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Brazilian trio Nervosa exploded into the mainstream metal consciousness with its self-distributed "2012" demo/EP, of which the YouTube success of the single 'Masked Betrayer' was instrumental in the band signing with Austrian label Napalm Records. The cooperation gave birth to the trio's highly publicized debut “Victim Of Yourself”. The band’s 2014 debut was the transitional effort between its early Fernanda Terra era, who contributed to the song arrangements for that session. “Agony” is the first album to feature input from drummer Pitchu Ferraz. Nervosa has been able to cement its position as one of the elite practitioners of the retro-thrash metal movement, but has yet to show any distinct character of its own.

“Agony” is not so much an evolution from as it is a continuation of “Victim Of Yourself”. All songs are cut largely from the same cloth as the debut, only Lira’s vocals sound much deeper and serpentine. ‘Deception’ has semi-growled backing vocals by Prika Amaral. Amaral has improved as a lead guitarist as song as ‘Failed System’ attest to. ‘Surrounded By Serpents’ is the most ambitious track of the album, in itself a lone highlight in a morass of similar sounding cuts. ‘CyberWar’ is a re-tread of ‘Masked Betrayer’ using a set of nearly identical riffs, vocal cadences and drumming patterns. ‘Hypocrisy’ starts out in a more death metal direction, but quickly regresses to typical Nervosa fodder. “Agony” conclusively proves that Fernanda Terra, who co-wrote the "Victim Of Yourself" album but was ousted prior to the studio recordings, was the superior drummer. Ferraz’ playing is low on captivating fills, rolls and interesting footwork.

Drawing inspiration primarily from the classic Bay Area and Teutonic thrash metal institutions Nervosa is in no rush to carve out an identity of its own. Only on the limited edition bonus track ‘Wayfarer’ do the girls show variation in their songcraft. Fernanda Lira is not only a commendable singer, but her plucking Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) styled bass playing is often hardly given space to breath due to Amaral’s concrete riffing. Pitchu Ferraz is of the Bill Andrews (ex-Death, Massacre) school of drumming – and while she potentially has more tricks up her sleeve, they are not allowed to flourish here. Nervosa could produce some incredibly intense music if Lira and Ferraz were allowed more muscle in the compositions. “Agony” is testament to Amaral’s laser-vision of thrash metal, but none of its translates in memorable songs. The album is visceral, concrete, and devastating upon initial discovery, but “Victim Of Yourself” had more substance.

Amaral’s insistence on a single guitar setup is what limits the trio’s songwriting. Unlike Krisiun, Nervosa is adamant in writing guitar lines that can be recreated in the live environment. If there’s one thing that Nervosa would benefit from, it would be a second guitarist, either in the studio or live. While each member has grown in leaps and bounds since “Victim Of Yourself” there’s no notable evolution to be found on “Agony”. Each of the tracks is leaner, more streamlined and tightly composed in comparison to the debut album, on which tracks tended to wander. Alas, Nervosa has made no significant progress as songwriters, which is a pity. “Agony” is more of the same, but not necessarily better despite the improved production values and performances.

The runaway success from “Victim Of Yourself” allowed the girls some considerable industry leverage for their second record. For this session Nervosa was allowed to record outside of its native Brazil, and they opted to cut the record in America. The drums were recorded at The Foundation Studio in Ashland, Oregon with Sylvia Massy producing. Vocals, lead/rhythm guitar and bass guitar were recorded at Norcal Studios in Davis, California with 2 time Grammy nominated engineer Brendan Duffey producing. The artwork was rendered by British graphic designer Godmachine. An Ed Repka canvas seems inevitable for the girls' third effort.

In all “Agony” remains on the same creative plateau as “Victim Of Yourself”. Nervosa is content being a mere of its parts, and to not disturb the waters too much. At some point they want to start carving out their own sound. It remains to be seen how long they can keep churning out similar sounding albums. Those hoping to see Nervosa make a similar growth as Sepultura did on its early albums will be left on their hunger. Despite the lack of any significant progress “Agony” stands head and shoulders above the great majority of the retro thrash metal revival movement. Nervosa doesn’t profess to be anything that it’s not, and that is its biggest strength.

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The return of Brazilian death metal hopefuls Rebaelliun was unexpected, but understandable considering how they fizzled out in wake two strong albums, and a highly proficient membership that was willing to go great lengths to succeed. “The Hell’s Decrees”, a name directly lifted from a song of its 1999 debut “Burn the Promised Land”, sees the return of the quartet after a 15-year layoff. The follow-up to 2001’s “Annihilation” is the logical evolution from its debut, and adds a degree of sophistication to its otherwise typically blistering South American assault.

Prior to forming Rebaelliun, Fabiano, Penna Correa and Lima were part of local force Blessed. During the plus decade that Rebaelliun was inactive, Fabiano Penna Correa (lead guitar) released two albums with The Ordher, and Sandro Moreira (drums) released albums with Mental Horror and, more recently, Exterminate. Sensing some unfinished business in the past the men eventually reconciled and set to record “The Hell’s Decrees”. Despite a 15-year break in between albums “The Hell’s Decrees” has all the confidence, flow and sense of unity sounding as if Rebaelliun never split in the first place.

Opening cut ‘Affronting the Gods’ has a closing solo that bears some striking resemblance to those in ‘Triumph Of the Unholy Ones’ from “Burn the Promised Land”. ‘Legion’ sounds more Morbid Angel than Morbid Angel does itself these days. ‘The Path of the Wolf’ comes the closest to “Annihilation”. ‘Fire and Brimstone’ could have been a song of “Weaponize” or “Kill the Betrayers”, the two albums from Penna Correa’s post-Rebaelliun project The Ordher. The short burst riffing in ‘Rebaelliun’ recalls ‘Kings Of the Unholy Blood’ from the “Bringer Of War” EP. ‘Dawn Of Mayhem’ bears some slight resemblance to local force Exterminate. ‘Crush the Cross’ the retakes the closing section of “Burn the Promised Land” song ‘Hell’s Decree’. Closing track ‘Anarchy (The Hell’s Decrees Manifesto)’ references a drum pattern from ‘Hell’s Decree’ from “Burn the Promised Land” in its first minute and during the final solo the lead from ‘…And the Immortals Shall Rise’ of its 1999 debut is referenced.

A good portion of the riffing and chord progressions during the slower sections on “The Hell’s Decrees” are reminiscent of The Ordher more than any of Rebaelliun’s earlier work. It’s only natural that Penna Correa’s and Lima’s riff construction would change in the 15-year layoff in between the second and this much protracted third album. For all intents and purposes Sandro Moreira is a more accomplished percussionist than Max Kolesne (Krisiun) or Ariadne Souza (from the greatly underrated Valhalla). Slayer and, to a lesser degree, prime era Morbid Angel remain Rebaelliun’s main influences. The Morbid Angel influence can be heard in the trudging midpaced opening to ‘Legion’. Since “Annihilation” Rebaelliun has shed most of its melodic inclinations and overt Krisiun imitation. “The Hell’s Decrees” is the first Rebaelliun album to be its own distinct entity. Lohy Fabiano’s belched, low register vocals are closer to those of Marcello Marzari on the debut.

“The Hell’s Decrees” isn’t necessarily higher-paced than any of the band’s prior work, but in writing it lies closer to “Burn the Promised Land” than to “Annihilation”. Isolated passages of songs are reminiscent of the “Bringer Of War” stopgap EP that separated both albums. One of the greatest flaws of “Annihilation”, in terms of writing, was that it pushed the band’s sound to its logical extreme. Unlike “Annihilation” this third album isn’t primarily fast, inhuman speed is no longer its primary objective. “The Hell’s Decrees” embraces the same songwriting breadth that characterized its debut. In being more deliberately paced “The Hell’s Decrees” sidesteps the architectural shortcoming of its 2001 album. At this juncture Rebaelliun is more artistically relevant than populist institution Krisiun.

For the third Rebaelliun much of the production was kept in-house. The vocals were recorded at Blue House Studios. The guitars and bass guitar were recorded at El Diablo Studio with Fabiano Penna Correa producing, whereas the drums were recorded at A Torre Studios. “The Hell’s Decrees” was mastered at Absolute Mastering by Neto Grous. “The Hell’s Decrees” combines the crunch of the “Bringer Of War” EP with the instrumental clarity of “Annihilation”. It is tonally closer, but ultimately superior, to the Exterminate album “Burn Illusion” – especially in its organic drum tones. The only criticism that could be levelled at it is that it, despite its obvious auditory sheen and gloss, misses some of the concrete heft and body of “Burn Of the Promised Land”

In keeping with modern conventions Rebaelliun allocated artwork by fellow Brazilian Marcelo Vasco, who over the last few years has done high-profile work for Belphegor, Dark Funeral, Horncrowned, and more recently, Slayer. Instead retaining continuity with its prior album and hiring Polish artist Jacek Wiśniewski again the band opted, understandably, to make “The Hell’s Decrees” its own distinct entity. Even though the album is littered with subtle, and not so subtle, references to past efforts – it clearly has a character all its own: rugged, flawlessly paced and singular in its objective of masterfully crafted songs. No longer Rebaelliun can be accused of being a Krisiun clone.

As far as these reunions go Rebaelliun comes out of mostly unscathed and with their integrity intact. That they aren’t the same band as 15 years ago seems only logical, and the influence of Penna Correa can be construed as beneficial or detrimental, depending on your preference of his post-Rebaelliun projects. The visual and production aspect of “The Hell’s Decrees” is contemporary but not overbearingly so. There’s an analog warmth and grittiness to “The Hell’s Decrees” that many modern genre albums lack. As such its closer linked to “Burn the Promised Land” than any of its later output. The record doesn’t aim to reinvent the genre, but puts it traditional aesthetics into a modern framework. South American death metal fans can’t go wrong with this.