Matanza and the Capoeira Mosh Pit

Posted: December 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

…in which your intrepid author chronicles a sight both novel and new, the likes of which he has never seen in over 20 years of metal concert attendance.

The Band: Matanza
The Place: Circo Voador, Lapa district, Rio de Janeiro
The Verdict: CAPOEIRA MOSH PIT. Need I say more?

Matanza – one of Brazil’s premiere underground metal/punk/hardcore institutions – taught this old metal dog a new trick: a CAPOEIRA MOSH PIT. As the Portuguese conquistadores who suffered that transatlantic voyage under the helm of Screen shot 2014-03-29 at 9.56.56 PMFerdinand Magellan wept when first laying eyes on the Brazilian coast, so too did my eyes moisten last eve at this new and novel sight. The Circo Voador reeked of piss and puke, the body fluids of the roughly 1,000 in attendance finding vent on the concrete floor faster than a Wikileak in cyberspace. Though already imbibed into oblivion, no ruffians were afoot in this crowd; the collective mood light, the masses in high spirits I marveled at Brazilian metal fans joie d’vivir whilst sipping a Bohemia a guy I had only just met bought me. Always seeking visual vantage points at shows, I took a spot on the balcony overlooking the crowd while Matanza’s roadies made the final preps. Below the kids were already moshing while the PA blared metal classics, nearly all of which were released before most of the crowd was even born. First it was Pantera’s “Walk” from 1992’s Screen shot 2014-03-29 at 9.14.08 PMglorious Vulgar Display of Power. Matanza’s audience knew every downbeat and bellowed every lyric, proof positive that some music, like true love, might well be ageless. Then came Iron Maiden’s “Aces High”, soliciting crowd-wide synchronized operatic gestures, just like Bruce Dickinson himself. After that was Slayer’s “Raining Blood”, during which the kids flogged themselves silly. Following was Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box”, garnering the most rapacious sing-along. I assessed this was because not only are the lyrics fewer and more deliberately sung in this tune, but its vocal register is lower, making it possible for the average non-native English speaker to sing it with confidence and proficiency. I will now officially recant some of the heresies I’ve spoken against Alice in the past: at least in Brazil, the late Layne Stayley and company were onto something truly special.

When it got f**king brilliant was during one of the final prep songs, Sepultura’s “Rattamahatta”, from 1996’s Roots. With its home field musical advantage, this one pushed the kids over the cliff, the most voluminous reaction of the night save Matanza’s performance itself. And this is when I saw, for the first time in my life, the CAPOEIRA MOSH PIT. See for yourself in the video below (note: unfortunately, for some reason, WordPress is telling me the file type isn’t supported, so contact me individually thru this blog and I’ll see about getting you a copy if interested): at 0:17 the pit begins to clear and someone does a hand-stand. By 0:25 the capoeira begins. And at 0:43, a guy back-flips in the pit center. The crowd, hands thrust toward the rafters, promptly goes bonkers.

And finally came Matanza. I know nothing of the band’s music or history, other than a minor handful of YouTube videos I watched in the lead-up to last night. I know they’re big enough that MTV Brazil, before shuttering its corporate doors in September 2013, did a special program on the group. I also intuited that Matanza has a good sense of humor, with album titles like “Musica Para Beber e Brigar” (Music to Drink and Fight) and “To Hell with Johnny Cash” (in which they pay homage to the late Man in Black). And I know their vocalist looks like an tubbier, circa-1996 Tomas Lindberg of At the Gates renown. What I did not realize was that I would witness one of metal/punk/hardcore’s true musical potencies. And I say this with 23 years of metal concert experience.

Matanza is the among the top metal/punk/hardcore acts I have seen. They came out swinging – punctually at 2 AM (?!) – with punchy, upbeat numbers setting the evening’s blitzkrieg pace. They machine gunned the first five songs successively, a Screen shot 2014-03-29 at 9.18.07 PMferocious and precise sonic surgery. Then vocalist Jimmy London addressed his adoring masses, thanking them for years of unflagging loyalty, before commandeering the band into its next series of tunes. From this point forward, Matanza minimized idle time between numbers, optimizing the crowd’s formidable energies, keeping the pit heaving straight thru the 1.5 hour set. London is the most natural frontman I’ve seen since Kreator’s Mille Petrozza or Vader’s Piotr Wiwczarek; clearly steering band and audience equally, he’s a black symphonic conductor whose presence, delivery, and occasional humor noir stage raps deftly incite AND control the chaos on the floor. Matanza’s bassist and drummer deserve kudos here as well: with a crisp and rumbling tone somewhere between Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris and Overkill’s D.D. Verni, the bassist literally rumbled my molars AND boxers. He and the drummer tightly interlocked, comprising one of the best rhythm sections since Bad Religion. And you could be forgiven for not realizing they only had one guitarist onstage. With a tone as thick and cutting as any of the two-guitar duos out there, he filled out the band’s sound and provided the edgy nuts requisite of any metal band worth its weight in broken noses.

I’ve told this to precious few: since an aborted Judas Priest gig in 2008, I’ve been contemplating, with some degree of gravity, retiring from metal. I entered last night’s gig, these thoughts weighing on my mind, pondering if indeed it would be my curtain call. Yet ’tis the season, after all, for a Christmas miracle: (un)divine intervention transpired and at 3:30 AM I departed the venue with sore feet, perspiring brow, and renewed faith, blessed that the Metal Gods had yet again transmitted unto me inspiration for at least another few years.

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