Tropical Despondency: Black Metal from Brazil
Rich with natural resources and beauty, a vast country sprawls across South America. It is home to a wide array of beautiful vistas, each populated by people with unique looks, accents, cuisine and heritage. However diverse they may be, from the northern urban enclaves incrusted in the Amazon jungle to the plains of the southern Pampas, a common thread is said to unite the natives – happiness. “God is Brazilian!” is, in fact, a sentence you will hear exclaimed by happy people over the entire country.
This is not, mind you, a post about happy people.
This is a post about fairly unhappy people, I shall say. A post about the nihilistic, the blasphemous, the hopeless and the misanthropic. Today, I want to talk to you about black metal music hailing from the
frigid northern lands of Brazil. Sadly, I am not going to explore the material of legendary bands such as Sarcófago and Mystifier. Before you claim my head for this heresy, let me open your mind to some lesser known bands with true gems in their discographies. So trust me, join me, or die in ignorance.
The first stop in our tour is a group named Goat Prayers. These guys have been around since 1992 but, unfortunately, never released a full length album. They appear in two demos and three splits with other Brazilian bands, amassing a small, yet respectable catalogue, which perhaps can be best experienced by listening to the 2010 compilation The Final Aclamation. Their early output has that lo-fi quality that was so prominent in Second Wave Black Metal records. Goat Prayers compositions are a tad more refined, relying on organs, synths and even flutes for extra ambience. You can hear that here. Be wary, though, the demo cover is the kind of lolbuttz you might not recover from.
I chose to feature a song from later on in their career. “The Moon That Never Sets” is a thrilling piece of black metal that showcases an increased production value, a grandiose sound reminiscent of Emperor and small bursts of NWOBHM influence that shine through in the catchy opening riff. Mount your black steed and ride to this tune.
It’s time to ditch the glory and grandeur, for we are now prepared to partake in the filth and depravity ov duo Hellscourge. These men have two LPs under their belt, released consecutively in 2011 and 2012 – Hell’s Wrath Battalion and Unmerciful Blasphemies. This is necro black thrash with no mercy for posers. They do not reinvent the wheel, but they are guaranteed to rip them off your chariot and slay you and your pony with it.
Moving away from aggression, we delve deep in sorrow and melancholy. Shadow Moon has one full-length (2002) and two demos. Unfortunately, I could only track down the 1998 EP entitled Cânticos Para O Amanhecer (in English, it would be something like “Canticles for the Breaking Dawn”). I am not sure if beautiful is the best way to describe this, but I cannot find a better word for it either. This is a patient, brooding form of black metal, somewhat akin to Drudkh, but relying on keys instead of guitar for the emotional charge.
There is a word in Portuguese that is not present in any other language. “Saudade” is the way we named the feeling of deeply and truly missing someone you might never see again. For some reason, this is the emotion evoked by most of Shadow Moon’s material in my opinion. You can hear the EP in its entirety here, if you enjoy the featured song “Five Awake”.
The final feature in this post is bleak. It is an exercise in nihilism and misanthropy. Escvro (bonus points to Slytherin for acing kvlt spvllvng) is the Portuguese word for dark (as in dim, poorly illuminated. This a one-man project formed last year. The man responsible for it uses the pseudonym Erebos, and all I could manage to find is that he “refuses to sell his music, all Escvro works are freely distributed and fully available for download”. Where, I do not know, since there seems to be no official website or anything similar.
Escvro’s only release so far is EP Ascensão do Vazio (“The Rise of Emptiness”). This is my favorite piece of music in this article, as well as the most intriguing. It features two great poems as spoken word passages, dismal lyrics in Portuguese and great songwriting. There are no guitars in this project – the riffs are written and performed on a 6-string bass. The vocals are the sort of deranged wails one can find in grindcore band Amnesiac. I am excited for the next Escvro material, and would love to see what Erebos could do with organic drums instead of a drum machine. You can watch a NSFW videoclip of new song “Perante as Estrelas” here, and listen to the complete EP below.
I believe the music featured here is proof that, even though black metal will forever be connected to and influenced by the landscape surrounding the artists, its themes and sentiments are universal to all men. In the end we are eternally condemned to question our purpose in existence. I rest my case with a rough translation of the final spoken word passage in Ascensão do Vazio:
“What if nothing happens?
What if the deformed and the homeless
the hungry eyes and hands that interrogate
the flesh that bleeds and drowns desires
what if all of this turns to ashes and absence?
and life still waves by…
and what if silence weighs over the anguished scream?
if the sphynx no longer displays its disfigured smile?
what if all the dreams were aborted?
what if nothing happens?
what if none of this not even remotely matters?”
Antônio Pinto de M. Filho