If there's an example of a Portuguese band that didn't quite fulfill its potential, Ornatos Violeta is most certainly one of them. Initially called Suores dos Reis, Ornatos Violeta formed in 1991. Its lineup was almost formed from the very beginning, save for a brief period where the vocals were handled by Ricardo. With his departure, Manel Cruz took his guitar strap off and assumed lead singer duties, with Elísio Donas coming on board to play keys. Peixe on guitar, Nuno Prata on bass, and Kinorm on drums completed a lineup which would remain unchanged until the end.
Ornatos Violeta started making some waves in 1994, when they won the Most Original Band award at an unsigned band contest promoted by national public TV network RTP2. A year later, three of their demo songs made it into an unsigned band compilation, furthering their buzz. A constant live schedule only increased it, leading eventually to a record contract with BMG Portugal. Released in 1997, debut album Cão! arrived to general critical and fan acclaim, displaying a sound which took equal inspiration from sources as different as Faith No More, Soundgarden, Nick Cave, or Echo & the Bunnymen. Furthermore, the strength of their live shows only intensified the praise. The album sold close enough to manage a silver plaque, mostly on the strength of singles "Punk Moda Funk," "Mata-me Outra Vez," and "A Dama do Sinal." A year later, Ornatos Violeta managed to grab a best new band gong at an awards show promoted by prestigious music newspaper Blitz. In the same year, the band introduced a new song, "Tempo de Nascer," which introduced a more Radiohead-like epic feel to their already mixed-up sound. That new flavor was fully endorsed by the time the second album, O Monstro Precisa de Amigos, arrived in 1999. The record confirmed the debut's promise, managing to almost go gold, buoyed by the singles "Ouvi Dizer" (a duet with Portuguese entertainment legend Vítor Espadinha) and "Capitão Romance" (also a duet, with Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes). The following year, music newspaper Blitz showered them with more awards: Group of the Year, Song of the Year ("Ouvi Dizer"), Male Voice of the Year (Manel Cruz), and Album of the Year.
Following speculation about the band's future, Ornatos Violeta announced their separation in 2002, leaving behind a still-active cult and the feeling that their real breakthrough was yet to come. Two years later, Manel Cruz and Peixe resurfaced in Pluto, while Nuno Prata released his debut solo album in 2006 and Elísio Donas formed Per7ume. Kinorm became a graphic designer. ~ Ricardo Raínho