Sunday Old School: Ratos de Porão
For many people, the mere mention of Brazilian metal will instantly, and in some case solely, conjure up memories of Belo Horizonte’s, Sepultura. But if one were to look deeper at the heavy music of this vast and amazing country, a treasure trove of great music will be uncovered. Today, we look at one of the oldest heavy acts from Brazil that are still going, who made a name for themselves in both the punk and metal scenes, led by a larger than life vocalist named João Gordo, whose very name means fat. I'm talking of course, about Ratos de Porão. Ratos de Porão were formed in 1981 in Sao Paolo, the largest city in Brazil and were almost immediately considered one of the most aggressive and fierce sounding bands in the Brazilian punk scene, thanks largely to them being more influenced by the UK82 bands such as Discharge and The Exploited than the previous punk scene that inspired their contemporaries. They focused their lyrical themes on speaking out against the Brazilian government and society, a concept that was somewhat radical for a band from Brazil to do, given how oppressive the government was compared to other countries with flourishing punk scenes, including the United States and Great Britain. The lyrics shone through on their debut album, "Crucificados Pelo Sistema," which was released in 1983 through Ataque Frontal and immediately established itself as one of the most abrasive punk records ever to come from Brazil. Despite the attention their debut received, the group was forced to call it a day soon afterwards, when the punk scene in Sao Paolo was all but dissolved thanks to gang violence.
The group didn’t stay inactive for long, returning to the scene in 1985 with more of a thrash metal take on their sound. Lead singer João Gordo remained, as did original drummer Jão Carlos, who switched to guitar, his place behind the drum kit being taken by a man named Spaguetti. After releasing their second album, "Descanse Em Paz" through Baratos Afins, they began to associate with the heavy metal scene a lot more, perhaps most noticeably with four long time fans who had a band of their own named Sepultura, as well as other soon to be known bands such as Korzus. RxDxPx then released their third album in 1987, entitled "Cada Dia Mais Sujo e Agressivo," which was their first album to be released in English, as well as their native Portuguese, a move they had previously shied away from for fear that their grasp of the English language was so poor that fans outside Brazil would make fun of them.
In 1989, they took another step towards international exposure, signing with Roadrunner Records, which at the time was home to such acts as King Diamond as well as their compatriots Sepultura, whose drummer Igor Cavalera had urged the label to sign Ratos de Porão. They flew to Germany to record their next album, their first time in the studio outside of Brazil, where they worked with producer Harris Johns, who previously worked on seminal albums by the likes of Kreator, Helloween and Sodom. The resultant album, "Brasil," was well received and is considered by many fans to be their best work, featuring a number of live favourites such as, "Beber até Morrer," "Amazônia nunca mais" and "AIDS, pop, Repressão." Like, "Cada Dia Mais Sujo e Agressivo," it was released in both Portuguese and English. They further increased their standing in the international metal scene a year later when they released, "Anarkophobia," which received a backlash from some fans for being their most metal release to date, although they did include a cover of the Ramones' classic, "Commando," to appease those who preferred the punk side of Ratos de Porão.
Despite their growing popularity, Spaguetti decided to part ways with the band in 1991, leading to a succession of new drummers, eventually settling on Boka from the band Psychic Possessor. Boka made his recording debut with the band on their first official live album, "Ao Vivo," which spawned a heavily aired music video for the song, "AIDS, pop, Repressão." Soon afterwards, they found that thrash metal was very much on the way out in terms of popularity and attempted to keep their place in the eyes of metal fans the world over by released, "Just Another Crime In Massacreland," their only album to be recorded all in English. The risk didn't pay off owing to poor production and practically zero promotion from Roadrunner.
Following a revolving door of bassists, the group had a little fun and recorded two covers albums, both named, "Feijoada Acidente?," a play on the Guns N Roses cover album, "The Spaghetti Incident?" One version of the record featured covers of Brazilian bands, while the other contained covers of the likes of Black Flag, Minor Threat and G.B.H., amongst others. They did eventually record a new original album named, "Carniceria Tropical," which spawned music videos for the songs, "Crocodila" and "Difícil De Entender." The album was very popular with fans, not least for returning to a more hardcore tinged sound and they regained their respect in the Brazilian metal scene, being popular enough for Gordo to earn a job as a VJ for MTV Brazil. They soon released two compilations and an EP before re-recorded their first album as, "Sistemados Pelo Crucifa."
Although the more hardcore, "Carniceria Tropical," regained much of their fan base, the band brought back thrash metal to their sound the next year when they released, "Onisciente Coletivo," their last album with bass player "Fralda," who quit soon afterwards to join another respected name in Brazilian crossover, Lobotomia, with his place being taken by Paulo Júnior of Discarga. To date, this is the last lineup change Ratos de Porão has experienced, though Paulo wouldn’t make his recording debut with the band until 2006 when they released, "Homem Inimigo Do Homem," which, so far, is their latest full length release consisting of all new material, though it featured some instant favourites such as, "Expresso da Escravidão" and "Pedofilia Santa." Since then, they have released a split album with Looking For An Answer in 2010, two DVDs, including the excellent, "Ao Vivo no Circo Voador," with their most recent release coming last year in the form of a compilation album entitled, "No Money, No English." What the future of the band holds remains to be seen, but João Gordo is still very much keeping alive both the presence of the band and their political views through the group’s Facebook page, though of course, what of course what many fans the world over are craving is for these four punks from Sao Paolo to enter the studio once more and unleash another furious blast of aggression.
Ratos de Porão - "Não Me Importo/Crucificados Pelo Sistema"
Ratos de Porão - "Beber Até Morrer"
Ratos de Porão - "Commando"
Ratos de Porão - "Difícil De Entender"
Ratos de Porão - "Agressão / Repressão"
Ratos de Porão - "Expresso da Escravidão"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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