DEATHSTARS’ “The Perfect Cult”

Originally written for Valkyrian Music.


Deathstars have always had a dark sound and image, but in the five years that have passed since their last studio album, that darkness seems to have grown thicker. No, I’m not saying you’ll feel like you’re attending a funeral or visiting the depressive ward of a mental institution – by the contrary. But while “Synthetic Generation” and “Termination Bliss” sparkled defiantly, their sharp beats and aggressive licks an invitation to rebel, Deathstars started to soften the edges in “Night Electric Night”  and the process eventually lead to a classy glowing seduction with “The Perfect Cult”. It’s more mature, more sober, aiming to enthrall you rather than blasting you. And at the same time, it’s a darkness that’s pretty much alive. I guess this definition could light up a “gothic rock” neon sign in your minds, but that’s not the case either. This is something else. This is… well, it’sDeathstars. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard people saying they’re like a mix of this and that, but I still think they’re quite unique.

On the official trailer of the album you hear Nightmare Industriesclaiming that the guitars “have never sounded so heavy”. Well that’s no salesman talk and there’s really no other way to say it – they’re the heaviest so far. Which doesn’t mean its nature has changed; one still recognizes Nightmare’s watermark, but in a more intense outcome. There’s even a solo in “Temple Of The Insects”! How about that?

Skinny Disco’s bass has also become more solid, making all the difference in songs such as the first single “All The Devil’s Toys” or the title-track.

Whiplasher Bernadotte’s vocal style is probably the one thing that remains unchanged – the deep, strong pitch against the raspy whispers here and there. What did change though was the increased number of overlapped and backing vocals in the choruses, creating an effect of grandeur. Like “Explode”. Or “Ghost Reviver”. Or even “Noise Cuts”. Hell, all of them!

On the aforementioned trailer, Nightmare also said that this was the first album recorded with live drums. I confess I didn’t notice any difference, meaning that Vice is that good. Although there’s something on the drums of “Asphalt Wings” that sounds more… human.

Last but not least, the wider range of synths, from the creepy and cold patterns of “Bodies” to the eighties’ vibe in “Fire Galore”, going through the sneaky keys of “Track, Crush & Prevail”, there’s all kinds of electronic flavors here.

Personally, I would’ve preferred if they had stuck with the spunky nature. But at the same time, I’m the one who’s always encouraging bands to risk a change so they won’t repeat themselves. Plus, by the third time I was listening to “The Perfect Cult”, the new not-so-edgy sound had started to grow on me and I just had to admit its greatness.

Label: Nuclear Blast

Producers: Emil “Nightmare Industries” Nödtveidt and Roberto Laghi

Track list:

  1. Explode
  2. Fire Galore
  3. All The Devil’s Toys
  4. Ghost Reviver
  5. The Perfect Cult
  6. Asphalt Wings
  7. Bodies
  8. Temple Of The Insects
  9. Track, Crush & Prevail
  10. Noise Cuts
  11. All The Devil’s Toys (8-bit version – bonus track)
  12. Explode (remix by Dope Stars Inc. – bonus track)
  13. Temple Of The Insects (remix by Hacking The Wave – bonus track)

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SONIC SYNDICATE’s “Sonic Syndicate”

Originally written for Valkyrian Music.


Being a die-hard fan of Sonic Syndicate, to say I was eager for this album is quite an understatement. But precisely due that “die-hardness”, I knew how this 4-year hiatus was necessary, after the new challenges the boys and girl had to face in their lives, both as musicians and human beings. Now if you ask “was the wait worth it?”, I’ll ask back “is that a trick question?!”.

Generally speaking, it’s heavier, brisker and more intense and daring than anything they’ve ever done. On detail: “Day Of The Dead” kicks off with a dark and ominous instrumental work that lasts 33 seconds before exploding into something massive – a pounding drum pattern, defiant guitar riffs that the bass line, as subtle as it is, still strengthens, the deep and angry vocals and the electronics popping up here and there, just for seasoning. The synths become more solid, although playing in the background, during the chorus, where there’s also more melody and the clean vocals kick in, aiming for (and scoring) catchiness.

In “Black Hole Halo”, on the other hand, the synths are very much alive, which doesn’t cut the heaviness down at all – not even in that break around minute 3:20, where for brief seconds you’ll feel like you’re in a rave.

“Long Road Home” is probably the most sharp-edged song here, followed by “It Takes Me”, in contrast to the ballad “Unbreakable”. Although “ballad” doesn’t quite cover it. Sure, it’s the most sweet-sounding track, but there are a few little outbursts of energy that don’t comply with your average definition of “ballad”.

Suiting its title, “My Revenge” is darkly menacing (even if Nathan Biggs sings that “this is not a threat”). Speaking of whom, I take the chance to highly praise his vocal skills, a wide range of pitches and styles that are finally revealed in full.

Still he called on Björn “Speed” Strid, from Soilwork, to help him singing in “Before You Finally Break” and the outcome is stunning, one voice completing the other. The song itself is already brilliant, that twist the chorus takes in its rhythm a true breath of fresh air within the modern metal/metalcore songwriting. Way to go, Mr. Robin Sjunnesson!

“Catching Fire” has a rock seduction to it and a quite classy guitar solo (yes, you read it well – a solo. It’s rare, but it does happen once in a while).

“See What I See” is straight-forward riot act with one of the most melodic choruses in the album. But “So Addicted” has one of the most enthralling, probably given the level of emotion the song pours out. And there’s something victorious about “The Flame That Changed The World”.

There’s also three bonus tracks that my promotional copy didn’t include, but given everything I’ve already told you about “Sonic Syndicate”, it’s safe to assume they meet the same quality standards of the rest of the track list.

For the talent I know they have, I was sure they wouldn’t let me down. But I can’t help smiling like a child on Christmas morning when I listen to this album and see that faith totally rewarded.

Label: Nuclear Blast

Producer: Roberto Laghi

Track list:

  1. Day of the Dead
  2. Black Hole Halo
  3. Long Road Home
  4. My Revenge
  5. Before You Finally Break (feat. Björn “Speed” Strid)
  6. Cathching Fire
  7. Unbreakable
  8. It Takes Me
  9. See What I See
  10. So Addicted
  11. The Flame That Changed the World
  12. Diabolical Work Of Art (digipack bonus track)
  13. What We Shared (digipack bonus track)
  14. Another Soldier Down (digipack bonus track)


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DEAD BY APRIL’s “Let The World Know”

Originally written for Valkyrian Music.


I’ve always had a WTF feeling whenever hearing something new from Dead By April, ever since the very first time I’ve listened to “Losing You” back in late 2008/early 2009. But then the songs would find their way through my ears and stick around, to the point where I would admit I liked them. Not this time. Actually, not since “Mystery”, the song they’ve tried taking to Eurovision Song Contest 2012.

“Let The World Know” is out for over a month now, I’ve listened to it several times, and the WTF feeling still lingers, meaning that, to me, this isn’t a good album. I should have guessed since I didn’t have any reaction, good or bad, to the first songs released to the public (“Freeze Frame”, “Empathy” and “As A Butterfly”). They sounded too average and nothing that they haven’t done before. As a friend of mine said, DBA is a band that covers itself”. And when “As A Butterfly” ends up being one of the best songs in the album after all, along with “Beautiful Nightmare”, that’s pretty bad.

When I reviewed “Incomparable”, I said that they had stretched the term “pop metal” to its limits, the pop being poppier and the heavy being heavier. The problem with “Let The World Know” is that the pop embraced its dance variety and the heavy is like a ghost – translucent and unnatural. Take “Done With Broken Hearts”, for instance. When Stoffe starts screaming is so abrupt, so out of place, that it feels like it’s just an excuse for them to keep using the word “metal” and not how the song really should have turned out (by the way, peeps, harsh/growling vocals isn’t enough to brand something as metal). And “Abnormal” will make you feel like you’ve just stepped into a rave party! Pop metal, okay, that’s actually interesting. Pop dance metal, now that’s way out of line.

I won’t give up on them just yet, but “Let The World Know” won’t be part of any playlist of mine.

Label: Universal Music

Producer: Jacob Hellner

Track list:

  1. Beautiful Nightmare
  2. Abnormal
  3. Empathy
  4. Done With Broken Hearts
  5. As a Butterfly
  6. Same Star
  7. Let the World Know
  8. Peace of Mind
  9. Freeze Frame
  10. Infinity x Infinity
  11. My Tomorrow
  12. Hold On
  13. Replace You
  14. Cause I Need You (Japanese bonus track)

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Interview with Miguel Inglês

Original Portuguese version at SounD(/)ZonE.

“Conquering naughty hearts” (using their own words) for several years now, both as musicians and human beings, EQUALEFT have just released their so awaited debut album “Adapt & Survive”. Talking to singer Miguel “Inglês” we got to know a little bit more of the story behind this work and the people who did it with such commitment.


I believe many still wonder about the origins of your name. How did EQUALEFT come about?
EQUALEFT came about on a night out, in downtown Porto, more exactly at the famous bar Piolho. We had been rehearsing together for while but had no name for the band yet. So that night, spontaneously, we decided to start thinking of names that would sound neutral in terms of music genre. We liked the fusion of “equal” and “left” and so it’s been ever since – simple and practical.


You play groove metal, no doubt about it. In the last couple of years in Portugal it seems it’s become trendy for bands to add the word “groove” in their sound description… What do you think of this trivialisation of the word? Does it undermine bands, like EQUALEFT, who make a proper use of the term?
I don’t think so. Even though we’ve always been associated to groove metal, and maybe to a “more modern” sound because of the 8 strings, we’ve never cared much about that. We know we can’t lose our sound identity which is much more than groove. And the proof is our first album “Adapt & Survive” where we reveal ourselves as true chameleons; the groove is there but it’s not alone.


Through the years you’ve created certain “traditions” that aren’t very usual – giving away húngaro biscuits, wielding the lightsabre on stage during the song “Invigorate”, the presence of the plush mascot Equal… How did that all happen?
Everything was spontaneous. The húngaros came around in 2007 when we played a few shows at Fábrica do Som. As we had to wait for a long time before the soundcheck, we started taking a little box of húngaros to keep us entertained. We also noticed that it broke the ice between us and the bands we’d just met. From that moment on it became a habit and then it spread to the public.
The Star Wars elements in our shows, especially in “Invigorate”, started out also as a joke because that song has a pretty epic chorus that fits perfectly. And Equal, our mascot, was offered by a friend and every time he can, he’s on stage, watching over us.


And in how do those high-spirits influence the empathy between you and the crowd?
When we go on stage, we go with the goal of having fun and making everybody there have fun through our music. The band’s high-spirits end up infecting the crowd; I believe there’s no better feeling than being at a show and watching everybody enjoy themselves. And, of course, listening to someone scream “we want húngarosssssssssssss!”.

Speaking of “Invigorate”, what an evolution that was since its first version, in 2008! Was it because of the live-hymn it has become that you’ve decided to “recycle” it?
"may ROCK be with you"When we started recording the album we thought that “Invigorate” fit there, both musical and lyrical wise. And we also knew that “Invigorate” deserved something more than what’s in that demo and so we did it – we re-recorded it and gave it a more straight-forward touch, closer to how it sounds live.

You’ve had some problems with the original producer… How did Pedro Teixeira come in the picture?
We initiated the recordings at Soundvision studios with Paulo Lopes (CRUSHING SUN) and after a year of drawbacks in the process we realized we needed something else for the album’s sound to flow. We liked the songs but there was something missing. That’s when we re-recorded all guitars at Raising Legends studio, with André Matos‘ precious help and patience, and through him came also the chance of working with Pedro Teixeira (whom we’ve already known for working with bands such as BURY TOMORROW and HEART IN HAND). Despite him living in London and us having barely a month to mix and master, we took this crazy risk. ADAPT & SURVIVE!!!

And Raising Legends and Raging Planet, how did the deals come through?I_will_crush_you_all_by_Pieni156
We knew the album would need promotion. And we, as a band, needed some extra help so we could focus better on what we were doing. As we knew both André from Raising Legends and Daniel Makosh from Raging Planet, we agreed that we could achieve something together, something good for all parts.

After the irony (“As The Irony Prevails”) and the truth (“The Truth Unravels”), comes the adapting and consequent survival. Have the titles of your works some special meaning behind them?
I at least try to send out a positive and optimistic message through my lyrics. Everything I go through as a human being, as a musician, whatever has influenced me and the band in the last few years reflects itself in the lyrics of this album and how we learnt to adapt and survive to everything around us.

The artwork itself, the mirror cube, with all its pieces out of line, seems to depict a challenge. Who’s idea was it?
The mirror cube in the cover and the lyric video of “Human” belongs to our guitarist Bernando “Malone”. In one night we did almost the whole artwork, inspired by that little wonder that is the mirror cube. It suits the concept of the album perfectly – we adapt to a challenge and solve it in order to survive.

You’ve mentioned the lyric video of “Human”. Are there any plans for a “real” video?
Yes, we hope to release a video for “Maniac” soon, filmed at the Raising Legends studios with GoPros. And another one that’s still being studied. We’ll hopefully have good news soon.

And if you had the budget for one of those videos that look more like mini-movies, which would be the script?
Tough question… When you have band members with such a wild imagination, it surely would be something insane and unprejudiced.

The album features some guests, just like the EP had. How was it this time?
While we were recording we decided right away to present a challenge to our guests, meaning inviting them to step out of their comfort zone and to enter our world, adapting to the track they would perform. It was a win because Nuno Pereira, Filipe Correia and Paulo Rui are true survivers.

_DSC0572 copyIt seems that EQUALEFT was the first band that Metalpoint had with a sold-out pre-sale of tickets! How did you feel about it?
It was amazing, but at the same time the pressure got bigger, we had to give more of ourselves than 100%, It had to be 200%, ha ha! We wanted a full Metalpoint but didn’t believe we’d make it a few days earlier. Thanks to everyone!

And the gig itself, did it meet your expectations?
I think I still don’t have the words to describe that night – not me or the rest of the band. It will stay in our memory forever.
It wasn’t for how many people were there but for how much they gave themselves to it, the attitude of the guest bands, the hard work of the photographers and staff of Metalpoint that provided us a brilliant night.  I/we were happy that night, the joy was clear in our faces. Once again I say THANK YOU to everyone who was there. You are heroes!

What about the “creative” photos on Facebook with the tickets?
When I sold ticket number one I told the guy, as a joke, to take an original photo with it and post it online. He did so and it went viral! We had a blast with the public’s interaction.

There were other pictures circulating on the web, demanding your presence at Vagos Open Air, supporting GOJIRA…darth_vader_digital_sketch_by_modernelements-d4y0rix copy
Just to be clear: no member of the band made those images nor created the event! But of course we were glad that so many people went along with those collages, even if just for fun. Epic moments of laughter.
We will be in Vagos, but we’ll be watching GOJIRA, not playing. They’re a big influence to us.

In the past you’ve played several concerts without the full line-up. Would you do the same today? Or no matter how big the will to play, the quality of your sound comes first?
We’ve never cancelled shows because we don’t like to fail our commitments. So we’d always find a way of playing – either with one member less or with a guest in his place. Our position is still the same, but we’re clearly more stable now and we always try for the whole band to be there. The album only makes sense with all of us, but time will tell.

Thank you so much and keep up the great work!
Thanks for the excellent interview!

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MANTRA PROJEKT @ Plano B, 2014/07/04

mantraprojektMANTRA PROJEKT is what I like to call a “zen band”. Using their own words, they want to “share the effect of the sounds and ultrasounds (mantras) of the Old Yôga (SwáSthya Yôga)”. This was the release party of their debut album “Ashta”, in a venue packed with fans who actually knew the words, so strange to me. Really nice. :aww:

Just a three-member line-up, consisting in siblings Maria and Nuno Cramês (the latter a.k.a. Veggy, who you’ve seen dozens of times before in this blog, with his other band EQUALEFT) and good friend Rui Cardoso (PROJECTO SEM NOME), and yet such a powerful vibe they’re able to spread. :)

After the whole “Ashta” was played, Maria said they could still repeat one of the songs, if we asked for it very much. I believe it was “Samba Sadáshiva”, this time in an acoustic version. So Maria sat down on a stool, although she claimed it was due the time spent standing on those heels and not exactly for a visual effect more suitable to an acoustic performance. :D



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THE BLACK CHAKRA @ Plano B, 2014/07/04

BLACKCHAKRATHE BLACK CHAKRA, from São João da Madeira, space-rocking Plano B with their debut EP “El Maya”.

I’ve said this a zillion times, but can’t help saying one more: I FREAKING HATE RED LIGHTS! :x


The detail:

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EQUALEFT’s “Adapt & Survive”

Original Portuguese version at SounD(/)ZonE.


There are many bands nowadays claiming that their sound features “groove”, but there are really few who actually do so. And among the latter, EQUALEFT can be proud of how they do it.

And if the (ab)use of string – eight in each guitar and six in the bass – is the main ingredient for such intensity, the well-worked structure of each song is exclusively due to those who’ve written them.

The dark intro “We Are…” should be linked to the even darker “… The Chameleons”, but the two-second break between the tracks is probably the only flaw in this work.

“Maniac”‘s tempo matches with its title, its eccentric variations making it the most progressuve track in “Adapt & Survive”.

“Tremble” features two distinct parts, but their fusion happens so naturally that your ear won’t classify it as weird: the first 3:07 minutes are very straightforward and modern, while the 1:20 left - a solo performed by Nuno Pereira (TEK.ANAGLOGY) – reminds you of those fingerings back in the eighties, where the guitars seemed to weep and enthrall the listener with that weeping.

Filipe Correia from CONCEALMENT adds his voice to “New False Horizons”, a thick track where the grim rhythm of death metal meets the texture of groove and the outcome is spiced up here and there by something somewhat progressive.

I start lacking the adjectives to fairly describe “Human”, “Heroes Of Nothing” or “Hymns Of Obedience” – using the same terms would give the wrong idea of similarity when, in truth, each one has its own identity. But I must mention the liveliness of “Invigorate”, in contrast to the melancholic melody of “When Ruin Becomes A Bliss”, and the tribute to hardcore punk – despite its very relaxing intro - “To Step”, where Paulo from E.A.K. leaves his mark.

The way EQUALEFT combine chords, beats and pitches, and structure each song with those combinations, is not only unique but also of an absolute quality. Listening to “Adapt & Survive” is refreshing for the boldness of its creativity has no limits. Album of the year? It surely is one of them.

Label: Raising Legends / Raging Planet

Producer: Pedro Teixeira

Track list:

  1. We Are…
  2. … The Chameleons
  3. Maniac
  4. Tremble (feat. Nuno Pereira)
  5. New False Horizons (feat. Filipe Correia)
  6. Human
  7. Heroes Of Nothing
  8. Hymns Of Obedience
  9. Invigorate
  10. When Ruin Becomes A Bliss
  11. To Step (feat. Paulo Rui)

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