After the first night from Saturday, the atmosphere was set. Everyone was quickly getting used to the inhabited Porto streets at 2 am, no traffic, no noise, pure deafening silence contrasting with Roly Porter’s ear-bleeding performance.
A successful first day in the works for Amplificasom ‘s ambition. Promising, enlightening, powerful, demanding, living the experience! So much for us, it’s been extremely difficult to put into words everything that everyone has seen, heard and felt these last couple of days. Trying to be fair in writing, whilst referring to something as remotely close to speechless as Amplifest, is a challenge! A good challenge nonetheless.
Sunday morning, early birds embraced the warm summer day in Porto. Great opportunity to see the remarkable and historic places the city embraces over the years. Grab a cup of coffee and have something sweet to eat. The day will be long and all energy is welcome. Heading south to the Douro River, all encounter magical mystique in the traditional/classic architecture of Porto’s downtown streets, platz’, memorable buildings, libraries, the train station, museums and much more. But truth is none of this overshadows Hard Club’s magnificent, blood red, imperial posture on our way to the Ribeira. Arcades on the outside façade, welcoming the sun’s burning vibration, almost symbolizing a chapel at its core.
Far from being a chapel, the Hard Club has spent this weekend dedicating it’s chest-chattering acoustic and spacious floors to one of the most relevant alternative music festivals in Europe: Amplifest! The first day was checked and now we’re headed to Sunday church.
Tiny Fingers start off the ceremonies with their math-rock assault on intricate and elaborate perfumes. No vocals, but extremely interesting for those who didn’t know what to expect, different and divergent blasts of color, sifting through spacious grooves of entranced synths and catatonic guitar riffs. The drums, drilling a megalopolis of sensations and frameworks, embracing the ever-morphing sound shape. Very high score for this group in particular! What a way to start fresh in the afternoon.
Next up, Tesa! Not very known in these parts of the neighborhood but the room was still pretty full. Everyone was curious about the band that is currently touring with Neurosis, just so they could get a chance to be heard. The first song had a lot of promising fixtures, and the Latvian band delivered a bit of everything for everyone. Extremely calm for most part, which helped define the heavier parts. The sound felt eerily strange, so consistent and intertwined in itself that it almost felt like fabric, pure translucent fabric. Positive performance even with some minor technical problems, the songs were powerful to say the least.
An hour or so later, Névoa. The second Portuguese act on the Amplifest line-up. A band that has dedicated itself in excelling inside the Black Metal scene through permanent changes in hostile soundscapes, with a first release containing promising bleakness and a second release reaching the outer-rims of super-human ambition. Embracing Avant-Garde influences and a powerful guitar presence, the Portuguese group found no difficulty and delivering one of the most memorable sets in the festival, exactly what we expected to witness. A performance that easily stood out for itself in the primitive sense of inflicting reactions and creating permanent attrition for those who hear and subdue themselves to this odyssey of rough corners and dim cores.
Time for refueling, finding new energy for what is reserved for all of us after sun-down. The real challenge begins now. Hope Drone! Recently signed to the colossal Relapse Recs, this is a band that promises an experience in distortion and drum-tone. Surprisingly well-played, the four-piece from the other side of the world traveled half of Europe aside Downfall of Gaia, to convey their latest release Cloak of Ash. A debut album that has been receiving a majority of positive acclaim from the fans, giving us a chance to hear it on a live stage is nothing less than a privilege for those who live to feel a razor sharp blade flinching the insides of your conscious. An abrasive roller-coaster of melodies and textures, functioned by the bone shattering high-pitch vocals, completely devastating everything and anything that crosses its path. A strong collective when it comes to delivering a powerful live performance.
It’s extremely draining to have to go through so many good live shows one after another. But we’d be lying if we said that wasn’t exactly what we were expecting from Amplifest. The best are yet to come, the night is still young.
And so it was. With so many people anticipating the performance, the Oathbreaker sound-check even got a decent amount of attendance (not surprisingly), so we could imagine what would be the main event. Started off with a brief intro, “10:53”, with Caro’s mesmerizing voice exhaling the speech
“The time you plunged into the gray cobblestones of a back alley to our house”
Inhaling and exhaling their way into a beautiful introduction to a sold-out crowd on a Sunday night Porto evening. Attending the gig, people from all over the globe, and all of them, just like us, very much present in this moment, Oathbreaker’s introduction is over; “Second Son of R” implementing complete chaos, from front to back no one was still! The crowd was completely taken to a different world, every song, different step and dynamic, the sound quality was of a level unparalleled to so many young bands out there, it’s still impressive! The delivery along the songs “Glimpse of the Unseen”, “No Rest for the Weary”, “Origin”, “As I Look Into the Abyss” and “The Abyss Looks Into Me” were so consistent and precise, it’s still incredibly amazing how this band can go on for more than half an hour with so many emotionally and physically draining songs. It’s a performance that stands so strong by itself that it becomes a physical experience, it no longer limits itself to the sound and that’s exactly what we expect from every Oathbreaker release and concert. Every album feels like a beating, an attack on memory and reality, and every time it ends, we come back. That’s exactly how everyone felt during their show. Completely taken away to a corner of everyone’s mind where everyone is susceptible, an alternative reality where the punk assault with heavy distorted guitars dizzy us through a labyrinth of unpredictability and aggression. The heavier parts help emphasize the calm transitions, Caro’s easeful voice, pushing words that everyone was able to sing back and the distortion rises again and until the end, there’s no forgiving in this onset.
It’s still very hard to describe what we’ve encountered so far, with so much to be said and only now have we begun to feel the most powerful of performances, right towards the end. When we are most tired, most desperate, when our bodies begin to fail and pain prevails, is when our minds, legs, hearts transcend with the music. Oathbreaker took us all to someplace else, and only they know when to take us back.
It’s slowly coming to an end. The trains begin to send out their last schedule and all of us are focused on much more important matters. Neurosis. The American veterans make a Portugal debut on their 30th anniversary and make sure to make the best out of the hour and a half set that was given to them. The venue filled completely. There was nothing else besides this set and this moment. So urgent and emerging, the crowd pushes the entrance just in time for “Times of Grace” that tolled the bells with the acid electric strings marking the beginning, Scott’s scream assures the grab and here we are again. Sala 1, another world, a psychological lobotomy, a combat of strength and force, Neurosis against us and vice-versa. The energy is felt by the running press rushing through the crowd to get a shot at the band whilst everyone stood still and felt time disintegrate between the fervent sludge guitar riffs and the crawling drum shots. The “Lost” track was instantly welcomed by the intro sample, anticipating the doomier side of the band. A song that used the systematic shifting of color and shape throughout the entire architecture of the monolith of Neurosis. Using a belting rhythm in between rushed beatings. The slow paced drums pushing the rope against the arteries and almost making it feel like ritualistic torture. Absolutely peerless, followed by a fan favorite “Locust Star” marked by the gauzy drum shifts, slowly embarking on a sudden eager trepidation of distortion and abrasiveness. The scream is felt miles away, as if an earthquake, intersecting the melancholic and funeral guitar riff. It turns dominant again and the band gains control over again. It feels like a “Greatest Hits” record, all the classics and fan-favorites are being given out, nothing was left out.
Prurient was left. Also known as Vatican Shadow and Christian Cosmos, the Hospital Productions veteran has made his presence felt with a colossal tremor of a set. Searing noise attacks blessing the small attendance with deafening bursts of amplifier feedback, severing transitions to more synth oriented dance melodies, whilst persistently crushing the venues leftovers. Prurient fluid and eloquent set chose no better posture than to find incendiary paths for a memorable ending of an evening. It’s 2 am and the late night already screams Monday.
After a storm comes a calm; we all enjoy a deserving night rest for Monday Morning. Some leave and some stay for a change of scenery. Passos Manuel, just another place that bleeds history in Porto, an auditorium ready to assume the ceremonies of receiving Steven Von Till’s solo work. Consumed in a dark folk adventure, Von Till travels the crowd to and within his deepest thoughts and feelings, whilst being accompanied by what he considers to be his most loyal travelling companion: his guitar. Between songs and tuning the guitar, Steven made sure the climax of the set took place in the right moment – with no disregard to anything else – he would reveal the stories behind each lyrics which helped create incredible intimacy with the crowd. As was expected, Steven completely taken away by the crowd, everyone stood still, utterly drowned in the pure Folk strings and easeful Monday voice, the straightforward guitar playing and the manifold lyrics, most of them about existentialism.
With an ending given to this evening, there is nothing left to do, than to say goodbye.
We have all physically given out, but the heart is filled with memories, great encounters and memorable experiences. What else is there to say?