Sunday, 25 March 2018

Avatar - Avatar Country

It's been two years since I discovered this band, and I must say that I've followed their steps ever since. I was indeed eager to know what would come after Feathers & Flesh, which was a break with their previous sound back in the day and which I now consider to be a transition to a new approach, consolidated in this new album. 
Whatever your opinion about the band is, it is clear that they leave no one indifferent with their so characteristic and unique sound, so hard to define in a single genre. But what can you expect from this new piece? To be honest, I bought the album and decided to review it after attending the show in Bilbao, which provides further understanding of how every piece fits in this puzzle. Anyway, there we go...
As always, I first give the booklet a look and, oh surprise! This time all the lyrics are in there, unlike with Feathers & Flesh, where I missed them so much. These are little things I am fuzzy with about the format. Nothing important, but they add kind of satisfaction and quality of experience.
We are introduced to this new land with the anthem to the King, Glory to our King, which serves an ode to a living legend that has just come true and that is spoken about in the next song, A Legend of the King. Its lyrics, mighty and epic, could well remind us of a power metal song, unlike the sound. A Legend of the King gives the listener a great mix between melodic parts, such as the intro and fast, strong, rhythmical verses sung gutturally, along with catchy choruses and some bluesy elements presented in a brief breakdown.
After we listen to his legend, the King welcomes us into his utopic world: The third cut of this album sounds more like a classical hard-rock piece in terms of harmony blocks, vocal and guitar melodies (the guitar lines here are probably my favourite of all the album) and atmosphere, but still keeps the characteristic touch added by some disonances at the beginning and the end, Johannes's vocals and perfectly ensembling backing vocals by Tim and Henrik (while everyone sang along with Johannes, I was singing  along with Tim, ha!), and a well contrasting bridge towards the end. 
Next cut, King's Harvest, could perfectly belong to Hail the Apocalypse. One more reason to state that whatever the approach, Avatar's music always sounds like them. The atmosphere set by this song is darker and the lyrics are indeed powerful. This effect is partly accomplished by the almost total guttural singing. In fact, King's Harvest is, hands down the less melodic song in the album.
We're almost halfway through the album, when the king calls us to join him the American style. The King Wants You reminds me of that advertisement we all know in which Uncle Sam wants us to join the army. With its groovy riffs, hard-rocker style and fresh percussion lines (cowbells and tambourine included), it is possibly the catchiest song and also the most surprising as far as Johannes's vocal ranged is concerned.
Then, The King Speaks, acts as an interlude to let the previous material sink in, as well as giving a funny insight into the King's thoughts through a speech in both Swedish and English. It brings together the whole concept of a country led by a monarch and gives coherence to it. Besides, it fits perfectly with what follows, if we take into account that the video released for A Statue of the King is thought of as a big meeting with a speech, so The King Speaks is also a perfect prelude to the song that comes next. The so-called song flows frantically due to drum, bass lines, melodic speech (when the song is not sung gutturally) and how the lyrics are conceived and rhymed, transmitting the urge to have a statue of the leader.
The end comes nearer with King after King. During the album each and every instrument is given the chance to outstand and here, bass is arguably the real protagonist, giving a melodic dimension to the rhythm base laid by the drums. This the most remarkable feature of the cut, of which nothing else can be said that hasn't been mentioned before.
Finally, Avatar Country comes to an end with two instrumental pieces whose only aim is to keep setting the right atmosphere until the last minute, the first of it being more relaxed and far more descriptive (regarding the name of the song) than the second.
All in all, it's been a pleasant journey through this land presented in the album. The impovement of Johannes keeps surprising me. No matter if guttural or clean: he always sounds better, higher, louder, growlier, and more powerful. Drums keep on being one of my favourite parts, though the great talent of the King, Tim and Henrik is just undeniable. 
Avatar Country is an album that needs more than one listen, a bit puzzling during the first one. This is why I consider it not to be so good as Feathers & Flesh which caught my attention from the very first second. But the more I listen to it, the more I like it and the more little details I find that complete the map of this universe put together by the album. Welcome to Avatar Country and glory to our King!

Monday, 8 January 2018

Watain - Trident Wolf Eclipse

I stare at the cover, and only its art already suggests a return to the Casus Luciferi era. And a few seconds into the first song, Nuclear Alchemist, my intuitions are confirmed.

From there on, Watain offers in roughly half an hour (which has felt too short to me, to be honest) a wide variety of musical elements, all of them though not far away from the black metal core of their music. For example, songs like Sacred Damnation sound more like the Sworn to the Dark album, with its more bluesy flow and rhythm at times, but still preserves the pitch black darkness of a starless night that is every Watain song. Other musical dimensions such as very soft background choirs in this song or more “melodic” (melodic as opposite of purely harmonic, yet inside of the typical atonality) guitar lines in Furor Diabolicus are appreciated.

Others, like A Throne Below, remind me more of Waters of Ain, as their attempts at melody in the guitars and stepping out of fundamentals in the bass make these lines sound like a tad of colour in the immense grey sea of Watain compositions. No doubt a majestic piece. And they’re not forgetful of the origins of the msic they play. As Alvaro Lillo once said, they are a rock and roll soul in a black metal outfit, which can be perfectly noticed in the rhythm of the lyrics in Furor Diabolicus or the general atmosphere of Ultra (Pandemoniac). The later starts as a standard, blast-beating black metal song and turns at the beginning of the verse a black and roll piece (with more black than roll though).
What has been permanent in all Watain albums (what’s more, in my opinion, it has evolved in a mesmerizing way), is the grandiloquent lyrical content, full of big, epic, dark words all linked in a smooth yet powerful way, giving as result beautiful poems for black metal songs. This is especially the case of Teufelreich, which has left me shivering, or Towards the Sanctuary. All in all, the songs in this album make a perfect ode to Satan, fire and Freedom/Free Will.
After a more or less detailed analysis, if I had to mention what I liked most, I’d surely go for the lyrics and some of the instrumental lines (I haven’t mentioned the drum lines yet and they are absolutely delightful and full of little details); and if I had to mention a bad aspect, it would be the uniformity of the songs in both structure and length. I am more keen on a huge variety of structures, lengths, elements... but the great quality material they deliver is a more than perfect compensation for that.
So definitely, Trident Wolf Eclipse is a clear return to their roots, yet with a thicker and richer sound, and the experience that three more albums, and some years in the music scene give. In any case, pretty far from The Wild Hunt. It is generally an enjoyable piece which will probably be of the taste of those who followed Watain from the very beginning and detractors of their previous album, as well as new generations of fans.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Dream Theater 04.29.17 at Sala CUBEC!, Barakaldo

Today I don't want to write a regular review, in a technical tone. These are more the thoughts of a fan that had a great time with one of her favourite bands...
Performing The Bigger Picture
As you know, Dream Theater is now touring to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the album that made them international (as stated by LaBrie during the show): Images and Words.
It's more or less 20:00 pm, the venue is full. The stage looks impressively big, even if I'm not in the first rows and, seeing the gigantic drumset, I feel something similar to when I saw two timpani sets on the stage for the orchestra to play Mahler. It's just a grandiloquent declaration.
And finally the show starts, they come onstage and the very first chord launches me back to a lost memory of the first time I experienced what Dream Theater is (it was all thanks to a copy of the Metal Hammer magazine, now I remember). The Dark Eternal Night immediately gets us all headbanging. Soon I realize that, even though I've listened to the song a thousand times, I don't know the lyrics, but that's not a problem. Meanwhile, there are a zillion things, details, to focus on, maybe too many. Here there is John Myung, playing impossible bass lines (although at some moments not all notes played were clearly understandable, and that's a pity); there, John Petrucci runs his fingers on his guitar as nonchalantly as though he were just... don't know, writing his name. James LaBrie engages us to our full with his characteristic tenor voice (I could recognize it amongst a million), and Jordan Rudess is a technological musical display of grandeur himself, playing in unnatural positions for a keyboardist, and showing off his gadgets. Nevertheless, what got my attention during all (and seriously I mean, all) the show, was Mike Mangini playing drums. The phrasing, the clarity with which every part is heard and understood, the control he has over the whole drumset (a thousand cymbals, toms, and octobans included)... everything. That's probably why my favourite moment was the drum solo!
There are two sets to be played. The first includes a mix of different songs from different albums. The second consists of the whole Images and Words. During the first part, We enjoy songs such as the mentioned The Dark Eternal Night, The Bigger Picture, Breaking All Illusions or As I Am, the latter including a mashup with Metallica's Enter Sandman, which is introduced as seamlessly and smoothly (or even more) as a make-before-break handover (sorry for the reference, blame my profession for it). That ability always surprises me. 
From left to right: John Myung, Jordan Rudess, Mike Mangini,
James LaBrie and John Pretrucci
The second set was maybe a bit too dense for me. Many things going on everywhere, in every instrument at every moment, rhythm changes that are virtually impossible to follow. Well, it's Dream Theater, what did you expect. However, I was really expecting to hear Another Day, and my expectations were fulfilled (except that I absolutely love the sax part and it sounded a bit too synthetic). Something I'd like to highlight from this part, even though it has little to do with the music itself, is that I realized James LaBrie is a great communicator. From time to time, between songs, he talks to us, and accompanies his speech with gestures that make the whole message understandable, even though some words are hard to catch. In other words, he knows how to reach the audience, not only musically, which is something to be thankful for.
So, all in all, it was a great show. A dream come true, one could say (and it couldn't be said better). I missed some songs being played, and at times I would've liked to hear the keyboard louder, but else, it was pretty much the perfect show. Over three hours of pure progressive majesty.

PD: Sorry for the bad quality pics. There was no way to get better ones...

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Cornalusa 09.24.2016 at the medieval fair in Vitoria-Gasteiz

From left to right: Raquel Gama, Luís Serrano, Rui Taborda
and Emmanuel Taborda
This will probably a short post. I was just a passer-by and didn't enjoy the complete show, but when my friend and I came across this band playing, we decided to stay, and I don't regret having done so.
Cornalusa in action!!
Just four guys, dressed in medieval style clothes, with their instruments, and they were enough to have the kids and also adults around them clapping their hands and paying all their attention to the thing going on. What caught our attention in the beginning were the joyful notes of a couple of bagpipes. Then we saw everything: Raquel and Emanuel playing the bagpipes, Luis playing his bouzouki and Rui on the davul (definitely, he was my favourite, as he produced the sounds of a whole drumset on just one instrument). Later on, I also noticed the rattle placed on Emanuel's ankle, which added not only a richer rhythm but the fun of seeing him dance to make the rattle sound. No doubt, this folk band were 100% attitude, energy and dedication, which they transmitted to the casually gathered audience (being a metalhead myself, I must say something maybe out of the ordinary: they were more metal with that attitude and will than some self-called metal bands out there). At the end of the show, which I felt was short, partly because I didn't attend from the beginning, I couldn't help but buy their album, which I'm gonna devour as though there were no tomorrow. I'll leave you a short footage of their show yesterday, so that you can also enjoy!
Visit and/or contact Cornalusa at:

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Sabaton- The Last Stand

The first notes of the album start playing and one can feel the rage of war. It's pretty much like plunging into battle from the safety of home. The strength and determination of the Spartans fill my ears...
The Last Stand is the eighth studio album by Sabaton. As always, a Sabaton album is more or less like opening a history book and reading a summary  of some kind of war probably lost in time. But, if with Carolus Rex we had a taste of the military history of Sweden (under the rule of Charles XII), or with The Art of War we dived into Sun Tzu's work, what we have this time is a collection of almost impossible battles, some of them successful, some that ended in defeat. No matter what the result was, the epicness is ensured.
The songs keep coming to me and yeah, I can hear thick, heavy, military riffs and rhythms, like tanks and panzers, and hymnic choruses, but it's no different compared to their other albums (we can even say that their previous album, Heroes, had a wider range of elements). We all agree that Sabaton bring war in each of their musical lines, but the line between a characteristic sound and sounding just the same time after time is pretty thin and these guys cross the threshold at several points.
The structure of all the songs is more or less the same: a couple of verses, then eight-line choruses divided into two groups of four (making the fourth line of the second group instrumental is used at more than one song), then a solo, then the end; we are lucky if we hear a modulation, even if it's the typical one, one tone higher, in the final chorus (as happens in The Last Stand). We can find similar vocal lines, some classical style melodies here and there (for example, the solo in Hill 3234), a very simple harmony. Yes, as I said, pretty much the same; yet there are some remarkable elements.
The pipes and a brighter atmosphere in Blood of Bannockburn will no doubt bring us to the 14th century Scotland. The detail level in Diary of an Unknown Soldier and The Lost Batallion will make us feel like we are fighting in the Argonne. Musically speaking, Winged Hussars has some of the most differential elements in all the album, like a darker atmosphere (due to the use of the minor scale) or the effect caused by mixing the lyrics in the chorus and the final verses of the song.
Nevertheless, the real surprise, the real hit of this album is, in my opinion, the last one, The Last Battle. It appears as a perfect ending for this war. Its atmosphere takes me back to the 80s, with Europe, Doro Pesch, Yesterday & Today, but without losing that thick, then again military sound typical of Sabaton. It's pretty much like a fresh, motivating hymn.
Last, but not least, the four bonus tracks (all of them covers). I see them as good jobs, not far from their originals, yet showing all the main features of the Sabaton style.
To sum up, even if they sound the same after eight albums, my heart welcomes their melodies and catchy choruses with joy, even if logic says quite the contrary. They are still capable of telling interesting tales of war and motivating the audience with their marching military rhythms. So let's give this album a pass!!
Now, for you to enjoy, I'll leave here my favourite song of the album, The Last Battle:

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Avatar- Feathers & Flesh

This has taken longer than expected, but here it is finally. Avatar is a band that caught me from the very first note I listened from them, so Feathers & Flesh was an album that I was really waiting for. It was so promising. I listened to it the first time as it arrived to me three months ago. With a great illusion I unpacked the CD. Great design, by the way. Illustrations are amazing both in the cover and the booklet, although I would have preferred to have the lyrics printed in there, so as to read them.
It was a stressing time, lots of things to do, but I decided to listen to it while completing other tasks. However, it was impossible. Little by little, I got into the music and it had me there, unable to do anything other than taking some comments for this post. It had been ages since an album did that to me! But let's talk a bit more in detail about what made me get lost in the notes...
The first thing one can notice is the powerful catchy riffs. They draw your attention immediately. Then, song by song, I can discover an infinity of details that I get lost into and make the album great. The drum lines seem to be the leading part in each song. The richness of fills, rhythms and percussion effects are just a gift to the ears. It's at least surprising to hear cowbells in songs like The Eagle Has Landed, Black Waters or Pray the Sun Away, or a vibraslap (Black Waters) or bells; for these instruments are more typical of other musical genres, but Avatar just made them fit in there. And this all without forgetting the technique and quality of the playing. Each stroke is definite, the riffs well phrased, etc. To sum up, there's a brilliant work in the drums.
Pretty much the same can be said of the vocals. I can only congratulate Mr. Eckerström for his job. There's a wide range of registers: clean, gutturals, torn voices..., which leads to a great personification of all the characters taking part in the story, and great combinations of those in songs like Night Never Ending or Raven Wine. Even at the beginning of Sky Burial there's a perfect a capella part closing somehow the album with the same verses it started (I find it gives that a high sense of cohesion!).
And hand in hand with the musical part, go the lyrics. All the songs together tell a story, a fable, and the contents and meaning of it can be inferred from the verses in each song (for those of you interested in reading the whole fable, Avatar's selling the book, so go buy it!). Besides, as we've just mentioned, the characters taking part are perfectly represented by using different voice techniques, and the atmosphere of each piece conveys the meaning of the lyrics (one can hear the decay and feel the end near in the riffs and melodies of Raven Wine or feel the epicness of Sky Burial).
Finally, the album ends with two bonus tracks (not listed in the tracklist) whose sound is far more death-metal-like but don't really seem to fit in the context (even if they are killer, full of energy, and sound like the best of Avatar). They are like a world apart: I've Got Something In My Front Pocket For You and Det Är Alldeles Försent.
To sum up everything, this album is a union of a great amount of effort, work, stunning instrumental lines and vocals, and a strong deep story. It would be difficult to choose a song over the others, but if I had to recommend the most remarkable hits, these would be:
  • New Land, as a kind of flashback to the atmosphere in Hail The Apocalypse
  • Fiddler's Farewell, for its ballad-like sound and those details that slightly remind me of the Beatles (was that made on purpose or was it by chance? Just wondering)
  • Night Never Ending, for that festive atmosphere, so far away from the darkness of the story
  • The Eagle Has Landed, probably the most catchy piece. Once you listen to it it's difficult to get the verses "What a sensation, can you feel it? Can you see what I see?" out of your mind. I'll leave the video here.
Definitely it deserves a couple (or more) of listenings to appreciate it. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

INDIX 07.15.2016 at Portu Zaharra, Portugalete

Demo cover

My friend and I arrive in the venue in a quiet night, half an hour before the beginning. A wild sound check breaks the silence and I laugh: it seems they're giving the concert for all the town from there. We go for a walk and come back just five minutes before it is due to start, but it seems that not so many people have heard the call. Finally, ten minutes later, the guys decide they can't wait any longer, and it's time to start enjoying the music.

The venue is pretty small, they almost have no room to move freely. but all that is compensated by the homely atmosphere that connects the band and the (reduced) audience. It still takes a bit longer for them to get everything prepared, and I think to myself: this is a bit unprofessional; however, I don't give it too much importance.
From left to right: Jonba, Jarris, Aritz and
The first notes are heard and I am still, just paying attention, not knowing exactly what to expect, even if I have listened to their first demo. The few people there are also waiting for something and they don't move to the first riffs the band are laying. But soon the energy fills the bar. Every time I see this I get moved deep down my heart: we're five, six... ten people maybe? And they are playing wildly, as if they were headlining Hellfest or Wacken Open Air. To sum it up in just one sentence: their energy couldn't be contained in such a small place.
Nevertheless, during the first three songs, I am still trying to take in all that they are offering, paying more attention to each line and rhythm than to enjoying the music itself, and worried because someone was about to step on the cables and fall down almost continuously (this was quite funny, to be honest). Then the magical turning point arrives. The first notes of Eutanasia sound, and a bit later, there's no way back, I'm totally into it. Only a sentence hits me in the head once and over again, like a desperate scream: "Ez da eskubide bat duintasunez hiltzea?" (Isn't it our right to die with dignity?). And I also start paying attention to other details, such as the performance that goes with each song and gives it a whole new dimension...
Güito at the end of 'Azti maestro'
I can't help but smile with the next song, Ez dago ezer (There's nothing). I like the nihilistic meaning behind, personal and recognizable mark of one of their guitarists and friend of mine. And his absent look at the end of it, while playing as though he were a robot, just makes me shiver. And from then, I just let myself go crazy with every single riff, every single note, song, joke, word, everything.
The concert ends and I try to sum up all the sensations. They've got so much potential. The sound, technically speaking, wasn't at its best, the voice was at some points hard to understand, but the venue wasn't acoustically appropriate either. So, all in all, it was an unforgettable night, and I'm glad I finally attended an INDIX show.
You can find about INDIX and all their material in the following sites:

Finally, I'd love to thank my friend Rober Villanueva for taking amazing pics for this review.