Review & Interview: KréenEcos de Olas, Céfiros y Llamaradas


Here in North America, the summer is beginning. (Although if you live in Texas like me, it has tragically already been here for at least a month.) During these longer summer days, many people find themselves drawn to beachy albums that match a sunny, free-spirited mood. Meanwhile, in South America’s southernmost Patagonia region, a frigid winter is setting in. Ecos de Olas, Céfiros y Llamaradas by the Chilean band Kréen, which released last Friday via These Hands Melt, combines the two energies through a moody, ocean-focused album that will delight fans of black and doom metal alike.

Kréen (pronounced “Cray-en”) hails from Punta Arenas, Chile, in the southernmost part of South America. The harsh coastal region the band calls home has strongly influenced their music in terms of both lyrical content and overall sound. The band plays extreme yet atmospheric black and doom metal with influences from local folk music.

Ecos de Olas begins with the sound of waves. From there, each track unfolds like water crashing against seaside rocks, sometimes peacefully and sometimes violently. The album is organized into three acts. Each act begins with an instrumental interlude before jumping into heavier tracks. While there are certainly standout tracks (my favorites are “Lápidas” and “Epílogo”), this is an album better listened to as a whole.

The short, acoustic passages that appear throughout the album are breathtaking. One thing I like about Ecos de Olas, though, is that these quieter moments never break its forward momentum. The band instead moves effortlessly between calm and aggressive moments. The result is an album that ebbs and flows while maintaining a slightly menacing power, just like the ocean itself.

Meanwhile, the band’s poetic lyrics take on themes of history, memory, and forgetting. In particular, the album centers on the 1920’s workers’ strike in southern Argentina and Chile that became known as Patagonia Rebelde. This uprising was violently suppressed by government officials, resulting in the murder of hundreds of rural laborers. Many of these laborers were Chilote, people from the island of Chiloé, a community that continues to face hardship and discrimination to this day. Kréen blends quotes from historic texts, lines from poems, and original lyrics to connect the past and present struggles of the Chilote people and other rural laborers in Chile, reflecting on who has the power to construct dominant historical narratives.

Ecos de Olas, Céfiros y Llamaradas released June 7 via These Hands Melt.
The album is mixed and mastered by @danny_entomos.
Listen to Kréen’s music on Bandcamp and follow them on Instagram.

I had the chance to speak with H., the band’s vocalist, bassist, and songwriter, ahead of the release. Below is an excerpt from our interview.

Professor Guanaco (PG): First, what is the metal scene like in Punta Arenas?

H: In the 2000s there was a actually a pretty big scene. There were many bands of different styles of death metal, heavy metal, progressive, but over time the scene faded. Now there is a scene but it is very small. There aren’t many places to play. I believe that it is more of an institutional issue, which has meant that there are fewer open venues, it is more difficult to get a license to perform gigs. There are other scenes in Punta Arenas like hardcore, punk. But metal is a bit complicated to make, and it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the scene.

PG: Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for Ecos de Olas, and how it differs from your debut album Cenizas?

H: In this new album we also wanted to address themes relating to Patagonian identity, but different ones. In the first album we looked mainly at the Indigenous peoples of Patagonia, and in this second album the focus is on the Chilote people.

The Chilote come from the island of Chiloé, an island that is very close to mainland Chile. The Chilote person is stereotyped in Chile as being a hard worker, but at the same time, has been super marginalized. Historically they were people from impoverished rural areas. They began to experience problems like lack of food and opportunities to work. And so they began to immigrate elsewhere (during the 19th and 20th centuries), and during one of those migrations many came to Patagonia. Today there is a large Chilote population that lives here in Punta Arenas. So, in some way, in this album we try to vindicate the figure of the Chilote person within the history of Patagonia.

PG: The history of “Patagonia Rebelde” and Chilean labor movements also form a key part of this album. Can you explain a bit more about that history and its significance in your music?

H: The Chilote were major participants in the labor movements that occurred in Chilean and Argentine Patagonia in the beginning of the 20th century. These movements were very influenced by socialist ideals, anarcho-syndicalism. 1920, the start of the Patagonia Rebelde uprisings, was a key year. This is more or less the year in which Ecos de Olas is set. We try to address that history and connect it to the topic of memory.

The lyrics of “Cellisca” are closely based on the book and film Patagonia Rebelde that tell the story of these events. In the film, there are scenes where the workers are at their posts waiting to confront the government soldiers. And the lyrics talk about fear or the uncertainty that can occur in that situation. Because imagine that you are waiting to face soldiers and you don’t know how they are going to react. And in many cases the soldiers did not react through establishing dialogue, but instead through violence.

PG: Can you describe the process of creating the album? What did that look like?

H: The concept took shape as we made the music. But the music was also influenced by the concept. We started by saying that we were going to talk about Chilote history and immigration. And then we constructed each song musically.

We also drew on books and movies. For example, Luis Mansilla is a Chilote historian who has a book called Los Chilotes de la Patagonia Rebelde. Also Osvaldo Bayer has written about this, and the intro to “Cellisca” is an excerpt from a book by him.

Part of the influence also comes from poets. In “Mar de Ánimas” there are excerpts from a Chilean poet named Enrique Lihn, who speaks about the concept of the sea. Personally, I like to write lyrics that are not direct, but that have a poetic touch and that are not so simple to understand. Lyrics that make you think a little.

PG: What is your favorite track on the album?

H: Maybe “La Pira de la Loica Olvidada.” I think this song achieves best what we are trying to accomplish in mixing Black Metal with Doom Metal. Trying to get a more unique sound that is a different from the rest. And the lyrics, too. The lyrics talk about another historical event that occurred (in Chile in the early 20th century), where workers were killed and then thrown into a pit and burned. The thing is that many people died and it is still not known where their bodies are buried. So there is no recognition by the Chilean State. That’s why I think it’s an important issue.

PG: I think my favorite track is the closing one, “Epílogo.” Can you tell me more about this track and how it sums up the themes of the rest of the album?

H: Yes, I like “Epílogo,” because it is the song that closes the album, but it also reflects on what history means, what memory means. This is I think the main theme of the album. Because at the beginning, “Mar de Ánimas” and “Lápidas” talk about mourning, about trying to forget a person. That has to do with memory. And then the album talks about the history of the Chilote people within Patagonia Rebelde. And that also has to do with memory, with history. And finally the album ends that way, talking about memory. How in the end memory is built by the people who wield power. They are the ones who get to create “history.”

PG: Other than Kréen, what other bands from Punta Arenas or Chile more generally should people be listening to? 

H: Here in Punta Arenas there is a band called Infernal Doom. Infernal Doom plays technical death metal. Our guitarist Diego plays guitar in the band. They are considered a legendary band within the Chilean scene.

There are other well-known bands from Chile such as Dorso, Undercroft. There is also a band in Sweden called Xalpen. They are Chilean Swedes. The drummer is from Punta Arenas, very close to us.

Another band that we are good friends with is the band Desecratuum from Río Gallegos, Argentina, which is not too far from Punta Arenas.

Keep up to date with Kréen’s music on Bandcamp and Instagram.

Did you dig this? Take a second to support Toilet ov Hell on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!