The world should know about 90s Portuguese Heavy Metal
Not trying to give a history lesson here or be an academic, because this is about some Portuguese heavy metal stuff from the 90s that I loved and I think the world should know about, instead of scraping the bottom of the plate of NWOBM or Scandinaviam Black Metal. It’s a shame most of you don’t know Portuguese, because a lot of the lyrics here are awesome. There’s stuff about vampires, and there’s songs that just tell people to shut the hell up. Plus there are bands with excellent names, like Vomitory.
It all started when I was a kid and went from prep school to high school – it was a shock. Forget about bullying, that shit was normal back then and you just had to survive. Being harassed, punched, slapped and insulted was normal on a daily basis during the 90s, particularly because my school was right next to the projects, so it was like growing up in the streets – all that NYHC style but with less pizzazz. So I had two choices: I could either try to go unnoticed, and that’s just not my thing, or blend in with one of the ruling groups, prison-style. That’s how I started hanging out with older guys who had flunked. Some listened to heavy metal, some listened to punk, but at the time both worlds weren’t all that different, at least where I lived. That’s why the second record I ever bought was Iron Maiden’s debut album, and from them on, it was pretty straightforward getting to national heavy metal bands with black pants, white sneakers, patched jackets and, well, bangs.
After skipping some lunches to have the money for it, one of the first records I bought was WC Noise. It’s thrash metal, but infallible thrash metal – it’s raw, it’s primitive, it has solos and that snotty punk-rock voice that I can’t get enough of. The accent is far from perfect, which makes it all a hell of a lot fucking better. The record cover is beautiful and there’s a song called “Diarrhea.” All from a bunch of kids from the ass end of Europe.
These guys were almost my neighbors, even though their hometown, Linda-A-Velha (which translates to something like beautiful old lady), is to this day better known for the hardcore scene. This shit is so metal you can’t even pigeonhole it in a particular genre, even though it sounds a lot like thrash, but not just. It’s simple and classic 90s metal, which I miss, and they even opened for Kreator once.
High pitched screams is the trade mark of V12, which is like NWOBH but not really, because Portuguese metal had a sound of its own. Even when they played metal, other styles were always present and that makes it unique, even if too corny for some. If I had to compare this to anything, it would probably be to Saxon, but even then it wouldn’t do them justice. I started listening to V12 just to make fun of it, but it soon became a favorite.
Man, I have a soft spot for power ballads, and the cheesier they are, the more I love them. I’m no stranger to the lyrics of Poison’s “Every rose has its thorn,” or Firehouse’s “When I look into your eyes,” but Joker’s “Easy come and go” takes the cake. If you think about everything that’s wrong with hair metal, they have it tenfold. Bad hair, bad clothing and corny songs with ballads and easy-listening light heavy-metal. They weren’t a boy band, but they sure as hell could pass for one – oh yeah, and the record cover is just plain awful.
I used to rehearse right next to these guys, so I can tell you that no recording can ever get close to the weight they put in their songs. The singer growls, the rhythm section just demolishes everything in its path, and they still play together to this day. In fact, they put out a record in 2017. It’s death, it’s grind, it’s guttural, it’s brutal, it’s fast and it’s about horror stuff, and it sure made me get whiplash every time I played it.
I hate everything these guys recorded after their first record. However, I’m still totally hooked on “Thoughts” since the first time I played it – and I did play it a lot. I have to thank these guys for introducing me to what is still one of my favorite bands ever, Spermbirds. I got to know them because Ramp played “Try” and that song is like, perfect. I used to think that they had a lot of style playing it, but in retrospective it’s just embarrassing. The whole record is great, but “Thoughts” is a beautiful metal power-ballad and I just love the guitars in it.
I’m sure everyone knows Moonspell by now, but when I was a kid and there was no internet around, and “Under the Moonspell” hit hard. It’s metal but it’s gothic and it had a beautiful texture which they never again did. If Dead Can Dance ripped your flesh while singing, this would probably be it. Shit, there’s a song called “Allah Akbar” and that was way before scared W.A.S.P.s knew what it was. Now they’re too artistic for my taste because I like my heavy metal raw, but when they started I couldn’t get enough of them.
Aaargh, rap and metal are two styles that should only get together in very particular cases. Braindead were more like funk metal, but if they were born 10 years later, they would probably be classified as nu-metal or something. But I was young and there weren’t a lot of bands around and these guys had songs on a national skate show, and the thing worked. I know it probably sounds horrible to any newcomer, but I lived with this more than half my life, so I love it. Especially the ballad “Cry alone,” because it sounds soooo amateur.