Chile on the western side of South America has always had a vibrant metal scene with some notable musicians and bands making their names known far and wide, with bands like Mar de Grises and Criminal ending up with record deals with European labels in Season of Mist and Metal Blade, it's no surprise that the Chilean Metal scene goes on with bolder and greater ambitions. Leading the next wave is Weight Of Emptiness, a Doom / Melodic Death Metal outfit who released their debut album "Anfractuous Moments For Redemption" last year physically by themselves and digitally through the British label Sepulchral Silence. It was then later reissued through the Mexican label Sun Empire Productions. Thus showing their never-ending attempts to explore markets outside Chile.
Drummer Mauricio Basso (also plays in the Melodic Death Metal band Letargo) agreed to talk to GMA about the band's history, their complex sound, touring Mexico and life as a Chilean Metalhead.
"The main obstacle is that there is not much formality and guarantees for musicians in Latin America"
For those who do not know of Weight Of Emptiness, could you please give us a brief history of the band?
"Three individuals from Buin (a town near the capital of Chile) plus two friends and musicians from Santiago gave shape to Weight Of Emptiness, all of the members came with experience from being in other bands, we came together to give shape to this new experience."
You've only been going two years and yet released an EP and an album, surely that's a dream start?
"It has been a lot of work and focus, besides that it is not our only activity, but there is always strength for what we want to achieve and everything so far has gone well. It has been a lot of work these last couple of years."
Your debut album "Anfractuous Moments For Redemption" was released last year, what was the reception like?
"It has been quite good from the public and the media in general, we are very grateful for that too. We have played many shows to promote it and the reception has been incredible, even with many interesting proposals going around."
You toured Mexico last year, how hard is it to tour Chile let alone organize a Mexican tour? What difficulties can you face?
"Well, the main obstacle is that there is not much formality and guarantees for musicians in Latin America in terms of contracts and that kind of thing. Everything is based enough on trust and goodwill, especially if you're not very well known, but with great effort they put on a lot of shows and quite a few producers were interested in the band.
In Mexico, there were also previous contacts with friends from a radio program there. It was an incredible experience, lucratively speaking it was not something important, but the experience was magnificent, the people were wonderful and there were very good vibes."
What would you say Weight Of Emptiness brings to the table that other bands have not? What makes you different?
"In truth I think that influences that are not very common together in the same band can be something that distinguishes us, and the other thing is that we care enough about the sound and the effect it has on the perception of the listener."
How did you get into metal music in the first place? Are any of your family members musicians?
"Well since I was little there was a lot of music in the house where I lived, the radio was always on in the morning where there were also radio theatre programs. My uncle's had enough vinyl's and cassettes with plenty of bands from the 70's and 80's era's, and that was what I was trained with. My dad is a drummer too and that's where the drummer comes from as an instrument of worship."
For those visiting Santiago, what sights / attractions would you recommend to metalheads?
"There are quite a few shows of national Metal bands playing. Locals like the Oxido Bar are frequented almost every day of the week. I recommend Pablo Neruda's house, that has a very special vibe and is full of beautiful objects. There are also interesting museums and parks, the restaurant El Hoyo and especially outside Santiago there are interesting landscapes."
With 2018 closing up what plans do you have for the rest of the year?
"A lot of work. Another album is waiting, a new process is coming full of interesting things, new people on this trip, presentations outside of Chile, video's, we hope to surprise you with this new stage of Weight Of Emptiness"
Are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"A special greeting to all those people who take the risk of looking for new sounds and forms of expression and take them to extreme metal. Also to all the people who read your media I propose to know our band and join us on this trip. Cheers"
Some metal music fans might not know it, but the Chilean Metal scene has been around for quite some time, at least since the 1980's. One Chilean-born-German Anton Reisenegger was a part of this movement and still is involved with other metal bands. He is a member of Pentagram, Fallout, United Forces, Lock Up and of course Criminal of whom we interviewed him about.
Criminal have had a remarkable 26-year career thus far with a healthy amount of albums and demoes in their discography, but of course one of the more momentous periods of their career was in 2001 when Anton upped and left Santiago in favour of Ipswich, Suffolk - quite the change right? The thing is with the South American metal scenes is that sure there are great bands, great achievements but the one thing that seems to hinder most bands is the travelling and gigging potential. Whereas in the UK you have within a 4-hour drive of London the cities of Birmingham, Manchester, Portsmouth, etc so forth, to tour in South America predominantly involves flying and so logistics come into the fray.
Last year Criminal released their eighth album entitled 'Fear Itself' which marked five years since their previous album 'Akelarre'; the longest period between any two albums in their career, moreover it marked their 25th anniversary since their inception and they are without any doubt one of Chile's finest ever metal bands. GMA spoke to Anton to find out what life was like back in the 80's Chilean Metal scene, how they came to move over to England and the whole issue with metal elitism.
"sometimes to have a little gimmick works as well in terms of popularity" (Anton on one of the ways young bands can develop popularity)
Criminal as a band started in Chile, is this correct? When did you move? What does the name mean?
"Yes, yes, the band started in Chile back in the early 90's and well we made the first years of our career over there and moved over to Europe in 2001. We moved to England first, it was only half of the band actually, it was only Rodrigo our original guitarist and I, we started working with Zac O'Neill who had been in Extreme Noise Terror... or was in Extreme Noise Terror at the time, for a while we had ex-Cradle Of Filth bassist Robin Eaglestone... who left after a couple of years, so kind of kept the band going through a very difficult time because of moving to a different country, a different continent even, it's not easy but we managed to keep going and here we are on our eighth album.
"We've had a few high points in our career, we've supported a few of our favourite bands from Motorhead to Slayer, even Metallica. Lowest point? We got dropped from our label at the end of the 90's (BMG Chile), but that was exactly why we decided to move and it was a good thing in the end because it was a new beginning (they signed with Metal Blade Records). It was very cool supporting Metallica, the crew were super cool, very accommodating, the guys took a minute or so to speak to the band, was very nice."
"There's not a real meaning as such, we wanted something that sounded aggressive and was the same in Spanish and English; which is the case."
So Anton, what was the early Chilean Metal scene like? Is it true that in South America tapes and vinyls are still very popular?
"It was very passionate but also very improvised, everything you know you had to... there wasn't any really good gear so you had to go and like find whatever amp that sounded okay, bands would have to share their equipment in order to play shows. Everything was very, very grass-roots, but I think that it kind of gave it it's character you know? That passionate people really believed in it and that gave it that sort of thing that the Europeans appreciate a lot about, you know about Brazilian Death Metal, Chilean Death and Thrash Metal, etc.,"
"Yes it is true, I wouldn't say it's still very popular... they're popular again, I understand vinyl - it's a beautiful form you know you have the big artwork, it smells nice and sounds good. Tapes I really don't care much for, I don't understand that trend well... but whatever makes people happy hahaha, if they like it then why not?"
Brexit is a huge topic at the moment, so what are your thoughts on it, would it affect the band?
"I don't know, it all depends on how they work it out really, but I see it could affect the band in terms of you don't have the freedom to travel that you have now and then maybe you would have to have a Visa to come over here you know, because I live in Spain now but our centre of operations is still in the UK because Danny (Biggin) our bassist has got a studio which is where we record our albums, prepare for tours and stuff like that. I can see it being a problem really."
For those bands playing on the New Blood Stage, what advice (if any) could you give them?
"First of all be true to yourself, but also make sure that you have something different to offer. There's no point in sounding exactly like Megadeth, or exactly like Slayer or this or that. You have to have something that makes you stand out and also I would say that sometimes to have a little gimmick works as well in terms of popularity, you know bands like Alestorm it's that kind of stuff you know? They're a little Pirate-gimmick or whatever you know, Ghost with the costumes and hidden identities and all of that. So yeah think of something cool, something original and go for it. It's getting harder as there are so many bands out there to make themselves noticed, so you have to work hard and really believe in what you want to do"
80's Thrash was seminal to it's time, however would you agree that there is a new Thrash Metal movement emerging?
"Oh yeah, but a lot of it is just rehashing the past. I appreciate what the band's are doing, appreciate the fact the bands want to keep it alive and there's always room for a good Thrash band if you ask me. But, the originality factor is sometimes not there"
If Criminal were to cover a song, what would you choose?
"Well we've done a few covers in our career, but I don't know. Nowadays I try to maybe find some obscure band I used to like in the 80's or something like that, that maybe a lot of kids nowadays don't know and maybe do a take on that"
Would you say some metalheads are elitist when it comes to certain metal genres?
"Oh yeah absolutely, I see it all the time I really don't have any time for that because like everyone can listen to what they want. I think it's very arrogant to go around telling people what they can and cannot listen to, what is true and what is not, who are you to say that? They can say whatever they want but it's still like from the old Thrash Metal bands of the 80's to Pantera to Gojira, you know I don't give a f*ck"
If you had to pick a song from your entire discography, which one would it be and why?
"Ooh that's difficult, I really like a song that we played today called 'Stillborn' which is from our first album ('Victimized'), it's a slow song which has harmonies and stuff, it's maybe not a typical song but I think it showcases the band from a different angle, that one I like"
Most bands have a figurehead to go to talk to with any issues, problems, etc, does Criminal have one?
"Hahaha, I don't know... the drummer because it's his fault hahaha"
What was the response to your set? What plans do you have after Bloodstock and leading into 2018?
"It was good, we would have liked a bigger crowd, but I understand with so many bands and you know three days into the festival, people are tired and stuff but we got the crowd going and I was telling the guys at least the crowd was bigger and not smaller"
"First I'm going to chill out for a bit, take a holiday and then go into the studio to do some recordings for my old band Pentagram. In October I start a tour with Brujeria (with Lock Up) playing in Australia and New Zealand (support for Napalm Death). This will be the first time I will be playing in New Zealand, really looking forward to it as I love to explore even though a lot of the time you don't really have the time to go out and do the tourist thing..."
"We want to thank everyone who went to the stage to check us out today and we'll be back, probably with a new album next year"