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Metal Fest 2013 – Santiago, Chile: Day 1

April 14, 2013

The trip from Bolivia to Chile to attend Santiago’s second annual metal music festival proved worth it the first night as I went directly from the airport to the Caupolican Theater for what was billed as the “Pre-Show” (“La Previa” in Spanish).  The amazing Friday-night concert by German old-school heavy metallers Accept, soon to be available on DVD at a store near you, was a major highlight of this adventure, albeit one that deserves its own separate write-up later.  For now, I’ll focus on Saturday’s face melting:

Metal Fest 2013

Standing outside Santiago’s Movistar Arena in the searing sun with my “international online ticket reservation” printout while a couple of overwhelmed cashiers struggled to issue passes to a long-line of travelers wasn’t especially metal.  Nevertheless, it did allow me to interact briefly with other folk with whom I apparently share both sufficient discretionary income and a belief that national borders should pose no barrier to head-banging opportunity.  Most cue companions appeared to be from Brazil, although I did note the occasional Peruvian, Argentine, or Venezuelan visitor.  I didn’t personally meet any fellow travelers from Bolivia, but I later saw a pair of Bolivian flags being waved in the arena crowd’s center mass, thus confirming additional representation from the Plurinational Republic at Metal Fest 2013.


The wait for my entry passes caused me to miss the first few songs by Lock Up, described on Wikipedia as a “grindcore sideproject supergroup.”  The only member I recognized however was Anton Reisnegger, and that was only because I had just watched him and his regular band Pentagram Chile — not to be confused with U.S. doom legends Pentagram — as they opened for Accept the night before.  As the first group of the day, the crowd for Lock Up looked relatively small inside the big arena, although they were still enthusiastic and probably numbered a couple thousand.

Having entered late after waiting for my pass and then having stopped to buy a festival T-shirt and a terrible precooked hamburger from an arena food stand, I unfortunately can’t say much about Lock Up other than confirm that they were loud and tight.  I did notice they boasted dual bass guitarists, which of course immediately brought Spinal Tap to mind.  Unfortunately however, Lock Up’s harsh metal did not recall The Tap’s Big Bottom in any way, much to my chagrin.


Next up was avant-garde Norwegian metal band Arcuturus, another group I did not know but who seemed to have quite a following in Chile based on the number of folk waving Arcturus banners and singing along to all the songs.  It is hard to put into words just what avant-garde means in Arcturus’ case, but the word calliope springs to mind (and I’m not even sure what calliope means exactly).  The best I can do is to describe this band’s music as the sound of traveling into the outer reaches of space in an old-timey hot air ship propelled by gears and ropes only to become trapped in the slow-motion gravitational pull of a distant black hole as all the while a carnival barker seeks to entice you into the bearded lady’s tent.  I found myself happily lost in the journey as I focused on the black-and-white video projections of spiral galaxies and phased-out Phantoms of the Opera that accompanied the band’s set.  The singer’s clear vocals, a nice contrast from the gruff grunts and screams of most of today’s bands, ranged from soaring and dramatic to puppet-show falsettos.  While I’m likely too stuck in my comfort zone to actually add any of Arcturus’ Scandinavian weirdness to my own collection, I must say I enjoyed their freak show today.


Next came Corrosion of Conformity, the first band of the day that I knew well and one of the draws that enticed me to make my way to Chile.  The band, touring on their most-recent album as a three-piece (bass, drums, and guitar), was tight and energetic and put on a great show.  That said, it was during CoC’s set that I came to a realization regarding my personal inability get beyond the margins when it comes to extreme metal.  (I know that CoC is by no means “extreme” but bear with me here.)

Variously described as stoner rock or sludge metal, CoC for me hearkens back to early 80s American heavy metal, albeit with more low end and a bit of a weed-loving groove added in.  Tonight however, the band had the dual kick-drums turned up to an earth-shaking volume that somewhat overwhelmed the guitars and vocals.  This sound worked great for most of the Day 1 bands for whom ear-pummeling and brain-scrambling was the point, but CoC’s music called for the occasional groovy sway mixed into the headbanging.  From this listener’s perspective, by trying to match their more extreme festival mates in punch, CoC lost some of the stoned heaviness that defines them.  While I still enjoyed big and rocked hard, I must admit to some disappointment in what I viewed as the band’s attempt to fit in with the day’s tone rather than to proudly stand apart.

The three-piece version of CoC stood easily on its own right up until the last two songs when they called up on-again, off-again band member Pepper Keenan to guest with them.  The addition of the guitar and vocals from Keenan, who was here with his current band Down (see below), ended up serving to remind us what we had lost without him.  The second guitar rounded out the band’s sound and added a level of groove we hadn’t fully realized was missing until that moment.  Moreover, Keenan’s vocals simply made the band sound like themselves, or at least the selves we think of when we think Corrosion of Conformity.  Having him onstage was both glorious – they played Vote with a Bullet!! – and disheartening as, until then, we had believed we were content with the current version of CoC.


CoC was followed by German thrash legends Sodom, another three-piece.  With some 30 years of history and experience behind them, these guys looked and played great, reminding more elderly metalheads like myself that we can most assuredly still fit into the scene.  Sodom was one of the day’s most popular bands with the Chilean crowd and, for reasons inexplicable to me, seemed to be able to boast the greatest relative proportion of female fans.  They played a careening mix of old and new, and included their unique cover of Surfin’ Bird; for me is a Ramones cover, although the song’s true origin dates to 1963 and American surf band The Trashmen.  At risk of putting off thrash purists out there, I’d say Sodom reminded me of a less self-serious Slayer.  As with the other longer-in-the tooth groups on the festival bill, Sodom seemed to be cranking up the drum speed in order to fit alongside the younger bands, an effort that I do not support.  Even so, the elder thrashers still had enough melody in their cranium-bashing songs to keep an old dude like myself happily closing my eyes and doing the vigorous back-and-forth head nod all night long.


Morbid Angel were definitely the coolest-looking band of the day.  The singer’s side burns, drummer’s long and shiny black locks, lead guitarist’s Slash-like perm, and rhythm guitarist’s pointy red goatee were pure metal.  The veteran death metallers also seemed to be the most accomplished instrumentalists of the day, at least as judged by my own novice ears.  I only wish I could have found a way past my disdain for growled vocals so I could have more fully participated in the Morbid joy.  Happily for me, the sound mix was such that the vocals were somewhat subsumed into the larger emanations, easing my aural pain a bit.  Morbid Angel definitely knew how to get the crowd moving, with the mosh pit growing to encompass a vast area in the middle of the floor as the band hammered out their relentless set.

If and when Morbid Angel offer up instrumental versions of their tunes, I will not only be first in line to buy them, I will gladly become an international ambassador for their greatness.  In the meantime, I’ll simply have to accept my place outside their target audience.


The biggest surprise of Day 1 was Twisted Sister.  I had always written them off as glammed-up metal posers since way back in the early 1980s and had even blown off a chance to see them live in Bolivia (freaking Bolivia!) a couple of years ago.  How was I to know that they not only enjoy a huge, enthusiastic following in South America, but that the old, goofy farts can truly rock!

The show was just plain fun as Dee Snider bounced around like a blow-dried hamster hyped up on caffeine.  The robust” bassist’s repeated happy-metal slapdance move with his bass was pure rawk joy, as were the plentiful glory-days melodic hair-fest solos traded off between twin guitarists Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda.  The audience was giddy throughout, especially as the big hits I Wanna Rock and We’re Not Gonna Take It bounced out from the stage.  Meaningless to all but Spanish-speaking readers, I note that Snider’s lyrical change-up from “We’re not gonna take it” to sound-alike Spanish phrasing “Huevos con aceite” (eggs fried with oil) most certainly ingratiated the band with the already-loyal Latin American crowd for life.

Twisted Sister, I beg forgiveness for my failure to previously recognize your rock worthiness.  I will now go forth and sin no more.


The final band of the night was Down, featuring both Phil Anselmo of Pantera fame and the aforementioned Pepper Keenan.  As it turned out, “angry Phil” made his appearance early, concurrently encouraging and berating the crowd’s fist-pumping “stupid shit” before Down were even two songs in.  He soon went on to further admonish the diminishing crowd for “standing there with your fingers up your ass.”

As Phil continued to rage, I found myself thinking more about how I was going to find a taxi to my hotel than actually enjoying the stoner sludge that Down was expertly launching forth.  As such, when Phil announced just a few songs later that “this is the last time you assholes are going to have Down playing for you way down here,” I mindlessly joined the steady stream of folk abandoning the arena.

As I eventually entered my cab after making my way to the nearest major street, I found the driver listening to a live broadcast of the very same concert I had just walked out on.  Sitting there in the backseat, I discovered a pounding, tight Down playing awesome groove-filled songs.  I even heard a seemingly content and almost loving Phil Anselmo thanking the audience for staying on through a long day to listen to Down’s slow-played, southern-fried metal.  Damnit!  I should have stayed!


 And so, the first half of my first-ever multi-day festival was done (and fantastic!).  I can barely wait for Sunday’s bash…

Metal Fest 2013 - Day 1

From → Music

  1. It is possible I missed a bit when I nipped out for a beer mid-program, but there were many moments to savour…
    “ear-pummeling and brain-scrambling was the point” shows deep insight into the event.
    “bounced around like a blow-dried hamster hyped up on caffeine” is brilliant.
    I think I could like Arcturus, perhaps more than their more gynaecologically name cousins who you saw.
    Amused and appalled by the Down man’s insult-driven persona. What nudged him towards the loving kindness you heard in the cab? Or is that state control at work?

    Now, please excuse me, I need to dig out Freedom of Choice.

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  1. Accepting the Truth: Would You Like to Hear More? | Victim of the Fury

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