Tal is back with her second album review for DCHM and it marks a first on the site. Specifically, this is the first time we’ve reviewed a non-English album on the site. Alma de Guerrero by DC locals Metanium is, except for an alternate version of one track, entirely in Spanish. As always you can stream a few songs from it at the end of this review and you can also find more of Tal’s writing on her regular blog here.
I first became acquainted with Metanium’s music when I saw them open for Spanish folk metal band Mago de Oz in May. I really enjoyed Metanium’s set – a groovy mix of heavy metal right on the edge of power metal, with a cover of Helloween’s “I Want Out” that the singer delivered effortlessly. I wasn’t able to attend their album release party on September 19th, but I was looking forward to hearing the new release, Alma de Guererro, hoping for more heavy metal and Helloween-esque goodness.
Alma de Guererro (Soul of a Warrior) is a solid, enjoyable album, and pretty ambitious, too, reaching for the heights of the vocalist’s range and striving for hard-hitting heavy metal power. It has some really cool moments. But in contrast to the singer’s breezy take on Helloween at their show in May, here he frequently sounds strained. The recording quality is also rather low, which detracts a little from the ability to enjoy the guitar goodness – but for an underground, self-produced album, it’s a pretty good effort. The album cover and booklet, by contrast, are very professional and nicely designed. The digital design of a horned skull reflects the aggressive and (mostly) straightforward heavy metal direction of their music. Inside the booklet, one finds quality photos of the band and a simple but effective layout for song lyrics and the band’s thank yous.
The first song, “Veneno Mortal” (“Deadly Venom”), is a solid heavy metal track. It starts out a bit low key, but the random shreddy guitar bits scattered throughout the first two verses keep it interesting. After ending the second verse with a wail, the pace picks up, galloping for a few moments before settling into an aggressive NWOBHM sound. Toward the end is a fun segment where the drums and guitar thrash furiously for a couple seconds. The song provides a good taste of what’s to come on the album – solid heavy metal riffs, unfortunately a little obscured by the fuzzy production, gritty vocals with some wails thrown in, and random moments of amazing inspiration.
The title track, “Alma de Guerrero” (“Soul of a Warrior”) is also very strong. Starting off with a dramatic intro, epic guitar strains and a nice clear wail, it seems destined to be a thundering heavy metal attack. The vocals are quite powerful and gritty, although the singer seems to lose control a little at the end of the verses. The song urges the listener – the metalhead – to fight on in the face of evil, to keep pressing forward confidently, never to look back or give in to weakness; and the guitars and the strong vocals pack the energy the theme needs.
The album also includes an English version of this song which I didn’t enjoy as much. Some of the lyrics sound far too simple in English; the Spanish version is a little more poetic. For instance, the second verse of the song:
En este mundo, tienes que luchar
Siempre adelante tienes caminar
Con pasos firmes, y sin mirar atrás
Mantente fuerte, y sin debilidad
Vocalist Marvin Serrano, who wrote the lyrics, has translated this almost word for word:
In this world you must learn to fight
Always look forward when you’re walking down the path
So keep your head up and remember don’t look back
Remain strong and don’t ever give up
It’s still a great message, and conveys the literal meaning of the Spanish lyrics pretty closely, but in translation, especially of evocative works such as song lyrics, capturing the feeling and rhythm of the original is just as important as the literal meaning – and this translation is a little lacking in that department. Still, including an accurately translated English version of the title track is a nice touch for any listeners who don’t understand Spanish.
The two versions do differ slightly in more than just language. The Spanish version is sung solely by the vocalist, whereas the English version includes gang vocals in the chorus which sound a little disorganized. On the other hand, the verses sound a bit better on the English version.
My favorite song on the album is undoubtedly “Perdiendo el Control” (“Losing Control”), and I think it’s their most solid piece as well. It’s fast-paced, with strong, aggressive vocals throughout, and has some unusual guitar work for this genre – a thick, very distorted tone, with segments of buzzy tremolo picking and racing drums that have quite a black metal feel. Ironically, the song is called “Losing Control,” yet the vocalist seems much more in control of his vocals in this song than in some others.
The rest of the songs aren’t as memorable, though they do have their cool moments. “Al Filo del Metal” (“At the Edge of Metal”) is an old school heavy metal song with a decent rocking energy, but didn’t really hold my attention. “La Marcha Vikinga” (“The Viking March”) is another decent, moderately-paced song with a few snatches of shreddy guitar. The ballad, “Hace Mucho Tiempo” (“It’s Been a Long Time”) starts off nicely with an acoustic intro and then some beautifully mournful electric guitar, but the singer’s gritty vocals seem a little rough for this song at first, while his clean vocals on the agonized chorus are a bit weak, wavering as he tries to sustain notes. As the song goes on, though, the forceful singing style seems more appropriate, conveying the intensity of the persona’s grief and loneliness. “Victimas de la Religión” (“Victims of Religion”) starts off rather monotonous and plodding, but soon picks up the pace with a bit of a thrash vibe. Admittedly the dangerous-sounding bridge, about halfway through, is pretty ear-grabbing, as is the ending where the singer insists, “No seas victima de esta religión” (“Don’t be a victim of this religion”) over more of those dark and intense tremolo-ish riffs. “Sangra el Corazón” (“Bleed the Heart”) is notable for its polka rhythm, which makes it a fun song, in spite of the repetitive lyrics (several songs on the album suffer from those). The beginning of “Sangra el Corazón” is also the only song where I could actually hear the keyboard – if I hadn’t seen the keyboardist’s picture in the booklet, I would probably not even have known the band has one.
Besides the English version of “Alma de Guerrero,” the album also includes another bonus track, a half-acoustic alternate version of “Veneno Mortal.” I’m not a fan of acoustic versions of metal songs in general, since they usually lack the punch of the electric versions, so I was relieved when, about a minute and a half in, the electric guitar and drums started to pick up. About two thirds through, the same thrashy heavy metal vibe as in the first track took hold – so much for an acoustic version. I prefer the sound of original song, but hey, some people may enjoy the acoustic part.
I was surprised that the high-pitched and clean vocals on the album sounded so forced, compared to my fond memories of the singer’s wails at the show in May, and a little disappointed at the low production. The latter is perhaps to be expected for an underground album, though. As for the former, it doesn’t take away too much from my enjoyment of the album, since the aggressive vocals are still very strong, and there are some solid riffs to back it up as well as some flourishes of brilliance. I’ll be following these guys with interest to see how they progress on their next album.
Perdiendo el Control: