Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, has given birth to some of Brazil’s best known metal bands like Sepultura and Sarcófago. André Damien (vocals, guitar), O. Mortis (vocals), Robert Aender (bass), SJ Bernardo (drums) and Guilherme de Alvarenga (vocals, keyboard) bring to life another heavy metal band from BH, Paradise in Flames, naming themselves part of the subgenre “horror metal”, an amalgama of blackened death and symphonic metal with a touch of prog to make it all connect beautifully.
With a discography dating back to their first studio album “Homo Morbus Est” from 2006, which followed a couple of demos and an EP, Paradise in Flames’ latest release “Act One” brings a new sound to the stage. Impeccably produced and mastered, it showcases an interesting and beautiful collection of songs with three different vocalists impersonating different states of mind and emotions making the interpretations rich and expressive. The wall of sound created by the band complete with blast beats makes for a riveting combination drawing the listener into the musical experience.
Chaoszine had the opportunity to talk to André Damien, Paradise in Flames’ founding member and singer/guitarist, about their latest release, their upcoming European tour, and how the pandemic affected them.
Hello and thank you for talking to Chaoszine. How did the pandemic affect your band?
Damien: Hi, thank you for the interest in talking to us. The pandemic was a motor force for us in terms of creating new things, musically. When it hit, we had just released “Devil’s Collection”, our third album, in late 2019. We played the first concert on that tour in Salvador in February 2020, and we already had about 25 tour dates scheduled in Europe. So we cancelled the tour and decided to make a new album, we didn’t want to stop making music. We had three or four songs already, and we set the goal to release a new album by November 2021. So throughout 2020 we made music videos of songs from “Devil’s Collection” as we also worked on the next album. And in a time like this, we cut from our lives everything that was not really our goal and we made sure not to leave the band aside. So this was our most productive period yet: releasing two albums, six singles, six music videos, and two live online concerts. There was a positive side to this whole situation for the band, it kept our dream alive as we worked hard on our music. And we are already working on a new EP with six tracks, we have a single ready… but we will wait a little more to release it, we just released “Act One” last November! So I think the pandemic kind of levelled all musicians: we must all stay at home and are not able to play gigs. All of us, some with more money than others, are in the same situation, and the way to access our audience is through the internet. Maybe the bigger bands can take a break, but for the smaller bands it’s an opportunity to get the word out and be noticed.
Paradise in Flames was founded in 2002, and we can hear a clear change in your sound since the earlier releases. How did it all begin for you, and how did your sound change over all these years?
Damien: The band was created in the end of 2002, and the original idea was to make a more symphonic metal sound. But the scene here in Belo Horizonte was all directed towards death metal at the time so we had difficulty finding musicians for our project. So Wesley Adrian, our first drummer, and I made a demo to try and show other musicians what our idea was. At the time the underground scene was busy, and all the best musicians were already taken! So this demo made it easier to get our idea through to people. Wesley played drums, I played keyboards, guitar and bass and did the vocals, and my vocal coach at the time did all the lyrical singing parts. We managed to get seven band members: it didn’t really work out, there were too many of us, and eventually we shrunk it down to four. We had to change our sound to a death thrash mixed with some black metal with no keyboards, because we couldn’t find a good keyboard player. We toured a lot at the time, and it was really hard, sometimes the conditions were really rough. So some band members quit until I was left alone. We decided to stop in 2013, and we didn’t return until 2018 when I reunited with Wesley, our first drummer, and by then I already had my own studio so we recorded a new single. We had a gig at the time here in Belo Horizonte, and it worked out, we enjoyed it, we even made a music video of this single we released. We started rehearsing a lot, writing more music, and we returned as a band. Nowadays we are more professional, we do everything to make our concerts with the best technical quality, no matter how many people are watching us in the audience. This way we were able to make a comeback with the quality we wanted to have from the beginning.
What bands and artists are your main influences?
Damien: There are five of us, and I can tell you our influences are very different. Each of us like something, and all these influences show through in our sound as a mix of different things. Our keyboard player, for instance, loves Children of Bodom. Our bass player is more into death metal, and I am more of a black metal style. I love Satyricon, Behemoth, Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir. Our drummer is also really into death metal. So I think this difference is healthy.
Yes, that’s true. On your new album I heard blackened death metal, then some operatic female vocals, and thought, oh, it’s symphonic, then parts of it are more progressive: there are a lot of different elements, which make up your sound, which makes it fresh and interesting to listen to.
Damien: Yeah. The other day we were recording a song and I asked our drummer to do a rock n’ roll beat in part of the song, and he questioned doing that in the middle of a black metal song. But we went ahead and did it!
How do you write your music and lyrics? Does everyone in the band participate?
Damien: The pandemic has changed our way of writing music. Before someone would show up at rehearsal with a musical idea, and then we would all pitch in with suggestions, make changes to the arrangement, then the drums… But now, for instance, the song “The Sinner” on “Act One”, it was practically ready but it had no lyrics. So I told our keyboard player that I had the idea the song should be about a psychopath who ends up losing his mind altogether, but I knew the idea should be resolved in another song. So it expanded to a second song: and we had a concept forming right there. And the last thing we did for these songs were the drums. The fact that we have our own studio makes it easier for us to demo the song throughout the creative period, more than once if needed. Before all the songs were written mostly by me. But I prefer to work with everyone, this collaborative process is amazing.
Besides music, what else inspires you?
Damien: For me, besides the news we watch every day because they do affect us and make an impression, it’s mostly movies and TV series. For instance, “The Sinner” is inspired by a TV series by the same title, although the story of the show didn’t directly influence the song. “The Way to the Pentagram” was inspired by the TV show “Dark”. And some horror movies also inspire me. This way we decided to call ourselves a horror metal band so we don’t have to label ourselves blackened death symphonic metal or some other thing… This way there is no limit to where our sound can go.
How has the reception been to your music so far?
Damien: Before we always had people liking our music, but sometimes we had some bad criticism coming our way: “I like this but not that” kind of thing. But this latest album, “Act One”, was met with critical acclaim, besides all the positive feedback we’ve had from our audience. Even some people that are not into metal are enjoying some of the tracks.
“Act One” was mastered by Ted Jensen, Grammy award winner, who worked with lots of important artists including Behemoth, Megadeth, Trivium, Metallica to name but a few. How did that go?
Damien: It was great. For the previous album we recorded everything here, in our professional studio, and the mastering was done by Tue Madsen, who has many Grammy nominations and also worked with great bands like Meshuggah, Behemoth and Moonspell. But for some reason it wasn’t a perfect fit. So for the next one I thought I would master it myself. But I didn’t like the result of that and we decided to work with Ted Jensen. Originally, he was going to master just one song “Learn from Mistakes”, but the result of that one was so good that we decided to go for it with the whole album. Besides being a world renowned professional and award winner, he is humble and amazing to work with, even accepting some notes we had on a couple songs, reworking them and making them even better. We felt like he really respected us even though we are a small band. Truly amazing professional.
You have a European tour coming soon with Batushka and Diabolical, among other bands, and you will go to quite a few countries over the course of a few weeks in April 2022. What are your expectations, especially regarding the situation of the pandemic?
Damien: Our manager, until the end of December, told us not to issue any plane tickets yet, because maybe the tour could be cancelled. All the tours of Europe in January and February were cancelled. But we hope that until April the situation changes, because European countries have already started lockdowns, mandatory vaccinations, and other measures. So if it doesn’t happen then, it might be postponed. We think that it might make the audiences smaller, and the constant testing between countries, we might have someone who tests positive after coming into contact with someone infected, and that could break the tour for us. Here in Brazil we have concerts scheduled until February. In March we have time off because no one can get infected for the tour that will happen in April. We are taking no chances!
What other Brazilian bands do you listen to? Any suggestions for our readers?
Damien: I listen to the bands who record here in the studio because I have to! Not just because of that, they are very good. Old Audrey’s Funeral, a new heavy metal band. Morbid Prophecy with a style closer to our own, and the more established bands like Eminence, The Troops of Doom, The Mist who just released their latest album. I have been listening to The Mist since I was a kid and I used to think they were a foreign band, imagine, they are from right here in Belo Horizonte. And today they are friends with us, how cool is that?
What about the rock and metal club scene out there in Belo Horizonte? How has it been, and how has the pandemic affected it?
Damien: Stonehenge and Matriz, two important clubs out here, have already closed, but other clubs are still alive and thriving like Mister Rock, where Belphegor will soon play alongside Crypta, Krisiun and NervoChaos. This is a cool club because it is managed by someone who has a band and knows how important it is for the scene that a place like that keeps going. He knows his audience, and of course he needs profits, but there is also the dream that is kept alive. And now there are some new clubs opening with the reopening of nightlife after the worst of the pandemic.
Thank you again for talking to us.
Damien: Thank you!