Guitarist Priscila dos Santos “Prika” Amaral formed the thrash band Nervosa with bassist and vocalist Fernanda Lira and drummer Fernanda Terra in 2010. By the time they recorded their first album, 2014’s Victim of Yourself, Terra was gone, replaced by Pitchu Ferraz, who remained in place on 2016’s Agony. For 2018’s Downfall of Mankind, Luana Dametto tagged in.

Brazil has its own particular style of extreme metal, punky and primitive. Early Sepultura set the paradigm in many ways, and helped put the country on the metal map, but other bands like Sarcófago, Mutilator, and Ratos de Porão also made important contributions. Despite being from Belo Horizonte, the home of Sepultura, Sarcófago and Mutilator, Nervosa went down a very different path. Their music was a precise, muscular style of thrash with jackhammer drums, plenty of fierce guitar shredding, and hoarse, screeching vocals. On Victim of Yourself, they almost sounded like clones of Germany’s Destruction.

On their second and third albums, Nervosa continued to evolve their style. Songs on Agony like “Arrogance,” “Theory of Conspiracy,” and “Failed System” were if possible even faster than before. Downfall of Mankind had a thicker, more low-end-fixated sound, and some songs were even built around death metal blast beats. Amaral and Lira were a great team; a new Nervosa album was an event to look forward to. But somewhere along the line, it all fell apart.

In January of this year, Nervosa released Perpetual Chaos. It’s a really good record, but it’s the product of an entirely new lineup. Amaral is the last original member left, now joined by bassist Mia Wallace of former Immortal frontman Abbath‘s solo band, drummer Eleni Nota, and vocalist Rocío “Diva Satanica” Vázquez of the Spanish band Bloodhunter. Where Lira’s high-pitched, raw-throated shrieking sounded shockingly similar to Destruction‘s Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer (who actually shows up here, delivering guest vocals on “Genocidal Command”), Vázquez has a lower, harsher delivery that recalls former Arch Enemy singer Angela Gossow. This fits with the new songs, which are often slower and more fist-in-the-air than their previous material; the title track seems designed to get an audience chanting along with its chorus. Too bad they put it out in the Year Of No Live Music.

Meanwhile, Lara and Dametto have formed a new project, Crypta. The lineup also includes guitarists Tainá Bergamaschi and Sonia “Anubis” Nusselder, and their debut album, Echoes of the Soul, was released last week.

It’s immediately obvious that Crypta are not a thrash metal band — they are a death metal band. Echoes of the Soul begins with the 56-second “Awakening,” a creepy synth-and-dungeon-sound-effects intro straight out of a video game or an ’80s retro horror movie. And the first song, “Starvation,” is a ripping, blast-beats-and-shredding-guitars explosion. Lira’s shrieks are as powerful as ever, though occasionally a little more guttural than before, and Dametto’s drumming is as tight and precise as any old-school titan (Gene Hoglan, Pete Sandoval) you could name. The presence of two guitars beefs up the sound and allows for high-flying solos, including some excellent tradeoffs, and dual lead action in the vein of Judas Priest or Iron Maiden when the moment calls for it.

These are not catchy songs in the melodic death metal sense; there are no fist-pumping, shout-along choruses. Instead, one headbanging riff after another, tempo changes that feel organic and earned, and powerful crescendos when it’s guitar solo time. “Death Arcana” has the blasting energy of early Deicide, with Dametto driving the whole thing from behind the kit as Nusselder and Bergamaschi grind up the pavement like a speeding tank. “Shadow Within” might be the most melodic song on the record. It begins with clean guitar melodies shadowed by barely perceptible keyboards, before a fuzzed-out, almost Entombed-ish riff kicks in over thunderous drums, and Lira emits a genuinely impressive scream. The chorus owes a lot to The Black Dahlia Murder, which isn’t a bad thing at all, and the twin guitar solos are suitably face-melting. Despite being the shortest song on the album, “Under the Black Wings” might be the most ambitious, chugging along in an ominously low gear like Morbid Angel‘s “Where the Slime Live” before breaking into a near-punk sprint at the halfway mark.

It’s a shame Nervosa imploded; their first three albums were some of the best 21st century thrash around. Even the new album is good. Amaral’s continuing to use the name may put some fans off, but it shouldn’t; Motörhead was Lemmy and whoever Lemmy brought in, and there are exactly zero founding members of Napalm Death in that band at this point. And Crypta have made an extremely strong debut; it would be great to get three or four more albums out of them.

—Phil Freeman

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