ANGELUS APATRIDA // Missionaries of Metal

Spain probably isn’t a country on most people’s list when they think about hotbeds of heavy metal, but veteran campaigners Angelus Apatrida have long been making it their mission to take their socially-conscious thrash to as many places around the world as possible.

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Following of their second tour of Australia this week, the band will be stopping over in China, a country they first visited eight years ago. It was an eye-opening odyssey into a place where few western bands – metal or otherwise – rarely venture. As vocalist and guitarist Guillermo Izquierdo recalls, Angelus Apatrida played shows in venues no rock band had ever been before.

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“We were playing in places where, I imagine, they never saw a white guy with long hair and tattoos and we were walking down the street and people were staring at us and taking pictures. We were playing in places where people were watching a rock band for the first time. We were in venues where we were the first band to play there. All the gear, all the equipment, was brand new and we were the first band to play with that gear.”

Some of the rooms weren’t even music venues.

“Sometimes, “ he says, “we were playing for people who weren’t paying attention, like in a restaurant!”

Certainly the Spanish quartet’s ravenous and articulate thrash metal would have come as a major culture shock, but the major cities proved to be far more usual in their response.

“If you go to the really big cities like Beijing or Shanghai or Guangzhou … Guangzhou is closer to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong is more open to the western culture and music and all that kind of stuff. Those three shows were impressive – full crowd, people were going crazy, wearing a lot of heavy metal t-shirts – Iron Maiden, Metallica, Kreator, even some Angelus Apatrida shirts. We sold a lot of merch there.”

Angelus Apatrida’s first Chinese tour was quite successful for a mid-level European metal band. Izquierdo pinpoints one of the problems that other acts might have when trying to develop any sort of profile in China beyond the larger cities.

Australia was really beaut! It was amazing and lovely and there’s a lot of metal bands there.
[ Guillermo Izquierdo, Angelus Apatrida ]

“It’s hard for metal bands because [the Chinese] don’t use [western] social media. I don’t know nowadays, but when we were there, we weren’t allowed to use Facebook or Instagram or western social media. [The government] own all the social media. I think it was WeChat, and they’ve got everything on there. There’s like a WhatsApp application with Instagram, everything. All the worldwide metal bands weren’t on there, so they knew nothing about them. Only the people in the big cities on VPN really knew about our band.”

As it was last time, the Asian shows were a pathway to Australia, although this time Angelus Apatrida will do only three Chinese dates instead of 17, and nine gigs here including Adelaide’s . They’ll also be introducing Spanish thrash metal to audiences in a place most would never expect.

“One of the best things of this job is bringing your music to countries that maybe you never thought you could go,” Izquierdo says. “Like, for example this time we are going to Nepal! I always wanted to go there, and this time we are playing there, in Kathmandu!”

Unconventional touring agendas have become part of the band’s mission statement.

“Spain may not be the most famous country for metal bands, but we have a big metal scene and there are three or four big bands touring outside of Spain. We are supporting metal, and bringing metal to a lot of places where metal is not popular.”

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While perhaps less well known than the British and American bands that sprang up and flourished during the thrash revival of the early 00s, Angelus Apatrida have worked solidly over the last 24 years to build their name in Europe. It’s allowed them to become financial enough to undertake audacious Asian tours and to come back to Australia.

“We’ve been really lucky in that we’re a fairly big band in the [European] scene and especially now as we are a company and we’re lucky that we have been able to save the money to do a big tour like this,” the frontman explains. Still, being a touring band at any level is a risk and he’s well aware of how crowded the Australian touring market is now. “It’s a very DIY tour, and in the end, it’s our money, so we hope people show up. Nowadays it’s more expensive than eight years ago. Working visas are more expensive since the pandemic. We need visas for Australia and NZ, and they are very expensive, and for China and Japan.”

He has good memories of his band’s brief visit here in 2016.

“Australia was really beaut! It was amazing and lovely and there’s a lot of metal bands there. It’s really great! Eight years ago we were a much smaller band but they were legendary shows. We had a really good time. This time we want to show the people how this band has really grown in eight years. We’ve released three albums, the band has changed a lot technically, and professionally. We’ve improved a lot. All the memories we have of being there, we were having a really good time. It was such a huge experience. We just want to see how it goes this time, especially now that you are in the summer, and we’re in winter here.”

Whatever the costs or rewards financially, Izquierdo keeps it true to the spirit of the metal underground.

“I really hope a lot of people show up,” he says again,  but the main thing is more [for] us to be down there and say, ‘Hey, We’re from Spain and we play heavy metal, and we made it down here!’ And then come back again.”

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