Nervosa – Ready for JailbreakThursday, 5th October 2023
Photo by: Greogory Dourtounis
When it comes to deadly thrash, most know the potent sound of Nervosa. Even as the lineups have shifted over the course of the past two albums, the steady force of guitarist Prika Amaral remains resolute in steering the ship in a professional manner. Their latest album Jailbreak sees Prika step up her duties to becoming the main vocalist – while the lineup expands to a twin axe attack with guitarist Helena Kotina, bassist Hel Pyre, and drummer Michaela Naydenova adding an international flair to the proceedings. We reached out to Prika to give us the lowdown on her new role as vocalist/guitarist, the challenges of developing a new lineup again for this record, the guest spots with Gary Holt and Lena Scissorhands, the perseverance related to the group, advice for younger musicians, as well as the tour plans for the next year or so.
Dead Rhetoric: You assembled a new lineup once again while also taking over vocal duties for the band on this latest Nervosa album Jailbreak. Discuss the emotions/feelings of picking up the pieces again in a band with four albums under your belts – as well as the work with Torture Squad vocalist Mayara Puertas to help you gain the strength/confidence to take on the vocals from this point forward?
Prika Amaral: Yes, this last record for Nervosa that we recorded and composed together was a huge challenge – probably the biggest challenge in my entire career. Because I never was a singer, I’ve always been a guitarist. In the entire life of Nervosa, I’ve always been doing some backing vocals. My specialized thing was more in the deep growls, the extreme vocals, the low vocals. I had to learn how to sing properly – not only in the low voices, because Nervosa is historically thrash metal, we have high and medium voices. The low vocals were necessary, but not the main thing.
So then I called one of my best friends, Mayara Puertas. She is one of my favorite singers ever, and she’s also a very close friend. She was teaching me how to discover my skills in the vocal parts – teaching me how to do the highs, the medium range, and thinking about not only how to put out this voice but also how to take care of it. We need to be in good condition with our bodies, change our lifestyle to give the best (effort) for our performance.
For one side, it was a big challenge because I didn’t know what to expect being a singer. On the other hand, many songs in the history of Nervosa, I also composed the vocal lines. The song “Death”, it’s one of our most well-known songs, it was a song that I composed the vocal lines and also the lyrics. For me to compose everything, it was a big challenge. I enjoy this a lot, it’s something that I’ve done differently in my career of Nervosa. I was doing for thirteen years the same thing – this brought for me a new excitement as a musician. I was learning and discovering new things in each and every song that we were recording. In each song, I was doing different vocals, and the next day I was not remembering what I had done before, so that’s why we have diversity with the vocal lines. I have a lot of fun that I haven’t had in a long time. I was paying attention to everything, I’m still learning with every show I play.
Dead Rhetoric: You also have two guitarists in this new lineup. Was that a challenge to feel like you were starting over once again?
Amaral: We have two guitarists in Nervosa for the first time. We live in a new era with the internet, everything comes and goes very fast. I’m playing with a new generation, and the girls for the most part are younger than me. When they are that young, sometimes they realize with these experiences (they) are different on the road than they expect. It’s hard to go on the road, you have to leave everything to focus 100% on this. Sometimes you realize it’s what you want, but not in that present state. I was very clear with the girls from the beginning – Nervosa is a very active band, and we will keep being an active band. I really believe that is one of the reasons why we have very good things happening in our lives as a band.
We discover sometimes they have health problems. Also family, a lot of things that are complex and hard. I don’t judge the girls, I support them, all of them that leave the band. Some people say, ‘ah – but you changed the entire lineup twice’. Yes, because the first time when I changed the entire lineup, we were in the middle of a pandemic situation. I didn’t have the opportunity to know the girls in person, you know? The other girls had so much experience, I was giving this a try. The most important thing is to have respect for each other and being grateful of course. This I have from all of them.
Helena Kotina, the second guitarist, was in the band since 2021. Four months after we released Perpetual Chaos, I invited her to start the process with the next album. It was in my plan to have two guitarists – but after the second guitarist left the band because she could not move, we decided to be a trio because it was easier for logistics. It was in my plan already. I was never thinking about me being a singer. Helena and I started to compose the new songs together, everything was going well, we were having a lot of fun. Our tastes combined in the pursuit of this new album. I’m still trying to find a stable place with the musicians. And they are looking for some happiness, they are trying. I didn’t fire anyone – the musicians realized things that are not fitting (with) what they expected, that’s it.
Dead Rhetoric: Beyond the expanded double guitar lineup that appears for the first time in Nervosa’s career, where do you see the major differences or advances in the songwriting and performances for Jailbreak compared to previous records?
Amaral: There are more details, there are two guitars. We have some long solos in some of the songs, we have guitar duels. The vocal parts have some variations. We were working to also have some backing vocals from Hel Pyre, our bassist, to sing at the live shows. We are still in the process of doing a new show with the new version of Nervosa. We are not afraid to try new things.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the guest appearances with Gary Holt and Lena Scissorhands come about? Do you always enjoy adding that supportive element from favorite musicians to give your albums extra flavor?
Amaral: Yes. Having Gary Holt on our album is a dream come true for all of us. We had an idea to have some guest participation because Nervosa has always liked to have this type of participation. Of course, Gary Holt was on the top of our list – so when we sent a message to him, he answered very quickly and made this happen in a very short period of time. He had to do this in between two tours, he had like one or two weeks to make this happen. When we listened to this for the first time, Helena and I got very emotional.
To have Lena Scissorhands on this album as well was super special. This was the first time we had a woman participating as a guest on one of our songs. She has a great voice – I’ve followed her for many years since we played together in Romania in 2017-18, something like that. She was available, she answered very quickly and made things happen. I love the way she interpreted the song, the differences between the voices. She gave a tone of modern metal that I really like, it contributes to the diversity that we were looking for when it comes to this new album.
Dead Rhetoric: How was the video shoot for “Seeds of Death”? Do you think that was a great premiere single for the band with this new lineup?
Amaral: Yes, this song is very important. I wanted to have a melodic song with an intro with acoustic guitars. For some reason, somehow, I could never finish my idea. I didn’t think it was good enough, so I would always say, okay – next album. I don’t like to force something; I like to let things happen naturally. This time, we had two guitarists and Helena is very inspired to compose beyond her playing. She brought this beautiful part, and it combined with other ideas I had.
The place where we recorded the video, I think it’s a really good start for the band. The people had an idea of what would be coming next for Nervosa.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did you want to come across with the lyrics for this set of songs – are you always inspired by social / political injustice topics, or does some personal experiences also factor into the content?
Amaral: I can’t define one way, or one topic. I really believe in the natural process of everything. I like freedom, and I let the inspiration come. There are some lyrics that I wrote years ago, and some lyrics I would write the day of the recording that I would change. For example, there would be another lyric that needed to be changed because I wasn’t feeling the vibe of the lyric. We talk about politicians, we talk about social stuff, but also, we want to make everyone think about things – bring about some discussions. Bringing these warnings to the people – I think it’s important. Sometimes we have some positive lyrics – “Sacrifice” is another philosophy, where you have some good things that you need to think about sacrificing sometimes to get them.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve premiered this new lineup over the course of the summer festival season across Europe. How did these shows go for Nervosa – what were some of the highlights?
Amaral: It was great for us; the people were reacting very positively. There were a lot of people, we would have maximum crowds at all the festivals. People were watching and supporting Nervosa, singing along to the songs and wearing our t-shirts. It’s something really special for Nervosa, and in particular for me. Even with all the changes, to have this kind of support is unbelievable and amazing. I can’t find the words to describe everything. We are still constructing things and being tighter as band. We are understanding the movements of each other, the way that we think, the way that we play. Getting closer and closer, you know, it’s an important process.
Dead Rhetoric: In a recent social media post on Facebook, you talked about recognizing the beautiful things in the simple stuff, as well as over complaining leading to the path of failure. Have you had time to dig deep and search within yourself, especially during the harder times, to keep moving forward – despite any obstacles or barriers put in your path?
Amaral: As I said, I’m a very positive person. I remember the first split of Nervosa – one side would talk to me, people that like me or love me, have trust in me, but they thought it would be hard for me to continue. If it’s done, what will you do? I don’t interpret it as a bad thing – I understand they were worried about me, about everything. They wanted me to be successful at this, and it was hard for everyone. On the other hand, I have messages from girls around the world, asking me to not let Nervosa die. It is an important thing for women in metal. I realize how important it is – giving up has never been an option for me. I was not paying attention to what other people were saying to me. This is my life and I sacrifice everything for thirteen years. I would put all my energy in this. I have had a lot of talented and amazing musicians in the band. The answer of everything is always the music and the message meant the most.
I learn with myself and with my attitude a lot. The second split – I was more confident, even if a little bit insecure with the vocal parts. I was not sure I was ready for that, but it was the best option I could find.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the differences between the studio and the live performances as a metal musician? Do you have a preference for one aspect over the other – or do you enjoy both equally for their own unique reasons?
Amaral: I love to be a musician in all the ways. Being in the studio, it’s magical on the one side. Constructing something, that is our future. People will like it or hate it, but we are putting all of our hearts and expectations into this. It’s a beautiful process, even if in the past we’ve had some very stressful moments. For me, it’s always been an enjoyable process. Live shows, be it small club shows all the way to festivals, it’s always a great thing. I’m a very positive person, so I try to focus on everything that is good.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the state of heavy metal (especially thrash and extreme metal) globally? What excites you about the scene, and what changes (if any) would you like to make for the greater good of all the people involved?
Amaral: I think it’s more about the crowd. People are used to complaining a lot, to judging a lot in a very heavy way. This is destroying the vibe of rock and roll and metal. We have to grow, be better. In the 80’s there was a serious problem with drugs and alcohol, now we think in a different way. Each person knows what is best for them. The crowd is getting extremely conservative with things. When there should be growth, we are regressing in certain things.
Simple things can get blown out of proportion on the internet, and people want to cancel others as a result. I’m talking about smaller things, not obviously rape or serious crimes. This can harm the metal scene. War, politicians, decisions can kill everything, not just metal.
Dead Rhetoric: Do younger musicians ever seek out advice and tips for you regarding the music scene or business aspects – and if so, what types of ideas or thoughts do you try to impart on them?
Amaral: First of all, you need to have very clearly inside of you what you want. Sometimes, the people blame others when they fail. Be sure what you want, and if you know what you want, just follow your heart, your energy there. Invest everything that you can, and one day you will have everything that you want. Don’t listen to all the criticism that may be out there. You can listen to criticism of the people that like you or love you. That will make you grow. Apart from that, it’s just hate.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for all things related to Nervosa once the album comes out over the next year or so? Do you hope to hit some new territories tour-wise that you haven’t been able to touch as of yet?
Amaral: Yes. At the beginning of next year we will be in the US for the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise. We have plans in the US, and are still working on that, we will confirm an announcement soon. We have plans to tour Europe, Latin America, and Asia. The hardest thing is to fit everything. We have a lot of offers and good things happening next year. We will start the promotion of the new album and for sure we will be playing a lot.