Nervosa – Perpetual Chaos Review

While at one point it certainly seemed like Nervosa would become another bullet point in a long list of last year’s disasters, the Brazilian thrashers successfully survived 2020. They came out of it wounded like most of the world, sure, but still alive and kicking. If anything, the loss of the rest of her band (bassist and vocalist Fernanda Lira and drummer Luana Dametto) due to cryptic “personal reasons” seems to have viciously reinvigorated the group’s founder and frontwoman Prika Amaral. Now armed with new musicians—no longer only Brazilian but brought together from all over the world—the unrelenting guitarist returns with a fourth full-length that’s as good or better than anything released under the Nervosa moniker so far.

As expected, there is no place nor space for atmosphere and careful stage-setting on a record such as Perpetual Chaos. Instead, the music hits straight and hard right from the onset, unleashing a couple of initial guitar licks capable of melting steel. Like a ten-ton hammer, “Venomous” rages and riffs into being, moshing frantically between modern thrash and death metal and attacking with vicious, murderous intent. In these first few minutes, and similarly, throughout the album, the sound is impactful and tight, the production is bombastic yet refined, and everything is performed with absolute precision. Ex-Abbath bassist Mia Wallace’s bass lines boom like underwater explosions, Eleni Nota’s drum hits chart a thunderous trail, and Amaral’s riffs roar and roar evoking early Iced Earth. Pushing through their thick instrumental blasts, Diva Satanica grunts with unholy conviction. The timbre of her voice often approaches pure death metal growls, only to morph into ragged howls akin to Exodus’ Paul Baloff or Tom Araya’s demented screams.

This is a deviously enticing sound; an aggressive sonic massage of sorts, equally reminiscent of German traditions in the vein of Kreator and American thrash-cum-death concoctions championed by Death Angel. Other than as idioms in the music, both German and American thrash also have a concrete presence on the record through guest spots by Destruction’s Marcel Schirmer on the blazing, Slayeresque “Genocidal Command” and Flotsam and Jetsam’s Eric A.K.’s on the brutal hymn “Rebel Soul.” Their contributions, along with interesting detours into quasi-doom during the first minute of “Guided by Evil” and the brooding mid-tempo scorcher “Perpetual Chaos,” push the style of the material outside of its own comfort zone. On the rest of the thirteen tracks, however, the level of musicianship and quality of songwriting is so polished and consistent that it verges on the formulaic. Songs built around simple choruses, revolving structures, and neat if predictable grooves.

While this approach brings up questions of the album’s longevity, the flip side is that it further underlines the rage and power and amplifies the inherent intensity and confidence that form the basis of Nervosa’s music. Because, much like for their countrymen Sepultura, there is an activist and political current that drives their work. While often on the nose, anticapitalist and eco-militant ideas are further emboldened by an unapologetic feminist momentum and appear as genuine manifestations. Watch any interview with Amaral and see her wear her heart on her sleeve as she speaks about the band’s struggles with getting accepted and taken seriously in a testosterone-dominated genre. This sentiment can be clearly heard in each riff, growl, and blast on Perpetual Chaos, but becomes especially obvious on “Rebel Soul” and “Pursued by Judgement,” cuts that deliver deadly, resounding “fuck yous” to all naysayers.

All this leads me to believe that in the case of Nervosa the “all-female thrash band” tag might not be just a marketing tactic, after all, but a truly important cornerstone of their identity. While devoid of some appealing rough edges and black metal dissonance and wildness that characterized their previous records, Perpetual Chaos is a welcome addition to what was already a very solid discography. Still, there is a feeling of untapped potential in this lineup, even considering how the group often sounds as if they were already playing together for years.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: January 22nd, 2021

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