Cóndor – El Valle del Cóndor (2018)

As in language, so in music, the possibility of meaning becoming lost in translation is immense; especially so when the music is more parochial than the norm and the interpreter comes from a milieu altogether different from the creator. Such a foreign interpreter may extrapolate meaning from the music by reading the syntax common to the genre and using his own sensitivity to the form, but to a lesser or greater degree, its creative essence remains hidden from him. The accidents of circumstance that go into the making of a personal and nuanced work of art are many, from the trivial to the pivotal, along the way touching the life of the individual, the history of his people, and the convulsions of their land. The spirit, in the ultimate, universal abstract, may be roused to the same pitch in both native and alien heart, but it is not unfair to suggest that only those looking out from inside this tradition can ever truly approximate the depths from which such feeling emerges.

Cóndor‘s music is of just such an earthy flavor, perennially basing itself on the fringes of heavy metal and unafraid of using textures and tempos that forgo the visceral appeal of the genre. To be fair, El Valle del Cóndor, while retaining these attributes, carries more bite than previous works, but this is analogous more with the portent of gathering storm clouds than the cut-throat pugilism one normally associates with underground metal. This is an album of strong harmonic contrasts, with sometimes as many as three voices participating in the concoction of lush and exotic motifs, and harmonies themselves ranging from the juxtaposition of dark rhythm against a more optimistic note on the lead guitar to the vaguely baroque overtures of Adramelch‘s Irae Melanox, to the parallel melodies of Slough Feg via Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden. At all times, the attitude is one of introspective seeking and a kind of melodic pointillism (i.e. the realization of musical scenery through fine, incremental, and accumulative detail) in so much as can be tolerated within the context of heavy metal without it lapsing into outright mood-obsessed impressionism.

Missteps include the occasional jarring of incompatible tones (‘Santa Rosa de Osos‘), and the lingering use of feedback. This is music that could conceivably use better production, especially in the case of bass guitar, otherwise such an integral part of proceedings but represented here by a somewhat enervated sound. Vocals could adopt more of the stirring sung quality of folk closer ‘El Valle del Cóndor‘, too; but one suspects that such cosmetic changes could just as easily detract from what at present is the quintessential Cóndor vibe: amateur yet adventurous, syncretic in the better sense of the term, and fiercely proud of the many facets that make up a personality.

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