Songs We Love: Sinistro, 'Relíquia' For the lonely, Portuguese doom-metal band offers a drop-dead gorgeous piece of saudade, accompanied by a black-and-white video featuring a blissful transgender character.
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Songs We Love: Sinistro, 'Relíquia'

Songs We Love: Sinistro, 'Relíquia'

Sinistro. Joana Linda/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Joana Linda/Courtesy of the artist


Joana Linda/Courtesy of the artist
Sinistro's Semente.

Though often occupied by death and destruction, heavy metal is not short on longing. After the dissolution of Warning, Patrick Walker has written lyrics for his new band 40 Watt Sun that yearn for home and the past with soaring desperation; and Seattle's Bell Witch awaits darkness with heartbroken and crushing awareness. It's no coincidence that both bands come from the world of doom-metal, a subgenre typically wrapped in sorrow. Sinistro does too, but the Portuguese group understands such longing through another intense cultural lens: saudade.

Saudade is more a feeling, less a word. The Portuguese and Galician term doesn't translate directly into English, but Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo offers this description: "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy." (An excellent 2014 episode of NPR's Alt.Latino demonstrated the notion with nuance and music.) Sinistro's "Relíquia," and its José Dinis-directed video, offer a drop-dead gorgeous piece of metallic saudade from its second album, Semente.


Though "Relíquia" opens with atmospherically sludgy riffs and keyboards owing to its roots in Neurosis and Isis, a pair of influences that took over much of the 2000s, Sinistro quickly drops the decibels for a dream-like showcase of Patricia Andrade's stunning voice, one that expresses resolute heartache in every phrase. The band collectively writes that "Relíquia" is about "an old woman revisiting past memories and daydreaming about them in order to escape her present state of solitude. The landscape of her memory is her real world." But after the pulsing and shimmering midsection, Andrade opens her lungs amidst crashing pianos, exhaling suffering and pushing herself to a cathartic shriek that brings to mind the dynamic vocalist Julie Christmas.

Equally gorgeous is the accompanying black-and-white video featuring a blissful cross-dressing character cavorting around Lisbon, returning home to remove the make-up. About the clip, José Dinis writes, "The video was shot on a perfect sunny day. The vivid colors were consumed by the melancholic tones of this song, cast in black-and-white, creating a set of perfect intimacy and sympathy with the character."

Saudade is better known than explained, and Sinistro's "Relíquia" knows this inexplicable longing in crushing waves.

Semente comes out April 8 on Season of Mist.