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An Interview with Kike Valderrama and Rolando Ramos Torres of Sol de Sangre + Track Premiere “Ratas”

Latin/South American death metal has a long and storied history, from first wave 80s bands like Pentagram (Chile) and Peru’s Mortem to more modern juggernauts like Brazil-based Krisiun and Chilean horde Unaussprechlichen Kulten.

Here’s another kickass band to add to that list: Sol de Sangre.

Their members may be spread out across the globe, but Sol de Sangre is a Colombian band through and through. Formed by current/former members of well-known contemporary Colombian bands like HeadCrusher, Absolution Denied and Cromlech,  Sol de Sangre have one foot squarely planted in the classic death metal sound of bands like Obituary, Terrorizer, and Entombed and the other in that old-school South American style of the first few Sepultura albums. In other words, this album fucking rips from first note to last – with thrashy tempos, impassioned vocals, and more sick riffs per square inch than should probably be allowed by law.

But you don’t have to just take my word for it. Today we’re premiering “Ratas” from Sol de Sangre’s self-titled debut album, which is out on March 23 via Black Market Metal. Fair warning, though: it’s the kind of track that’s going to make you want to start a circle pit with your living room furniture, the walls of your cubicle, or with whatever happens to be in your immediate surroundings when you hit play. Before you start doing any damage to either property or yourself, though, grab a preorder of the album and check out my interview with Sol de Sangre vocalist Kike Valderrama and guitarist Rolando Ramos Torres. Then hit that imaginary living room pit and show that fucking recliner who’s boss.

Indy Metal Vault: Hey, so for starters – thanks for agreeing to an interview. I always like to do a bit of research before writing questions so that I can avoid asking the same things you’ve been asked a couple dozen times before. Near as I can tell, though, you haven’t done very many (if any) interviews at all, at least that I can find online. So why not start at the beginning? I know that the members of Sol de Sangre either play or have played in other bands like Headcrusher, Absolution Denied, and Cromlech. It doesn’t look like any of you have played together before, though, so I’m curious – how did Sol de Sangre come together?

Kike: First of all, thanks for taking the time to do some research and doing this interview. Let’s see, we have played in different bands together at different points in time. I have known Rolando (guitar player) and Gustavo (bass player) for about 20 years each. We all are from the same town: Armenia, in Colombia. I played with Rolando in a band for about three or four years between 1999 and 2003. Eventually, I played with Gustavo in another one around 2005-2006. Then we all went separate ways all over the world. Gustavo has been Headcrusher’s sound guy and has helped with Headcrusher’s album production since 2011. And we have been friends with Gonzalo (drummer) for about six or seven years. So we kept in touch but never talked about doing anything together. At some point around 2014, I listened to a couple of tracks that Rolando had written and had sitting on his computer. I didn’t have the available time at that point to do anything with them, but I took them with me anyway. A few months later, I revisited the tracks and decided to do some vocals on them. Rolando listened to it and told me he had a whole album written by then. So I got all the tracks and started working on vocals.

After a couple of months, we had a whole pre-production done. Since then, I have jammed the record’s songs with Gonzalo in Australia and did the re-amping with Gustavo in Canada. The other three guys met a few months ago in Colombia and recorded a few new tracks. So we keep revolving around places and times.

Rolando: Hello, and thanks for this interview. I’ve known Kike and Gustavo since the 90s. We’re from the same town: Armenia, Colombia. Sol de Sangre started as a bunch of metal songs that I recorded at my home studio couple of years ago. I showed them to Kike, and he told me that he wanted to put some lyrics on them. And that was it! The songs were great, the music was great, so we said fuck it, let’s make this record!

IMV: Along those same lines, none of the other bands you’ve been in really sound like Sol de Sangre. I feel like the best way to describe your music to someone who’s never heard it is kind of a cross between Sepultura and Grave, and completely fucking exhilarating. When you came together, was the goal from the start to play the sort of old-school death metal by way of early South American death/thrash style?

Kike: Thanks for your compliment. I know for sure we wanted to play some old school death metal. You know, this is the type of music we listened to growing up so it felt natural. I always wanted to play some Death Metal with that influence from the forefathers of the genre. Once I had the chance to work with Rolando, who has always been a death metal fan, I knew that was going to be the direction of the music.

Rolando: I wanted to make simple, fast, killer headbanger riffs. Nothing too complicated ’cause the idea has always been to keep it simple and rough, like when we were kids and only wanted to have fun all the time. I’m also a web developer, so I use the code slogan KISS, ‘Keep it simple, stupid,’ for everything I do in my life, and SDS is not an exception for me.

IMV: Okay, so let’s talk about Sol de Sangre. I have to say that from a musical perspective, this album is a really fun listen – it’s pretty much all up-tempo, and it’s really just one badass riff after another for the majority of its 50-minute run time. I know that even though Sol de Sangre is listed as hailing from Colombia, your members are actually a bit more scattered than that. What was the songwriting process like for the record? Did you spend much time in the same room as you were working out the arrangements, or was it primarily done via the Internet?

Kike: Thanks again. I am really glad you took the time to listen to the whole record. You know, there were a few times we thought the whole album was just too long, but then we decided to leave it as it was initially planned. The record was done all via the Internet. It really started as an experiment. We wanted to see if Rolando and I still had that connection to write good songs. So we tried a couple of tracks and it clicked. After the pre-production we worked on a few more arrangements, and we thought we had good songs that deserved good production. All of us have home studios, so we decided to share files and ideas online. Gonzalo was not part of the band yet at the time, so a good friend of ours who plays in the most important death metal band in Colombia, Masacre, recorded drums in Medellin, Colombia under the production of Gustavo.

Rolando: This was an Internet driven initiative. I haven’t seen Kike in like years. We only have contact on chat or Skype, mainly ’cause we are separated by a really long, long, long distance. So mainly we exchange Pro Tools sessions, and it has been awesome ’cause when Kike and I were kids we couldn’t even afford any DAW software and we always dreamt of recording our stuff, you know? And being able to make this record with the advantages of this new era has been awesome!!!! That being said, I have made all the musical and creative process at my home studio with my guitar and my PC, and my band mates are like a filter: we like this, we don’t like that. But, I hope that this changes in the near future. A few months ago, Gustavo, Gonzalo and I reunited here in Medellín and recorded a couple of cover songs for fun, and I really enjoyed it!

IMV: All of Sol de Sangre’s lyrics are in Spanish. On the one hand, since you’re all originally from Colombia it’s understandable that you’d want to sing in your native language. At the same time, was there ever any worry that you might alienate part of your potential audience by not singing in English?

Kike: You know, I have recorded a few albums with Headcrusher and done several projects with other bands and I have never done a single song in Spanish. So this was a conscious decision. When I listened to the tracks Rolando sent me, it immediately took me back to 1993-1996 in Colombia where we used to listen to all the masters of the genre. You know, Morbid Angel, Death, Entombed, Dismember, old Sepultura, Obituary, etc. And thinking about those times when I didn’t even speak English at all had me thinking about these lyrics in Spanish. So I went for it. And after listening to it we thought it gave it a nice touch. I understand that lots of people may not even give it a chance due to the fact that it is all in Spanish, but to us it just felt right. So we left it that way. No regrets from my part.

Rolando: Not at all!! I’m like a ‘Spanish’ evangelist. Don’t get me wrong, but in my country everybody wants to sing in English and make it to the mainstream. Fuck them all! I speak Spanish, I like the way Spanish sounds, so why English? I mean, Latin America is a huge part of the world, and we have a lot of metal bands we listen to that use Spanish. Kike and I talked about doing a couple of tunes in English, but I would prefer not to do it. It’s a political statement for me.

IMV: Sol de Sangre was mixed at the legendary Sunlight Studios by the equally legendary Tomas Skogsberg, and it was later mastered by Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind. That’s a pretty impressive pair of people to have working on your debut album – how did those working relationships come about?

Kike: Sometimes it is hard for me to believe Tomas Skogsberg mixed this record. In my other band, we have worked in the past with some big name producers, so when I got this idea to ask Tomas I knew it was a matter of an email. You know, you shoot an email and if he answers great, if not that’s fine as well. So it was just as simple as that. I emailed Tomas and told him what we were all about, and he said he wanted to listen to the tracks before committing. I sent him the preproduction, and in a matter of hours he agreed to do it. With Joel was very similar; Joel is extremely professional. He really took the time to listen and talk to us about what we wanted for the record. I am still excited these two amazing people worked on this record.

Rolando: It was all Kike’s initiative! He is a magician when contacting people, He always has been. He is an impressive character with an amazing personality. I’ve always been very proud to be his friend.

IMV: I always like to ask at least one gear-related question. All of the instruments sound fantastic, but I love the guitar tones in particular. What did everyone’s studio rigs look like?

 Kike: My gear was pretty simple. I recorded all vocals with a SM7B and my Pro Tools station.

Rolando: I’m not a guitar geek at all. I’m like a ‘dinosaur’ guitar player: B.C. Rich Warlock, Floyd Rose, 6 Strings, Drop B Tunning, EMG 81/85, and DI. Yeah, DI. I play a lot guitar with no distortion at all, then when I record the tracks I use a monitoring channel with some cabinet simulation plugin. I sent Gustavo the session, and he recreated the sound, reamping my DIs.

Gustavo: Yes, for the guitar sound, we also wanted an old school heavy tone. So reamping the Clean DI GTRS, I used a classic Peavey 6505 type and a Vintage Madison head with a Mesa Boogie Cab. with a Sm57 Mic and a Rupert Neve Desk.

IMV: I’ve developed a fascination lately in the relationship between album art and lyrical/musical content. Who was the cover artist for Sol de Sangre, and how closely did the band work with that artist on the cover concept?

Kike: Gonzalo, our drummer, was the cover artist. You know the intro and outro of the record are these acoustic tracks. People who have listened to the record tend to think those are Spanish or Flamenco influenced guitars, but that is actual Colombian traditional music. Rolando is a professional musician and a researcher. He has spent decades investigating the traditional Colombian music. So with that in mind, Gonzalo really wanted to get that Colombian feeling. He wanted to get those Andes hills and that sort of rural vibe.

Rolando: Gonzalo made a ‘total kicking ass’ album cover. He sent us a lot of versions until it clicked.

IMV: So what’s next for Sol de Sangre after the album drops? Any touring plans in your future – perhaps even in North America, where I know a couple of your members currently reside?

Kike: We are currently working on shows to support the record. Unfortunately, our tight work schedules and physical location makes this more complicated than usual. But we are definitely looking for those small windows to get to play live.

Also, as we speak we have written and recorded quite a few songs that we plan to release before the end of 2018.

Rolando: I hope so. We’re looking for it.

IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artists – anything else you’d like to add?

Kike: Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this interview and learn a little bit about us. The record will be out March 23rd via Black Market Metal Label. Check it out, give it a try, headbang, and long life to Death Metal.

Rolando: I hope you enjoy this record! Suerte y muerte!

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