NERVOSA – A New Kind Of Chaos
November 16, 2023, 2 weeks ago
"This is the most important album in my life."
So says Prika Amaral, now front and center for the band she founded 13 years ago. She has always been the creative force behind the São Paulo-based thrash outfit, but their new record, Jailbreak, sees the band covering new ground with Amaral up front as lead vocalist. In terms of production and dynamics, some folks will gladly argue that Jailbreak is leaps and bounds ahead of their previous album, Perpetual Chaos (released in 2021), but the deciding factor in that debate is Amaral's performance. This is in no way a slight against previous singers Fernanda Lira (2011 - 2020) and Diva Satanica (2020 - 2022) - who certainly held their own and have gone on to other projects - but Amaral's vocal presence is the injection Nervosa needed to take them to the next level.
Amaral reveals the push for her to be Nervosa's vocalist has always been floating around, but not something she took seriously.
"I was always doing the backing vocals, and the first drummer of Nervosa (Fernanda Terra) - she founded the band with me - said I should be the singer. I always said no, I'm not a singer, I just know how to bark (laughs). I was a guitarist and all I wanted to do what play guitar, so I kept denying the idea of being a singer. It turned out she was right."
Amaral grudging acceptance of taking on vocals as well as guitar duties sounds reminiscent of the well-worn stories of both James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine becoming vocalists in Metallica and Megadeth respectively.
"It's a similar situation, yes," Amaral agrees, "but there wasn't really a problem of finding a new singer for Nervosa because I know lots of girls that would do really well fronting the band. But we've changed singers twice, and to change singers again for someone that will probably leave the band... it's hard being on the road, and I didn't want to take the risk. We also have two guitarists now, since Helena (Kotina) joined Nervosa right after the previous album, so I felt more comfortable to give singing a try. I'm the only original member of the band that's still here, and this is the way to keep the band more stable than we have been."
"It was also the natural thing to do," she continues. "When we released Perpetual Chaos, most of the media people wanted to talk with me because I was the main composer in the band and I know the band's history. So, even if I have singer, that singer will have less of a voice. I tried to push the singers to the front, so to say, but everyone wanted to talk to me. I decided to stop denying being a singer and gave it a try, and I have to say that I enjoy singing so much. I am feeling really comfortable."
Kotina, it turns out, was the final element that made Amaral decide to take on the vocalist mantle.
"The truth is I knew I could play guitar and sing, and some things would be difficult, of course, but I don't think that would be best for the band to stay as a three-piece. The best bands have two guitars, and I've wanted to have two guitars since the beginning, but it wasn't possible. The other factor is that I didn't believe in myself as a singer, I didn't see myself as a singer, so I forced myself into this position (laughs)."
Frequent comparisons to former Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow may sound like cliché lip service, but it hits a positive nerve with Amaral.
"That's the biggest compliment I could get because I am a big fan of Angela's," says Amaral. "She was actually my biggest influence as a woman in music and as a singer. I am very happy to hear that because I am a beginner. I'm still learning, and I'm super excited for the next album and the album after that to put everything that I've learned on them. There's a lot of things that I want to try."
As Nervosa's founder, Amaral has always done the lion's share of the songwriting. With the addition of Kotina, however, she left things wide open to Kotina's contributions and was pleasantly surprised with the results.
"I was the main writer on the last album. On Perpetual Chaos I composed all the riffs, all the melodies... those are mine. On this new album, I shared the compositions 50-50 with Helena. I opened myself up totally and she brought her stuff to me, and everything happened naturally. I tried to do something similar before but it didn't work because of timing, or distance, or lack of experience with the kind of music that we are playing. There were all kinds of reasons why the other girls couldn't contribute. This time, we had more time to compose; it was two years for this album instead of the two months that we had for Perpetual Chaos. Helena had a lot of space to work and we combined a lot of material. We love the same things in music, so it was something that was happening in a very fun way. We enjoyed composing every song. It was amazing."
"We tried to make this album more diverse," she adds. "All the songs are thrash metal with something different. We were trying to not get bored and not bore the fans. Helena is a very talented guitarist, musician and composer, and she is the kind of guitarist that you can give her anything and she can play it. I have some limitations with the guitar solos, for example, but she doesn't have any. It opened so many doors for us to create. I was so open to listen to what Helena could bring to the band, and everything she brought fit perfectly to Nervosa (laughs). There isn't one song on the album that is 100% mine or hers; we really composed everything together."
Amaral reveals that although she is covering new territory as Nervosa's singer, the added responsibility didn't have a major effect on her songwriting.
"I've been composing the lyrics for Nervosa since the beginning, so I've done more than half the lyrical writing in the history of the band. I also composed the vocal lines for some songs since the beginning. It's something that has always been part of my creative process, and now that I've discovered that I can really sing, I think that's why everything is so comfortable. I think this was always inside of me. The biggest challenge for me was to discover different tones in my voice with the extreme vocals. I did take some lessons, and my friend Mayara Puertas from Torture Squad taught me how to unlock the medium and high frequencies of my voice. When I was in the studio, the song would start and I would feel what it was asking for and was able to belt it out. I was just hoping that I could sing and play the songs at the same time on stage (laughs)."
Having toured earlier this year made the transition easier for Amaral, giving her an idea of her limitations and her strengths while pulling double duty.
"That was the final test to make sure 100% that I could do it," she says. "At the first show, in Scandinavia, it was winter and it was cold. I said, 'Okay, let's see if I can do this for 10 days without a break when it's cold outside...' and it was fantastic. It's easy if you take care pf your body and your health: no alcohol, doing vocal warm-ups, taking care about what you're going to drink and eat. Which is what I did."
"And I will never forget... we were in Helsinki, Finland and there were two Brazilian fans. They were so emotional, eyes full of tears watching us play, and I started to get emotional seeing that. I tried not to think about that, I tried to focus on what I was doing, but when I would look at them, I almost lost it (laughs). It was the last show of the tour and I felt great, totally relaxed."
Looking at Jailbreak as a whole, Amaral doesn't see it as a make-or-break move for Nervosa, but rather a taste of what the band is capable of doing in the future now that the new pieces are in play.
"When we started to compose the new songs, the feeling we had was like the title of the album: a jailbreak. No rules, leave all the doors open for inspiration and everything that could come our way. Of course, we respected the thrash roots of the band; we weren't going to make a pop album or something completely different. If we wanted to do that, we should make a different project. We made ourselves free to compose whatever it was we were feeling at the time. Making Jailbreak was all about enjoying the process of making music."
(Top photo - Gregory Dourtounis)