Akelarre [a.ke'la.re]: sabbat, witches' sabbath
Few bands can claim to have played with all of the “Big 4”. Few bands can claim to have moved to a different continent in order to pursue their career. Few bands can claim an uninterrupted 20 year history. And few bands can claim to have released seven albums of consistently high quality and constant, unmitigated aggression.
Formed in Santiago, Chile in late 1991 by Anton Reisenegger, former leader of Chilean cult death metal act Pentagram, CRIMINAL enjoyed a meteoric rise within the South American metal scene. The band secured support slots with such heavyweights as Kreator, Sepultura, Slayer, Exodus, Motörhead and many more. The resulting momentum from heavy rotation of their videos on MTV Latino allowed CRIMINAL to tour most of South America, selling in excess of 20,000 copies of their first two records in Chile alone.
By the time CRIMINAL were launching their first assault on the northern hemisphere, with their first US tour just finished and their second album “Dead Soul” licensed by Metal Blade Records for the US and Europe, the band's Chilean label BMG slipped into financial difficulties and withdrew its support for the band. Frustrated, yet determined to carry on, the creative tandem of Reisenegger and lead guitarist Rodrigo Contreras relocated to the UK in 2001, teaming up with British extreme metal luminaries Zac O'Neil (drums, Extreme Noise Terror) and Robin Eaglestone (bass, ex-Cradle of Filth).
Despite recurring difficulties filling the bassist position (Eaglestone left only months later and current bassist Dan Biggin didn't join until 2007), CRIMINAL played the Wacken festival and landed the support slot for Six Feet Under, Chimaira and Lamb of God, among others.
With their latest albums “Sicario” and “White Hell” enjoying high critical and popular acclaim, and after completing what seemed to be their first stable line-up in years with the addition of Dan Biggin, things looked auspicious for CRIMINAL. Yet the band were dealt a near fatal blow in 2009 when lead guitarist and founding member Rodrigo Contreras decided to return to Chile.
Not ones to give up easily, the remaining members vowed to carry on and recruited Olmo Cascallar from the Basque band Gamora to fill the vacant spot. The band went on to record their seventh album “Akelarre”, a lesson in back-to-basics that sees CRIMINAL concentrating on its historic strengths: killer riffs, relentless groove, harsh yet intelligible vocals and melodic solos. Extreme yet catchy, CRIMINAL's music is up there with the biggest in the genre, minus the cheese, pretentiousness and pseudo-emotional whining.
The lyrical contents of social unrest, governmental and corporate control and religious intolerance were penned by someone who actually lived under a dictatorial regime. Someone who experienced censorship and persecution first-hand, as opposed to bands who sing about violence and revolution, when raised with the privileges of European social democracy.
Produced by bassist Dan Biggin at his HVR Studios in Suffolk, UK, “Akelarre” boasts a modern yet natural sound that is miles away from the sterile, overedited, overtriggered, no-dynamics productions that are the standard today.
While the band is, and will always be, a household name in South America – especially in Chile, where they recently supported Metallica in front of 55,000 raging metalheads – CRIMINAL have inexplicably been flying, more or less, under the radar in Europe. The band, however, are determined to change this.
With most so-called metal heroes content with living the rest of their careers revisiting the albums that made them popular decades ago, CRIMINAL keep raising the bar, delivering one great album after another, showing they are as hungry as ever, and determined to reap the rewards for all the years of hard work and struggle.
CRIMINAL – or rather CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED!?
» White Hell
“Dead Soul” (1997)
“No Gods No Masters” (2004)
“White Hell” (2009)