All Around The World: Our Far-Out Trip To Far-Flung Prog

Portuguese guitarist Narciso Monteiro reveals why the trio will get under your skin with their Flesh EP.

If you’re searching for a spot of prog on your next holiday to Portugal, you might not find a lot going on in Porto – unless you happen upon Heylel.

“There are lots of garage bands but not many rock ones. Rock in Portugal is not in a very good shape,” says Heylel’s Narciso Monteiro.

But that hasn’t deterred him from creating something quite out of the ordinary on his native turf. Heylel formed in 2012, taking their name from the Hebrew word meaning ‘Bringer of Light’.

“Light is a sign of knowledge and evolution – that’s why we chose the name,” Monteiro explains, stressing that it has nothing to do with the other connotation – that of Satan.

Monteiro met drummer Filipe Braga when he was young and their friendship blossomed. After 20 years of playing together in bands, Monteiro suggested starting a prog outfit and poached singer Ana Batista to complete the trio.

“When I had my previous band, the blues band, Ana sang in the choir and I really liked her voice. It had a sweetness to it that would be perfect for Heylel.”

The first fruit of their work was Nebulae, a symphonic slice of prog rock featuring the soaring and sometimes haunting vocals of Batista, reminiscent of the sultry intensity of Panic Room. A year later, the band released the follow-up, the Flesh EP.

“Sometimes I’m too creative,” states Monteiro. “I write a lot of songs at the same time so I could easily release an album each year.”

Effectively taking the best bits from Nebulae, Flesh follows a slightly different course, creating a patchwork of slow-rocking motifs with some unexpected, dramatic turns.

Denial is a weird song – it came out of nowhere. Originally I was going to sing but I don’t sing very well so I invited Paulo Rodrigues, who has a very powerful voice.” The outcome is a sharp tidal wave of a track that’s tempered by the semi-acoustic tribute to classic rock.

Having their own studios has helped Heylel achieve their creative ambitions, but the next step is to take the band on the road. “If everything works out, we’ll be playing Europe very soon.”

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Holly Wright

With over 10 years’ experience writing for Metal Hammer and Prog, Holly has reviewed and interviewed a wealth of progressively-inclined noise mongers from around the world. A fearless voyager to the far sides of metal Holly loves nothing more than to check out London’s gig scene, from power to folk and a lot in between. When she’s not rocking out Holly enjoys being a mum to her daughter Violet and working as a high-flying marketer in the Big Smoke.