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Festival Rock al Parque Opening Taken to the Extreme

Festival Rock al Parque Opening Taken to the Extreme
© Photographs by Angélica Vargas

For those of you that are not familiar with Festival Rock al Parque, Saturday is always the day for the most extreme branch of rock’s subgenres, Metal. This year the representation was particularly extreme, being death metal the most represented subgenre. Even though this year the metal day was reduced to merely six hours — in previous years it was an almost twelve hours event — however, the quality of the bands has not decayed.

The day began with the typical pilgrimage to Parque Metropolitano Simón Bolivar, this time at a later hour than usual, slowly but steadily, people started to arrive at the different stages to see the performance of the three opening bands of the entire festival: The Brainwash Machine at Escenario Plaza, Tears of Misery at Escenario Lago, and Vobiscum Lucipher at Escenario Eco.

For those of you yet not familiar with Festival Rock al Parque, the event takes place in three different stages being Escenario Plaza the biggest and Escenario Eco the smaller and this year all stages opened at the very same time, so in order to catch up with every band the audience must move quickly from one to the other and sometimes it was not possible to witness the entire set of one band without skipping the others. Either way, commitment to see every band of the day was made and the challenge was accepted.

Tears of Misery was the first band I checked. It is one of those bands that I have followed in the metal circuit for about ten years, and I have seen the progress the band has made. A death metal band through and through, the quartet displayed a solid show in the first three songs, because I arrived from the rear part of the audience, it was a pleasant surprise to see how the audience grew almost instantly from the first riff. After all, this was not the first time Tears of Misery played in the Festival Rock al Parque, but there was a considerable improvement from their participation in 2015. Songs like ‘Inconformity Manifesto’ brought the audience to madness, creating solid mosh pits along the way.

The second band of the starters that I could check was Vobiscum Lucipher. This band is not that well known in Bogotá as they come from the Northern part of the Colombian Andes. However, it was able to bring some spectators to Escenario Eco. The natives of Pupiales, Nariño, brought the energy expected from a melodic black metal band and the few people present at their show were in sync with their music; nonetheless, passers-by did not connect with the band long enough to stay and check a song or two.

The third band I checked was The Brainwash Machine. Showing their progressive rock influences and accommodating them to a more massive sound, played at Escenario Plaza. There is a level of challenge to play at this stage because is so massive; it takes a considerable amount of people to look relatively full.

For opening bands, the challenge is even more significant since immensity of the place is hard to fill, and the audience there most get compensated with a dominant performance that makes them interact with the band regardless the scarcity. To that challenge, The Brainwash Machine did their best to give a solid show, and some of the people in the audience reacted accordingly, but, since the stage is so far away from the audience, connection between band and spectators can be fragile.

A downside of playing in a festival an trying to connect with an audience that does not know the work the bands have done is that some bands think it is proper to approach them by playing a cover song, which can be turned into a double edge knife; in the case of The Brainwash Machine, playing a cover of ‘Holy Wars’ is even more tricky, due to the distinctive pitch Dave Mustaine possesses, so either go big or go home. Unfortunately for this band, it would have been better not to play that song. Overall, their presentation on the Festival Rock al Parque was decent, but it lacked on more attractiveness of their stage performance.

Angelus Apatrida, a band from Spain, came to this edition of the Festival Rock al Parque already with the experience of playing for the Colombian audiences. Despite that this band has broken the mould in Spain for being one of the very few that composes most of their music in English, the relatability to a Spanish speaker-audience is undeniable. Because this band does not apply subgenre labels to their music, their songs varied from one to another, making their presentation interestingly heterogenous. With songs that invited the audience to mosh happily without much violence, Angelus Apatrida left the crowd excited and motivated to keep on going through the day.

The next national band that I saw was Hypoxia, a band made with mostly Colombian members in New York, United States of America. Overall, they owned their sound, mostly through their vocalist Mike Hrubovcak and their drummer Carolina Pérez who played flawlessly through a very extreme set. This band had a great show, and their songs were brutal; however, Escenario Lago had fewer people than the previous act (Tears of Misery). Nevertheless, the band’s sound came across hard and very professional. One downside on the band was that, despite having a member that speak Spanish, the interaction with the public was practically null in between songs.

Skull, a band from Calí, Colombia with over twenty years of existence, played at Escenario Eco. Due to their combination of speed, heavy metal with hints of punk, this band gather an enormous number of people that were looking at solace from the extreme metal played so far.

Heavily influenced by early Venom and Motörhead, Skull put most of the crowd to dance and to mosh to their songs. Currently promoting their second studio album ‘Down Overload’, Skull played several songs from this album, using it as the banner for their presentation. For the frontman Hernan Casas, it was a long-awaited invitation to play at Festival Rock al Parque, for in his opinion it was a matter of being invited rather than to participate in the process of selection. The audience that came to see them were not disappointed, as the energy of the band and its leader was evident in each song.

Then it was time for another legend of Colombian metal to celebrate an anniversary at Escenario Plaza, old-school death metal seminal band Masacre. The band came to Festival Rock al Parque to commemorate their 30th anniversary with an audience that ranges between teenagers and adults over fifty years old. As announced, the band played their first studio album ‘Reqviem’ on its entirety, which for many fans and bands present that day, was a walk down the memory lane.

For many Colombian and Latin American bands, Masacre is a major influence in their music and it showed them that it was possible to make this heavier music even in the tropics. The intimidating Escenario Plaza was packed by then, and a clear majority of the audience sang along together every song. Even those that are not fans of the band went along to just enjoy the show. A memorable presentation.

Cattle decapitation came up next at Escenario Lago, and as expected they went for the kill. Coming up with brutal force, they played an hour of pure and unapologetic death metal to over 10.000 souls. Their show was flawless, and they tried to communicate with their audience, but the language barrier was significant, giving as a result that some of their message in between songs did not get through.

Loathsome Faith is another band that has been around the Colombian metal circuit for the last ten years. Even so, they were playing against all the odds (playing at the same time as Masacre and Cattle Decapitation), the Bogotá’s natives gave a compelling show. The small stage of Escenario Eco gave place to their performance, which received mostly a younger crowd, the same crowd that has gone through the bar circuit in Bogotá and that has accompanied the band all these years.

Implosion Brain, newcomers to Festival Rock al Parque, had their debut at Escenario Plaza at the same hour that Suffocation was playing their set. With influences drawn from heavy metal and death metal were a decent transition act between the sound of Masacre and the melodic roar of Dark Tranquillity. A complicated sandwich to be in, but that had to be tackled nonetheless. More into the death metal and metalcore vibe, Implosion Brain gave their show without many incidents.

To close the Escenario Lago, Suffocation brought it all and some more. With a packed audience that let themselves go to the beat created by the quintet, the last show in Escenario Lago was superb. There is a sure appealing with technical death metal bands, and one of those is the use of tempos and performance on stage. The audience reacted and moved with those off tempo rhythms and with the bassline proposed by the band. As one may expect, cyclone mosh-pits aroused in a different part of the audience, those who were indisposition to leave it all in Escenario Lago.

Then it was time to catch some Dark Tranquillity. The inconvenience of having multiple bands playing at the same time for the same length of time is that you cannot enjoy a full set. That was my case as I arrived a bit later than what I am used to for this act. The Swedish metallers, with their melodic death metal, brought some melody to this extreme night. Coming from the technical death metal of Suffocation, the change was not subtle; however, the performance was terrific. I have seen the band in other times in Bogotá, and they can assemble a right amount of people, but because of the melodic death vibe, the reaction on the public is not as effusive or as energetic as with more aggressive bands. Nonetheless, for those people that enjoy the switches between clean vocals and the death metal growl, this band represented everything they wanted to see.

The closing band of the first day of Festival Rock al Parque was Dark Funeral. Personally speaking, not of my taste, but I understand the appealing. Dark and ominous, their stage performance was as imposing as one may have expected. In Bogotá in particular, their sound is very well received, and for those fans, the concert was great.

Those that let themselves go to the mass headbanging to the slow beat, it becomes an almost out-of-body experience. This band saw two kinds of reaction to their music in the real audience, those who headbanged to the beat, and those that performed a slow pace mosh pit, both of those expressions were the expression of enjoyment, Latin American style.

After Dark Funeral performance, the first day of Festival Rock al Parque was over. Many injured in the line of duty, better known as the mosh pit and the headbang, left the Parque Metropolitano Simón Bolivar with a sore body but a joyful spirit. A day full of growls, loud riffs, fast tempo blasts on the drum set, and extreme as a metal day should be. It took its toll, but there are two more days to go, so the start of the Festival had set the bar high for the next two days.

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