We have already reached the play offs? God damn, time just flies, let us pick up the pace in this series, starting with Group E.
The almighty Brazil is looking to seek revenge after a disastrous exit in the last World Cup, which they hosted. The whole country was left in tears after Neymar got injured, being completely demolished by Germany in the semis, and even missing the bronze medal to the Dutch. To be fair, I think we all were a little overly hyped over Brazil 4 years ago. After all, it was basically Neymar and a bunch of other good, but not great, dudes. This time around, Brazil comes with a ridiculously strong roster, with world class players on every position. This time, Neymar is not alone, we got Jesus, Marcelo, Allison, Casemiro, Willian, Firmino, Coutinho, Paulinho, Fernandinho, yes a whole bunch of -inho's. It is definitely gold or bust for this team.
Brazil is not only the leading South American nation in football, they are also the front runners in metal as well. The broadest genre is definitely power metal, where you can find a bunch of high profile bands. It all starts with Angra, the progressive power metal band that has been a force to be reckoned with since the early 90's, and are still producing some great records. We also got Almah, created by former Angra singer Edu Falaschi as a side project, which eventually became a strong full time project. Other notable power metal bands are Shadowside, Hibria, Hangar, and Shaman.
But none of these bands are even close to the level in which Sepultura is on. This is one of the more legendary bands out there, a group that has thrived on pushing the boundries with their combination of death metal, thrash metal, and local influences. With legendary albums like "Beneath The Remains", "Chaos A. D." and "Roots", this band has a huge mark on metal history. Add bands like Krisiun, Thy Light, and the all female Nervosa to this mix as well, and we got ourselves a strong line up of bands.
In the last World Cup, Costa Rica was the big surprise of the tournament, reaching all the way to the quarter final, eliminating Italy and England in the group stage and beating Greece in the round of 16. Good news for this competition is that the main core of that team is in once again, with Real Madrid goalie Keylor Navas leading the way. The bad news though is that most of these players have had very little play time in their clubs. I am sure that Costa Rica could channel together that team spirit that took them so far last time, but a lot of opponents are aware now, so it will not be easy for them to get a surprise leverage on them.
Not surprisingly, there is no much metal going on in Costa Rica, but I did however discover a little band called Sight of Emptiness a couple of years back, a melodic death metal band that certainly showed potential. The 2014 album "Instincts" was not perfect, but I enjoyed what I heard. It definitely seems to be a bunch of interesting death metal groups here, like Advent of Bedlam, Catarsis Incarne, and the easily pronounced Pseudostratiffied Epithelium. We also got Pneuma, a progressive band that gives some more diversity to the country's metal scene. A small country with a small scene, but with some neat little bands out there.
I have always enjoyed Serbia, because they are a physical team, with huge dynamos for players that can make those 90 minutes a living hell for anyone who faces against them. I definitely would not like to face Matic, Mitrovic, or the old Chelsea legend Ivanovic in a dark alley, they would probably eat me alive if they got the chance. Just like any other balkan country though, they have had some instabilities in the coaching department, so can they keep their focus and not just gain a ton of unnecessary yellow cards, then maybe they could go far.
So Serbia is in the Balkan region, a region that does not have many big bands to go around, but Serbia do have a guy that could be their equivalent to Steven Wilson. David Maxim Micic is an instrumental progressive artist that has a knack of creating some grand emotion through his music, which he has shown in both his full length releases "Bilo III" and "Who Bit The Moon". We got some more proggy goodness by Asymmetry and Burning Circle, but also some nice power metal by Alogia and Forever Storm. Then we got the hard working black metal outing The Stone, and thrash group Space Eater, probably one of the greatest band names I have ever heard. How in the hell can you eat space? I do not know, but color me intrigued with the idea.
Switzerland has had a pretty good generation of players. We got some nice attacking players in Seferovic, Dzemaili, and of course, the little meat ball magician Xherdan Shaqiri, and a solid defense led by Sommer, Lichtsteiner, and Xhaka. Still, Switzerland has had a hard time to really get that break through with these players, reaching the round of 16 in the last two tournaments at best. This might be the last chance for a lot of these players, so they better sharpen their skills in preparation for their final shot at World Cup glory.
Looking at their band roster, the Swiss are a sneaky good team, with some real quality throughout the board. It all starts with extreme metal pioneers Celtic Frost, who emerged in the mid 80's as one of the big developers of the genre. Even if it has been 10 years since the band broke up, their legacy still stands strong, but they are certainly not alone in the Swiss metal heaven. We go the consistent folk metal group Eluveitie, the ever boundary breaking Samael, the hyped gothic doom group Triptykon, the ambient dudes of Darkspace, and the classic thrash band Coroner.
Notice the grand diversity in sound here, which might be the only knock on Switzerland as a metal country, but it also shows that they have a scene that is willing to go their own way. One band that certainly did that, while also becoming one of my personal favourites, is the industrial metal band Sybreed, who mix that mechanic Fear Factory style with some more futuristic elements, creating some dense bangers. It is sad to see them disbanded, but at the very least, I still have the memories, and some killer tracks like "Doomsday Party", "Into The Blackest Light", and "Challenger".
Thoughts on group
Both Switzerland and Brazil has a lot of quality to go around, making this group a contender for sure, and while Serbia and Costa Rica may not have the same amount of high level music, they do still have some interesting bands for us to take in. Group E is certainly one of my favourites in a musical stand point.
Prediction on the competition (made before it began)
Well, Brazil should have no problem going through here, but who will follow them? Hmmm... I'll go with Switzerland, think their experience and technical skill will give them a slight advantage.