Saturday, March 23, 2019

Metal Exploration Journal: Paraguay


2019.02.10: I had been contacted by Daniel Larozza from Verthebral, an old school Death Metal band from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay in late 2017 about a potential US tape release for their debut full length album Regeneration. At that time, I was unable to commit and told him that should they have any live or rehearsal material and wanted to do something in a more DIY style like the other Contaminated Tones live and rehearsal releases, that I would be interested. Daniel contacted me back on the second of April, 2018, regarding a live show they had recorded at a local festival called Old School Attack IV: The Return, asking if I would be interested in maybe doing a tape for that. He said that the recording came out really good and they would love to see it released in some form. Needless to say, I was definitely on board with the project which became a really great live tape release. The contact, though, revealed that I had very little knowledge of the Paraguayan scene as a whole. I think on the surface, the only band I recognized was Evil Force. In truth, with a short list of only about one-hundred and fifty eight bands in the whole country, with most located in the country's capital of Asunción, Paraguay is a country that is given very little attention.



Digging into the country's metal history would be tough for an English speaker, so I asked Daniel who he recommended for me to check out. He told me that the festival promoter of Old School Attack , Carlitos "Kure" Gonzalez, has his own thrash band called Massive Execution and also sings in Toxic Avenger. Speaking highly of Kure personally, he linked me to a video of them playing live. Stylistically, they would be similar to a combination of the Bay area and German schools of thrash. As they blistered through a cover of Slayer's "The Antichrist," it all fell into place influence wise. He also extended me his email. I contacted Kure regarding the Old School Attack Festival, Massive Execution, and Metal in Paraguay as a whole. Yes, he was my only contact other than Daniel, but who better than a promoter of a festival to have a scent for the manifestation of metal in the local and national society?

It took several weeks to hear back from Kure in choppy, yet understandable English. "Hello Jon..how are you? I'm Sorry for give you an answer so late...my English is really bad!! Tell me what do you need about Massive Execution and the old school attack!!! Greetings from Paraguay." I explained I would send him some questions about Old School Attack festival and Massive Execution. I did not expect an immediate response.

Paraguay has, throughout the twentieth century, undergone a multitude of unfavorable political circumstances. Throughout the early parts of the century, presidents and leaders were turned over at a rate befitting soil tilled with a powerful tiller. Stability, was found by way of violence with the coup of Alfredo Stroessner in 1954. Stroessner maintained political control, supported by the United States for much of the time (See Operation Condor), until 1989. This was achieved with sham-elections, martial law through declaration of a 'state of siege', and through general myriad strong-man tactics. In many ways, the small landlocked nation of Paraguay was a microcosm of the larger political tumult which many of the South American nations found themselves shackled by; large kakistocratic states governing millions of people with no solutions to their woes simply trying to hold it all together at any cost.

A small number of demos were released at the tail end of the El Stronato era - the name given for the period of Stroessner's reign - and it's not surprising that in such an environment, the youth would find freedom and expression in metal's abrasive and serious representation of perspective and mind. In an interview with Rawhide drummer Santiago Bernal in 2013 he said, "Rawhide was born in 1983, during the dictatorship. But that repression fed the musicians to make the lyrics, to compose a guitar riff, the line of the bass / drums. And not to mention the look we had at that time. We listened to everything, insults, offenses and things like that. I was personally arrested three times by the police, where in one of those experiences I was held incommunicado, my family did not know where I was. I had "the pleasure" of knowing the dungeons." (1)

Starting with basic Metal Archives searches, the first recognized metal release was a two-song demo by Metal Urbano in 1986. Only three other releases materialized between the Metal Urbano release and the end of 1989. Two of these were from the aforementioned Rawhide and one from Luque band Batallón. The city of Asuncion was the soil from which all four bands sprouted. These few early demos are the birth of Metal in Paraguay.
Metal Urbano - Demo (1986)

Metal Urbano's pioneering two-song demo tape from 1986 falls firmly in the proto-metal arena, sounding more like Deep Purple's earliest efforts from Shades of Deep Purple or the 70's laced Invasion album from Manilla Road. Their namesake track, an instrumental, is a spacy jam. The true highlight is the second track hard rocking "La Banda de Salvajes," with catchy though typical 70's riffs and punk drum beat. Vocals from guitarist Domingo Perez elevate the track through the incorporation of strong vocal harmonies and a bit of attitude during the the first chorus. For a demo from 1986, this would generally be dismissed when compared to the world scene which, by this point, was already in it's heydey in terms of heavy metal and thrash. What can't be overlooked, is the importance of such a release in the traditionalist climate of Paraguay at this time. Daniel Larozza's thoughts regarding this demo and Metal Urbano mimic this; "They played at the time of dictatorship in Paraguay, they deserve all the respect because playing in a metal band in that time was very hard."
Batallón - Demo (1987)

    Batallón's 1987 demo tape, paired with the first Rawhide demo, constitute Paraguay's first truly metallic sounding releases and laid the groundwork for the major trending style of thrash in Paraguay's early metal years. Death Metal and Black Metal would not take hold until the early 90's in minor forms. Batallón's demo is no slouch; technicality is in surplus. Opening track, "Corrupcion," aside from being indicative of the context within which Batallón were writing, sets the stage. Wild lead guitars and vicious lead vocals in a higher nasally range (not sure if the vocals here are from Jose Bogarin or Domingo Perez) bring to mind Aspid or a poor man's Energetic Disassembly. I believe that second track "Bajo Tierra (Serpento)" is the better of the two tracks while Daniel Larozza is adamant that "Corrupcion," is the better track. The third song is an instrumental which is not bad but is missing some structure which vocals would give. It has some impressive moments musically throughout. The biggest issue is purely production wise. The tape rips I can find for this do not do the songs justice - the whole thing needs a remaster.  
Rawhide - No Espreres Piedad (1987)
I am unable to find a copy of this demo other than the title track on youtube. Sound is rough but follows closely the style on the Batallon demo; thrashy, with speed metal and heavy metal motifs.
Rawhide - Caceria Humana (1989)
It is immediately apparent with Rawhide's 1989 Caceria Humana that the thrash metal sound had taken hold in Paraguay and could be executed with the same level of power and aggression as the rest of the international scene. While the band's 1987 demo, No Espreres Piedad, was seemingly on par with Batallon's demo in terms of sound, the second demo truly sets a standard. A close comparable being Sodom's Obsessed by Cruelty, with a hint more Bay Area technicality, the highlights include extremely audible and excellent bass playing from Jerry Groehn, a primitive and violent drum performance from Santiago "The Beast" Bernel, and the best production standards of any metal release up until this point, at least as good as the average US thrash demo. There is a nice variety given to separate each song. Title track, "Caceria Humana" is an early highlight on the demo. Opening with a big epic introductory setup and running through a torrent of riffs, it culminated with a mixture of solos that sandwich a running bass line. "Apocalipsis" follows with an acoustic opening melody line that heaves into chugging thrash riffs. Eponymous track, "Rawhide" is an easy choice as end of the album highlight. Classic riff structures sure to force headbanging and madness.
Kure from Massive Execution had gotten back to me with some answers to my questions in July. Communication wasn't the best, but in the spirit of speaking for Metal in Paraguay, Kure provided some key information regarding where it all stemmed from for him and likely many other older Hard rock and Metal fans in Paraguay. "I do not have words that are not gratitude and praise for bands like Corrosion, Metal Urbano, and Rawhide, without doubting they opened the way ... I am very fanatical of such bands ... even of Batallon, they are from my city, and it was the first band that I went to see live. The appreciation towards them is very special !!! Walter, his drummer is my neighbor and the deceased jose q was the vocal was my cousin!!

"The Old School Attack is a festival that has earned a special place in the national scene ... we always try to give both the bands and the fans the conditions they deserve and always come out in the best way, until today only Paraguay bands have participated but we are with the idea of ​​bringing bands from outside for this festival..for other events of ours or altogether if we already did concerts with guests from other countries (Skull Fist, Nocturnal, Dekapited, Massive Power, Enforcer (Chi) among others ... if we had public from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia at the time !!! On the difficulties you can always talk about constant support .. we have been lucky enough to always have a good answer but it is not a constant currently within the underground scene in our country ... you can talk about a certain division even though there are many fans!!!

"Currently there are many bands that are growing and being recognized even outside the country, the best known and with 3 albums released with the tamp Kill Again Records is The Force, I could consider at the same height to Evil Force that was presented A couple of months ago in the evil confrontation fest of Chile with bands like Demolition Hammer, Angel Witch, Tryptikon, among others !! I recommend listening to Ariman, Sacred, Khyron, Master of Cruelty, Caceria, To Arkham, Necrocult, Invaders ... then I will pass more bands !!! I tell him that apart from Massive Execution I am in the band Toxic Avenger with whom we have an ep and a lp released!!"

2019.03.23: Carlitos ' Kure' responded back to some more of my questions. I asked him about the prevalence of thrash in the Paraguayan scene: "For a long time, thrash metal was very much the sub genre that hit hardest in our scene ... today it remains strong and many bands manage to get out or be massive inside the metal but the other genres have advanced a lot also and in each one of them there are excellent bands!!!

On his other band, Toxic Avenger: "We can talk about the different bands whenever possible !!! as for Toxic Avenger we are together as a band since 2012, we have a demo and a long album and we are starting the recordings of the second album !!!"

I asked him again about the first show he saw with Batallion: "battalion was the first band I went to see, largely because my cousin and a neighbor were part of the band and the show was steps from my house ... the show was exactly on 09/21/1993 ... but In my case I was already listening to rock and metal bands since 1991, that was the step towards the shows !!!"
Evil Force - Banging On The Pentagram (2016)
Perhaps the best known band from Paraguay is Evil Force, who have been working at their craft since 2005. Their most recent full length, "Banging on the Pentagram" was the first widely available album from the band, being released on Germany's Witches Brew Label. The band displays a close proximity to the traditional metal stalwarts that have influenced the majority of South American Heavy Metal bands. Iron Maiden is a clear influence from the opening minutes, as well as Slayer, especially Show No Mercy era, in the vocal presentation and Razor, in the riff architecture and melodic undertones. Containing several members past and present of Carlitos' Toxic Avenger, there is a connection. The album opens with the impressive self-titled track showcasing excellent guitar playing and a mixture of the band's influences. A track like "Southern Armageddon" is exemplary of the band; Thrash, mostly Bay Area inspired, with Heavy Metal or NWOBHM melodic movements and an emphasis on lead guitar work and technical execution on all fronts. It's the best track on the release in my opinion. Bass playing and drumming is highlighted in the production perfectly allowing the standout playing of both drummer Evil Fist and bassist Bernie Marecos (to my knowledge) to be heard clearly. The album is a bit monotone and would succeed better with some variety in the melodies and tempos. One thing that I see with Evil Force that I really like is the relative seriousness of the lyrical content. There are no songs about pizza parties, skateboarding, high-top white shoes, or childish zombie attacks; once again in line with the original thrash bands of the early to mid 80's. Evil Force do no do much to truly find that original element musically, but for thrash fans, I can't see anyone really knocking this album at all and most likely the old school homage will be appreciated.  


(1) http://myaclais.blogspot.com/2013/06/santi-bernal-rawhide-corrosion.html (google translation)
Please email me if you are from Paraguay and are involved in any way with the metal scene there and would like to discuss your band, zine, label, etc. 

4 comments:

Unknown said...

Saludos desde Paraguay!!! Sería bueno que puedas facilitarme tu correo.

Orion M. said...

Email: orion_metalhead@hotmail.com

Can provide snail mail address privately.

Thanks for reading. Support!

Matías Cardozo Estigarribia said...

Hi Orion, greetings from Paraguay! Here you can find more info about paraguayan metal bands and their music: https://medium.com/@kururugrinder/now-paraguayan-metal-67ab21b90533

It's great to read this kind of stuff from people living in another countries!

Cheers!

Orion M. said...

Awesome Matias. Feel free to contact me via email. Will check out that site.