Salvador, the capital city of Bahia state, is home to one of the newest and most interesting thrash metal bands out of Brazil: Síndrome K. Lula Souto (vocals and bass), Volfer Freire (guitar), and Pedro Hugo “Peu” (drums) form a power trio that brings us Portuguese-speaking metal filled with energy and density both in lyrics and sound. Their debut 12-track full-length effort “Aqui Se Paga” fuses modern and traditional thrash metal with aggressive and melodic tracks. The lyrics in their vernacular Portuguese come from the idea of making the style more democratic showcasing it to a greater audience and, thus, conveying their message in a clear manner.
Chaoszine had the opportunity to chat with Lula Souto about the band’s origins, sound and message.
Hello. Thank you for talking to Chaoszine. How’s it going for you guys, especially during the pandemic?
Souto: Thank you for interviewing us. Síndrome K was created during the pandemic. So for us as a band it was the beginning of everything.
So how did that happen?
Souto: We have known one another for a long time. Our drummer Peu and I had a band in the 1990s, we even opened for Viper here in Salvador back then, when they released “Coma Rage”. Our band released an album back then, we played gigs in some state capitals and also in smaller towns, all this back in the 90s, when it was difficult to record and release a metal album. But when that band broke up we kind of lost touch with one another. He got married, had kids, and so did I. But in 2016 he approached me and said he needed to start playing drums again for his sanity. And I told him I knew two guitar players. I myself had a band at the time, we played pop rock cover songs at pubs, and that is how I knew Volfer. So our initial project was to play cover songs of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, the Big Four. But we decided to go for Metallica and Megadeth only and called ourselves Thrashmakers. But I had to distance myself from Bahia for two and a half years because of work, and in late 2019 I told them I would be able to move back to Salvador. That is when we started this band with original songs.
You wrote and recorded your debut album “Aqui se paga” during the pandemic. How was the song writing process? And the lyrics, how did they come about?
Souto: In 2020 the process of writing our songs started, it was all done online: We would send riffs, drum parts and all the music to each other, and before we realized we had eight songs written and decided to record a full-length album. So, Peu, our official lyricist, wrote some lyrics, and by then we had 12 tracks ready to go. We demoed the songs when we were able to finally meet in person, and decided to record it for real, all remotely, because of the pandemic. Only the vocals were done in the studio, even the drums were recorded remotely. The whole recording process took us less than three months one of which was only for vocals.
And were all the vocals done by you?
Souto: Yes, except for the choir part in the song “Prataria Sacra”, which even features some of our friends from the studio. And I did all the main vocal parts, all the backing vocals, and we got through all that fairly quickly over the course of four weekends. The only song that was done outside that context was “Síndrome K”: it was the last one we wrote, and it was the only song which had no vocals on the demo. So the vocals on that song are different, a bit higher than the other songs, and the guys approved it! But yeah, it was all me. And we did not use any resources to double the vocals, I recorded everything myself.
The album art is really interesting. How was it created?
Souto: We had a concept, an idea for this whole karma thing. That if you do something in this lifetime, payback comes here and now. So we told that to the artist, Rômulo Dias, that we wanted the Tarot card of death, someone putting other people down, but all in a minimalist style with this scene: someone in a position of power pushing others down, like dominos, according to the law of cause and effect. The band logo was done by Marcelo Vasco, who is a well-known artist. He’s worked with Slayer and other bigger bands. Our video maker, Lucas Albuquerque, made an animation of the cover art for us, and it looked great. We took our inspiration from some Megadeth album covers, which bring a scene that has some impact, and makes you really reflect upon your actions in life.
What are your main musical influences? You’ve already mentioned the Big Four.
Souto: Yes, definitely the Big Four, also Pantera, Volfer is influenced by Symphony X, Peu is also influenced by Metallica and Megadeth. We are trying to make a type of sound akin to theirs: it has a greater reach and more accessible vocals.
Where did you get the band name?
Souto: We had no band name yet by the time we had ten songs written with lyrics and all. So Peu, who is a Second World War buff, found a video on YouTube about the K Syndrome, an invented disease that saved lives, and he brought the name to us. The story is about a disease invented in a hospital in Italy, Fatebenefratelli, where they invented a disease to save Jewish people they were protecting from the Nazis and Fascists. We made sure there were no other bands with the same name, and now we have copyrighted it. It was after that we wrote the song “Síndrome K”, Peu wrote the lyrics. Then we wrote the intro, which is like a march, like the soldiers going towards the hospital. It is not an album with a theme, or a definite concept, but these two first tracks are connected, and tell this story.
What are your influences besides music?
Souto: Peu, who writes the lyrics, searches through philosophy and sociology for inspiration. He also tries to bring positive messages although we are a thrash metal band. We try to bring these themes to the forefront. Psychology is also an inspiration, like in the song “Amnésia Assassina” (Murderer Amnesia).
What made you decide to write lyrics in Portuguese?
Souto: We talked about this a lot. There is prejudice around against metal bands writing songs in their native language. Usually, metal bands with lyrics in Portuguese focus on the use of curse words, and angry messages. But we didn’t want to do that, it’s already out there, nothing against it, but it’s been done before. We have aggressive lyrics but that comes through the message we bring. Our guitar player didn’t originally want songs in Portuguese but our drummer, who is also influenced by rap music, gave it a try, and brought us the lyrics for “Imersão”. We all loved it because it brings political themes. We also tried to bring the vocals to the forefront because sometimes thrash bands mix the vocals a bit into the background of the track with emphasis to the guitars. But we chose to make our message as clear as possible through our lyrics, and the use of Portuguese language helps that.
Speaking of that song you guys made a lyric video of “Imersão”… It is really interesting, it feels like a news show.
Souto: Yes. We really liked the way the lyrics came about, the metrics, the tone, the rhymes. Everything fell into place perfectly. It was a good choice in the end to sing in Portuguese. And the idea for the video, to make it look like a news show, was Peu’s.
What has been the reception to your music?
Souto: We have been very fortunate with this decision to write lyrics in Portuguese. The band has been out only since the release of the album, four months ago, and we have a growing audience. I think that it’s like 1% of our target audience has heard of us until now, and we can still grow it by another 99%. It’s all very new, and I do see this room for growth. Yesterday I got a spontaneous video from someone, it will be posted shortly on our social networks. Another band commented in one of our videos that we are the best metal band that sings in Portuguese language, and that for us is a great recognition, we are really grateful for that. The idea is to make thrash metal more widespread, especially here in Brazil.
What are your future plans? After the pandemic ends will you guys tour?
Souto: We are already talking to bands from other states, São Paulo, Minas, Rio, to play together, and have some gigs all over the country. We are also working on a new album, we already have new material. We actually prefer to release albums instead of singles or EPs. I remember being a kid and waiting for the releases, like when Metallica released the “Black Album”, then buying it, staring at the artwork, reading everything, even the special thanks! But before we release a new full-length we want to work on these songs, tour a bit, and, if possible, we would like to release a video for each track between lyric videos and traditional ones. We want to work all the songs, because we believe all our tracks are relevant. We are also participating in some online festivals. Bands have been supporting each other through a network of musicians. All united against the algorithms!
How is the scene for rock and metal out there in Salvador, especially during the pandemic?
Souto: Most of the clubs have closed indefinitely during the pandemic. So the way out is through band alliances like I mentioned.
The arts have been very affected by the pandemic so do you think there will be any governmental help for musicians?
Souto: We have heard of bands that got some governmental help during the pandemic, for livestreams, but we don’t know how it’s going to be from now on. We will all keep an eye out for that.
Thank you again for talking to Chaoszine. We wish you all the best for your future.
Souto: We thank you for the opportunity!
Check Síndrome K out on social media: