After listing just a handful of bands to have broken out of Portugal, including Moonspell and More Than A Thousand, The Voynich Code guitarist Vinnie Mallet admits that coming from a country without much metal tradition can be a challenge. However, he stresses that Portugal’s scene is in the ascendency, and his band are looking to take full advantage of it.
“In a country without much metal tradition, it’s easier to become leaders,” he explains. “If we were from the UK we’d be among lots of talented bands competing for a small space. A lot of fans think we’re the future for Portuguese metal. There’s a growing scene of fans here going to shows, buying shitloads of CDs and merch and bugging US bands to take us on tour.”
The enthusiasm Vinnie and vocalist Nelson Rebelo have for their fans and scene is only matched by their enthusiasm for their debut album, Aqua Vitae. After the punchy deathcore on 2015’s Ignotum EP, they’ve expanded their sound, beefing things up with their love of old-school death metal riffs while venturing into technical and progressive reaches, not least with the addition of dizzying keyboard histrionics. And while the likes of Flight 19’s frenzied grooves or the nightmarish jolts of Born To Suffer were agonisingly pieced together over nearly two years, Nelson was exorcising some personal demons.
“Almost every track is inspired by a bad place. I suffered from a really tough depression last year. I got through it and now I’m stronger,” he says proudly. “That’s the message I want to cover on this album, that there’s always hope. I didn’t want the album to sound depressing, so I created stories around the topics I wanted to talk about, which were the phases I went through.”
It’s a message and musical expression that has already been felt beyond the Iberian Peninsula. Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red enjoyed the EP’s breakdowns down the gym, and now appears on the album, along with American vocalist Andrew Patterson and Brazilian shredder Ed Garcia. With Jake’s patronage, advice and friendship in tow, it’s already put The Voynich Code on a good footing. As Vinnie concludes, “You have to have good music, but a little bit of luck, too.”
Aqua Vitae is out now via Primordial