Summer Breeze Brazil 2024 Day Two Recap: “Rebellion In São Paulo Dreamland”

May 1, 2024, a month ago

Words by Jonathan Smith & Joel Barrios | Photos by Joel Barrios

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Following a banner day of metal triumph with a tall order of hard rock on the side in São Paulo, the 2nd annual Summer Breeze Brazil festival entered its second day on a note of high expectations. The elite succession of seasoned veterans from both sides of the Atlantic, accompanied by a few younger upstarts with a similar arsenal of sonic gravitas, were greeted by massive multitudes of avid and well-informed fans who took the concept of a celebration of sound to a whole new level.

How such an extravaganza in a single day could hope to be topped was a question that was practically hanging above every single head at the venue during the late morning hours of April 27, 2024. Suffice it to say, the way by which victory occurs on any battlefield has a lot to do with the quality of the soldiers one has assembled, and the acts that would take the four stages were definitely of the highest caliber.

At the stroke of 11 AM, with the mildness of the wee hours of morning giving way to rising temperatures, former hometown thrash heroes turned European export Nervosa took the Ice Stage to deliver a pulverizing performance. Having rode the latter day of the thrash metal revival with an extreme, death metal-like take on the style reminiscent of the ‘80s sound of Brazilian trailblazers Sepultura and a number of the most vicious adherents to the Teutonic approach, pulling punches was not a part of these ladies’ modus operandi.

In like fashion, the dense crowd that had assembled like something out of a champion soccer/football match brought their mosh game to the occasion something fierce. The brutal set that would consist primarily of bludgeoning entries off their 2023 smash LP Jailbreak and its equally vicious predecessor Perpetual Chaos, saw guitarist/vocalist Prika Amaral (now the only founding member) shout and roar her way through 12 songs of pure rage with the rest of the quartet functioning as a marvel of thrashing precision, with highlight entries including “Behind The Wall”, “Masked Betrayer” and an explosive finale rendition of “Endless Ambition”.

The thrashing carnage would continue, albeit in a more complex fashion over on the Hot Stage at noon with the arrival of Bay Area technicians Forbidden. Though having been defunct for more than a decade prior to their 2023 reformation, this fold did not betray even the slightest hint of rustiness in their delivery as they proceeded to deliver 10 classic entries from their first two albums. Now helmed by vocalist Norman Skinner, perhaps best known for his work with the USPM band Imagika, it was all but a direct throwback to how things were in the late ‘80s with a vocal delivery that was aggressive enough to keep the thrash end of things in place, but also nimble and versatile enough to capture some of the nuances that made this band’s formative period so unique. Co-founding members Matt Camacho (bass) and Craig Locicero (guitar) would deliver pummeling riffs one after the next, alongside ex-Nevermore guitarist and long-term member Steve Smyth and newly acquired drummer Chris Kontos (of Machine Head fame) bringing their absolute A game. 

Riveting renditions of “Forbidden Evil”, “Off the Edge” and “Through Eyes Of Glass” were obvious highlights, though crowd response indicated that this set saw the greatest performance of “Twisted Into Form” heard in decades. Thrash would give way to old-school European speed and power at ten past 1 PM over on the Ice Stage courtesy of Germany’s own Gamma Ray. Though having been touring with this metal staple for nearly 10 years, vocalist Frank Beck still seemed like the new guy given the lack of studio material featuring his vocals, yet the level of youthful exuberance that he’d bring to the set alongside Kai Hansen’s familiar voice made for a massive sonic result.

The hordes response was off the charts as classic odes from this band’s long run as power metal ambassadors and heroes in the cause of keeping metal alive through the troubles of the 1990s rang through the air, peppered with wild, shred happy solos out of Hansen and touring guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen (filling in for Henjo Richter). Staples of this hour-long sonic triumph would include a raucous display of speed and fury via “Dethrone Tyranny” and set closer “Somewhere Out In Space”, yet it would be epic numbers like “Rebellion In Dreamland” and early classic “The Silence” that would ultimately steal the show, though Hansen recapping his status as de facto helmsman when introducing “Heaven Can Wait” to crowd by joking “Guys, I heard a voice from above the other night and he was saying…No, no, no, Heaven Can Wait!”

The power metal contingent would continue with an even greater audience response and a progressive edge back at the Hot Stage at 2:30 PM with the arrival of hometown heroes Angra. One might wonder how a double dose of the same band in two days might go down given Edu Falaschi’s stellar performance the first day, but what ultimately came to be was two chapters of the same continuing story with virtually no overlap, as Angra’s set consisted of what occurred prior and subsequent to Edu’s tenure with the band.

For his part, ex-Rhapsody vocal impresario Fabio Lione offered a nuanced yet explosive mixture of his signature operatic sound and a grittier metallic roar, while guitarist and lone founding member Rafael Bittencourt and the rest of the instrumental battery cycled through a technically charged display of sonic excellence. From their formative 1990s catalog, highlight entries that would see attendees losing their minds included masterful performances of “Angels Cry”, “Nothing To Say”, and an utterly riveting encore rendition of “Carry On”. All the same, offerings off their latest album in both parts of “Tide Of Changes” and “Ride Into The Storm” were also auditory forces to be reckoned with.

Meanwhile, back on the Ice Stage at just shy of 4 PM with the summer heat now in full swing and the sweat flowing from stage and crowd alike, the gothic overtones of Italy’s own Lacuna Coil would strike a stylistically different yet equally forbidding chord. Though a good 3 decades into their career and a long way from the ‘90s death/doom craze that was their original stomping ground, this theatrically-geared quintet’s signature blend of harsh and serene stylings were completely fresh.

The angelic croon of Cristina Scabbia was flanked by the guttural growl of Andrea Ferro, presenting that classic beauty and the beast vocal contrast as the thudding battery of heavy guitars, bass, and drums erected a veritable colossus around them. The most raucous multitude participation would be observed during the performances of classic entries “Swamped” and “Heaven’s A Lie”, closely dogged by the sing-along session that would commence during their cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence”. Nevertheless, their more alternative-tinged newer material was well represented, particularly “Sword Of Anger” and “Layers Of Time”, culminating in a marathon 16-song set, which also included the first-ever live rendition of their newest single “In The Mean Time”.

Things would take a rather jolting turn back to the glory days of ‘80s AOR on the Sun Stage courtesy of The Night Flight Orchestra. Though like yesterday’s opening attraction Nestor this fold also hails from the land of melodic rock and metal Sweden, Soilwork helmsman and mastermind Bjorn Strid’s signature side project takes the pomp and circumstance of said era to a much larger and more boisterous place.

One couldn’t help but think of this as the larger-than-life sequel to what had kicked off yesterday’s festivities as a band of nearly twice the membership took the stage and got the crowd roaring with a display of unapologetic '80s retro rock that would make the likes of Survivor and Foreigner proud. Strid’s singing was naturally a far cry from what many have come to expect from him, but between the array of instrumentalists and backup singers that amounted to what a big band version of Journey might have looked like, and the infectious hooks underscored in anthems like “Burn For Me”, “Satellite” and “Living For The Nighttime”, it was a very welcome change of pace from the merciless metallic onslaught that preceded it.

The anthem craft and sing-along high-jinks from Sweden would not cease at 10 past 5 PM on the Hot Stage, but they would take on a metal-clad sense of heroism courtesy of HammerFall. It can’t be stated enough that this marvel of stylistic consistency that is to heavy metal what AC/DC is to hard rock thrives in the live setting, and the streamlined songs with resounding refrains that they’ve delivered to the crowd were accompanied by plenty of stage antics that had the sweat-soaked crowd in a state of pandemonium despite the punishing heat.

Joacim Cans demonstrated his usual mastery at crowd work and stage exploration, as the towering height of Oscar Dronjak’s person was matched with the correspondingly tall attack from his six-string, ditto the rest of the fold on their respective instruments. Naturally there was not a dull moment to be had courtesy of these modern knights templar, given that whether it was newer material like “Hammer Of Dawn” or 90s revivalist classics like “Heeding The Call”, the steel-clad fists were always raised and the melodies doubled by the crowd.

All the same, the monstrous response to classic entries “Let The Hammer Fall” and “Hearts On Fire” was especially pronounced, though not far behind was the elation over the performance of their most recent single “Hail To The King” off their upcoming album in all its Manowar-inspired glory.

The sonic largess would take on a decidedly symphonic tone at 6:30 PM over on the Ice Stage with the arrival of Dutch purveyors of the heavily orchestrated metallic art Epica. It should be noted that nearly every band brought a formidable stage display on this day, but what occurred here in terms of stage production was positively off the charts.

Giant LED screens behind the band and extended to the front of the riser going across the stage where the drum kit and the rotating keyboard stand were placed on separate ends. Smoke cannons in the front and massive pyrotechnics at the rear, alongside confetti cannons firing at the set’s conclusion. Not to be outdone by the stage props, lead vocalist Simone Simmons worked the stage effortlessly as she gracefully walked from each end of the stage, sporting a shorter haircut and seemingly a slimmer physique but losing zero of the power in her massive mezzo-soprano range.

The metallic meets symphonic display would naturally match the visual splendors on display, with highlight entries “Victims Of Contingency”, “The Obsessive Devotion”, a brilliant rendition of “Storm Of Sorrow” that saw Cristina Scabbia make a surprise appearance, and a grand finale showing of “Consign To Oblivion” being the tip of a gargantuan, 15-song sonic iceberg.

With the fall of dusk at roughly quarter past 8 PM back on the Hot Stage, the symphonic roar would continue to a resounding conclusion with the headlining performance of Within Temptation. The visual display would naturally rival that of their Dutch rivals and predecessors Epica, and the blend of metal would carry a similar sense of heavily orchestrated bombast, yet there would be a somewhat more poignant character to how this outfit delivered their grueling 19-song set.

The massive LED screen at the rear would be utilized on their performance of “Paradise (What About Us?)” to showcase a video of Nightwish’s Tarja Turunen singing alongside Sharon Den Adel, ditto Mina Caputo on their bottom-heavy rendition of rocker “What Have You Done”. Sharon would also deliver a heartfelt dedication to Ukraine prior to a well-received showing of “Raise Your Banner”. There was barely a stone left uncovered in this outfit’s extensive and stylistically diverse career, with the Evanescence-inspired “Stand My Ground” and the modern alt. rock-tinged “Faster” getting an almost equally boisterous response from the crowd as their classic symphonic entry and show closer “Mother Earth”.

As with the previous day of the 2024 Summer Breeze Brazil festival, the management of the event was equal to the quality of the product that had been served. All the performing artists committed to free signing sessions for 30 minutes on a first come, first served basis. Though the lines were naturally quite long, the bands and all involved were able to smoothly expedite the process to the roaring approval of the fans. It was a day of players who were always larger than life, but also highly accessible, and one couldn’t help but note the enthusiasm of every crowd that gathered at each stage throughout the day. North America could take a lesson from how metal fans treat their talent down south.

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