Label: Equilibrium Music Band: Urze de Lume Origin: Portugal
The album ‘As Árvores Estão Secas e Não Têm Folhas’ is the latest effort of Portuguese outfit Urze de Lume. Their third album in a string of releases that all carry a particular glowing tradition with them from the Iberian peninsula with gentle guitar music that harks back to a timeless identity.
Little more is given away about the entity that is Urze de Lume. To me, they carry a feeling not unfamiliar to that of Sangre de Muerdago. The same nature-steeped, exploratory melancholy is spicing up their somber music.
The music of Urze de Lume is almost like a little babbling brook, with gentle guitar play that holds an almost tangible passion and temperament of the southern heritage. The main feature for the melancholic sound of the group is the use of the rebec, a bowed stringed instrument whose fiddle-like timbre evokes medieval ideas and emotions. It is pure magic on tracks like ‘Prenúncio de Gelo’, where ambient effects and a lo-fi timbre creates that meandering, weary effect. The sound itself tells a story.
‘Encruzilhadas’ has that classic, droning, stomping sound of traditional Celtic songs, with piping and a solid beat marching the song forwards. Its strong sound breaks the soothing sound of the guitar tracks for a brief moment. The sound effects are those of nature and traditional ways, bringing together the whole story that Urze De Lume desires to tell. Solemn spoken word passages tell the story in a stripped-down way, bare of emotion and feeling. The music though, the strings and guitars, keep making magic for the listener throughout this exceptional listening experience.
Label: Transcending Obscurity Band: Gaerea Origin: Portugal
Portuguese band Gaerea may be a rather new name on the block, but their album ‘Unsettling Whispers’ doesn’t show any reluctance or unjust humble beginnings. It’s a piece of work, forged like steel. The album has been out for a little while, but there’s no need to let that stop a review of this piece of sonic defiance.
The debut by the band comes rather soon, as they’ve only been at it since 2016. An EP precedes this slab of black metal and little effort is spared to make this something special as a release, including a booklet that gives context and contours to this project, that embraces the arts as much as the heavy and brutal of the music.
Gaerea embraced the big and bombastic sound, aligning themselves musically with the likes of Behemoth and DimmuBorgir, maybe with a little Blut Aus Nord thrown in there for good measure. Abyssal bombardments of drums and bass, with a sense of the infinite behind it At times the sound effects add interesting tones to the palette, but also the vocals switch to something more hardcore-like during ‘Whispers’, which functions very well within the dense repetitions and cataclysmic riffing.
The sound combines into a solid entity, yet allows for plenty of subtle nuances and clear energy flowing through the guitars and vocals. The risk of a sound like that of Gaerea could be that becoming a lumbering, hard to steer behemoth. That clearly has been avoided, creating a brimming sort of vitality in the sound. Massive and unrelenting, this is an album that completely blazes it’s own path, from start to finish. Disregarding genre rules and black metal clichés in order to create an all-devouring, black hole of sound. A sonic baptizing in their own bleak battering sound.
Gaerea claims their spot with this debut release, no doubt about that.
Label: Fuck OFF and DIY Band: Basalto Origin: Portugal
Portugal has a distinct scene and produces some really good music, that remains out of sight and sort of underground. Basalto it’s as heavy as the volcanic fine-grained rock and just as black. Active since 2015, they just unleashed their second full-length effort, titled ‘Doença’.
On this album, arriving only 2 years after their eponymous debut, the band explores new, darker themes. It helps them to create something particularly heavy and dense, with a remarkable amount of feeling in its punch and dark vibes. The trio definitely has that down and creates a sound that is very much their own version of stoner/doom.
The ten-minute long opener ‘VII’ is an instant hit, grinding your face through volcanic ash with intriguing rhythms, that never feel like languid stoner passages. A certain jagged aspect makes the beating drive you, always on edge, constantly pushing for something. Listening to Basalto, you instantly detect a need for something primitive in their sound. The almost primal pummeling and dark, oppressive atmosphere permeates everything on this record.
Accompanying the album is a text by Martin Sousa, titled ‘Doença’, which tells the tale fo darkness in mankind. That is emulated in the sound, on numeral tracks like ‘X’ and ‘XI’, which both carry a sense of foreboding and darkness in their ominous sounding guitar lines and blood-curdling bass lines. It’s as if you listen to a stream of magma, which never goes for the big arches or deep drops, but steadily moves forward. On ‘XII’ however, we get to rock out for a bit, with energetic drumming, funky guitars and a driven bass. The record could use a bit more of that energy, but all in all deeply, dark immersive piece of music.
It’s there, silently on the far west of the European continent. The last land that explorers saw when they left and the first to herald their return: Portugal. The country is the quiet gem of the Mediterranean, oddly always a bit obscured compared to Spain, Italy, and France. Yet it holds beautiful nature, culture, and customs and with bands like Gaerea also a metal scene full of wonder.
As a band, Gaerea is pretty young but instantly connected with me due to their overpowering sound, particular aesthetics, and refreshing feel. The music of the band deals with introspective themes, with art and expression of negative emotions. This they do extremely well on their latest record Unsettling Whispers, out on Transcending Obscurity.
Gaerea were kind enough to answer some questions and tell more about their band, vision and what this music means to them. Thanks to Kunal Choksi for making this article happen. Photo’s taken from band profiles online.
Gaerea: Exploring new realms of expression
Could you kindly introduce yourselves? Do you play in other projects next to Gaerea? This is Gaerea, a Black Metal Quintet to emerge from Portugal. Due to the fact that all members are insatiable creatures for art, everyone has other projects to fulfill different parts of their beings.
When and how did Gaerea get started? Which bands would you consider your inspiration? Even though Gaerea was a fetus inside one’s head for quite a few years, it was in 2016 the band was born with the record and release of the first debut EP. It was released via Everlasting Spew Records back then. We take many inspirations from different kinds of art like Paint, Cinema, and Music, of course. We like bands such as ObsidianKingdom, Shining or Watain. Mainly because of their conceptual work other than music, which nowadays is so underrated. Music is not music anymore.
Can you tell about the concept behind the band? As in, what ideas, vision and such shape Gaerea and the art you create? GAEREA acts as a reporter, a bringer of the chaotic message from the Void Society. It is a burden we all must carry for it also relates to us as individuals who are also lost on their own bubble.
The album goes deeper into this conceptual world. Again, the message is brought to you by a third person who watches everything that occurs in a street, a city. It is another dimension where suicide is part of the human regular daily basis. Death is a dream from another world. Aging is something for the lost generation and most of all, feelings of joy, anger or sadness no longer exist. They are part of a well-remembered past, a topic which once was praised and now is clear and present.
I’m also interested in the visual aspect, for example, the sigil on the masks you guys where. Where do they originate from and how did you come up with the overall visual expression, like the album covers. Also do you create this yourself? Yes, most of the visual aspect is crafted by the band itself. The masks, the conception of our symbol and even the first Ep’s cover. The album cover was painted by an artist we respect: KhaosDiktator.
Above all things such as where did all of this come from, it is important to state that the basis of our work is to put out characters which have no name, face, feelings or equal skin from others in the audience. For me, it was a normal visual reaction from what we see today inside our system. We are just lost ents who crawl under our dreams to get bigger, fatter and richer lives. Everyone dreams of becoming a celebrity, a dictator to others, a model for others to follow. And that is all part of the sickening way we tend to live.
Back to the album cover, it a piece filled with beautiful details not just in terms of paintwork but also it is the catch of the perfect despairing moment where death is only a mirage. We see the old pale man falling apart while anxiety and numbness consume him. For us, it is the perfect face for this release.
Your next album is out soon at Transcending Obscurity. How did you end up signing to this label and how has it been to you this far? We had some offers from other labels after we finished recording the album last summer. Many were interesting and others not so much. TranscendingObscurity was the one which stood out with a good offer, a sick promotional work and most of all understanding the band, its concept and motivations for this release. It has been a good start.
Your next album, ‘Unsettling Whispers’, is appearing soon. What can you tell about the writing and recording process for this album and how did you feel you progressed from your EP? It definitely goes deeper into the void concept, which for me, is a step forward and a final nail in the coffin for that concept. The music is just different from the one we recorded for the EP. The feeling and expression was also something very different and mature so that’s why some people may hear a more “grown-up” band in “Unsettling Whispers. ”
The writing process happened right after we released “GAEREA” EP, surprisingly. I was not expecting a new wave of inspiration. For me, we didn’t necessarily have to put out another ep or album. The job was done. But yes, inspiration took us by surprise and things started to happen fast. All the writing process took just half year to conclude and in June we were recording the album at DemigodRecordings in Portugal with Miguel. The recording process took us only 2 weeks to start and finish the whole thing. We knew exactly how it was supposed to sound and fortunately, we worked with a very good producer who instantly gave new ideas and approaches to our music.
What is the story on the album and how was it conceived conceptually? From what did you derive inspiration for it? From the first moment, this band started to take its first steps, we got into Thomas Ligotti’s work. It definitely changed and was an inspiration for this Album. Saramago is also a creature who is firmly present in this conceptual work. All is explained in the lyrics and texts of an extended 20-page booklet inside the Digipak.
When listening to the now released track, I feel that your sound progresses from the traditional black metal sound into something well-polished, balanced but yet very heavy. In a sense, harder to classify in a genre. Is that where you’d like to place yourself as a band? Personally, I can’t really fit this band into one genre only. Of course, it has strong Black Metal roots, although you may find other styles like Doom, Death or Hardcore. I don’t think about it. Nowadays it’s just weird to see people categorizing contemporary music.
If it was meant to be squared or direct, we wouldn’t have today’s artists like HansZimmer, MarinaAbramovic, and others. It’s art which takes elements and inspiration from every other art realm already conceived to create or mold something called “new”. And no, I’m not talking about only music.
As I see it, you are pushing what it means to make black metal forward. In your perspective, what is black metal in its essence, what does it mean in 2018? It doesn’t mean anything but something to be an inspiration for today’s artists and above all, something to be respected. It’s something which made total sense to be born inside Norway’s nest and spread like a plague to the world. Nowadays it’s just hard to do “pure” black metal cause the world has changed, metal music also changed a lot.
Every artistic movement happens on its own timeline for a reason. For me, it is strange how some new artists try to copy or recreate the same exact music in 2018. I don’t think that we’re taking black metal forward. Gaerea stands for another reason. But of course, we enjoy embracing new followers and people who think that just by hearing the songs.
Right now this kind of music is constantly under scrutiny. Watain, Marduk and so forth. How do you feel about this and what sort of situation do you face in your own country?
Taake and Inquisition also. We are aware of what’s happening in today’s media and internet world. Yet, we don’t condemn artistic choices but personal ones which can ruin a career hard or impossible to be rebuilt. Let’s not go into detail regarding what we feel about every case. It’s not up to the Portuguese underground band to take part or to catch the moment to say anything about bands we respect and wish some things weren’t true. The one thing that matters to me is art and what their music means.
Could you tell me a bit about the scene in Portugal? What is happening there currently? Everything is way smaller in Portugal. No big scandals because there aren’t many big bands and people just don’t care too much about it. Good thing we have some of the most die-hard fans in this country who will follow their favorite artists no matter what.
For your style of music, who do you look to as pioneers you follow up with. As in, regarding the history of metal in Portugal, do you place yourself in line with any pioneering bands as such? Artists like Shining, The Great Old Ones, Obsidian Kingdom or even Secrets of the Moon. These are some strong names for us. And even though they do not fit entirely into the black metal genre or anything, neither do us. Regarding your second question, as I told you, we do not think too much about any of that. Of course we’re ambitious to the point we walk in a straight line towards the success of those acts. But still, we’re a small group and we must keep that in mind. We still have our own long path to craft.
Which bands from Portugal should people really check out? We follow a lot of Portuguese acts. On the top of my head are The Ominous Circle, Process of Guilt and Lobo.
What future plans does Gaerea have? For now, we have a massive release coming up. Some special appearances are being booked as we speak. Still, do not expect any extensive touring season.
If you had to compare Gaerea to a dish, what would it be and why? Francesinha. You’re probably not familiar with this typical Portuguese dish but if there’s anything worth checking out, it’s that monstrous sandwich.
Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask? “Unsettling Whispers is due to be released 22nd June. You know what to do.
For some reason it has taken me some time to go continue about this holiday. Well, after having gone in the direction of commercial locations in Portugal, such as Albufeira and Lagos, we went east to Tavera.
If you go east from Faro, you’ll find the other Algarve, as I’d like to put it. Obviously, you’ll find plenty of tourists in this direction as well. The sunny town of Tavera has plenty strolling around. What you don’t see however are English pubs, fast food chains and tons and tons of little tourist shops. It’s a bit more the direction you go for the locals.
Tavera has an amazing harbor, which is around this channel, with tiny coffee shops, nice little restaurants and people will always be out here to walk around. It’s a pleasant spot to sit down for a moment and wait for a ferry to take you to the beach. The beaches to the east of Faro are all located on islands of the coast. No biggie in the sunny season, because there’s going to be plenty of ferries to carry you across.
The beach island is 11 kilometres long and varies in the other dimension. One part is covered with a patch of forest, which is stuffed with restaurants, places to get a drink and some other forms of entertainment. Yeah, there it is… Well, you’d find that on any beach. In fact, this is better than the abandoned island restaurant with its monopoly and high prizes. It’s a busy place and an attraction for tourists.
It’s a bit windy, but you know…
I think this is all I wanted to say about Portugal actually. Again, Tavera is easy to reach by public transport and it’s a gorgeous town to have a walk through, it’s sunny, friendly and open. If you take the train from Faro to this town, you’ll find plenty other places to get of and go to the beach.
If you visit the Algarve, you should visit more of it than one place. There’s a beauty to this region and a strange emptiness when you go just before the season. Some options I explored here.
Faro is an interesting town on its own, but there’s much more to see in the Algarve. One would say that public transport is a bit chaotic, messy or untrustworthy, but it’s not that bad at all. Sure, you need to have a certain amount of patience but that’s public transport itself. everywhere.
It’s not like there’s a dense network of public transport options. There are busses, mainly travelling to and from the hubs, and there’s the train, which basicly has one track going east and one to the west. There’s also the track from Faro all the way north to Lisbon. This line really ends in Faro. The train is a bit more expensive compared to busses and the track to the west ends at Lagos. From there on you need a bus.
Sure, you can rent a car, which greatly widens the range of options for touristy visits of cool places, beaches and whatnot. There’s no airco that can beat the heat though and the travel times are quite long, so just being able to sit back for a few hours is really well worth it.
One of those places is the town called Lagos. It’s a 2,5 hour train ride from Faro through a stunning landscape (even when you’re in a wagon full of screaming children) and at the end of the railroad track. For me, that’s always going to be strange feeling, to be at the end of the railroad.
If you walk into the town from the station, you immediately enter the Marinara, the harbor and when you cross the bridge you’ll find the bus station and the center. African sellers are lining up their bags and belts on the sidewalks, while smoking some cigarettes and vendors try to sell you a trip out onto the sea.
The town was important during the seafaring days, when it also was the capital of the Algarve untill it was destroyed by a earthquake. Walking down the promenade, it feels very clean and open, which might have to do with how it was rebuild. The streets are beautiful and even in early pre-season swarming with people. We found a great place to have a simple, hearty Portugese meal and walked around through the town, enjoying its architecture and vibrant atmosphere.
Downside: Lagos is a haven for Brittish sun seekers, which means you’ll find little authenticity when it comes to bars, restaurants and such, specially around the Marinara. Lobster red elderly Brits are looking for shade in one of the ‘happy hour’ bars and watch the horse races. Home away from home I suppose.
It takes an hour or so by bus to get to our destiantion, which feels like literally reaching the corner of Europe and staring out onto the atlantic. Sagres is a sleepy little town around noon, for which the sweltering heat is one great explanation. The high cliffs offer a wonderful sight onto the sea and the gorgeous beaches, which are hidden from view unless you reach the edges.
Main attraction is the old fortress, which has served as an academy (allegedly) and looks over a beautiful bay. The town has been linked to prehistorical religious practise and throughout the ancient era as well by the Romans, Phoenicians and others. That always gives a peculiar aura to an area, specially this strange plateau on which the school/fort was supposed to have been. You can walk around there and picture yourself the folly that gripped man’s mind in the early age of Portugese discovery. Sailing out into the unknown. An age long lost it seems.
If you are a surfer, Sagres is definitely the place to be I’ve heard, so check it out.
We did skip visiting Albufeira, due to the long travelling time, but we lingered in Lagos a bit. Albureira is possibly the most touristic location on the southern Algarve and has some amazing parts to show, where millionaires build there houses and such. If you have the time, it’s definitely a place to either stay or visit at in the Algarve. Portimão is together with Faro one of the biggest towns and therefor a hub for the economy of the Algarve (during the off-season). Like Faro, it looks to the sea for a large portion of its income.
Going more inland is an option if you have your own transport, but it is very lowly populated. That might be your reason for going into it ofcourse. I guess bringing plenty of water is the best advice there. From Sagres on, going up north seems like a great drive as well, though some preparation might be useful too.
If you are not in Faro for very long, you can still see a ton of places. Make sure you bring a good book, always have a bottle of water and enjoy the train rides. You can also go east ofcourse, towards a more tempered climate and if you have the time even to see 3 countries.
So I totally had forgotten about my trip to Faro, Portugal (it was cool), by which I mean that I never wrote about my stay in Faro. Due to some issues in our personal lives, me and the misses decided to go on a quick trip to the most southern point of Europe this far for us.
Sometimes the motivation to go somewhere is very simple: money and time. We didnt have the time we wanted to go see what we wanted, so we just wished to get away for a short spell. Five days of Faro was a cheap option so we took it. Originally we hoped to also see Porto, but well. I guess that makes the motivation bigger than the budget in this case.
We stayed in the New Faro Hostel, which is a small, quiet hostel with one of the most helpful and friendly (and chaotic) owners I’ve ever met. The building was across the street from the train station and had the air of an old house, of which kind you see many in the transit town Faro. For travelling its a hub, it connects the whole Algarve to the north and has its own airport. It may seem small and a bit run down, but Faro has a charm of its own, holding a university and some beautiful beaches.
There’s a clear flavor of history to the town, though it probably never was as significant. It’s the surrounding nature that holds the most interest, specially the Ria Formosa, a wetlands region, which is also a protected nature reservate. It feels like you are in the Mississipi delta (I haven’t been there, don’t judge me), when you go through it on a pond to the ‘Illa Deserta’ to lie on the almost empty beach. The zone is a joy to watch and teaming with life. Only this makes it worth to stay in Faro for one day. On the island itself, you can walk around it to end up on the beach. You can see the town from there and a wide view, with many birds nestling on the island.
The town itself offers plenty of locations where the thirsty or hungy traveller can indulge his or her wishes. The hidden Academic restaurant is one well worth visiting for no-nonsense local food, fresh from the ocean. Sardines will always be a struggle, but life is a bit like that. You make do, whatever way you can. Make sure to try the local fish cuisine if you ever end up there. You can smell the ocean, so you better be sure to taste it there, specially made in a Cataplana. This is a copper, shell-shaped pan that betrays the Arabic origins of many of the traditions in these regions.
Enjoy a glass of wine or a craft beer in the lovely little bar next to the harbor and just enjoy Faro. That’s what I did atleast.
There’ s a tiny chapel of bones in Faro too. Here’s a picture:
Sometimes there’s nothing better to do in life, than sitting in the sun and reading Hemmingway. I guess that time has come for me this holiday. I feel very much like not doing that much. While we are mere hundreds of meters away from the sea, the moskitos are piercing my skin without much resistance, much like the ideas that set my mind tumbling about.
What to do , what to pick? Will I be able to do this or to do that? Today I met a buyer of shoes from Scotland, he told me that shoes from Portugal are pretty much the most awesome thing you can get if you want shoes. I didn’t know that,. I don’t know what the thing is that I know and others don’t. That would be the thing that should be making me some money.
I do know one thing and that is to buy shoes in Portugal. I should be able to get a superb pair of leather shoes for 65 euros tops here I heard. That is all the knowledge I have to offer, gained in the only craft beer bar in Faro, the once brimming haven of Portugal’s magnificent south.
Today I ate some sardines, fried and well. You know, like from the grill, the way they eat it here. After a severe struggle I managed to eat two and a slice of salmon. I asked the waitress what the trick was, when she questioned us on the succes of our meal. She said: “The only way is with patience…” So, Sardines, life is kinda like that. Not just in the Algarve.