There’s always a risk in taking on traditional music, as sometimes through no fault of the music it’s just impossible to cut across the culture. In this case it’s Castilian oral folk music but mixed with avant garde metal. Well, I’ve managed Estonian yoiking before and came out unscathed, so here goes.
Well I was immediately put on the back foot. A high-pitched harmony, sung by a lady called “Lady Carrot”, provides a loftiness. The beat is North African – Moorish, perhaps – and the more recognisable guitar work is in keeping and in proportion. It’s a good and very interesting start. A dramatic riff follows, but the star of the show is this Carrot woman. The pitch is so high that it’s almost Indian. This is just brilliant. The metal element changes tack. It becomes more exciting, urgent and black metal, but that lady infuses more exoticism than any instrument. Even a progressive passage doesn’t faze her. I can only imagine that Lady Carrot is Kate Bush’s Spanish sister. “La Culebra” continues the process of sucking us in. It sounds so Spanish that I imagine the lady twirling in a multi-coloured dress and gesticulating with her hands. What’s interesting is that the metal guy, who plays death, black and symphonic metal in As Light Dies and Garth Arum, is on the same wavelength even though the style is totally different. Neither style overpowers the other. “La Culebra” ends dramatically. This is pure opera. Ringing tones now work behind the lady who sings a sad song with pomp and beauty. My Spanish is non existent but what I do know is that there is a mass of expression, feeling and power in the delivery of this song. Where Finnish warriors romp by fires in the wood, this is from the warmth and colourful temperament of Spain. Strangely we hear birds singing, doors squeaking and the sound of children – it’s one of many interesting touches.
Now we hear traditional Spanish guitar music. Subtly the metal guitar comes in and plays a jolly tune. The lady’s voice floats above this mix of metal and Spanish tradition. “Molineto – Vengo de Moler” is the song. The blend is immaculate and powerful. It’s yet another song of balance and passion. There’s a more metal edge to “La Niña De La Arena”. But it’s an exciting one. The lady and music exude urgency and heroism. Is that a trumpet? This conjures up the image and colour of Spanish festivals. Bells toll. The lady introduces the drama. The electric guitar is strident. It is “Romance de Santa Elena”. The scene is irrepressible and dark. The electronic end is sinister. Clapping can be heard. The guitar raises the pitch and of course the soft and sweet ones of the lady raise the bar once more. A kind of hey nonny nonny folk music strikes up, but of course “Rondón Dei Enamorado Y La Muerte” has the extra twist of the vocals and the balance of the metal guitar, which plays through an atmospheric piece while the clapping continues around it. “Charro de Labrador” again mixes the quality of a catchy traditional song with special vocals and high- powered instrumentals. Melancholic and lush guitar work would be enough to express the atmosphere of “Veneno” but the lady takes us to greater heights once more. There is a haunting sound running through the background. The lady sounds vulnerable. The atmosphere is tense yet magical. And magical is what this album is. It ends with a fusion of sounds in an experimental way. And again it’s not folk, it’s not metal but it is unpredictable and incredible in its cohesion and harmony.
This album is unique. With the uniqueness go high quality musicianship and a special atmosphere. I am a Northern European of Irish descent with not a trace of Hispanic blood in me. Yet this album took me to the heart of Castile, an area of a country I have never been to in my life. All the elements are perfectly harmonised in spite of the mix of ingredients suggesting that in any rational world they shouldn’t go together. I can’t remember listening to an album where the music and the vocals have transported me to such a different and vivid place like this. It is both interesting and a sheer pleasure to listen to. “Ad Augusta per Angusta” is a musical and cultural temple.
(9.5/10 Andrew Doherty)