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Resources for Switzerland (V2).

An updated version of a post I made sometime ago. People probably have quite a bit of time now for extensive planning of future trips.
This is mostly aimed at English speakers, those who speak the local languages will have far more options. I live in the German speaking area so I am very heavily biased to the sights and culture there just through my daily experience.
I am a little insufferable at always wanting to be different, so I tend to be a bit harsher on populafamous places than unknown ones. You should try and mentally correct for that.
A quick disclaimer…
I am in no way linked to, get paid by, or benefit from anything I do on here in any way whatsoever. This is purely for my own amusement. (Sadly nobody has even tried to bribe me with free luxury visits)
I will also try and update or correct posts as I or others spot mistakes, but there could still be errors and points that have since become outdated.
Internet - practical
General:
  • My Switzerland. The official and very extensive tourism website. Just about any information you could possibly need about anything is on here.
  • Wikivoyage. A bit hit and miss: the overview and coverage for places like Zürich is fantastic, but many places are lacking in useful or any info.
  • Local tourist areas all have their own websites. Usually in both summer and winter versions, giving you info on: conditions, what is open, ideas for what to do, etc:. Eg: Jungfrau region, Zermatt, Appenzell, and so on.
Transport:
  • You can get regional travel passes which cover all transport and cable cars in specific areas (Eg: the Jungfrau region, or the Tell pass around Luzern). Likewise there are endless passes for museums etc in each region.
  • SBB. The website (and also app) for the train network covering buses, boats, and cable cars too. Timetables, ticket info, and pass info. It is sometimes better to look up the timetable for seasonal things like cable cars and boats on their own websites (eg: BLS boats on Brienzersee, or cable cars in the Aletsch region) as when they don’t run the SBB just gives a vague “can’t find the connection” notice. They do various travel passes, though it is best to carefully calculate your planned routes or figure out if it is worth it It is worth looking for the off-peak “super saver” tickets which limit you to a certain train but can cut the price in half (and if you have the half-tax this cuts the price again, to as much as 75% off).
Accommodation
  • Official accommodation (which should include Airbnb) will offer a guest card in many tourist areas including free/discounted local transport and activities. Typically this is just in the town/village and places 10-20 minutes away (eg for Interlaken), but in the beautiful and underrated canton of Ticino it covers the entire canton.
  • Aside from the standard options for finding rooms you might also want to look into other options such as https://alp.holidaybooking.ch/?language=en, and https://www.rooms.ch/ . Many smaller independent options (especially farms and rural hotels) are not on Booking.com etc and you will have to find them by trawling around on google maps. This could help if you really want to stay in a certain area but everything is booked out, but many of them have a very basic setup so you might need to phone up or fill in a form on their website.
  • Another option that might be worth considering is the Swiss Hotel Card, a 99CHF per year subscription that offers half priced hotel rooms. This is limited to participating hotels and doesn’t apply during the high season, but could easily pay for itself with just a single night or weekend. I have yet to try this, but the range of locations looks like it could be quite good for domestic travellers.
  • For more rural hut and farm based accommodation: https://bnb.ch/ , and https://www.bauernhof-ferien.ch/ , and https://www.myfarm.ch/en/accommodation , and https://naturfreunde.ch/haeuse . Some like myfarm.ch offer the chance to sleep on straw in a barn.
  • Alpine huts are run by a few different organisations. The SAC website is the best starting point.
  • Camping. Standard campsites: www.tcs.ch , www.camping.ch , and www.sccv.ch. In addition there are a few websites where you can officially find a small patch to pitch up on a farm https://www.nomady.ch/ , and on myfarm.ch too.
  • Wild camping is complex. The best way to sum it up is "Prohibited but tolerated under conditions". This SAC page has the most official guidelines. There are some pointers for the ideal situation (the more you follow the better): above the treeline, with the community / landowner’s permission, not in a protected area, single tent, set up as the sun goes down and dismantle at dawn, no fire/noise/disturbance/litter. Wild camping has increased in popularity in recent years, iconic spots like Seealpsee are having problems with numbers, so try and pick a less known spot.
Weather:
Maps:
  • Switzerland Mobility. Detailed map showing all official routes for hiking/biking/skating…. With lots of short and long suggested routes. If you sign up for the (paid) Pro version then you can plan routes on the map with detailed height information and pretty good time estimates. for example.
  • map.geo.admin.ch. The official govt map is amazing. Quick to load and use on desktop or mobile. You can toggle useful overlays like hiking paths (in some ways better than Mobility above as the levels are shown and the contrast makes it much clearer), and just about anything else from geological features to ski runs, you can even switch to historic versions of the map going back to the mid 1800s and watch the country grow. It will even convert any section you like to PDF for easy saving and printing. All for free.
  • When actually out and about I tend to use Maps.me on my phone which has rather good coverage of the footpath system and addresses/businesses. That said it does have some big gaps in some areas. I wouldn’t use it for advanced routes, but to check my position and where a certain side path might take me it is mostly very useful. The directions feature sometimes gives good advice and sometimes decides that a perfectly good bit of path can’t be used and that you should take a 3 hour detour. The time calculator does not take height change into account, so do not trust that either.
Misc:
  • Swiss vs European power plug adapters - not always compatible! If you have an EU plug it might not fit into a Swiss socket, but newer ones should do (roughly speaking when the two prongs are 4mm or less in diameter, and 14mm apart they should work in both the EU and Switzerland).
  • Cable cars typically stop running at around 5pm (later if there is a village like Mürren). This is especially deceptive in summer when it stays light until much later. Check when the last run is, the internet is full of stories of people who found themselves with a long walk down in the dark.
My own guides
More travel related:
Responses to often posted topics:
  • Are there any ugly places in Switzerland (yes): Link
  • Misc. points like why is the grass so perfectly mowed in photos and so on; link.
  • Lauterbrunnen FAQ: link.
  • Blausee: link.
  • Gelmerbahn, the “high-speed rollercoaster; link
  • Villa Vals, the underground “hobbit” house: link
More living related:
Internet - culture
Books
  • Swiss Watching - Diccon Bewes (2010). Switzerland seen through British eyes. A very readable and enjoyable introduction to the history, people, politics and areas of the country by someone who has lived there for years. Ideal reading as a traveller. There are some over generalisations but given the scope and size it mostly does a good job. If you read anything about Switzerland make it this. He also has a Google-talk video which is basically a condensed version of the book
  • Slow train to Switzerland - Diccon Bewes (2013). The author retraces the first Thomas Cook tour of Switzerland and shows how much has changed since then and by the rise of trains and tourism. A very interesting read for the history and travel ideas.
  • Around Switzerland in 80 Maps - Diccon Bewes (2015).Yet another Diccon book, though this is much more history and culture than travel based. At a large 33x23cm it isn’t travel friendly either, but it is beautifully done with a range of well reproduced images and interesting information. It is accessible and interesting to everyone, but I would say this book is most enjoyable to those who already know the Swiss landscape, history and culture to some extent already. The TedX talk that he does on the subject is rather good.
  • The Bergli publisher, which Diccon is part of, have quite a few light hearted books about Swiss culture and Switzerland.
  • Beer Hiking Switzerland - Monika Saxer (2014). Also free at their website. Details of hikes that are public transport friendly and end up in, or visit, somewhere for a local/kraft beer. Though it must be said that it is hard to walk and not come across somewhere selling beer - if you stopped at every Gasthaus for a beer then most hikes in Switzerland would turn into crawls. So it really is not a must-have. But on the plus-side it is one of the Mittelland heavy hiking guides due to the obvious lack of breweries ontop of glaciers.
  • How the English Made the Alps - Jim Ring (2000). A history of how the development of tourism, climbing, and winter sports played a major role in the development of the Alps. Not just Switzerland, but it is a major focus of the book.
  • A Tramp Abroad - Mark Twain (1880). FREE EBOOK. Satirical and absurd account of his travels in Europe. The Swiss part is often hilarious. As above is interesting to see just how much the country has changed since then. Several places such as Weggis-Rigi and Zermatt-Riffelberg have Theme walks in the approximate places where he walked himself. A tramp in this sense is to walk, not the homeless person as most people other than the Kiwis might assume.
  • La Place de la Concorde Suisse - John McPhee (1984). A very out-dated but in some ways interesting read looking at Swiss military thinking and culture back in the 80s. The attitudes and situation are very different now over 30 years later. This is only really worth it if you really want to learn about that bit of Swiss history. It also commits the cardinal sin of having numerous bits of French scattered about the book but with no translation provided, which is really bloody annoying.
  • Sherlock Holmes - The Final Problem - Arthur Conan Doyle (1893). FREE EBOOK. A quick and easy read of Holmes' "final" adventure ending at the Reichenbach falls by Meiringen. He oversells the waterfall somewhat though I must say.
  • The Magic Mountain - Thomas Mann (1924). Inspired by and set in a Davos mountain health retreat. No comment as have yet to read it.
  • Heidi - Johanna Spyri (1881). FREE EBOOK. The classic kids book which seems to be something of cliché and sales-device these days (for a start you can visit a fake Heidi house in Heidi village). It is only partly happy alpine adventures, and often rather painfully moralistic. Read until she is put on a train to Frankfurt and that should be enough.
  • William Tell - Friedrich Schiller (1804). FREE EBOOK. Performed every year in Interlaken amongst other places. Frankly it is really blood boring - the whole thing can be summed up that the Swiss are good christian brothers, and the Austrians are utter wankers.
  • Bill Bryson passes through in his 1991 book “Neither here nor there”. While still mostly a good read, being almost 30 years old the info is rather outdated in parts. The country has become much more lively since then for a start.
If your German is good then:
  • Von Casanova bis Churchill - Barbara Piatti (2016). A series of articles about famous visitors to Switzerland.
  • The publisher Emons does local Krimis. If you like a nice murder or two to go with your hiking spots. The quality is good enough but the writing is not going to win any literature awards.
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[OC] What if every world cup team had the same population? - Group H

Well here it is, the final group. It’s been a wild ride and my office chair's ass groove has developed its own ass groove, but if FIFA and/or The UN sees this and decides to reconstruct the fabric of political geography to emulate my idea, then it just might have been a worthwhile use of my time.
If you’ve just stumbled upon this then you have two options, either you call the day a write off and go back to read the first seven posts or you can close your browser and do literally anything else. Just incase anyone chooses option A, here are the groups in full…
Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D, Group E, Group F, Group G
Gentlemen, it’s been an honour writing with you, this final quartet strings together a titanic amount of talent.
The Final Countdown is fronted by Europe, I experience REM trying to find 22 Chinese Bro’s, and we take a visit to Drake’s home country Canada, for those of you not wanting to think about Drake today, I’m afraid if you’re reading this it’s too late.
CEUSAC
Canada, The Carribean, 24 most Easternly US states, Greenland
Population (millions): 242.42
Not to be confused with namesake John, this map to the stars is acronymically composed of ‘Canada, East US and Carribean’.
Five years ago it would be no exaggeration to say that this squad could have been an all-American draft, but a recent glut of Canadian and Jamaican talent makes this Atlantic amalgam a multi-national roster sweeter than maple syrup.
The Canucks have an underwhelming soccer CV, the ice-hockey adoring nation has the joint worst record of any team to qualify for a world cup, losing all three games without scoring a goal in 1986. Notable Canadians of the past include goalkeeper Craig Forrest who made over 250 appearances for Ipswich and won tournament MVP in Canada’s second and most recent Gold Cup triumph. Utility midfielder Paul Stalteri spent thirteen years playing between Germany and England’s top flights, while Les Rouges top scorer and 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario is the greatest player to never leave the continent.
Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago have all matched Canada’s solitary appearance, while the former are present throughout this squad, the other nation’s have failed to produce this generations Dwight Yorke.
Now-commentator Robbie Earle has just one less Premier League appearance than Eden Hazard and the midfielder scored Jamaica’s first World Cup goal. Earle was born in Newcastle, England, but some notable Islanders having traded allegiances the other way, the past and present pair of John Barnes and Raheem Sterling were both born in capital Kingston, and have gone on to be among the best wide players of their respective generation. A bitter loss to the Reggae Boys, Sterling may get some extreme boo’s if he starts against this team, provoking the irate of the Carribean. (come on it’s the last post)
Arguably the greatest player to represent an island nation is bulky Bermudan Shaun ‘feed the goat’ Goater; talented out-and-out forward scored over 220 times in English football, and an impressive goal every 85 minutes for his country.
The best former American from the strongest region of the three joined City two days after Goater left, Claudio Reyna has a century of caps spanning over a decade, even earning a spot in the all-star team of Japan/Korea 2002. The footballing genetics are strong in the Reyna family, the man from New Jersey sure to have produced a future USMNT star. Giovanni Reyna doesn’t make this squad on the count of a stacked midfield, but considering the 17 year old is already capable of goals like this it’s only a matter of time before he’s the first name on the team sheet.
Goalkeepers Birthplace FM20 Value Age
Milan Borjan CAN Red Star GK Knin, Croatia 63 €1.00 32
Zach Steffen USA F. Dusseldorf GK Coatesville, PA 68 €17.50 25
Defenders
Walker Zimmerman USA LAFC CB Lawrenceville, GA 61 €3.10 27
Matt Hedges USA FC Dallas CB Rochester, NY 61 €3.60 30
Wes Morgan JAM Leicester CB Nottingham 66 €1.50 36
Alphonso Davies CAN Bayern Munich LWB Ghana 68 €7.30 19
Adrian Mariappa JAM Watford CB London 64 €5.00 33
Kemar Lawrence JAM Red Bull NY LB Kingston 61 €3.10 27
Ike Opara USA Minnesota Utd CB Durham, NC 62 €3.30 31
Timmy Chandler USA Frankfurt RB Frankfurt 64 €3.30 30
Midfielders
Daniel Johnson JAM Preston NE CAM Kingston 62 €8.20 27
Jonathan David CAN Gent CAM Brooklyn, NY 65 €9.50 20
Atiba Hutchinson CAN Besiktas CDM Ontario 65 €0.70 36
Cristian Pulisic USA Chelsea LW Hershey, PA 75 €43.30 21
Tyler Adams USA RB Leipzig CDM Wappinger, NY 65 €4.80 21
Leon Bailey JAM Bayer Leverkusen LW Kingston 76 €38.20 22
Osvaldo Alonso CUB Minnesota Utd CDM San Cristobal 63 €1.20 34
Romaine Sawyers STK West Brom CM Birmingham 65 €12.50 28
Forwards
Mariano Diaz DOM Real Madrid ST Catelonia 74 €29.80 26
Jozy Altidore USA Toronto ST Livingston, NJ 66 €5.40 30
Lucas Cavallini CAN Vancouver ST Toronto 65 €3.20 27
Kemar Roofe JAM Anderlecht ST Walsall 65 €8.80 27
Average/Totals 66 €214.30 25.82
Tempted to include his name in the title to break the subs upvote record, Christian Pulisic is a $73 million man receiving the attacking midfield tutorship of Frank Lampard at Chelsea. With 31 caps and 17 goals for his country at just 21, the man from Hershey has mounds of talent that might see him finish his career as the male Megan Rapinoe.
I’m hesitant to call Pulisic the star of the show, as the winger turned wingback Alphonso Davies looks almost certain to become a world-class player at Bayern Munich. Born in a Ghanian refugee camp to Liberian parents, the prodigy is a proud Canadian national who announced himself by scoring a 93rd minute winner against Sporting Kansas City aged just 15. He went on to score three times for his adoptive country in the 2017 Gold Cup the following year, sharing a continental golden boot award before being legally old enough to donate blood. In recent memory Davies displayed a man of the match performance knocking Pulisic’ Chelsea out of the Champions League.
Ronaldo’s brief successor to the number 7 shirt at Real Madrid, Mariano leads the line, despite just 1 cap for the Dominican Republic, I’m going out on a limb to predict he’ll bother turning up for this team
At one point believed to be the third in a trilogy of Anglo-Jamaican heists, Leon Bailey is a technically supreme winger with pace to match, now 22 he’s comparatively one of the older attacking role models in the tournament's youngest team. The average age is even more impressive when looking at aging leaders Atiba Hutchinson and Wes Morgan who collectively have a glistening trophy cabinet.
I think group winners will be a bridge too far but could this show what could be the beginning of a much more competitive CONCACAF in years to come. If my predictions are correct, the round of 16 will be a reenactment of the civil war.
East India
11 Indian states (Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal P, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Bihar)
Population (millions): 178.20
Never having to research this nation's footballing downfalls again will be an Indian tonic, in what is actually the best team on paper from the second most populated country, they might just manage to concede fewer than thirty in this strong group.
I don’t have anything of value to say about this part of the world, so I’m going to try a social experiment and see if anyone gets this far without skipping to the next team, so here is the first few paragraphs of the WIkipedia entry for former Chelsea and Newcastle defender Celestine Babayaro...
Babayaro spent the majority of his career playing in the Premier League, mainly for Chelsea from 1997 to 2005, and then later for Newcastle United, from 2005 to 2008. He had a brief stint at MLS club LA Galaxy, but never officially played for the club, and was a free agent, before retiring in 2010. He represented the Nigerian national football team from 1995 to 2004, and was part of two Olympic squads, two World Cup squads and three African Cup of Nations squads.
Born in Kaduna, he began his playing career at Nigerian side Plateau United, before moving to Belgian club Anderlecht in 1994, and eventually would make a name for himself, quickly gaining first-choice status although still a teenager. Babayaro set records as the youngest player to make an appearance and to receive a red card in the UEFA Champions League. He was sent off in a match against Steaua Bucuresti in a 1–1 draw, aged 16 years and 86 days.
Now that you know the history, let’s see the team.
Goalkeepers Birthplace Football manager Value Age
Dheeraj Singh IND ATK GK Manipur 24 €0.02 19
Lalthuammawia Ralte IND FC Goa GK Mizoram 20 €0.01 27
Defenders
Salam Ranjan Singh IND ATK CB Manipur 28 €0.02 24
Raju Galkwad IND Kerala Blasters CB Maharashtra 21 €0.01 29
Jerry Lalrinzuala IND Chennaiyin LB Mizoram 27 €0.02 21
Dhanachandra Singh IND Mohun Bagan LB Manipur 22 €0.02 33
Abhishek Ambekar IND East Bengal LB Maharashtra 20 €0.01 28
Chhuantea IND Odisha LWB Mizoram 20 €0.01 31
Robet Lalthlamuana IND Northeast United LWB Mizoram 20 €0.01 31
Rahul Bheke IND Bengaluru RB Maharashtra 33 €0.03 29
Midfielders
Udanta Singh IND Bengaluru CM Manipur 37 €0.04 23
Lallianzuala Chhangte IND Chennaiyin CAM Mizoram 35 €0.04 22
Halicharan Narzary IND Hyderabad CM Assam 30 €0.02 25
Jackichand Singh IND Jamshedpur CM Manipur 30 €0.02 28
Vinit Rai IND Odisha CDM Assam 29 €0.02 22
Amarjit Singh IND Jamshedpur CDM Manipur 29 €0.02 19
Lalrindika Ralte IND East Bengal CM Mizoram 29 €0.02 27
Eugeneson Lyngdoh IND Bengaluru CM Meghalaya 28 €0.02 33
Forwards
Semboi IND Bengaluru ST Manipur 20 €0.01 27
Jeje IND Chennaiyin ST Mizoram 38 €0.03 29
Samuel Lalmuanpula IND Mizoram CAM Mizoram 22 €0.02 21
Komal Thatal IND Sikkim CAM Sikkim 22 €0.02 18
Average/Totals 27 €0.44 25.73
Udanta Singh is the key player in this squad, the right winger doesn’t have the greatest goal record for India but the Bengaluru stalwart was key to an historic 2015-16 season that saw the South Indian club win the I-League while reaching the final of the AFC Cup (Asian Europa league), doing all this at age just 18 saw him voted young player of the year in his homeland.
At 21 years old, Jerry Lalrinzuala was enjoying his fourth season as a regular for Chennaiyin and played every game in a victorious ISL season two years ago, the Mizoram man is one of India’s brightest shining players in a generation.
I honestly can’t wait to see what the damage is to these teams once the tournament is simmed, I think the golden boot will be decided on which world-class striker shows the least mercy, and between his exploits against Panama and swearing on his daughter's life begging for a goal that his hair scored, Harry Kane might be the man to do it.
North & Central Europe
United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany
Population (millions): 243.13
Here it is the one you’ve all been waiting for, it’s the last megateam of the tournament and the region that contains Angela Merkal, the Chef from the muppets, and little old me.
The region combines for two world wars and five world cups (doo dah), and is dominated by two of the games fiercest rivals.
Die Mannschaft has seven major honours and football’s most ruthlessly efficient and consistent force, before the disaster of 2018, Germany’s worst finish this century was a bronze medal. Depressingly I had the best summer of my life cheering on an England team that finished fourth overall. With the group stage exit behind them and the Three Lion’s looking to build from their deepest run since 1990, these two nations are producing top players at a frightening rate and will no doubt renew the duel at some point this decade. With 18 of 22 players, the Anglo-Germanic mixture will face an existential crisis if they end up facing a penalty shootout.
The Nordic nations struggle to make an impact in the side, while Sweden and Finland have produced legends in the past like Sami Hyypia, Jari Litmanen, and striking duo Larrsson and Zlatan, Norway are patiently waiting for their newly foraged mix of raw ingredients to rise into a Golden generation. It will be a shock if Erling Braut Haaland and Martin Odegaard don’t become elite in their own rights, while the defensive minded likes of Sander Berge and Kristoffer Ajer may be a few rungs down but are physically capable of going to the top of the game.
Two times World cup runners up and 1976 Euro winners Czechoslovakia join forces once more but fail to grab a speaking role in this all-star cast.
Iceland are the darlings of population stats, whilst they don’t feature in this lineup they’ll be in the crowds showing off their famous synchronized noise making trick.
Goalkeepers Birthplace FM20 Value Age
Marc Andre Ter Stegen GER Barcelona GK Mochengladbach 85 €57.10 27
Manuel Neuer GER Bayern GK Gelsenkirchen 88 €51.20 34
Defenders
Joshua Kimmich GER Bayern RWB Rotweil 80 €53.90 25
Mats Hummels GER Dortmund CB Bergisch Gladbach 83 €62.50 30
Andrew Robertson SCO Liverpool LWB Glasgow 79 €54.40 26
Trent Alexander-Arnold ENG Liverpool RWB Liverpool 80 €61.10 22
Niklas Sule GER Bayern CB Frankfurt 78 €60.10 25
Harry Maguire ENG Man United CB Sheffield 75 €39.00 27
Jerome Boateng GER Bayern CB West Berlin 78 €41.20 32
Milan Skriniar SVK Inter Milan CB Zlar nad Hronom 82 €60.20 25
Midfielders
Raheem Sterling ENG Man City RW Kingston, Jamaica 87 €86.60 26
Toni Kroos GER Real Madrid CM Greifswald 81 €72.30 30
Cristian Eriksen DEN Inter Milan CAM Middelfart 79 €60.90 28
Marco Reus GER Dortmund CAM Dortmund 84 €71.00 30
Leroy Sane GER Man City LW Essen 84 €77.30 24
Jadon Sancho ENG Dortmund RM Camberwell 78 €50.80 20
Thomas Muller GER Bayern CAM Wuilheim 80 €66.70 31
Leon Goretzka GER Bayern CM Bochum 75 €33.40 25
Forwards
Robert Lewandowski POL Bayern ST Warsaw 88 €93.60 32
Harry Kane ENG Tottenham ST London 89 €90.10 26
Timo Werner GER RB Leibzig ST Stuttgart 78 €54.00 24
Gareth Bale WAL Real Madrid RF Cardiff 87 €87.80 31
Average/Totals 82 €1,385.20 27.27
A ridiculous strike-force that begs the question of two up top, Kane and Lewandowski’s play styles may be too similar to gel but leaving one on the bench seems ungrateful. Timo Werner is the more natural second striker while Bale perhaps only makes the side on reputation.
Ever forward-thinking, Germany predicted the grouping in 2017 and chose to develop the world's greatest post-2000 player to date, despite normally batting for the other team. Jadon Sancho hasn’t quite made the mark in an adolescent international career but has his entire 20's ahead of him, the Englishman with all the speed and flare of an Aston Martin, he is positionally and tactically convertible, his meaning his potential has no ceiling. Sancho will most likely contend with Sterling for a spot in the lineup, with an industrious German midfield dominating. Joshua Kimmich holding the obvious way to go.
Liverpool’s wing back pair continue to compete for assists, while solo Slovakian Milan Skriniar should play alongside one of three German centre-halfs. Take your pick from the keepers.
Another contender for the title, not quite as perfect as their western counterparts, but if any team can top them, it might be the region on top of them.
East China
3 Chinese provinces (Henan, Hubei, Shandong)
Population (millions): 242.05
As I near the end, my last supper is a stale Chinese.
Three gargantuan provinces combine to complete the world’s most populous nation. These play home to four teams in the country's top flight, Qingdao Huanghai, Shandong Luneng, Henan Jianye and Wuhan Zall, with Marouane Fellaini the most recognisable name playing in the region, and probably the tallest human around.
China’s greatest goalscorer Hao Haidong was born in Shandong, with Yang Xu approaching his mid-thirties thirteen behind, Hao’s 41 goals for the team in red doesn’t look likely to be beaten anytime soon.
Goalkeepers Birthplace FM20 Value Age
Guo Quanbo CHN Beijing Guoan GK Hubei 37 €1.00 22
Zeng Cheng CHN Shanghau Shenhua GK Hubei 49 €2.90 33
Defenders
Yu Hai CHN Shanghai SIPG LWB Henan 52 €2.50 33
Yu Dabao CHN Beijing Guoan CB Shandong 51 €3.30 32
Zhang Linpeng CHN Guangzhou E CB Shandong 51 €3.70 31
Jiang Zhipeng CHN Heibe China Fortune LB Shandong 51 €3.60 31
He Guan CHN Shanghai SIPG CB Shandong 50 €3.00 27
Mei Fang CHN Guangzhou E CB Hubei 47 €3.10 31
Zheng Zheng CHN Shandong Luneng LB Shandong 47 €3.00 31
Li Lei CHN Beijing Guoan LB Shandong 46 €3.60 27
Midfielders
Hao Junmin CHN Shandong Luneng CM Hubei 54 €2.70 33
Zhang Xizhe CHN Beijing Guoan CAM Hubei 50 €4.50 29
John Hou Saeter CHN Beijing Guoan CDM Trondheim, Norway 46 €4.40 22
Li Hang CHN Wuhan Zall CM Hubei 46 €2.50 31
Zheng Kaimu CHN Jiangsu Suning CDM Hubei 46 €2.40 28
Zheng Long CHN Dalian Yifang LM Shandong 45 €0.38 32
Wang Yongpo CHN Shenzhen RM Shandong 46 €2.00 33
Pedro Delgado CHN Aves CAM Portimao, Portugal 53 €4.80 23
Forwards
Gao Lin CHN Shenzhen CF Henan 53 €1.50 34
Xiao Zhi CHN Guangzhou R&F ST Henan 46 €0.00 34
Shan Huanhuan CHN Dalian Yifang ST Henan 44 €0.36 21
Gao Xiang CHN Qingdao RF Shandong 43 €2.10 31
Average/Totals 48 €57.34 30
The Wuhan clan of Hao Junmin and Zhang Xizhe share 110 national appearances between them and steer a midfield that although the best of the Chinese teams, will struggle to dictate the play in a strong group.
This aging squad is waiting for a new wave of talent, one of only a few teams to exceed an average age of 30.
Third place a near certainty in this group, but they’ll be looking forward to knocking a few past East India.
So there we go, my work is done, I’m working on collaborating with someone to sim the tournament and will have that ready for you ASAP.
I’ll do some spring cleaning on some mistakes in past posts and try to put some of your lineups in there, until then, thanks so much for reading the series, I’m going to go back to playing miniclip pool infront of the Netflix ‘are you still watching’ screen. Cheers!
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Lusitania Metallum: A Portuguese Metal Primer

Now that I’ve had some free time in my hands thanks to this global pandemic, I finally got around to working on this project that has been on my mind for months, in hopes to make a small contribution to this community.
Some might remember the translated interviews around Sepultura’s early career. Being born in Brazil, I feel a special pride coming from the same place as such influential bands, known across the world. I have, however, lived most of my life in Portugal, a much smaller country that nevertheless produced some quality material over the years.
In this primer I’ll go over the socio-political context that led to a late arrival into the Heavy Metal scene, the first Portuguese bands to make waves in the 80s, the first excursions into extreme metal territory in the 90s, as well as an overview of the modern scene. Most primers that I’ve seen seem to focus on specific genres in a country, though I’ve decided to take a generalist approach since most people might not be as knowledgeable of the Portuguese bands. I particularly wish to highlight historical context as it seems to be the first significant contribution regarding this subject. Some of the projects were chosen not because of their quality per se, but rather due to their importance in establishing the scene. Also, the focus will be on the band’s first LP or significant release if it never got to put out a full-length. Lastly, I want to point out the primer is loosely organised in chronological order, not by year of formation but rather by output.
 

Socio-political context

Portugal’s 20th century was plagued by instability and conflict, much like the rest of Europe. Though it was one of the first nations to establish a global colonial empire, by this time Portugal was a shell of its former self. A weakened Monarchy that met an abrupt end via regicide in 1910 lead to a feeble republican government, whose power waned with the country’s intervention in WWI. With the end of the war came a period of political crisis that would last until 1926, during which there were a whopping 38 prime ministers.
A dictatorship was then established that would last until 1974, 48 years in total; longer than the rules of Franco, Mussolini, Hitler, or Stalin. This regime had a strong traditional nationalistic and isolationist doctrine, as well as high illiteracy rates among most of the population. All of this made it difficult for foreign media outside of the mainstream to make its way into Portugal, even releases by big bands like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Black Sabbath or Deep Purple were hard to come by during the 70’s. As a result, it was only at the beginning of the 80’s that the boom of Rock music in Portugal took place, and that’s where we’ll start.
 

The Genesis

The 80s brought about some bands that would be instrumental in establishing a proper scene in post-dictatorial Portugal. In some cases, it is difficult to find material and information online, as some projects were either short-lived or transitioned to softer styles after their first releases.
 
NZZN – Named after its members (Necas, Zica and Zé Nuno), these guys are regarded as pioneers. They started as a Van Halen and AC/DC cover band in 1979 and released what is considered the first Heavy Metal single in Portugal, Vem Daí, in 1980. Their sound can be described as a blurred line between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal proper, which nonetheless reached the number 1 spot on a famous Rock radio show at the time. This band released one LP a year later, titled Forte e Feio, disbanding shortly after.
 
Jarojupe – This band consists of 4 brothers: Jaime, Rosa, Juca and Pedro, whose initials gave the band its name (yeah yeah, I know… and they’re not the last band in this primer to do this). Originally formed in 1981 they played at dance clubs making the switch to a heavier sound to enter a contest, in which they got 4th place. ’84 was a big year for these guys as they got to play in front of 15,000 people in Spain’s Muestra de Pop, Rock y otros Rollos as well as the first Portuguese Heavy Metal Festival, held in the outskirts of Lisbon. A year later they released their first single, Pecado Mortal, which just like the previous band was a weird blend, albeit with poorer production. I couldn’t find anything else from their Heavy Metal days besides that single, since they went on to become a pretty mellow Rock band.
 
Xeque-Mate – Another band that took part in the Portuguese Heavy Metal Festival, Xeque-Mate released a couple of singles in ‘81 with their full-length coming out 4 years later. Em Nome Do Pai Do Filho... E Do Rock 'n' Roll boasts a much more Heavy Metal focused sound in line with early Accept or Saxon and flirting with Speed Metal here or there. Definitely a foundational moment in the Portuguese scene, this is arguably the first purely Heavy Metal album to be released in the country, and with a pretty decent production to boot. You got catchy fist-pumping choruses, shredding solos, and goofy looking cover art, what more could you ask for?
 
MAC-ZAC/TARÂNTULA – Formed by lead guitarrist Paulo Barros (who also played in Xeque-Mate’s debut album) and his brother Luís on drums, MAC-ZAC played a lot of shows throughout the country early on in their career. This got them the attention of a couple of German businessmen who proceeded to invite them for a couple of shows in 1982 in the cities of Frankfurt and Offenbach. There the group took the chance to record a rehearsal, which I can’t seem to find anywhere. MAC-ZAC was also part of the 1984 Portuguese Heavy Metal Festival. A year later they recruited a keyboard player and a new singer, change their name to Tarântula, and release a self-titled album in ’87 with lyrics in English. This release leans more towards Power Metal, with more technical playing than what can be heard from the aforementioned bands. I will admit I am far from an expert in Power Metal, though Tarântula seem to follow the EUPM formula not shying away from using synths and anthemic choruses. Do not be fooled however, this album has its fair share of muscle in the form of blazing solos (I guess these dudes were really into Yngwie Malsteen), double-bass drums, and NWOBHM riffage as well as some bursts of virtuoso bass playing here and there which caught me completely by surprise. All of this is complimented by an organic production style, which does not castrate the music’s agression.
 
Sepulcro – Yet another group that played in the ’84 Festival, Sepulcro was a short-lived project that never got to release a full-length. Nonetheless, these guys were an important part of the early scene brewing at the time, putting out a couple of demos that were put together as a compilation named Flesh Meets Steel in ’87. Just like Tarântula they had a Portuguese name but sang in English, though their sound did not boast the same Power Metal inclination. Sepulcro played a more straightforward type of Heavy Metal, influenced by the likes of Judas Priest (to me the singer kinda sounds like a discount Rob Halford). The production here is not the best, though it is far from unlistenable.
 
V12 – This band came to be in 1984, though it was only 3 years later that they released their demo. Late to arrive in the scene, V12 put out their self-titled LP in 1990, which represents a landmark in the Portuguese scene. The band wear their influences on their sleeves, the first track sounds like Iron Maiden in Portuguese, but the album soon takes a turn to heavier sounds, hinting at Speed/Thrash Metal as it progresses. This release would make a strong argument for Portugal’s Traditional Heavy Metal crowning jewel, an amazing way to put an end to the 80s, with Tarântula as another contender. After this V12 sadly only released a single and another demo, disbanding in ’93.
 
These are not the only bands to arise during the decade, there were other names such as Valium with clear Mercyful Fate influences (later became Casablanca when they released their first LP) and STS Paranoid, both groups played in the Portuguese Heavy Metal Festival. Also worth mentioning because of their cool name and much darker sound is Satan’s Saints, who shared stages with those other two bands, they recorded a demo (this is some good stuff, if you can endure the rough recording quality) and then disbanded in 1987.
By the end of the decade some more attention had gathered around this underground movement and some new projects started to emerge, following in the footsteps of the more extreme bands making a name for themselves abroad. The 90s mark a new chapter in Portuguese metal, with these more aggressive sounds popping up with new groups. Perhaps Quorthon’s autograph session in a Lisbon record store in 1990 served as a harbinger of what was to come. In that video you can actually see people that would go on to form important bands mentioned here such as Moonspell, Filii Nigrantium Infernalium or Thormenthor.
 

The extreme 90s

Some of the projects mentioned here actually had their origins in the late years of the past decade, though their main releases happened in the 90s, hence why they are listed here. As I pointed out in the last paragraph, these bands began to explore heavier, and at times downright weirder sounds.
 
Moonspell – Ok, let’s just get these guys out of the way alright? Most of you have probably heard of Moonspell, they are the most famous of the Portuguese bands. Maybe you knew they existed as Morbid God from ’89 to ’92 (which is now a side project I guess?), maybe you didn’t. No one’s questioning your street cred calm down, jeez. They went from folky Black Metal on their early releases to an Atmospheric Black Metal sound with heavy gothic and folk aesthetics by the time they put out their debut album, Wolfheart (1995). I don’t like the Gothic Metal subgenre label but perhaps it is a good way to describe it. If I had to draw any comparisons, it’s like In the Nightside Eclipse or Thy Mighty Contract, Black Metal with tasteful synths but written and performed by that weird goth kid who’s obsessed with vampires and Edgar Allan Poe. Oh, and sprinkle some Bergtatt on it too. This kind of sound would go on to influence other Portuguese bands, which in addition to their active output calendar during the rest of the decade would cement their status a central piece in the local scene.
 
Sacred Sin – Finally, some d-beat and blast beats. Sacred Sin came to life in ’91 playing the best kind of Death Metal: OSDM! It’s pretty straightforward stuff, think early Morbid Angel with muddier production. Their debut LP is titled Darkside, dropping in ’93; it doesn’t show as many signs of the Thrash Metal influence you can hear in early Death Metal projects. Throughout the album you can hear some melodic interludes and passages where the band employs synths for added atmosphere, though it is not overdone at all. The version of the album linked here is the remastered version from ’94 with bonus live tracks, as well as some changes in-between songs such as fade outs and transitions that might make the pacing weird at times. Sacred Sin were an important band, as they released the first Death Metal album in Portugal and were also the first Portuguese group to be featured in MTV’s Headbangers Ball. José Costa, the band’s vocalist also took part in several projects such as Disaffected, Paranormal Waltz, and Corpus Christii.
 
Thormenthor – Sticking to the Death Metal theme, this band started putting out demos as early as 1988, though their only album only dropped in ’94, one year later than Sacred Sin. Not to take anything away from Thormenthor however, as their style differs from the straightforward sound of the previous band by adding some technical flourish and progressive elements to their Death Metal. Look, I’ll just go ahead and say it: I’m not into Progressive Death Metal at all. Leprosy is as far as I’ll go with Death’s discography. If you’re into that kind of style Thormenthor might be a good band to check out, Abstract Divinity clocks in at a little over 30 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. You can also hear some Voivod-esque vocal passages and weirdness which keeps you on your toes. The band is still active to this day, though they haven’t released any new material since this album. Here’s a fun fact: Pedro Quaresma played guitar for this band and went on to also play in Portugal’s biggest hip-hop group, Da Weasel, which might explain this.
 
Genocide – Bonus dose of OSDM. Genocide released their self-titled debut LP also in ’94. Their style differs from Sacred Sin in that they forgo synths and atmosphere to deliver a no-frills sonic bludgeoning much like early Deicide. Throughout the album you can hear some Hardcore Punk flirting going on, giving this album a grindy feel.
 
Decayed – Tremolo picking? Shrieking? Blast beats? Paganism? Yeah that’s Black Metal alright. Decayed came out with The Conjuration of the Southern Circle, their debut LP, in ’93. This album features some good old orthodox Black Metal riffage, mixed with occasional synths and acoustic passages to up the atmosphere factor. Mortuary Drape and Mystifier could be a good reference for what is going on in this album, in contrast to the pure guitar driven assault from the likes of Darkthrone or Immortal. The production style is reminiscent of the last two examples, which is a good thing if you’re into the whole lo-fi necro sound, not so good if you prefer clean stuff. It’s Black Metal recorded in 1993, sorry bud. Besides being pioneers of the genre in Portugal, Decayed have been quite active to this very day, putting out an album last year even.
 
Evisceration – Here’s one for all you SICK GRINDCORE FREAKS. The first Grindcore LP to come out of Portugal was created by the hands of the short-lived Evisceration. Hymn to the Monstrous was released in ’94 and it has all of that good stuff you guys enjoy: BLAST BEATS, GROWLING, GORE, AND… a 5-minute acoustic intro? What? Seriously, the longest track on this thing is pretty much a moody acoustic guitar. Maybe you’re into that, I’m not judging. Just letting you guys know because it’s not what I was expecting coming into this. Other than that, it’s a solid Death Metal leaning Grindcore album. The guitars sound like chainsaws, the vocals are as disgusting as the track titles, and the bpm is high. I’m not big into Grind and I enjoy this, so they must be doing something right. This is the last everyone has heard of them, as they never released anything else.
 
Grog – We’re keeping it brutal with the sweet tunes of Grog. The name itself is an indication of what to expect, as is the title of their debut album from ‘96, Macabre Requiems. This record also opens with a slow track, though it only lasts 3 minutes this time around and it’s actually a bit spooky. When it comes to the music itself, it’s meat and potatoes grindy Death Metal. Or is it the other way around? I’ll admit the line is nebulous to me. Anyways, just like Evisceration’s album, it has all that fun stuff, the vocals go from a low growl à la Cannibal Corpse to a higher Black Metal shriek to keep things interesting. I’m including Grog in this primer because while they released their debut a couple of years later than Evisceration, they stayed active and carved their place as one of the bastions of Portugal’s extreme music landscape to this day.
 
W.C. Noise – Interestingly enough, Thrash Metal in Portugal didn’t seem to have as much of a development as the other extreme genres did during the 90s. Perhaps the late arrival to the whole Metal scene made it so that Portuguese bands just missed the Thrash train. There were some small projects that didn’t bear much fruit, while other bands just went straight to the Pantera-influenced Groove Metal route, which makes sense if you take into account the decade being discussed. I’m happy to say that despite all of it, Portugal managed to produce a gem in the form of W.C. Noise, who released Loud & Mad in ’92. As you can see, subtlety is out of the question with these guys, playing no-nonsense Crossover Thrash inspired by bands like D.R.I. or Suicidal Tendencies. There isn’t much nuance here, the band’s name is literal toilet humour for crying out loud. What you can expect from this is 36 minutes of solid in-your-face Punk-infused thrashing riffs, loud distorted bass, and lyrics that range from social commentary to literally nuclear poo.
 
RAMP – Ricardo, António, Miguel and Paulo came together to form R.A.M.P. (ok, this the last band with initials for its name, I promise), active since ’89. Intersection came out in ’95, a Groove Metal album with its fair share of thrashy moments. The vocal performance here sits somewhere between Pantera and Machine Head, so if you’re into those two bands this album should appeal to you. If not, well, RAMP is one of the better respected names in the Portuguese scene as the veterans they are, so you should still check them out.
 
Heavenwood – This band started out as Disgorged from ’92 to ’96, year in which they changed their name to Heavenwood and dropped Diva. Remember when I said Moonspell’s gothic aesthetics would go on to influence other Portuguese bands? Case in point. Though admittedly their sound leans more towards Death/Doom Metal in the vein of Paradise Lost according to MA, this is just one of the first bands in this primer that dive deep into a weird fusion of genres with heavy emphasis on atmosphere and goth themes introduced by Moonspell. The vocals remind me of 90s James Hetfield when it’s clean.
 
Malevolence – Keeping up with the goth kids, Malevolence delivers their debut offering in the same year as the previous band. Dominium is closer to a straight up Death/Doom Metal album, a melodic one at that, though it is heavier than Heavenwood. At times you can’t even tell it hangs out with the goth clique, it’s very discreet about it until you get to know it better.
 
Inhuman – Another member of the ’96 class. Oh yeah, Strange Desire gets right on your face with its goth aesthetic, it doesn’t try to hide it at all and wears it proudly. This album has melody, synths, and tracks with titles like My Blackest Daylight, Fallen Majesty, or Angeldom. This sounds different from the other two previously mentioned bands, the production (especially the guitars) gives me a Black Metal vibe plus the riffs just don’t have the same Doom Metal-esque weight to them, and the synths are way more prominent.
 
Paranormal Waltz – Wrapping up with the Edgar Allan Poe fan club, here’s a gem that might have flown under the radar. Paranormal Waltz never got to release an LP, but they did put out an EP titled In the Name of Tranquility, also in ‘96. Look at that album cover. Is it Black Metal? Is it Death Metal? I’m not sure. What I’m sure of is that this record is really, really into creating an atmosphere. It starts off in Dungeon Synth territory, which it revisits more than once in its 23-minute runtime, perfect for you to blast in your Victorian mansion while wearing your finest black attire. The joke is kinda played out at this point isn’t it? I’m sorry. This is heavy atmospheric gothic goodness. Give it a spin.
 
We are now reaching the twilight years of the decade, and with it come a few outlier bands that encompass several genres. These projects do not particularly stand out in my eyes, but I have decided to include them for the sake of showing what else was being done around this time. For the fans of Industrial Metal, Bizarra Locomotiva are a staple in the Portuguese scene, putting out a self-titled LP in ’94. Fallen Seasons keeps up the goth theme with the far mellower Insanity (1998, NSFW album cover), while In Solitude delivers a Trad-oriented album in Eternal from the same year. Still counting them on this chapter’s conclusion, Oratory put out Illusion Dimensions, a Symphonic Power Metal LP in 2000. At the same time Evidence released Truth From a Lie, in the Power Metal camp.
 

The consolidation of the 2000s

This section of the primer will include both decades of the current millennium to keep things simple. The years since have seen the rise of new names that would go on to become staples of the Portuguese scene, veterans rising to new heights, as well as flirting with the weird sounds that came up around this time like alt/nu metal. An example of this is Mindlock in 2003.
 
Holocausto Canibal – Their name seems to be a reference to the infamous 1980 Cannibal Holocaust movie, so this should give you an idea of what you are getting into. Lyrical themes for this band include gore, cannibalism, and perversion, according to the Metal Archives. What a way to start things off. This band dropped their first offering titled Gonorreia Visceral, in 2000 (NSFW ALBUM COVER). This is an 18-minute Gore/Grindcore album that doesn’t pull any punches, with samples that range from gore to sexual in nature (the last track is nothing but samples actually). Holocausto Canibal have kept themselves busy since their inception and nowadays are regarded as one of the bigger names of the Portuguese extreme underground.
 
Corpus Christii – Yes, the second “i” is intentional. Saeculum Domini came out in the same year as the previously presented album, a by-the-books 2nd wave Black Metal record that was a bit late to the party. Seriously, this sounds like Emperor or Burzum worship with very, very raw production. The drums are low in the mix, as are the synths, drowned by the tremolo guitars and shrieking vocals. When I say the production is raw, I mean it is worse than the bands Corpus Christii seems to be trying to emulate here, so bear that in mind. The Norwegian bands are known for their lo-fi sound, but most of the time they seem to make it work in their favour, which is not quite the case here, in my opinion.
 
ThanatoschizO – Originally formed as Thanatos they changed their name in 2001, year when they release Schizo Level. I am really at a loss with this band and album to be honest. This is Death Metal with some… interesting twists throughout, I have never heard anything quite like this. The band makes use of a wide array of sounds which range from synths to shamisens. You know, the Japanese stringed instrument? That 3rd track is a wild ride. Scratch that, the whole album is a wild ride into the weirder side of Death Metal, I guess you could even call this Avant-garde? There are also some passages that lean into Doom Metal, with operatic and clean vocals, piano, flutes; the list goes on. Amid it all there are also riffs, I guess. Just give it a spin, words just aren’t enough here.
 
Filii Nigrantium Infernalium – Some might find this a weird position for Filii Nigrantium Infernalium. Truth is, this band has existed since the early 90s and had already established themselves as a respected name within the scene. Their first LP only came out in 2005 however, titled Fellatrix Discordia Pantokrator. If you compare it with their ’95 EP, A Era do Abutre, you’ll see they went from a Black Metal oriented sound to a Blackened Speed/Thrash assault which could be aptly described by the title of a track in one of their later releases, Necro Rock n’ Roll. The vocals are not your standard-issue shrieking or shouting, with the band’s vocalist employing full blown screams which constantly seem at the edge of ripping his vocal cords. It gives a vibe of pure insanity, which goes hand in hand with their whole theme and aesthetic. Quality satanic hedonist insane Black n’ Roll, I highly recommend this. But don’t just take my word for it, ask any Portuguese metal fan and they will have heard of this band at the very least, as these guys sit comfortably on the higher echelons of the local scene.
 
Ava Inferi – Here’s a fun fact for you all. Aura Noir’s Rune Eriksen (aka Blasphemer) is married to a Portuguese Fado singer, Carmen Simões. Together they formed Ava Inferi, a Doom Metal band with (surprise, surprise) heavy gothic influences. Forget Aura Noir, this is a completely different thing, there’s no Black Thrash Attack going on here. Burdens was released in 2006, a quite melodic Doom Metal offering, where Carmen’s versatile vocals take centre stage. She goes from dramatic operatic harmonies to unsettling whispering which would feel right at home in a Tim Burton movie. Dramatic is a good way to describe this album yes, though it is not meant as a derogatory term, as that was the point.
 
Alkateya – Finally, another Traditional Heavy Metal album. Alkateya (intended misspelling of “alcateia”, Portuguese for wolfpack) released Lycanthropy in ’06 as well, showcasing some Power Metal tendencies throughout the album. Interestingly enough, instead of following the European approach, they seem to take cues from the USPM style that so many of you are fans of, all bite and no bark (get it? Because werewolves). Anyways, I feel like some people in this sub could consider this a gem, there are some solid riffs in here, none of that synthesizer crap. Another fun fact, this album includes a reinterpretation of a Sepulcro track: Street Survivor, as a couple members of that band went on to play in Alkateya.
 
Process of Guilt – One more offering from 2006, Process of Guilt showcased their brand of Death/Doom in Renounce. None of their full albums seem to be on Youtube, though you can find them on Spotify. For quick reference, I’ll link you to Motionless from their debut, which should give you a good idea of how they roll. Drawn out plodding riffs, with a steady pounding rhythm coming from the drums to keep the momentum going. On top of it Hugo delivers his vocals, ranging from clean and deep almost spoken word at times, to a crushing guttural growl. Since I could only give you a single track, I’ll throw in Feral Ground from their latest LP, Black Earth. This track shows a clear turn to Sludge territory with an almost Industrial beat at times, with no clean singing this time around.
 
Martelo Negro – Old school Black/Death/Thrash in the vein of HellhammeCeltic Frost, with lyrics in both Portuguese and English. Is this not enough for this band to win you over? Originally a one-man project called Black Hammer (the literal English translation of the band’s name), their first album came out in 2011, titled Sortilégio dos Mortos. When I mentioned this band was inspired by HellhammeCeltic Frost, I mean they are heavily inspired, which should be immediately apparent as soon as the first riff is played. There shouldn’t be much in the way of surprises for the seasoned metal listener, though it might be interesting to find out what Tom G. Warrior would sound like if he sang in Portuguese. There is even the occasional “EUGH” for maximum fidelity. Again, can’t find a full album on Youtube, so I’ll leave Altar nos Escombros from their debut for your listening pleasure, as well as Culto Hermético from 2014’s Equinócio Espectral. You can find Martelo Negro on Spotify, if those two tracks piqued your interest.
 
Midnight Priest – Are you guys into NWOBHM at all? How about King Diamond? Because this band sure is. Dropping a self-titled LP in 2011, Midnight Priest got into the whole Traditional Heavy Metal revival wave with bands like Demon Bitch or Savage Master in the USA. There’s not much effort in hiding their influences, just a quick glance at their name should be enough to tell you that. If that wasn’t enough, Sábado Negro, is a direct reference to Black Sabbath themselves; just as Triunfo do Aço is the literal translation for Triumph of Steel, for all you Manowar fans out there. They got a new vocalist for their next two albums, Midnight Steel and Aggressive Hauntings, who in my opinion does a better job of emulating King Diamond. There’s no wheel being reinvented here, as you might have gathered by this point, just take it as a fun ride through some revivalist riffage and Heavy Metal with Portuguese lyrics in their first album. After that they switch to English.
 
Black Cilice – This project might be a familiar corpse-painted face to some of you here. Currently signed by Iron Bonehead, this mysterious Black Metal act got a fair amount of fame within the underground circuit. A Corpse, a Temple was released in 2011, and it is raw. Seriously, early Burzum albums sound like they have amazing production next to this. Darkthrone wishes they were as raw as Black Cilice. In short, this is a whole new beast. But while Corpus Christii’s lo-fi production might have retracted from the end product’s quality, Black Cilice have it at the core of their concept, creating an almost impenetrable wall of sound which subtly hints at haunting melodies just below the surface. This project carved a spot for itself in many a veteran Black Metal listener’s frostbitten hearts, though it is definitely not an easy listening experience. Proceed with caution, and bring your best robes and monochrome makeup kit.
 
Toxikull – Thrash fans might be feeling a bit left out as they read through this primer, and as a big Thrash Metal fan myself I understand perfectly. This band is a recent one, with Black Sheep coming out in 2016. If you listened past Midnight Priest’s first album, you might notice some similarities, as Lex Thunder (aliases never stopped being cool, I guess) fills the vocal duties for both bands. Toxikull seem to take a lot of cues from early Megadeth, so if you like Thrash with a hint of technicality this might appeal to you; plus the vocalist is more proficient than Dave Mustaine. No, I am not implying this is better than Megadeth, that would be blasphemous. This is not a carbon-copy either, as some Traditional Heavy Metal elements are introduced throughout the album, with the vocals reaching some high notes à la King Diamond.
 
Analepsy – One of the bigger recent names in Portugal’s extreme metal landscape, Analepsy plays some slamming Brutal Death Metal. Atrocities From Beyond is their debut LP, released in 2017, which seemed to garner a fair bit of attention from outside of the country, as a follow up to an EP from 2015. These guys have already been through Europe several times, as well as a headlining tour in Japan last year. Their active tour schedule seemed to show some potencial for growth, though apparently there were a bunch of line-up changes, so let’s see how that goes.
 
Gaerea – Another recent project that enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity both in Portugal and beyond borders is Gaerea. Dropping an EP in 2016, followed by Unsettling Whispers in 2018, they have more recently signed to Season of Mist, with an album to be released this year if memory serves me right. Their sound is hard to describe without sounding like a parody of the typical metal elitist, does Blackened Melodic Post-Hardcore sound too pretentious? I guess it does. Gaerea plays Black Metal infused with melody and some slight Hardcore elements thrown in for good measure. If you’re a fan of the modern Black Metal sound from the likes of Mgla or Uada, but want something that is not as straightforward, this is a good band to check out. They also mask their faces on stage and have misanthropic/nihilist lyrics. They have already toured Europe several times, as well as China last year, which I think is a first for a Portuguese band. Oh, I couldn’t find the full album on Youtube, so the link leads to a single. Their discography is up on Spotify.
 

Closing remarks

Inevitably, this primer cannot give you the full scope of what Portugal produced throughout the years. There doesn’t seem to be a unifying trend or aesthetic coming out as the scene developed, probably the result of a late arrival and a subsequentially rapid evolution to the more extreme sounds, which didn’t leave much space or time for a natural progression without outside influence. When you take into account that Tarântula’s debut came out in ’87, the same year as landmarks such as Under the Sign of the Black Mark, Persecution Mania, or Scream Bloody Gore; you can imagine how sudden the jump was for the Portuguese crowd, especially in terms of sound as the 90s came along. All jokes aside, the gothic overtones introduced by Moonspell soon became one of the strongest trademarks of the local scene by the late 90s/early 2000s, in conjunction with the Death/Doom influence of Paradise Lost. Heavenwood, Inhuman, Paranormal Waltz, and Malevolence are good examples of this, as is Process of Guilt’s early material.
 
There isn’t much of Portuguese culture or music ingrained into its Heavy Metal output, besides from the bands with Portuguese lyrics. Maybe it is the result of so much influence coming from beyond our borders. A somewhat common theme in early projects was the mention of Portugal’s glorious past of seafaring and empire building. This nostalgic sentiment is a widespread phenomenon in the country’s artistic output through the ages, the most notorious of which is perhaps Os Lusíadas, dating back to the late 16th century. Aside from that, bands just seem to follow the international trends that influenced them.
 
If you want to dig deeper, I hope this serves as a good steppingstone into the Portuguese scene and its many gems. I also direct you to a few lists posted previously that focus on specific subgenres: Black Metal, Death Metal, and a short line-up from 1990 to 2003.
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When Was Speed Da-ting Invented

When Was Speed Da-ting Invented
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Covid-19 update Wednesday April 1st

Good morning from the UK. It’s Wednesday 1st April.
Traditionally the arrival of April fools day generates a day of mirth with news outlets and corporations around the world attempting to outdo each other with hard to believe stories or wacky new product announcements. This year’s April fools day seems to have been cancelled in most parts of the world by general consent (even Google has opted out) but in some parts of the world countries are making it very clear they have no tolerance for Covid-19 related april fools jokes. Thailand is threatening up to 5 years in jail for Covid-19 related April Fools jokes, Taiwan is offering up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to NT$3 million (US$99,200) and authorities in both India and Germany have also said they will not tolerate it either (link).

Virus statistics


See reply to this post, you can't miss it, it's the one lots of tables.

Virus news in depth


US Navy captain’s dramatic plea to evacuate coronavirus-ravaged aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt - the SCMP is reporting that Captain Brett Crozier has pleaded to disembark all sailors from the aircraft carrier onto land at Guam (where it’s currently docked). “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote. 4,000 sailors are on the vessel; the latest infection count has jumped to 100. Defence Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday ruled out evacuating the ship, whose plight bears similarities to that on civilian cruise ships where the Covid-19 illness spread. Today’s CNN live blog (link further below) says that Guam’s governor is willing to let them stay in hotel rooms provided they isolate for 14 days.

Coronavirus: from China to the US, consumer behaviour radically altered as world retreats into ‘survival mode’ - The SCMP reports that amid mounting uncertainty, the coronavirus pandemic – which has claimed the lives of more than 41,000 people and infected at least 842,000 worldwide – is fundamentally changing consumer behaviour in Asia, Europe and North America. Consumer experts said the 2009 global financial crisis, the Great Depression that started in 1929 and the September 11 terrorist attacks give some clues about how and when global consumption might recover. But the complexity of this crisis, the number of variables and its magnitude make this consumer recovery unprecedented and difficult to predict, they added. “The coronavirus pandemic has completely changed patterns of consumer behaviour all over the world. People are afraid, and when people are afraid, they go into survival mode,” said Jesse Garcia, a Los Angeles-based consumer psychologist, who is also the CEO of market consulting firm My Marketing Auditors.

How China’s consumer companies managed through the Covid-19 crisis - The strategy consultancy McKinsey reports some useful survival tips from Chinese companies that are now reaching the end of the first Pandemic outbreak wave. “The biggest difference is in the mentality of the organisation, which shifted from being unsettled, to one of confidence after our response became clear, and people came to terms with ex-office work routines. Once the situation was under control, we shifted to strategic planning; looking at ordering remotely for the next season. We also began to work on revised three-year plans that included much more aggressive omnichannel targets, transforming our supply chain to be more agile and other strategic moves to grow the business” said Feng Hua Song, vice president of Erdos Group and one of the top-level executives participating in the roundtable discussion.

ER doctor in New York details dire supply shortages from the front lines of the coronavirus fight - CNN has a report on a per diem doctor who’s been working in multiple hospitals in New York City. "We don't have enough N95 masks. Some have run out completely. Some don't even have gowns," he said. "You can put me in the exact same ER and I would witness the exact same evolution of chaos." In another diary entry he wrote "Today was just a sign that things are getting worse and worse. I had about three deaths in the span of the first six hours, he said. "One was truly sad. (He) waited a few days for a bed, and it was too full upstairs so he stayed in the ER, and from Covid-19, he just lost his pulses. We worked on him for an hour, and then he died." He is using a ski jacket and ski googles as his own PPE because there are no alternatives.

Virus news in brief


Source today: CNN live blog or The Guardian live blog. Alternative sources linked below.
  • China is getting mixed results in trying to open up its economy again with some places getting flare ups and having to shut again almost immediately (Guardian story)

  • Hong Kong has ordered the closure of all beauty parlors, clubhouses, nightclubs, karaoke rooms and mahjong centers from Wednesday as the city steps up measures to combat a second wave of coronavirus cases. (CNN)

  • Taiwan's economic stimulus plan to tackle the coronavirus outbreak could reach as much as $35 billion, President Tsai Ing-wen announced. Taiwan will be donating 10 million face masks to countries most in need. (CNN)

  • Cuban officials announced Tuesday the country will suspend all international commercial flights to help combat the spread of coronavirus across the island. Foreign ships will also be required to leave the country. Cuba has recorded 186 cases of the novel coronavirus, with six deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The additional measures come one week after Cuba implemented a 30-day lockdown, restricting tourists and setting up strict quarantine measures for citizens returning to the country.

  • Flattening the curve - National Geographic has an interesting article about how the world flattened the curve during the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak (link)

  • The UK will open the doors this week on what could soon be the biggest intensive care unit in the country -- and it was built in about a week. As the number of Covid-19 cases in the UK began to rise, the National Health Service (NHS) realized it might be short many thousands of ICU beds. It hopes the solution is at a massive convention space in London’s East End. The coronavirus field hospital will be called NHS Nightingale, after the pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale. When fully running, it will have 4,000 beds.

  • The UK government is aiming to test 25,000 a day for Covid-19 within a fortnight, housing minister Robert Jenrick has said. Downing Street is facing mounting criticism over a perceived lack of testing compared with other nations, with only 143,186 carried out to date. By comparison, Germany is testing 70,000 a day (Guardian).

  • Andy Slavitt’s daily twitter thread is out. The TLDR: 1) Trump yesterday at his news conference for the 1st time began to talk about 100,000 to 200,000 casualties. He mentioned that the number without action would be 2.2 million. 60,000 Americans died in Vietnam, 620,000 in the Civil War and 1.2 million in all American wars. 2) If you listen closely, you will hear Trump say 100,000 is the number and you will hear Birx and Fauci say 100,000 to 200,000 if we are lucky. 3) Numbers floating around the White House are 400,000 and some think that requires some optimism (Personal note: for comparison, 400k = the population of New Orleans or roughly half of San Francisco).

  • The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically cut operations at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (the worlds busiest passenger airport) by 60%, according to an airport official. In the past 10 days, operations -- categorized by officials as the combination of departures and arrivals -- were down from 2,700 on average to 1,100 on Monday.

  • The Illinois Governor is frustrated: "I'm purchasing every ventilator that I can find," Pritzker said. "But we're buying them in 100 lots and 200 lots, frankly, I'm taking them 50, 20, 10, wherever I can get them." "We are going to run out of ventilators and the federal government really isn't helping at all," Pritzker said (CNN).

  • Wyoming is now the only US state left that is yet to report a Coronavirus related death (CNN).

  • The US Kroger supermarket chain announced today it would pay staff members who are still working during the coronavirus epidemic a $2 an hour "hero bonus." The extra pay will apply to all hours worked between March 29 to April 18 and will be distributed weekly to ensure staff members have extra cash (CNN).

  • Remember Trump promised Americans a website that will direct them to a nearby Coronavirus testing facility? It turns out the website was being built not by Google but by a company linked to Trump’s son in law. The Atlantic has more.

  • Pentagon has got 2,00 ventilators but has not been told where to send them. CNN has more, the backstory is a bit complicated; the TLDR is Civilian Pentagon officials had repeatedly said they are making ventilators and five million N-95 respirator masks available. So far only 1.5 million masks have been shipped by the Pentagon. Another 500,000 are to be shipped within days but HHS and FEMA have given DoD no indication of when or where they precisely want the other three million items to go. As for the ventilators, an HHS official told CNN that, "many of the DOD ventilators are deployable ventilators and require special training while the ventilators in the HHS Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) are the types of ventilators commonly used by US hospitals and are better suited for immediate use."

  • Governors Fight Back Against Coronavirus Chaos: ‘It’s Like Being on eBay With 50 Other States’ - In New York State — the center of the nation’s outbreak, with at least 1,550 deaths — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Tuesday that the country’s patchwork approach to the pandemic had made it harder to get desperately needed ventilators. “You now literally will have a company call you up and say, ‘Well, California just outbid you,’” Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said in his daily news briefing. “It’s like being on eBay with 50 other states, bidding on a ventilator.” (New York Times article in full, paywall)

  • CNN says that the major cruise ship operator Carnival is asking for a $6bn bailout as the cruise industry grinds to a halt (link)

Supply chain news in depth


Retooling facilities to produce ventilators could strain supply chains, medical device manufacturers warn - The Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) says it is wary of invocation in the US of the defence production act which is compelling manufacturers to make medical ventilators according to SupplyChainDive. Their CEO praised the administration on Friday for opening up a "fast track" for automakers and non-medtech manufacturers to repurpose their production facilities to produce ventilators. At the same time, he warned "what we have to make sure of is that as new manufacturers get into the ventilator business they don’t overstress the supply chain" of component parts as well as raw materials. Given the "broad number of component parts that go into a ventilator," Whitaker contends the impact of the DPA could be "crippling." ResMed told MedTech Dive it has serious concerns about such companies pitching in. "We welcome non-ventilator manufacturers' help to build and distribute parts for ventilators, not the ventilators themselves," said a ResMed spokesperson. "Specialized ventilator manufacturers are best positioned to produce effective, clinically tested devices quickly; our top obstacle is the scarcity and increasing cost of ventilator parts. Therefore, non-ventilator makers can help most by making parts, not taking them."

Congestion looms at US ports as shops and factories close and imports pile up - The Loadstar reports that as retail outlets, as well as many manufacturing operations, in North America are shuttered, anticipation of a surge of imports to compensate for China’s extended lunar new year hiatus are quickly disappearing. Instead, as more containers arrive, there are concerns about mounting storage costs. US importers have not wasted time in shifting gear – having tried to speed-up deliveries from China a few weeks ago, they are now in reverse, trying to slow down imports, or cancel them outright. “Importers are cancelling orders left and right,” said Cathy Morrow Roberson, head analyst and founder of Logistics Trends & Insights. Others, she added, were deferring shipments or looking to extend transit times, all in marked contrast to the recent rush to bring in goods from China.

Bangladesh in lockdown as virus halts business and threatens the economy - Bangladesh’s key seaport, Chittagong, is facing heavy congestion in its yard as a government-decreed national holiday restricts the flow of goods. The government has declared a 10-day general holiday between 26 March and 4 April, barred people from going outside from home and halted all types of commercial activities except emergency services. Chittagong is continuing operations amid the virtual lockdown in an attempt to avoid vessel congestion and the creation of a shortage of essential goods in the domestic market. However, Bangladesh Customs is releasing only essential commodities, such as food grains, pharmaceuticals and coronavirus prevention-related materials from the port yard, as only a limited number of its officials are still working.

Forwarders set to hit reverse gear as demand falls and cargo starts to pile up - Forwarders are predicting “mega-congestion” in the next couple of months, as they attempt to do the opposite of their normal job, and slow the flow of freight says LoadStar. As shop, factory and plant closures continue around the world, the name of the game now is to keep inventory where it is – increasingly difficult as terminals, yards and warehouses become congested. “Distribution centres in Europe are geared around imports and can hold a maximum of two to four weeks’ worth of stock,” said one forwarder. “After that, the impact for goods such as homewares will be huge. Where is it all going to go?” RW Freight noted on its website that “Customs authorities in China have required all non-essential goods which have been loaded on vessels for export after March 27 to be unloaded.

How Panic-Buying Revealed the Problem With the Modern World - The Atlantic has an interesting article on the lessons of panic buying and also on the dangers of running the NHS at constantly full capacity instead of 85% capacity - it argues that our current JIT systems are very fragile and susceptible to unpredictable surges in consumer purchasing behaviour or viral outbreaks. “Temporary shortages are being caused by people adding just a few extra items and shopping more often,” said Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, which monitors consumer spending. The company’s study of 100,000 British shoppers found that only 6 percent of those buying liquid soap, and only 3 percent of those buying pasta, “have taken home extraordinary quantities.” Yet that relatively small, unexpected surge in demand was enough to generate social-media snapshots of bare shelves at inner-city supermarkets. When amplified by the traditional media, those frightening pictures convinced more of us that there was a problem with food supply. And, like in a bank run, perception quickly became reality. Big queues started to form. Online slots for supermarket deliveries filled up. The situation spiraled. The article also discusses the impact of cutbacks in the NHS as previous governments strove to improve efficiencies and reduce excess capacity (viewed as waste).

PwC: Supply chains will broaden, diversify in the wake of coronavirus - Supplychaindive has a report on the latest PwC survey of chief finance officers regarding what they intend to do to their supply chains going forward. A growing number of CFOs expect to change the breadth of their supply chains as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to 50 CFOs, mainly from U.S. Fortune 1,000 companies, surveyed by PwC. Supply chain issues remain a top-three concern for roughly one-third of the CFOs in PwC's ongoing survey. Since the last survey "financial impact, including effects on results of operations, future periods, and liquidity and capital resources," gained the most ground in terms of CFO concern, while a reduction in workplace productivity, consumer confidence and not having enough information to make decisions lost some status as a top concern. Cost containment remains the number one priority for respondents.

A drop in consumer spending in Western countries is driving a new wave of blanked sailings says supplychaindive - MSC's decision came the same week Maersk announced it was canceling multiple trips (they’re both major container ship operators). The capacity reduction by these 2M members alone is equivalent to about a "21% capacity reduction in [Asia-Europe] trade," Sea-Intelligence Shipping Analyst​ Imaad Asad​ said in a release emailed to Supply Chain Dive. 2M is an alliance between Maersk and MSC that includes partnerships with other carriers.

Drop in box shipping contract rates points to 'a recession of seismic proportions' - The Loadstar (Link) says that long-term container shipping contracts have registered their first pricing decline since last October, prompting fears that the industry is heading towards “a recession of seismic proportions”. According to figures published today by Xeneta, its crowd-sourced freight rate benchmarking platform XSI Public Indices saw a 0.5% decline in long-term contracted rates this month, following “a sustained period of growth”. Year on year, the XSI was up 5.8% on March 2019 and up 2.2% from the beginning of this year, but with coronavirus lockdowns covering large swathes of global society, container supply chains are unlikely to avoid an impending economic recession. “This is a small, yet significant, step in the wrong direction for carriers,” said Xeneta chief executive Patrik Berglund.

Air cargo prices stabilising on some tradelanes - Loadstar says that some tradelanes are starting to stabilise. Airfreight prices out of Shanghai are continuing to surge, Freight Investor Services (FIS) and the TAC Index have revealed. Last week’s air freight rates on routes to the US from China rose 12.6%, to $5.72 per kg, while to Europe they were up 21.16%, at $4.58, “vastly higher than normal Q4 peak prices”, noted FIS. Much of the overall surge in prices to Europe was due to the 55.9% increase in rates to Frankfurt. However, FIS noted that the gains had levelled off slightly, in comparison with the previous week, “indicating a potential market plateau”. “This is shown in the final closing price for March, dropping 11 cents from China to Europe and a modest 4 cents from China to the US. “April and May prices are lifted by 5 and 10 cents respectively; doubt as to the strength of the future market has made the next few months far less predictable.”

Supply chain news in brief


  • The UK/Ireland to mainland Europe cross channel company P&O Ferries is laying off 1,100 staff as its passenger ferries go freight-only says the LoadStar - the staff members will be “furloughed” and put on 80% salary via a government scheme.

  • Singapore and Hong Kong have taken steps to permit badly needed freight ship crew swaps which had led to complaints at the highest level of the international maritime organisation (which is to seafreight what FIFA is to football/soccer). See here and here respectively. India is said to be introducing similar measures soon.

  • Visual - Flightradar has given some visuals on the how much flights have reduced by (Twitter link)

  • Brooks brothers (major US clothing company) has said it too is starting to make masks and gowns (link)

  • The Effects of COVID-19 Will Ripple through Food Systems - The Scientific American has a fascinating article on the medium term future for the food supply chain. They say that staple crops are likely to be less affected by measures to control the virus, but farmers growing more specialized ones could feel the pinch.

Good news / Humour section


  • A boss turned herself into a potato on a Microsoft teams meeting and couldn’t figure out how to turn it off (Twitter link)

  • Medtronic (a major global medical products manufacturer) has made its ventilator plans open source for anyone with the skills and parts to make (Link)

  • Xinhua (official China news media outlet) says 186 patients have successfully recovered from the virus and been discharged from a hospital in Wuhan (link)

Donations


Several asked if they can send me $/£/€ via Patreon (in some cases because I've saved them time or money, others for no reason at all). I don't need the cash (that's lovely though) but food bank charities are getting really hit hard with all this panic buying. Please consider giving whatever you'd have given me to a foodbank charity instead:
UK: https://www.trusselltrust.org/
France: https://www.banquealimentaire.org/
Germany: https://www.tafel.de/
Netherlands: https://www.voedselbankennederland.nl/steun-ons/steun-voedselbank-donatie/
Italy: https://www.bancoalimentare.it/it/node/1
Spain: https://www.fesbal.org/
Australia: https://www.foodbank.org.au/
Canada: https://www.foodbankscanada.ca/
USA: https://www.feedingamerica.org/
Thanks in advance for any donations you give. If there's foodbank charities in your country and it's not listed above, please suggest it and I will include it going forward.

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