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While Catalonia’s secession demands exacerbate day by day, and no resolution is yet in sight, Barcelona is otherwise going strong, and continues to thrive even during the coldest months. This is particularly true for its culture and its music, two domains where both the city and the region have stood out for many years.
In this regard, yours truly’s main advantage, as a still relatively fresh expat with little to no prior experience with the region and its artistic artefacts, is how much can be discovered simply by speaking to insiders, staying up to date online – by being a little curious.
An ingenuous and light-hearted stroll around mighty Poblenou, the uprising sea-bordering neighborhood hosting a variety of exciting venues such as Razzmatazz and Rocksound BCN, led me to discover a rather concealed club called Sala Bóveda in early November.
Slightly further outside of the city center than the others, Sala Bóveda is close to the sea and made up of an imposing main vault. From an architectural standpoint, it inspires thrilling images of ancient catacombs – bóveda is the Spanish word for vault. And a terrific Spanish-bred metal line up was scheduled to play the club on Friday 10th November.
Ankor, fronted by Bristolian Jessie Williams, are one of the past decade’s most popular metal references in Spain, indeed really of the larger Spanish-speaking music market. Among a number of accolades, two years ago the outfit were named best newcomer band by the readers of the oldest and most prestigious rock magazine for Spain and South America, La Heavy.
Formed in Barcelona back in 2003, Ankor have so far released four studio albums plus an extended play, with their latest acclaimed LP ‘Beyond The Silence of These Years’ out in May earlier this year, promoted by singles ‘The Monster I Am’ and ‘Lost Soul’.
The album, mixed by Dan Korneff (Pierce the Veil, A Day To Remember, Paramore) and mastered by Ted Jensen (Avenged Sevenfold, Muse, Bring Me The Horizon), rapidly took them to a new level of notoriety and allowed them to embark on their first ever worldwide tour, taking them to Japan after this stop in Catalonia, with seven dates left to wrap up 2017.
However, the high anticipation for the show didn’t stop at the headliners, considering that both the other two opening acts are yet another quintessential example of the quality of local music. In fact, fellow Barcelona-mates Donuts Hole have swiftly become a favourite with a superb Spanish-sung LP on their backs, 2016’s ‘En Cada Hogar’.
The five-piece’s visceral amalgamation of djent, alternative, and nu metal is particularly fresh, forward-thinking, and well produced, at least as far as their recorded product is concerned.
What’s more, fellow opening act MorphiuM’s melodic death metal, infused with thick drops of goth and metalcore, is some of the best you might find from a non-USA or non-UK band. It’s most noticeable on their release from last year, ‘The Blackout’, which you can get as free download.
Entering the vault just in time to catch Donuts Hole’s drummer Sebastian A. Gonzalez counting in their first song on the set, the mid-sized main room was already well attended. Evidently, the appeal of supporting a local act opening in such an exciting occasion helped to fuel early arrivals.
Unfortunately, Donuts Hole’s forty minutes live set impressed less than their gorgeous recent LP, notwithstanding a decent tight sound and a dogged rhythmic groove. Drenched with additive elements of post-grunge – largely audible on ‘En Cada Hogar’ – and led by bassist Sergio Morales and frontman Ariel Placenti, the five-piece set the bar for the rest of the evening.
But it wasn’t without its hitches, with the band fighting technical difficulties and suboptimal guitars throughout. Nevertheless, the band landed as one of the best musical discoveries of my time in Barcelona, alongside psych-sludgers Rebuig.
Given Donuts Hole’s struggles to get their sound right during their set, it wasn’t surprising to see a better outcome from MorphiuM. Led by a highly convincing angular and harmonic work by the two guitars, as well as an furious delivery from drummer Mori Kodax, the whole production rose to a peak when singer Alex Bace let his excellent clean voice shine.
At times there was a little too much happening at the same time, between two quasi-soloist guitar lines and a complicated intertwining of the rhythm section, wrapped up with a theatrical attitude and lots of horror/shock elements thrown on top of everything.
At that time into the show, one could realize how the unique formation and architecture of Sala Bóveda mainly benefitted the audience’s visual appreciation, rather than being an actual acoustic enhancement of the room, hence leaving the overall sonic output slightly suboptimal and surprisingly quiet. Despite this, the warm up section of the show offered more than enough encouraging sonic elements to look forward to Ankor’s main course.
After some delay, the headliners took the stage shortly before 11pm and right from the first bars confirmed their place as the main event, owning every single inch of the stage with frenetic and sparkly conveyance.
The crowd’s reception to the four-piece was one of the biggest and most convincing ones I’ve witnessed for a Spanish act down here, and the hype was tangible for being back in their hometown and hearing live cuts off ‘Beyond The Silence of These Years’ first hand.
Ankor’s concert brought back a wealth of fierce mid-noughties power-emo references, comprising all the essential and pitch perfect elements for a revitalising hybrid of early Paramore, From First to Last and Bullet for My Valentine. The group’s sonic execution and stage presence, amplified by heavy sound samples and a wealth of harmonies (partly to make up for the absence of a physical bass player), were both on point, resulting in a methodical and well-rehearsed show.
There was little to pick out and criticise from such a thorough and consolidated performance. It was nothing new in itself. Many of the song structures and segways might have appeared predictable to those more familiar with the genre. But this was nothing that seemed to bother the almost-full house that night, celebrating one of Spain’s most important alt-metal outfits on a rise to further fame.
Indeed, being sheltered in a remote Barcelonian vault on the Mediterranean Sea for a couple of hours, enjoying some of the best live metal music this country has to offer, made me realize how easy it can be to overlook foreign artistic excellence when you’re immersed in the major English-speaking music ecosystem. Burying yourself in a dungeon with an all-Spanish line up has its benefits.
Fins la pròxima vegada!
Still, I’d urge you all to check out the source feature article directly on Punktastic too, as it’s wonderfully wrapped in shiny and fancy designs as well as relevant music discovery embeds that massively elevate the final product. More generally, go show them some love and explore all the incredible articles and reviews they publish, as it’s by far a much better site than this one and you won’t be disappointed.
I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.