomenal and perplexing Mestarin Kynsi they have grown in popularity and there is a huge amount of anticipation in the air. It is not long since witnessing them annihilate ATG but with a far superior sound and a far longer set time the intrigue is contagious. Relighting the smouldering remains left behind by Brutus they cast the audience into a transcendental state of an insanity fuelled euphoria. Playing many tracks from Mestarin the band members relentlessly fling themselves and their instruments around a stage engulfed in smoke, with intense moody lighting to match the ominous and psychedelic tone of their music. It is a trip all right, amped up to brain fizzing mind losing body thrashing flying through space kind of deal. The unceasing, synthy pulsing in the background, juxtaposed with incoherent blackened howls, blast beats and gnarly riffs are deranged in the best conceivable way- a visual and sonic assault to all the senses. After the conclusion of final track incendiary track- ‘Taivaan Portti’ the audience beg for an encore and, after some deliberation, the cloak clad quintet triumphantly return to provoke a swirling miasma of insane beings losing themselves to the cacophonic chaos.
After a temporary lobotomy courtesy of the orange demons, it takes some time to weave back the fragile fibres of the brain and face the music once more. Putan Club, a duo from Italy and France are the last act of the night and holy shit do they blow the top off the Hard Club. Playing in the middle of a room they create an immersive and interactive experience for the crowd who grow wilder and fill the space as the bassist and guitarist seductively fill the space while weaving in and out of amplifesters, letting out tribal whoops and howls to a thumping beat lit by a sultry, hellish lighting. Self-described as ElectronicIndustrialAvantRockTechnoWorldSauvagerie and really, it makes perfect sense by the culmination of their set which has resulted in metaphorical orgy complete with bleeding ears and shell shock and really it makes perfect sense by the culmination of their set which has resulted in an unexpected invigorating metaphorical orgy complete with bleeding ears and shell shock which results in an immediate stampede to the merch stand.
Sunday- Day three
Necks, backs, brains, and heads are feeling the strain at this point so beginning the day with an aural punishment from the mighty Wolves in the Throne room is an intimidating thought, especially on the lord’s holy day of rest. Boasting a consistently magnificent discography their latest release Primordial Arcana, which was self-recorded and produced in the Weaver brothers forest studio has taken on a more pagan sound, experimenting with a slower pace and a nod to old school black metal which has seen them enjoy more success and deserved attention. They open with the hit single ‘Mountain Magick’ but it is hearing the notes of old familiar songs that really raises the hairs in the back of the neck and all thoughts of aches and pains go out the window as the head and body thrashing begins.
Dreamy tremolos which are woven through a rich soundscape tapestry of frantic racing tremolos, frost-bitten, throat shredding vocals, pummelling blast beats and hypnotic pacing evokes imagery of their beloved mountains and trees. It is a sound that is organic and entrancing with ascending melodies yet fiercely visceral. While some lament that they are not as heavy as normal the fast and slow pacing is effectively impactful especially with the lengthy climax of ‘I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots’ which is breath-taking.
Also on the Büro, are DIY French hardcore trio Birds in Row who passionately rant about the importance of protesting (despite the punishment) for change. In between dynamic riffs and primal anguished howls fuelled by a deep rage at the injustices of the world. Incessant strobes match the frenetic pace and atmosphere laced with frantic, discordant surf rock strumming and punky drumbeats. They play most of the new material from their yet to be released album Gris Klein and the audience lap it up.
The next couple bands back at Beerfreaks stage could not be more different, starting with emo crust Galicians Tenue who had such a great response from the crowd and their antics that it felt like they were a local band, it was a surprise therefore to discover this was in fact their first performance in Portugal. While some of the vocals were a little cheesy the riffs hit hard, and the crowd respond in kind.
Another act many have been excited for, from the festival attendees to the Amplifest crew is about to enter the Beerfreaks stage and it is the Patrick Walker of Warning fame and of course, the more recent, 40 Watt Sun. He is here to perform renditions of the latter but in an acoustic, solo format. After explaining that the pickup fell out of his guitar mid-flight and while using an unknown instrument, he still went on to play an enrapturing, heart-rending set broken up by dark but hilarious anecdotes, thanks to his dry sense of humour and endearingly open demeanour. With stories such as being told himself “You’re meant to be more depressing than this” and to the crowd “I bet you did not expect to laugh so much” there is a chance for both tears and laughter. The minimal lighting coupled with his soaring melancholy voice is enchanting and really shines when contrasted against the subtle and poignant finger picking. Opening with the spaces in between and closing with Restless the soulful solo renditions of Perfect light are simply, well, perfect.
It has not been long since last witnessing and writing… ok, raving, about Cult of Luna when they played Arctangent. But tonight, at Amplifest, and closing the Büro this weekend – given the spectacular sound and lighting – they are exemplary. The now legendary Swedish post hardcore sextet Cult of Luna last made an appearance here in 2014 and are allegedly long awaited. The explosive start of ‘Cold Burn’ is ramped up even further in tone and pace while Slow burning ‘Dim’ from Somewhere along the Highway is given a dynamic boost with a brooding atmosphere. The enigmatic Vocalist Johannes Persson has a fearsome stage presence while the others are eerily silhouetted against the lasers and smoky lighting. They have honed their all-encompassing sound to become an absolute tour de force, mixing in John Carpenter style synths into the lush soundscape and playing with a mix of delicate and crushing. Shimmering and sweeping chord progressions with obliterating riffs and soaring howls, which backed up by the gargantuan drumming duo is utterly compelling.
Normally the last few notes of a fantastic headliner are a bittersweet ending especially ending with the gorgeous “Blood Upon Stone’, but it is an absolute joy to smugly revel in the knowledge that another monumental three days of music is just around the corner. Amplifest have already smashed it out the park and for now it is not goodbye, but an enthusiastic see you soon!!
Words and Photography: Abi Coulson Darktones Photography