Assassinner: Band Of The Day

By on 21 April 2014

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Groove power from Portugal. That’s one way to describe Assassinner, a band consisting of veterans of the national heavy metal scene. With a sound reminiscent of  ’90s metal bands (think Sepultura from the ‘Chaos A.D.’ era, Machine Head or even Helmet), there is no quitting for these guys, they just keep fighting on. To know more about them and how they operate, we spoke with singer and bassist, Alexandre Santos…

WORDS: Jorge Miguel

WHO ARE THEY: Assassinner
WHERE ARE THEY FROM: Porto, Portugal
FOR FANS OF: Sepultura, Helmet, Machine Head
LATEST RELEASE: ‘When Love Left the Masquerade’
WEBSITES: Facebook

Assassinner has been active for quite some time, since May 2007, to be exact. However, you and Ary (guitarist and backing vocalist) played together before this project was created. Can you discuss that?
Alexandre: “Yes, in fact Ary and I have been playing together for a while… It would take me too long to tell you everything we’ve been through, but anyway, our partnership began over 22 years ago, with my first project, Morbid Minds, when we recorded a song at Rec’n’Roll studios in 1992, produced by Luís Barros. That was the beginning of a musical journey that is still going strong. After that, we decided to change the line-up and explore something more ambitious. That decision led to the creation of Crackdown, and we managed to achieve a prominent position in the Portuguese heavy metal scene. The second demo tape was voted best demo of the year 1999, and our work was finally recognized, with the band being invited to play at important venues in Portugal such as Coliseu do Porto or festivals like Paredes de Coura and Ilha do Ermal. We were constantly evolving and developing a taste for electronic music, which we added to our thrashcore sound. All these new elements were exhibited on ‘Purge’, our debut album. Shortly after the release of the album, we were forced to change the name of the band (which ended up being Strain), since it was already being used by an Italian group. The name change, however, only made us stronger. The project eventually did come to an end, though, due to personal incompatibility and an inability to move forward in a way that made everyone happy. After a long hiatus, during which Ary and I never stopped working together and focused on doing different things musically, we returned to the sound we grew up listening to. Now I look back on these past few years and think to myself that we that we really needed that break. We came back- better than ever- as Assassinner.

‘When Love Left the Masquerade’ is the name of your last record. Lyrically, is there any concept? If so, what is it?
A: “Yes, there is. The lyrics deal with a concept pioneered at the end of the nineteen century –  the sociology of knowledge, reinvented by Peter Berger, and establish a relationship between this concept and the imagery in the movie ‘Taxi Driver’. I think this is something people who enjoy exploring the dark side of things can relate to.”

The album was recorded at Ultrasound Studios in Braga, Portugal, just like your first EP entitled ‘Other Theories of Crime’. Why did you decide to use the same studio?
A: “We feel at home there. Pedro is a good musician and a great friend of ours who really managed to capture the essence of our art. For the first time in our career, we did a serious work of pre-production, mixing and mastering. We explored many different ideas, in rehearsals and in the studio, and I think that explains the significant improvement.”

‘When Love Left the Masquerade’ strikes the perfect balance between aggressiveness and slower, groove- laden songs. Do you feel you have found yourselves musically?
A: “Our evolution has been very natural. What I mean is, we are what we are and, at least in my opinion, we have developed a sound which stands out from the rest. When you listen to the album you immediately recognize our music, it doesn’t sound like any other Portuguese band. Even when you have to review several albums in a short period of time and you’re a bit tired, you still know what you are listening to. For better or for worse, we prefer to do things differently, to create our own identity.”

Your songs are never too complex, there seems to be a conscious effort to keep things simple. Is this done on purpose?
A: “Yes, we are objective, pragmatic and we always try to make each song unique, different from the last. I think you will agree with me if I tell you that after a few listens, you will be able to identify the songs with ease. In a way, this is what we long for at this point in our careers: maturity. We know what we can do with what we have and we are aware of our strengths and limitations.

After Raulzão left the band, you went through a sort of experimental period, trying out many different drummers before sticking with Miguel. Why did you choose him out of everyone else?
A: “Like you said, we went through an experimental period – one that delayed the album release, but in the end, it didn’t really matter because Miguel brought something to the table: mutual understanding.  He is not only talented, but has had similar experiences and, well, we share the same mentality as him… that’s why we get along so well.”

Not only are you veterans in the heavy metal scene, but some of you are married with children. Is it difficult to manage such a busy schedule? Do you still have time for your main passion- playing music?
A: “Well, I am the only one in the band who is not married (laughs), so I am going to answer this question from a single  guy’s perspective:  I have always defended that rock and roll and family life don’t mix well( laughs). However, we’ve been able to keep up with our workload… It’s like I always say- if we’re still here, that means the fire still burns.”

How do you look at the evolution of the music business? What has changed and what has remained the same?
A: “We have seen the business really change over the years. Heavier sounds have become socially acceptable, but the scene has also been the victim of trends, like every other business. In my opinion, though, the most positive change has been the opening of several great venues for bands to play at, as well as the fact that nowadays, it’s much easier for bands to buy instruments.”

Your music is heavily influenced by Sepultura. Since there is no language barrier, and that you got to play at the same festival in 2009, is a future collaboration possible?
A: “I agree that, in the beginning, we were very much influenced by Sepultura, but I feel we have kind of moved on from that period. I stopped following the band after ‘Roots’ and I haven’t listened to their new record yet.  Ary, on the other hand, is still a big fan and I’m sure he has a different opinion than me. There’s one thing we can all agree on: the door will always be open for both Andreas and Paulo. They are both nice and talented people whose curriculum speaks for itself.

What about a new album? What can you tell us about that?
A: “We have already started writing new songs. We don’t know when the album will come out though, we are taking things slow. One thing is for sure: the machine is alive and well!!”

About Kez Whelan

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