Portuguese Potential Part I
Obscenus, Vertebra and Nympha
University of Porto (Engineering), Portugal, September 27, 1997

by: Pedro Azevedo
Watching a good underground metal concert (or any metal concert for that matter) at the very same University you attend every day is something that just doesn't happen too often. In fact, it never happened to me before. Yet life is full of surprises, and a few of them are actually good ones -- so, after a two hour delay, three young and promising unsigned Portuguese bands took over the improvised stage.

The first band, Nympha (whose rehearsal tape I reviewed in CoC #20), deserved better luck. The sound problems that caused the keyboards and vocals to sometimes disappear really weren't their fault, but even that failed to ruin their performance. The small audience realized that and reacted accordingly at the end of each song. Nympha singer Liliana Barros was the last member of the band to enter the stage; she used a torch to light some other torches scattered around the stage while dancing to a keyboard intro. Later, she also played with some flowers that were laying around the stage (she had flowers drawn up her neck and arms as well), which ended up causing a rather funny scene I'll mention later. Initially, she got all of the spotlight since she also bears a curious resemblance to Anneke Van Giersbergen of The Gathering, a resemblance that goes beyond the vocals -- her hair color is similar, and they definitely have something in common about the way they move, dance, and sing with a peculiar smile. But enough of that. The fact is that she's a really good singer, and her live performance didn't disappoint me at all. The drumming was remarkable as well, with very frequent breaks and double-bass -- and dynamic, skilled drummers are something I find highly valuable to any band, especially a slow doom band (not that Nympha can really be rated as slow, but they're still slower than the average non-doom band). The rest of the band did their job very well too, and I felt their set was too short. I really like this band and believe they may have a good future ahead.

The next band was Vertebra. I had never listened to them before; all I knew was that they're a death metal band. I was surprised to see the great show they put on -- very tight and powerful playing, good rhythmic work, very deep vocals, and outstanding drumming. Clearly a more seasoned band than the others, they were very confident and everything seemed to come out really well. At one time, the vocalist jumped behind the drums and teamed up with the drummer -- while some bands seem to have four-armed drummers, this was literally four-armed drumming... The funny scene I mentioned before, about the flowers, happened in the end of one song: the drummer got up, picked up a flower left behind by Nympha, and daintily threw it at the vocalist (remember he's a grunter), causing major laughs in the audience. As their set ended, I was again left wanting more.

Finally, Obscenus. They are a (read this carefully) eight-piece (!) band: vocals, two guitars, bass, drums, keyboard, violin and backing female vocals, although these last two only show up occasionally. They had trouble putting it all together, as the violinist and female vocalist missed their first appearances, but they eventually managed to create quite a varied and interesting sound which ranged from death to black metal to some slower spoken passages. Again, the drummer was very good (all three of them were very good, in fact), and this band really seems to know exactly what they want and how to get it -- I most certainly don't doubt that they'll get signed very soon (they probably already have been by the time you're reading this). Towards the end of their set, everything was in place, including the violins and femme vox, and it all was very enjoyable and varied. Considering the relatively short sets played by Nympha and Vertebra, I expected Obscenus to play for a long while; however, while they did play longer than the other bands, it still was a bit short. No matter what, this turned out to be quite a memorable night for me.

(article submitted 17/11/1997)

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