Portugal's Scar For Life could very well be Prog-Metal's bright, shining light—if only they weren't so obscure. Having released a self-titled debut album via their website, this talented sextet effortlessly combine radio rock swagger with heavy metal slam in a nine-song opus equal parts melodic, intense, emotional, soulful, and breathtaking. It's simultaneously a lot of different things put together and a unique adventure into the progressive realm; it's Scar for Life. Here's brains-of-the-band Alexander Santos filling in the details to Sea of Tranquility Staff Writer Miguel Blardony.
SoT: Hello Scar For Life! Care to introduce the warm bodies in the band? In the first place, how did the five of you get together?
Alexander Santos: Hi Miguel. We are Scar For Life, a new metal band from Portugal. Everyone can download our debut album at www.scarforlife.com
Scar For Life started as a solo project back in March '08 when I left Redstains and began composing new songs. I soon realized I needed suitable voices for what I had in mind and I was lucky enough to find Rez for the main vocals. His counterpart, Dinho (ex-Redstains) does a more aggressive style of singing and I asked him to guest on a few songs. Sophie is a good friend of mine and we always wanted to have a project together so I asked her to be part of the album. She sings very little on this debut album but she's going to sing even more on the second. It seems a very complex job to work with three voices but it was very funny and a great learning curve for me as a composer and producer. I was looking for a powerful drummer for this style of metal / rock so I talked to Daniel Cardoso because he is one of the best drummers I ever heard.
SoT: The band is from Portugal, right? What part of Portugal do you call home? Do all the members of Scar For Life live near each other?
AS: Lisbon is our main city. Daniel is from Braga (300km from Lisbon) and he's very busy as a producer and drummer so we had to restructure the band so we could play live. So we are actually six-piece band from Lisbon now. David and I play guitar Helio is on drums and André on bass.
SoT: Are you happy with how the press has received your self-titled debut?
AS: I'm really overwhelmed. Our heart and soul went into the work for the album and I find it very gratifying to be recognized as a songwriter. The response has been very positive and it's nice to see that this debut album is relevant by today's "standards." With thousands of new bands releasing albums everyday I'm very pleased when I read about our album standing out from the rest.
SoT: Why did you settle for an internet-only release at first? Weren't any labels interested?
AS: It was a very thought-out plan. I preferred to "offer" our debut album than put it for sale. It's very difficult for new bands without any label to sell an album. We have to promote this work by ourselves and that's very hard. We are looking for a label that believes in us so we can spread our music all over the world. The internet is a cool place to discover new bands but it has it's downsides too. I'm not fighting against it so why not join forces and offer our first album so people can listen to our music? The problem is the money we spend in studios, promotion, web hosting—there's no return in investment. The idea is to give away the album so fans can donate or buy our physical CD on our web shop for a special price. We are playing live too and that's another way earn money for our second album.
SoT: What's incredible with your band is that you're such ace songwriters. I listen to your songs and just marvel at how well put-together they are. Who are the band's writers and what were the writing sessions like for the "Scar For Life" album?
AS: I do all the writing. That's what I like to do the most. I usually start with a theme, start developing it and give it a title. Rez manages to write all the lyrics starting from those ideas. For the album it was a very quick and smooth process. I like to begin with an idea and finish it right away. It captures my mood. If I keep it too long in "standby" I generally tend to lose interest.
SoT: I'd be hard pressed to call your band "progressive metal" though my ears do catch the subtle complexities of your songs. To me, Scar For Life is more hard rock and metal. But who cares about genres? Were you always into bands like Fates Warning, Dreamtheatre, and King's X?
AS: I agree with you. Sometimes we are forced to label our sound. We've been called progressive, dark, hard rock, and a lot of other things. I find difficult to find the ideal genre for us but like you said, it's all about metal with its sub genres. I love the contrast between melody and aggressiveness and I like lots of types of metal from hard rock to metal, lots of classical music, and some alternative rock. But metal is where my heart is. Definitely.
SoT: How long have you been playing music? I always figured that great songwriting only comes with time and experience. It's really such a treat to hear a first album full of excellent tracks these days. Have you been in a lot of bands before Scar For Life?
AS: I've been playing in bands since I was 18 but none with as much time and dedication as today. With Scar For Life, I've done much more than any of my previous bands because I can do whatever I want. In a year I've managed to compose and record a first album, make a video for the single "My Last Words," promote it on local TV and gather excellent musicians to play live. Our next concert will be in a great venue (Santiago Alquimista) near our beautiful Castle (Castelo de S. Jorge). Porcupine Tree played there last year. Instead of having three or four bands just for the sake of playing, I prefer to focus in a single band and make it my way of life.
SoT: Where did you find the themes and ideas that became the songs on the album?
AS: It's all about life you know? Experiences, feelings... That's why I use lots of acoustic guitars. Lots of ideas occur to me when I'm with the acoustic, like when I'm far away from home for example.
SoT: Does it get you down sometimes knowing that you won't earn a lot of money from the music you created for "Scar for Life"? Can you tell how much blood and sweat went into this album?
AS: That's my biggest disappointment so far because I believe in our music. I'd love to dedicate 100% of my time with music but we tend to do other things so we can earn money to live and keep on doing music. At the same time, that's a challenge because it makes me stronger and nothing can stop me from doing it. For now, we can count on each other to keep promoting and playing live. In this business, we need luck too and not only great music. A band today has to be talented, that's a fact, but when things are well done, you just need to be at the right place at the right time. You need to have a machine behind the band so your music can be heard.
SoT: Where did you find the studio to record it in?
AS: I've recorded everything in my home studio except for the drums. They were recorded in UltraSound Studios (Daniel's studio) plus the mixing and mastering. I like Daniel's past work very much. He played and produced lots of well-known bands before us like Heavenwood, Head Control System, and many others.
SoT: Is Scar For Life just a side-project for you or has it grown into a full-time commitment?
AS: Scar For Life is my main objective.
SoT: Every good album has a strong opener to start it. In "Scar For Life" it's "Kill The Past," which is very aggressive, very up tempo. It's followed by "The Bleeding Gun" and then "My Last Words," which is the closest thing to a ballad on the album. Do you find slower songs harder to write and compose?
AS: It always depends on the mood. I like to write slower songs because you can squeeze different feelings that you don't usually use on heavier stuff. This, and Rez is an incredible singer and he can put so much of himself into the lyrics. The new songs for the next album will have another dimension to them. I'm anxious to put out one called "Lost in Fire" but that's another story.
SoT: Are those blastbeats I hear on "One By One"? I never figured you guys to be death metal fans, but hey, it's a nice touch. Who is the biggest extreme metal aficionado in the band?
AS: We love all types of metal, some are into black metal alà Immortal, some like death metal, even old In Flames.
SoT: The instrumental "Distant Shore" is another nice touch to the album. Very calm, very soothing, emotional…I like it. Is doing an instrumental harder than most people realize?
AS: Sometime it's easier because you can experiment more with the melodies and instruments rather leave a space between the verse or chorus. You can always 'run away' from the typical formula verse-pre chorus-chorus-solo-chorus-end. It's very challenging to have a melody and then take it to a different direction never losing interest for the listener.
SoT: Have any of the songs on "Scar For Life" been performed live?
AS: All of them except "Distant Shore" and "Innocence Is Bliss."
SoT: My favorite song on the album is "Crawlin'". From what movie did you get that funny sound clip at the start? You guys also don't seem to have a problem with writing complex melodies.
AS: "Crawlin'" came together very quickly. The ideas arrived naturally. The main riff led to another one and so on. We love to play it live. The sample you hear at the start is from 'Blazing Saddles,' a very funny movie by Mel Brooks. I remembered that scene so I had to have it on this song.
SoT: You know, this is just me, but if there's one thing I'm not impressed with in the album it's the cover art—the doll's face in black and white. Why did you take the minimalist route for your album's graphic representation?
AS: Since I wanted to go in a different direction than the typical 'metal' cover and make people think of what they are looking at and make their own interpretation. Besides, the photographer is a great friend of mine and an amazing artist. He did a set of photos in a Doll's Hospital here in Lisbon and we used the same place to shoot our video for "My Last Words."
SoT: Are there any ABBA fans in the band? How about the Village People? Rush?
AS: We like different types of music. ABBA? I listened to them when I was a kid! They were great songwriters. It's not my cup of tea but I admire their skills and some of their melodies and harmonies. We all love Swedish metal, so if ABBA were a metal band, we'd be big fans of them too! We also love Rush but the Village People? NO! By the way, I went to see Europe here in Portugal last week—What a great show!
SoT: I guess we have to wrap this up, Scar For Life. Thanks for the time and the great music. Is your head already swirling with ideas for the next album? Do you think that far ahead? Or are you focused on "Scar For Life" in the meantime?
AS: We are working on new tracks. The demos are sounding heavier and more melodic. I'm looking forward to get into a studio this time and start working on it. But only time will tell. I hope to release this new album in the beginning of 2010. If we had a label it would be much easier.
Miguel, thanks a lot for the support, keep up your good work because we are avid readers of Sea of Tranquility! For all SOT readers out there, don't forget to download our album, burn it on a CD, play it loud, and spread the word!! Support the band!
Cheers from Portugal!!!
(Click here to read our review of Scar For Life)