Despite the prevalence of translated material across the world, things, like the nuances and imagery of the native language, get lost in translation. However, this hasn’t stopped professional translators from doing their jobs, whether it is to translate to a room full of people or translating books into English and vice versa. Such is the case with Sangue Cassia – Sinistro’s most recent effort – an album filled with nuances and imagery whose story may be lost in translation.
Full disclaimer: I do not speak Portuguese. My translation and interpretation skills lie in switching between Spanish and English. Despite this, I couldn’t help but be enamored of the idea of being able to translate the lyrics and understand them in context – or at least, try to understand them in context (after all, Spanish and Portuguese are language cousins). Due to this, my translation and interpretations may be incorrect, so please take them with a grain of salt.
Sangue Cassia (Blood Cinnamon) is one of those albums that shouldn’t sound the way it does. For one thing, Patricia Andrade’s voice highly contrasts the music that is played. This is doom we are talking about; the focus should be on the downtuned guitars, the claustrophobic atmosphere, the background hum that drones in and out in pitch, the somber piano, and the heaviness that permeates throughout. The vocals should match all that, but it doesn’t; it has a post-metal tonality that would seem out of place on a doom record. After all, when I think of doom, I think of mid to low voices – baritones and basses with a clear melancholy – but Andrade’s voice is whimsical and evidently feminine, a siren’s call to the listener despite the language barrier. I can see where the appeal of calling Andrade’s voice alluring and captivating comes from, but that’s not all that there is to it. There is something underneath that: fear, pain, elation, and melancholy, which progressively becomes tied to the lyrical themes on the album.
“Eu te vou lembrar com historias velhas
Eu te vou lembrar dentro do ventre
Com historias velhas”
“I will remember you with old stories
I will remember you in the womb
With old stories”
After translating the lyrics and making sense of their contents, it can be inferred that the album talks about love – deep and soulful yet destructive. These songs aren’t love songs pining for a significant other; these songs are about mourning for lost love, the sinful nature of the forbidden, and the lament of death. Sangue Cassia is a fitting title for an album of this nature; love can be sweet, but its also bitter and toxic. Love is all-consuming and bloody, and, sometimes, to live through it, a pound of flesh is needed.
“Nao quero ser aqui
Na dor dos malditos
“I do not want to be here
In the pain of the damned
Angst also lies at the heart of the album, one that would warrant the sadness and the melancholy the album seems to give off. In Spanish music, we have a genre specifically dedicated to angst; it’s called corta venas, and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: it’s music to cry to and to slit your veins open to because the lyrics are so soul-crushing that you can’t do anything but. Because of the voice-music contrast, you wouldn’t think of the angst that belies the album. However, it depicts the turbulent grief of mourning through the dissonance and low tones of its music. The use of ecclesiastical bells depict a funerary tone, as if Andrade is grieving. However, because of her voice, the contrast transcends the narrative of the album. Andrade is telling different stories united by the single, thin thread of love, a love that is both fleeting and intense. It’s the cause of her mourning, of her persistent need to die. It’s this intense love that causes her to ache and to seek death, to reflect on the nature of what was lost.
“A vida, a espera
E o Tempo antes do fim
Respira, respira antes do fim”
The time before the end
Breathe, breathe before the end”
I also want to discuss the usage of flowers in the titles and how they appear in context within the album. Two songs are worthy of note: “Gardenia” and “Cravo Carne.” In flower language, popularized during Victorian times, each flower and its color had a different meaning. In the case of gardenias, they symbolize clarity, self-reflection, and protection, and tend to be a popular flower for weddings due to their elegance. White gardenias represent purity, while those with a yellow tinge represent a secret love. In the context of “Gardenia,” there are implications that there was the loss of a child (“Casa sombra / Imaculada/ Berço baú com historias velhas/ Memoria de ventre com filho [[A] Dark home/ Immaculate/ A cradle [filled] with old stories / Memories of a womb with child]”), so gardenias are appropriate to symbolize the innocence of a dead child.
Now, “Cravo Carne” has three meanings, due to the “cravo” in question. A direct translation of the title is “cleaving meat/flesh,” as “cravo” can be conjugated as a verb, which means “to cleave.” The inside of meat is pink, even when it has been thoroughly cooked. In the case of human flesh, if you hit it or if someone blushes, it’s described as a pink hue. The other meaning of “cravo” is “clove.” If you look at a clove, you can see that it has the color of flesh in the right light. It would make sense to have this translation, as cinnamon can be sold in cloves. The last meaning I saw in translating “cravo” is “carnation,” as in the flower. Carnations symbolize love, fascination, and admiration, and are also popular flowers to have during important events, such as graduations, and on days like Mother’s Day. Carnations come in various colors, like red, white, green, pink, and striped, and giving someone a carnation implies that you are in love with them. However, in the context of “Cravo Carne,” the song implies a mother’s love, because it follows the train of thought of “Gardenia.” The song continues to reflect on the death of the child, and how that lost innocence leads the mother to lose hope, eventually drowning her sorrows in hemlock (“A vida, a espera/ E o Tempo antes do fim/ Respira, respira antes do fim/ Escuta/ Cicuta/ Escuta [Life awaits/ The time before the end/ Breathe, breathe before the end/ Listen/ Hemlock/ Listen]”).
All in all, Sangue Cassia deserves the doom label. The album hits like a ton of bricks and has deeper implications that are easily glossed over because it’s not in English. There is angst, loss, and melancholy of unbearable intensity wrapped in a voice that fools yet compels the listener to look past the music and deeper into the lyrics. This is an album worthy of its mystique and its praise. Granted, my translations may be off, but, just like flowers, their meanings depend on context and individual.
Until next time!