Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Portuguese Metal Scene
In the Portugal Daily View, Moonspell's lead singer/songwriter Fernando Ribeiro was quoted as saying "We were an active part of the underground scene that grew steadily over time, supported only by our passion for metal and by the desire to share it with people from all over the world. To spread music demos around the world was like raising our voices and saying ‘I’m here!’. Those were the more exciting days of my young life. To receive tapes from Poland, Mexico or Germany was an incredible experience. I can imagine it was the same feeling for a foreigner who received a tape from Portugal”.
Thus marked the beginnings of an illustrious career for Portugal's most prolific act, Moonspell. Now ten releases after "Wolfheart," Fernando still carries the flag of Portuguese metal proudly - he being the lone remaining member of the original line-up. Although most of the band's repertoire is sung in English, much of its material is the product of his upbringing and recounts Lusitanian mythology and Portuguese culture.
While Fernando's band has arguably greater visibility, it wouldn't be the first nor the last in this scene of great diversity and history in metal. Eighties metal was built upon the sounds of local rockers Xarhanga, incorporating influences from foreign metal bands. The result was early prototypical power/thrash from the likes of Satan's Saints, Tarantula, Alarme and Alkatuya and the agressive black metal sounds of acts such as Black Cross.
Not surprisingly, the nineties brought with it a good measure of groove metal influence and saw the rise of pagan and symphonic sounds. Vila Nova de Gaia act Heavenwood, formed out of the ashes of Disgorged, got its start at the end of the decade with a couple of full-length albums that quickly became classics, while pagan black metal powerhouse Gwydion also had a series of demos during this period that catapulted its status into what it is now. Thrashers Angriff, starting out in 1997, remain active to this day and released "Art of Agression" a couple of years back.
For every Waterland or Candle Serenade in the power/blackened spectrum, you'll find bands with an Iberian and more traditional folk touch such as the female-fronted act Hyubris, which explores Portuguese myths and legends in tracks such as "Mulher do Rio." Necromanther's multi-instrumentalist Valter Abreu recently followed up his stellar debut with the "World of Sungrave" EP, which shows a more experimental and electronic side than his black metal origins. The Azores and Madeira Islands have also brought their own unique takes on the scene in the music of Sanctus Nosferatu and Karnak Seti, respectively.
On the more extreme end of it, several grinding bands such as Grog are putting out new releases. Their third album "Scooping the Cranial Insides," released on Murder Records, retains the brutality like countrymen Holocausto Canibal. The latter band, hailing from Rio Tinto, recently celebrated a decade and a half of depravity with its latest album "Gorefilia." Traditional death metal from Hacksaw is very much alive, as is grooving thrash from Switchtense, whose latest album on Rastilho Records spawned the video "Unbreakable".
With so many genres, picking a few acts to focus upon out of this huge scene in Portugal is no easy task. In an effort to display the range of styles making their rounds in this European stronghold, we'll explore a few different underground metal bands today as we unearth the Portuguese scene.
Cruz De Ferro
A relatively new act, Torres Nova band Cruz De Ferro was formed in the beginning of 2010 by vocalist/guitarist Ricardo Pombo. In August of last year, Cruz De Ferro entered the studio to record its five-song EP "Guerreiros do Metal" (warriors of metal). The band has a couple of videos, the "Defensores" one filmed near their home at the Grutas de Lapas. That latter place is a subterranean neolithic maze carved out of the rock near a castle that has fallen into ruin - the perfect surroundings for a metal video.
Cruz De Ferro - "Defensores"
Cruz De Ferro - "Guerreiros do Metal"
Barcelos band The Ransack states that "death lives within us" on its band page, and has become the Portuguese "flagship band for melodeath." In their twelve years of existence since their four track demo "Chaotic," The Ransack has evolved into one tight entity. By 2011, the band had released its third album "Bloodline" along with several videos - becoming a premiere death metal force. Even Rui Duarte from the popular Portuguese deathcore band RAMP joins these guys onstage. The Ransack is confirmed for the April edition of the Barroselos Metalfest, appearing alongside acts such as Agalloch and Cattle Decapitation.
The Ransack - "Aftermath"
The Ransack - "Slaves of Creation"
The Lisbon progressive trio Fallacy reminds me of the Austrian band Disharmonic Orchestra. Featuring the other-worldly bass groove of Joao Alves, who also plays acoustic guitar with Joao Paulo Chagas, Fallacy is truly unique prog metal band with a touch of jazz fusion and world beat. Sometimes reminiscent of Primus or Jaco Pastorius bass-wise, Fallacy draws its influences from such wide ranging artists as Meshuggah, Pink Floyd, Dave Weckl and Chick Corea - which you can hear in the tinges of electric piano. Although they haven't released an album since 2000's "Martirios" EP, they incorporated Samuel Trinidade on virtual drums in 2009 and are working on a new, ever elusive EP.
Fallacy - "A Path"
Fallacy - "Fresh Vanity"
As Fernando Ribeiro had also quoted in the recent article, "It was important to make a difference and we used our national culture, our poets, our history, our artistic characteristics, our idiosyncrasies," his fellow countrymen have also contributed their heritage to the world stage of metal. The result is a scene in Portugal that represents every genre in metal while retaining elements that make it distinctly Iberian. Join us next week as we unearth another genre or scene here at Metal Underground.
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