Portugal might not necessarily be a country that produces metal band after metal band on the international stage, instead it produces a range of metal bands with the potential to. Naturally the first metal band to spring to mind would be Moonspell, arguably the most successful Portuguese Metal export since the scene first emerged. However one of the latest bands to find the path to international recognition is the grindcore outfit Axia, whose latest album "Pulverizer" (released via Selfmadegod) is a brutal force to be reckoned with; album was mastered by Peter In de Betou (Arch Enemy, Amon Amarth, Meshuggah, Hypocrisy). GMA was able to grind the band down and to analyse what makes Axia, Axia.
For those who have not heard of Axia, could you please give us a history of the band?
"Hello. We're basically a group that have been together for quite a long a time, collaborating with other bands and projects. We frequently tour and write music very often, and was the genesis of Axia. One day after listening to a stack of songs and realizing that it followed a musicality that wouldn't fit in any other of our projects, we decided that would be necessary to create a new identity capable of bring those tracks to life."
What do your families think of your music, and when did you get your first taste in metal music?
"I've been consuming music ever since I can remember of my existence. I was still a child when I first started to collect entire tape discographies from the 60's/70's, heavy metal was gradually introduced during my curiosity incursions through my friends collections.
I think metal music eventually became much more respected and user friendly than it used to be 20 years ago. People tend to respect and appreciate the musical/skill abilities from a given musician, even if they do not enjoy the music there's a lot more recognition and value."
What enticed you to play Grindcore? How would you define your sound?
"Extreme metal as always given me a sense of excitement and freedom. There's such huge energy stream gleaming when the music is playing that it makes the heart beat synchronizing with the the tempo.
I wouldn't describe us as a grindcore band, I rather say that The backbone of AXIA‘s music is an hybrid raid of extreme paced songs, infused with infinite levels of self-inflicted negativity and hopelessness."
What was reception like for your album "Pulverizer"? Was there a album launch party?
"We're still collecting opinions and reviews about the new record, but so far the reactions are quite above what we initially expected. We did a release show during the almighty SWR - Barroselas Metalfest XXI, along with a line-up of awesome bands which actually went pretty great."
What challenges do you face as a band in Portugal?
"Well, Portugal is developing quite fast during the last couple of years. Things have change a lot and nowadays the only obstacles are the geographical position and of course the low wages. Musicians are getting better and more ambitious, there's a lot more planning and creativity."
What is the general attitude towards metal music in Portugal like? Is it well supported?
"If we take in account the population size, I would say that Portugal is one of the best countries to play live shows. With a good promotion campaign, an underground show can easily achieve a massive attendance of 200/500 people depending on the band popularity."
What is the metal scene like in Porto? What venues, bars, etc are there? What sights / attractions could you recommend to metalheads to go and see?
"Porto became a crucial landmark in what regards to music, there's very few chances that any band won't play Porto during a tour that features the peninsular area. There's many great places to visit, to enjoy live music or simply to listen and buy old rarities. Make sure you don't miss Bunker Store, Piranha, Zhe isuisria."
Machinergy are a Thrash Metal trio hailing from the Lisbon District in Portugal. In September they dropped the physical version of their second album "Sounds Evolution" via Portuguese label Metal Soldiers Records and Greek label Secret Port Records worldwide. Prior to this on the 2nd June, they released the digital counterpart to the second album and this earned them sensational reviews:
"From the first to the final breathing, they attack relentlessly with a track-list overall vigorous and brutal, keeping the standards high-leveled with no relevant ups and downs between songs" Rock & Heavy [Chile]
"Remember when thrash bands did ten tracks of brutal, fast, pounding music and released it as an album without a thought for appealing to people outside the genre? Machinergy have recaptured those days" The Moshville Times [UK]
"They will no doubt blow your speakers" Metal Galaxy [Canada]
"This is one bad-ass album" Woodbangers [USA]
Following this success, Global Metal Apocalypse decided to take time out to speak with Vocalist / Guitarist Rui Vieira about the album, their award-winning documentary, the Portuguese Metal scene and the destruction of the Euro currency.
Hi Rui, now you are releasing your second album this month in CD format, how does it differ from 'Rhythmotion'?
Hi there! Well, one of the things is the speed! 'Sounds Evolution' has faster songs than "Rhythmotion'. Besides that, I think we created more simple structures in comparison with the first record, and because we're a trio we recorded the songs thinking about the playing live part. I could make a lot more solos and leads but if I cannot replicate that live, it's better not to do it. Concerning some reviews, they frequently mention our old school heritage (80's Sepultura, Metallica, Slayer, etc) that is way more declared than the first CD.
Machinergy has been going since 2006, what has been the highlight of the band's career thus far?
I think we achieved some important things in these 8 years but, besides our records, our documentary of 2012 is a big highlight for us. It was something new in the Portuguese metal scene and a fresh way to present the EP 'Rhythm Between Sounds'. The cherry on the top of the cake was the award we received recently in a film festival in our homeland, Arruda dos Vinhos.
Focusing on the Portuguese Metal scene, what do you feel lacks within the scene (if anything)? What is the support for metal like in Portugal?
We have some good publications in the underground, from paper fanzines to webzines, there are some venues and festivals where you can play but in the end, you always reach the same conclusion: You must 'fight' for your band! It's very hard nowadays to top a band, your band. There are hundreds and Portugal is not a big country. So, you must keep the publications updated, play live frequently, have good conduct, try to be active in the scene and do your work as best as you can! And persistence. That's one of the main things that's not easy and only some achieve.
Are there any lyrical themes you tend to turn to for each release? What inspires you to write these lyrics?
There's no criteria for the lyrics. In 'Sounds Evolution', there are some common points but, in general, it's very diverse. Some lyrics are more simple and straight to the point, others are more camouflaged. But I try to write always about something that's worthy of writing and transmitting a message. Some may understand, others may not.
If you could spend a day with anyone from Portugal who is famous, who would it be and why?
Maybe a day with Jorge Jesus, the GREAT Benfica FC (best team in the world) coach. He's possibly the best stand-up comedian we have 'round here!
How (and if) has the change in currency, from the Escudo to Euro, affected the scene with regards to instrument prices, live fees, etc?
The Euro is one of the causes of the current crisis situation we have in Portugal. When the Euro appeared, prices increased dramatically. In some cases it increased 50%! Taking into account the salaries remained the same and we have more and more taxes to pay, you can imagine... concerning the tickets for live gigs, it's curious, the prices have been the same for years. For a medium show with 3 to 4 international bands, you'll pay 25 Euros.
Can you give us the background behind the new album? From the planning to the recording, and to the releasing stage?
We started to write 'Sounds Evolution' in 2010. I don't remember if it was 'Cada Falso' or 'Sounds Evolution' we wrote first but we soon realized the new material would bring outside our thrash root in its plenitude. The first record is more industrial, slower and I think we felt the necessity to do an album like this, straight to the point. We recorded it in our home studio and took the time we need to do all the things, to gain more experience, that's a fact.
Concerning the physical release, again our friend Fernando Roberto from Metal Soldiers Records helped us out with it. This partnership extends to the Greek label Secret Port Records. For the next record, I think maybe it would be a good idea to record in a studio and let someone do the job. We've been making everything since 2006 without stopping, we need a rest.
Outside of music, you recently won the best short film category at the Curt'Arruda film festival, can you give us the background behind that, what it entails, what this means for Portuguese metal and the band of course?
The documentary is about our roots, our beginnings in the 80's. We talk about our influences and difficulties that I'm sure are common to the old school metalheads. It was the tape-trading times, the snail mail, the lack of information and money, well... good and passionate but difficult times. We also paid homage to the radio stations and important people that helped us in discovering heavy metal. The documentary was well received in general but, since it was something new and pioneering in our metal scene, I think it deserved a little more attention but... dear friends out there, check it! I'm pretty sure you will like it!
[You can watch the documentary on YouTube here] - it is in Portuguese but has excellent visual representations.
What plans do you have for the rest of the year and into 2015?
Right now, we're committed to bring Machinergy to the world with our new record. Thus therefore, we have just discussed about having a possible live recording to make a DVD. It's a way to fill the gap between albums and keep the band active in the scene.
Finally are there any hello's, thank you's, etc you wish to send out to friends, family, etc?
Thank you Global Metal Apocalypse for this nice interview! We also want to thank all our friends around the world that are helping us, especially with reviews and interviews, radio stations and, of course, our closest friends. A special big thanks to Fernando Roberto from Metal Soldiers Records (Portugal) who has been a great friend and professional in the last few years.
"Madeira wine is also famous as when the American declaration of Independence act was signed, the signers celebrated by drinking Madeira wine"
Genre: Melodic Gothic Metal
Label: Unsigned / Independent
It's been a year since Portugal's Sinmattic first released their debut self-titled EP, recently the Melodic Gothic Metal outfit has been upping their game in order to expand outside of their native Portugal through a number of endeavors, including the possibility of linking up with a Gothic Metal band from The Netherlands. GMA found some time to sit down with Ivo Durães and Pedro Antunes from Sinmattic and discuss what they have done and what they plan to do, furthermore a discussion about the Portuguese Metal scene, it's economic situation and other related questions circulating Portugal and Sinmattic.
So guys coming from Portugal, what is the metal scene like and what problems have there been?
Pedro: Unfortunately, Metal is not very marketable in Portugal, this is a very small country which makes the Metal scene even smaller and very underground. Metal songs very seldom reach the top here, unlike other types of music. This makes it even harder for us to live out of our music, and we have to try our best to reach other countries and make our music more known outside our country.
Ivo: It's so underground that I still have dirt in my mouth since the last gig! No seriously… the Metal scene here is small, it's easy to know almost everyone from every other band! But I tell you this, it may be small but there is a lot, and I mean a LOT of quality around here! There are great bands achieving great things! The main problems we face are to do with the lack of support from radios and other Media sources, and the practical inexistence of a circuit for Metal bands to play around the country… most of the clubs hire cover bands! This may be good for them but for bands that play only original material its complicated.
Now since the onset of Portugal switching from the Escudo to the Euro, how has this impacted on the band in general and your daily lives? Is equipment cheaper or more expensive?
Pedro: Like most of Europe, we've been going through an enormous economical crisis, so it ends up affecting our lives because there's less funding and support for whatever you want to do, not just music.
Ivo: Our band is relatively new so I can't say much about that. I had my real first electric guitar offered to me by my mom and brother around the end of 2007, a brand new Ibanez and because of that it was a tad more costly than a second hand instrument… but that’s the thing, no matter the currency, instruments can be bought for fair prices if you know where to find them.
How did the band name come about and where there any other potential names for the band?
Pedro: I remember a lot of names for the band before “Sinmattic” showed up on our minds, but let's not go there :P
Ivo: I’m going ahead and saying that we had some really silly names before we settled with Sinmattic! But like Pedro, I won't reveal them… for now. But we wanted something unique, something that you don’t find in like 500 results when you Google it! We had a pretty big brainstorm, thinking about art on all of its forms… came up with “cinema” and after some more brainstorming… “SINMATTIC”! And yeah, we are still very happy with the name.
Individually how did you get into metal music, playing Gothic Metal and who do you take your influences from?
Pedro: Personally I discovered Metal in my adolescent years, and exploring that led me to bands like Nightwish, Epica, and other Symphonic Metal bands. It was because of them that I decided to learn the piano and start writing my own songs. So I went to music schools, learned and started working on my own ideas. Sinmattic came after other projects that didn't work that well. Nowadays I take influences from various styles of music, not just Metal, because you should listen to many artists and inspire yourself with as many genres as you can to keep it versatile and interesting enough in your own band. The rest of the inspiration will come from the events that surround you, and your own personal experiences.
Ivo: I have to blame my brother for listening to Metallica, AC/DC, Sepultura, Manowar, etc. when I was just a little kid! At that time I never really liked it, I was more concerned about playing football with my friends… but then something happened! My parents offered me an acoustic guitar (which I still have and still sounds cool) and I started learning by myself, watching Metallica live shows, DVDs and such! But I had help from my father, he was a guitarist too… he introduced me to other great bands like Deep Purple, Dire Straits, Ten Years After, Led Zeppelin, etc! All the legends of the electric guitar and that was the real trigger for me! After a while, like some natural law, I found myself listening, enjoying and playing Metal. But I was always more into Thrash metal, the Gothic taste came when I started playing with these guys.
After playing a gig or tour, how do you all take 'chill time', how do you relax?
Pedro: I try to rest as much as I can, get a good night's sleep and keep my energies balanced for the next day.
Ivo: Resting is always a good option, I like watching movies and hanging around with my lady, we do a lot of stuff together. I also enjoy gaming when I can, I must confess I am bit of a geek!
What is the Portuguese metal scene like in terms of what festivals are there, venues, labels, media, etc?
Ivo: There are a few good Metal festivals, some are building their name up outside of Portugal which is good, it makes people come from other countries! Vagos Open Air is a good example. About venues, that’s more complicated… like I said earlier in this interview, most of them prefer to hire cover bands or bands from other styles of music, leaving Metal bands with only a few places to show their work. Labels? I only know two relevant labels that represent some Metal bands… about Media, there are some cool webzines that support the scene and spread the word! And we also have a national metal magazine, but their support for local / national bands is still very weak.
For those who do not know Sinmattic, what song should they check out and why? What is the meaning behind the song?
Ivo: I recommend listening to our EP. It's four songs only but each one very different from the other… that’s SINMATTIC! We can sound melodic and mellow, but at the same time we have that heavy and furious part that in my opinion makes us stand out.
Now Portugal of course is renowned for it's red wine, what else is Portugal popular for (besides football and wine)? What wine would you each recommend?
Pedro: Well, I know Portugal is also famous for its typical food, so I'd suggest coming here and trying some of our good restaurants and meals.
Ivo: Cant tell you much about wine, there are a lot of brands… lets stick with beer! Only two major brands and both good, these are Super Bock and Sagres respectively! Portugal is more than food, wine and football. Our landscape is beautiful, our weather is nice, lots of beautiful monuments, old castles and palaces, rich culture… oh and Port wine is very famous but our red wine its also famous, Madeira wine is also famous as when the American declaration of Independence act was signed, the signers celebrated by drinking Madeira wine. They didn't sign it WITH wine, hahaha.
Are the youth of today encouraged to learn an instrument or is purely voluntary? How do most bands organize local gigs?
Pedro: I think there are still many parents who encourage their children to learn music or play an instrument, but it depends on their own ideas and experiences. There are also many cases where it's voluntary and children ask their parents about playing an instrument, especially in their adolescent years. It also depends, though, since it's not easy to be successful only by playing music.
Ivo: Pedro said it all but I’ll just add that with so many great musicians to get inspiration from I think its easy to encourage the youngsters to learn an instrument and become good at it! About local gigs, the main concern is to get a venue / club. Then it's just a matter of talking to bands, deciding which dates are the best, cash values and such. Of course, this happens on a good day.
Individually, sum up what Sinmattic's live performances are like and who have you played with / looking forward to play with or want to play with?
Pedro: I think we have a lot of energy and great interaction with our audience. We love playing on stage and it shows, because even when we had a bad day our bad energies disappear completely once we set foot on stage and start playing our songs. It's all about the show and enjoying music.
What are the band's plans for the rest of 2013? Any New Years gigs? Partying?
Pedro: Right now we are working on some new songs and trying to achieve the right conditions to record our debut album. The plan is also to keep playing live and taking our music to as many people as possible. If the opportunity comes, we might do a New Year's Concert, who knows?
Finally are there any thank you's and greeting's you wish to express to friends, fans, family, etc?
Pedro: We are very grateful to every person who supports us in any way – a like on Facebook, a share, a supportive comment or even a listen. Also, everyone who shows up at our gigs and supports our shows. Those have been the people who give us energy and will to keep fighting for our music and try to do a better job every day.
Ivo: Every kind of support counts, no matter what people say about us! a simple like on our page may trigger other ones and that may lead to more listeners. I wish to thank every single person who supports and keeps supporting us everyday! And of course, thank you Rhys for your kindness and support!
Sinmattic's debut self-titled EP is out now via the band themselves