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Metal Fest 2013 – Santiago, Chile: Day 2

April 19, 2013

Metal Fest 2013

As I begin to finally write about it now nearly a week later, Sunday’s 10 hours of metal glory on the second and final day of Metal Fest 2013 seem to have passed in a heartbeat.  The first band started playing at 3:PM, with the final group’s last encore ending circa 1:AM Monday morning.  By the time I made it back to my hotel and came down enough to ease into bed, it was 2:AM.  With the subsequent 4:30 AM wake up in order to make the six-hour flight home to La Paz, Bolivia (including two layovers in the Chilean cities of Iquique and Arica), followed by my immediate insertion back into everyday life, there hasn’t been much opportunity to just relax and consider.  Nevertheless, I have managed to congeal two overarching personal conclusions from the Metal Fest experience.

First:  What a great decision I made to go!  Far from home and routine, I was able to completely give myself over to one of my favorite things, heavy music, for more than 50 hours straight.  There were no work hassles, no immediate responsibilities, and few other distractions.  When I wasn’t enjoying a live performance, I was either mentally reviewing the previous ones or looking forward to the next.  Moreover, I was doing it all in the midst of a few thousand other folk just as enthusiastic about the opportunity as was I.  No inhibitions, no evaluations, no representations… I was just me, enjoying my thing.  It was truly relaxing and liberating while it lasted.

Second:  Festivals are awesome!  I saw multiple excellent bands I knew and had actively wanted to see mixed in with a broad selection of others that I probably would never have sought out or even known otherwise, but which proved to be great — or at minimum highly interesting — shows.  In addition, the festival feeling was different from my normal concert experience.  We weren’t just disconnected groups of folk arriving, rocking out, and departing in our own bubbles but rather a whole gang of like-minded people hanging out with each other all day long while taking regular breaks to go watch a band together.  Each band had its unique group of fans that were there especially for them, but then those separate fan groups stayed around to mutually support all the other bands’ fans.  It was a really friendly and inviting atmosphere.

Metal Fest 2013 - Day 2

Enough jibber jabber, on to the bands:

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The first performers of the day, Brutal Truth, turned out to be the easiest to describe.  Their show was like standing in the middle of a giant foundry without ear protection while  huge slabs of industrial metal were pounded into shape.  It was the sound of the continual grinding of tons of jagged metal against metal, with the occasional screech of an industrial-size diamond saw cutting through a dry slab of titanium sans lubricant layered over the top (those would be the vocals).  Let’s just say I didn’t walk out and I was happy for having had the Brutal Truth experience and leave it at that.

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Progressive death metal band Nile were up next and they will forever get points from me for seeming the most family-centered, dude-next-door death metallers ever.  GuitaristKarl Sanders of Nile Karl Sanders (see photo) appeared to have his son or maybe nephew on the trip with the band and invited the boy out onto the stage to bring him a bottle of water a few times between songs.  You could tell the clean-cut kid was having a ball looking out at the giant, enthusiastic crowd as he smiled broadly and seemed to share words with Sanders about how awesome it all was.

While they employed the normal incomprehensible growling vocal style of their genre, Nile’s tunes were very melodic and even sort of jazzy in a technical, complex riffing sense.  These guys smiled a lot and seemed to be having a ball on stage.  I couldn’t help but smile along as they assaulted me with their Egyptian-themed extreme metal.

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Self-described “narco-satanist” extreme metal band Brujeria was pretty unique.  The band’s logo – and the cover of their best known album Matando Güeros (“Killing Whites” in translation) – includes a scene of a person out of shot holding up a decapitated head, a photo which was apparently taken from a Mexican newspaper, according to Wikipedia.  Sung in Spanish, most of Brujeria’s short, aggressive songs seem to be about the joys of smoking large volumes of marijuana, taking Brujeriarevenge against white people (“güeros” in Mexican Spanish slang), or doing both at the same time.  One tune about Cuban immigrants in Mexico called “Anti-Castro” did change things up for a moment, ending with a call for the head of Fidel Castro.

As part of the shtick, the band members wore bandanas over their faces to hide their identities.  The crowd and band all appeared to be in on the joke however, and despite the lyrics, this particular güero didn’t feel personally targeted by Brujeria’s violent, tongue-in-cheek threats against my kind.

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Another of the bands on the bill that particularly drew me to make the trek to Santiago was melodic prog metal group Symphony X and they did not disappoint.  From the first few notes, Symphony X changed the atmosphere of the festival, if only temporarily, with their soaring (vice pounding) style, “normal” vocals, and willingness to actually employ treble in their metallic attack.  With longer songs that often shifted through multiple movements and lyrics that tended toward fantasy, the band created a sense of epic questing to replace the war mongering that had carried us along through the first part of the day.  Hell, they even threw in a beautiful, arena-ready ballad or two.

After all the enjoyable, but highly aggressive bands that had played before, it was almost a shock to be reminded as Symphony X played that it was actually possible to make music that included spaces between the notes.  The addition of keyboards to the mix, and the relatively more sparse use of a “galloping” style of drumming were other things that set Symphony X apart from most of their festival mates.

I regretted for years having failed to take an opportunity to see Symphony X in Brazil roughly a decade ago, an error made because I simply did not know their music well at the time.  Experiencing them along with my new gang of Metal Fest pals significantly eased my pain over that earlier mistake.  These guys are serious composers and virtuoso instrumentalists, but they also know how to get the booty moving.  What a blast!

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I wrote previously about the abysmal beauty of My Dying Bride‘s music and won’t repeat that here, but seeing them live added a whole new dimension to the miserable splendor for me.  The theatrical delivery of the gloom-ridden lyrics by My Dying Bridebandleader Aaron Stainthorpe was amazing.  His voice is as unique and full of pained sorrow live as it is on record and his doomed physicality in acting out the anguish of the words as he sings them plays as honest rather than over-the-top.  I believed he was in emotional pain.  His dark eye-liner (on just one eye), blackened fingernails, and black and red intricate henna tattoos on his hands came across as exactly fitting.  This is what a man in eternal spiritual torment looks like.

The use of sense-of-doom purples mixed with fleeting flashes of sharp white in the well-considered light show added to the dour ambience, as did the just-right stoicism of the rest of the band as they blasted out their slow/fast, doom-laden music.  And they had a violin!

Judge me not, but there is nothing quite so captivating as a gothic, dark,Lena (My Dying Bride) hard-rocking female metal musician, and bassist Lena Abé is all that in spades.  Her playing was amazing and tight, and her stage presence was enthralling.  With her bass hung low, a slightly leaned-back stance, and her emotionless-face, she rocked confidence.  I apparently was not the only one who thought so as, after Aaron, Lena seemed to get the most close-up time on the venue’s video screens as My Dying Bride performed.

My Dying Bride’s show was, in this fan’s view, the best of a festival full of fantastic performances. It would have ended too soon even at double its 70-minute running time.  A commenter on my previous post about the band called them enigmatic and I think that is just right.  My Dying Bride have found their own unique niche and it is glorious.

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What can I say about Carcass?  They are highly-skilled and creative musicians who craft mesmerizing aggressive music over which they lay incomprehensible cookie-monster shrieks about horribly clinical gore and torture.  Is it even possible to vomit one’s anal tract via a perpetual retch?  And why would a series of songs about such procedures prove to be the catalyst to squeeze the greatest volume of undulating human flesh into the festival venue at any one time during the entire two-day event?

Carcass was one of the few bands that used the venue’s screens not to broadcast close-ups of their performance but rather to stream specially-crafted visuals to accompany the songs.  We started out with an illustration of a white dove impaled on a bayonet that sort of phased in and out for the first song, then later moved to a panoramic vintage photo of a mass public hanging somewhere over which religious symbols were repeatedly superimposed.  By midpoint in the show, we were watching looped images of horribly infected human genitals, followed by clinical photographs of apparent victims of violent, disfiguring deaths.

As Carcass’ show ended to documentary-style, black-and-white film footage of ongoing human autopsies, I think I was in a state of dazed confusion.  I was disturbed throughout but couldn’t look away.  There had been music played and I think I might have even liked it, but all I can call to mind here nearly a week later are those images.  What the hell?!

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In the 20 minutes between the end of Carcass’ performance and the first note played by the Devin Townsend Project, more than a third of the crowd departed the arena.  For all I know, they were in a hurry to buy Alka-Seltzer or maybe call their therapists.  What can be said for certain is that they missed a great show by a truly unusual band.  It is difficult to describe exactly but the group’s offerings hit me as a sort of heavy new age progressive fusion, with large doses of aggressive riffing and death metal technical explorations sprinkled in throughout.  Townsend himself called some of the selections “alien shit” and that is probably just about right.

Whatever it is they play, Townsend’s amazing guitar skills and larger-than-life stage persona are the backbone on which the DTP experience is built.  Apparently aggressively sober after years of drug use, Townsend is nevertheless untiringly wired and manic in front of an audience.  He plays “experimental” music without losing any of the preening fun of rock stardom.  I will be adding some DTP to my stack near term.

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From → Music

2 Comments
  1. Sounds like a hell of a show! Cool you got to see Symphony X and DTP, both those bands are monumental live! And Carcass had to be one hell of a treat. I hope you neck is recovering well 😉

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