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Oh my dear Lord, they have tits!!


Album Review: NERVOSA Agony

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Oh my dear Lord, they have tits!! Sometimes, the juvenility of the metal scene and how easily bangers get swayed by the simplest things really makes me laugh. Throw a few penis-less players on stage, disguise a bunch of people in hoods, masks and panda make-up, or give someone a pseudonym and watch the denim-and-leather set swarm to the source like flies to an overflowing port-a-potty cooking in the Wacken sunshine. Granted, back in the early 80s, I was intrigued to the point of borderline obsession with three gentlemen named Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon and their musical output – the mystery of who they were, from whence they came, did they really perform Satanic rituals, did they really have the ability to conjure up a battle between heaven and hell and were they regularly fucking their matronly school teacher after class? I was also between the ages of 9-12 when Venom was at the height of its power, so excuse me for having stars in my eyes, being more than a little on the dumb side and not having the internet to look up every tidbit of debatable information.

At the same time, and at present, I’m a red-blooded heterosexual male and a human being with functional eyes with an understanding of the world of metal. I’d be denying the obvious by ignoring that there are attractive women comprising the line-up of this Brazilian thrash trio, and that all-ovary metal bands still aren’t something you see every day. But to give São Paulo’s Nervosa a glowing pass or crushing fail on the presumption that bassist/vocalist Fernanda Lira, guitarist Prika Amaral and drummer Pitchu Ferraz don’t have foreskins and beards is just dumb. Do people sing automatic praises (or do the opposite) because a band is all-male? Does equality mean you take any praise and criticism directed at you with your big boy undies/big girl panties pulled up? Does anybody think the battle of sexes and the gender gap is going to be resolved via a review of a thrash band on a metal website? Does anyone know what the hell I’m talking about? Can someone stop me before I put my foot in my mouth, assuming it’s not already in there up to the ankle?

So, while somebody somewhere is taking to Facebook to complain about some part of the above paragraph, Nervosa has placed its second album in the starting blocks and for your consideration. At first glance, when held up to the band’s 2014 Victim of Yourself debut, the double whammy of live/touring experience and growing as a band has had nothing but positive impact. This has lead to a noticeable improvement in just about every aspect; the sound is superior, the songs are better, the arrangements more economical, the performances are noticeably more skilled and all this has taken the band’s mixture of German and Brazilian thrash to greater heights. Lira’s vocal delivery is ferocious, sounding like she’s dining on a gumbo of Mille Petrozza, Schmier and Dave Mustaine’s vocal chords.

The clarity of her delivery combined with the accented English provides a snaggle-toothed charm that hearkens back to the early works of Kreator and Max-era Sepultura. With the guitars being more incisive and singeing on “Theory of Conspiracy” and “Surrounded by Serpents” and the straight-ahead stomp of “Deception” being more rhythmically in-tune with the genre’s simpler, go-for-the-gut days, Agony presents as a rawer collection of heads-down, nails across the chalkboard thrash with a definite pattern as far as song writing and arrangement is concerned. Paradoxically, herein lies the album’s biggest strength and weakness: the samey-ness that gives the album its sense of self and has the ladies pulling their power from a specific bag of tricks also creates a dynamic lack. The linearity which delivers that cracking musical haymaker also aches under its own homogeneity, sometimes getting too direct and not offering enough zigging and zagging. This makes for a listen that’s more Violator as opposed to Sepultura (and yes, I’m pandering to Nervosa’s geographical roots, bloody as they may be!). What I mean is that Agony is a no frills thrash album that thrashes hard and thrashes well; much like Violator. However, if you're one those on the constant hunt for something different in the fields of nuance, texture and dynamics beyond a boot to the solar plexus, like Sepultura before they lost the plot, you won’t find a lot of that here.

That’s not to say that a certain amount of one-dimensionality doesn’t work and isn’t enjoyable in this context. It’s powerful riffy thrash done well and if you can’t find merit in powerful riffy thrash done well, you’re probably also a grump who hates Big Bird just because he’s a big bird. What eventually stands out about Agony is how the choruses are often the strongest part of the songs, simply because of Lira’s pistol-whipping phrasing and those being the spots where the songs are allowed to breathe, even if it’s just a vocal refrain amid a continuing flurry of pedalling and galloping. Check out her vocal inflections on “Intolerance Means War” and “Hypocrisy” to see this in action. And if someone can tell me what the hell is going on with closing, bonus track “Wayfarer” and its bluesy jammola references, Joplin-esque vocals and a capella outro and whether it’s a cover or just a hint at the diversity that could have been more broadly incorporated into the meat of the album, that’d be greatly appreciated.

Score: 7/10


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