Latin metal masters Puya will play their first show tomorrow with their new singer Diego Romero (Trujillo Alto). Diego joins band replacing longtime frontman Sergio Curbelo who has stepped down due to personal reasons. The band headlines the Viva La Rock Fest in their home of Puerto Rico. Blending Hardcore Punk, Thrash Metal, Nu Metal, Latin Jazz, and Salsa, Puya is approaching their third decade as a band. The band is working on new material with Romero for a planned 2019 release and Romero was chosen in part for what he will bring t the table on the new album. We’ll be keeping an ear out for new Puya music and bringing it to you here. Continue reading
Self-proclaimed Electro-Metalcore futurists Ember Falls call Finland home, but their début Welcome to Ember Falls (Spinefarm) may well have been delivered from some distant, imaginary multiverse where people carry huge Final Fantasy-type swords Continue reading
Being stuck between three cultures is interesting, although also difficult at times. The metal and rock worlds always draw me back in but so do my Boricua roots so it really shouldn’t have been any surprise that I became emotional over a recording of Coquis singing. Like the saying goes; la sangre llama.
Today’s review is brought to you by the letter R, as in, Ramon Ortiz and his second album, Portal (Self-Released). Taking a look at the title track, ‘Portal’, has some groovy moments with a lot of weedly, weedly, woo. The chorus sounds like something that could have been featured in an action cartoon from the 80’s. I believe that it would be one that I would look back on with fondness.
At twelve and a half minutes long, closing track ‘Yukiyu II’ is a beautiful mix progressive metal elements with Spanish guitar and touches of Latin percussion. This is also one of the songs where you can actually make out the bass in the background every once in a while. The downside is that this eventually turns into your standard progressive metal track around the eight minute mark. It makes a slight recovery once you get to ten minutes before dropping off again soon after.
It may not be salsa or merengue but then again, Puerto Rico has always been a melting pot of cultures and music and Ramon is a great example of what can come out of it. I would have liked to have heard more Latin influences but maybe we get enough of that when Ramon’s running around with Puya. Personally, the albums highlights for me were the use of Spanish guitars. I may be biased, but I prefer Ortiz’s fusion style and this record has a bit too much of a general progressive metal record vibe to it. I was hoping for some more experimentation and expansion.
ALEIDA LA LLAVE
Latin metal band Ill Ill Niño have had a lot on their plate with the release of their seventh studio album, Till Death, La Familia (Victory Records), a spot on 2014’s Mayhem Festival, and a tour in Russia, all while finding balance between their lives as musicians and as men with growing families. With about a decade and a half with the band under his belt, vocalist Cristian Machadogave us some insight as to how the creative process has changed over time as their lives have progressed
“We’re trying to be more mature songwriters and in different ways, not every album has the same approach. It’s just like you put it, every album has a very different flavor going on even though it can all be interpreted as Ill Nino, it’s got the very traditional Ill Nino signature rhythm and tones, but, I think every album is from a completely different point of view. On this album, I think we wanted to get back to our own instinctual place. I think we wanted to write more from a fan’s point of view and just ourselves in general, from the point of view of a fan, a music fan, and what we want to hear in Ill Nino’s sound. I know, personally, doing albums when you’re self producing an album, it can psychologically be this maze where you can get into the over-contemplation of a lot of parts, and different creative ideas, and things like that. We do try to get everything to flow very naturally, vocally. I was given some really awesome songs by Ahrue Luster, Laz Pina, Diego Verduco, and Dave Chavarri. I definitely wasn’t sure on any musical inspiration. I just wanted to come from the gut a little bit more; things that feel good. From a melody side, sound refreshing to my ear and tones that suit the songs as much as possible. As far as words and themes, I think that a darker side of me came out after going through the birth of my daughter and starting to realize that the world is really screwed up and full of violent images and has a very angry media presence. I think my defensive, protective, father side came out and perhaps it translates a little violently onto the lyrics but it’s really trying to do the opposite. I’m actually trying to not glorify criminality and try to make sense of the world a little bit more while still hoping for a better future. I think that a lot of that was just instinctual, you go as an individual and, hopefully, within a band, you grow as a musician and as friends. A lot of trust went into this new album, we looked up to each other very much and there was this very big, open creative space and there weren’t these huge battles about parts and I think that’s what music is supposed to be at the end of the day. When five or six people form a band, and they have a hugely successful first album, the fans can read into the creative decision making when a band feels comfortable and it will translate to them and they can relate to the music. We wanted to write as cool as we could write right now and take into consideration everything that we’ve done in the past, the grooves we’ve used, the bilinguality of the band, and the duality of our sound, but we wanted to be more refreshing, to feel more grown, and to, obviously, continue to grow and expand as musicians and song writers.”
You mentioned that you’ve noticed a change in yourself coming from a producing standpoint. When working on material now, do you actively see yourself switching into that producer mindset and then switching back into the musician?
On the two records prior to Till Death, La Familia, we were self producing and not really working with anyone outside of the band, and I think that was growth that we needed to experience ourselves before getting to present where we worked with Eddie Wohl who’s an amazing and very talented producer. Even though there really wasn’t this huge change to anything that I was bringing into the studio, there was the sense of relaxation, that I’m working with someone great, and that I trusted. On past records, I did have a battle within my own mind; where do I draw the line between recording the album with the band and getting down to where I need to do which is to write vocals and tell a story? On this album I was able to do that, I was able to focus on what I wanted to say and the tone that I wanted to bring to the band. At the end of the day, I wanted to compliment the songs that Ahrue, Laz, Diego, and Dave had written as much as possible. I was lucky, I’m very lucky and I wouldn’t want to go back to doing it the other way where we’re just self producing albums. For me, it was easier than Ahrue who wrote a lot of music and did a lot of arranging without having to record himself. Vocally, I was blessed this time around and I look forward to doing things this way where I can just focus on the creative element and not have to worry about too many other things. I think it definitely gets in the way of myself as a musician. In order for me to expand and grow as a song writer, I have to commit to that first and foremost. I’m very grateful for the way I was able to do this album. I have to give a lot of credit to the guys in the band and to Eddie Wohl.
Speaking of the guys in the band…You’re no strangers to lineup changes but you’ve had a solid core team for a number of years up until Daniel Couto’s decision to leave the group; what has the band dynamic been like with Oscar Santiago carrying Danny’s torch after his departure?
“Having Oscar in the band is a blessing, he’s probably the origin Latin percussion player in metal. He’s somebody that we’ve looked up to for years and Puya, his band that he’s played with for so many years has been a huge influence on us so having him in the band definitely changes the dynamic in that we want to start moving more towards his rhythmic direction. On this album it was difficult to incorporate everything that we wanted to but I think that having him in the band now is truly a blessing and we’re going to be able to move, rhythmically, closer to territory where we used to be while still keeping in mind the things that we’ve expanded upon. As a band with a fifteen year career, at our level, it’s very tough, it’s not like any of us are making a bunch of money. At a Metallica level, where a band is universally famous, there’s a lot of money to be made and it’s easier to stay in a band where you can support your family and have them travel with you. In our case, where we’re at that medium theater to large theater touring circuit, every penny matters and we leave our families at home a lot. Some of the people in the band felt it was necessary to have more time at home. The older we get, the more we realize why they left and we can’t really tour just to tour. It has to be something extremely worthwhile to the fans and it has to be worthwhile to us as well because we have to leave our families behind. As far as changing band members, Danny, who played percussion before Oscar, he’s staying home with family and recently had a baby. Jardel Paisante has a family as well. Besides that, we changed a couple of band members after the first album but that was a creative and personal difference more than anything else.”
ALEIDA LA LLAVE
In Part I of an interview series with Cristian Machado of Ill Niño, among the many topics discussed with Ghost Cult scribe Aleida La Llave were the common bonds of Latinos in the metal community. One of the things that has always stood out about the band has been how heavy music has been intertwined with Latin culture and influences. Aleida asked Cristian about some of his experiences and how he feels about the state of Latinos in the metal and rock communities now, as opposed to when he first started out in the scene.
“Until I became a musician, a Latino in a metal band, and I got to meet a lot of the other bands that I had looked up to for years, I never realized how many Latinos were actually in those influential bands. The first time I met Tom Araya and Dave Lombardo from Slayer, we spoke Spanish. Fifty percent of Slayer was hanging out with us and speaking to us in Spanish so that was a really cool experience. Also, Robert Trujillo, a Latino who’s now in Metallica. Another hugely influential band, Suicidal Tendencies, and even hardcore bands like Agnostic Front and Roger Miret being a Latino and being able to speak Spanish with him. It depends on what band you’re looking at but there’s so many Latinos in the metal scene. Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), definitely one of the top five most influential guitar players in metal, he’s Latino and we talk in Spanish when we hang out. To me, it’s something that is already embedded in metal. Latinos are everywhere. They’re in a lot of bands that you would never even think that those guys speak Spanish but they do. It’s something that I never really took huge notice of until I started playing culture metal and started meeting people and they would be drawn to us more because we were pushing the culture thing and we came from the same part of the world rhythmically. They’ve always been there, we’re definitely not the first ones. We’re far from inventing anything, we’re just approaching it differently and definitely very focused on culture in metal.”
ALEIDA LA LLAVE
I’ve been to some pretty spectacular shows this year, but I don’t think I looked forward to them anywhere near as much as I looked forward to finally seeing my hometown heroes in Puya. I don’t mean to get sentimental, but it’s not every day that my Puerto Rican heritage and love of metal come together.
The first act to take the stage was a local group known as Zombie Frogs. They played a few instrumental numbers that were saturated in keyboards. I personally have a very low tolerance for that sort of thing but apart from keyboard overkill, the music was pretty good and they have the potential to make some interesting songs.
Another local band, Bloodline Theory, was up next. Their sound was reminiscent of nu-metal at the turn of the new millennium. Twelve year old me would have loved them and, to be honest, they weren’t half bad. One of the highlights of their set was a cover of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ simply because of how unexpected it was. However, the true peak of their performance was when the guitarist’s fly went down and our own Keefy got an eyeful of another man’s junk. That’s just one of the hazards that come with the job.
Headlining band Puya opened their set with fan favorite ‘Ride’ and had the entire room singing along. I was pleasantly surprised with how heavy they are live, even the lighter parts of songs still had a good kick behind them. Vocalist Sergio Curbelo loved showing off his inner salsero and occasionally assisted percussionist Oscar Santiago with a number of different instruments. Ramon Ortiz’s versatile guitar playing shone through all of the Latin, jazz, funk, and metal influences present in the band’s music. That being said, anyone who knows anything about me knows that I love a good bassist so you can bet that I was firmly parked in front of Harold Hopkins Miranda in the front row and he did not disappoint. I had expected a set that focused more on their heavier music but there was a fantastic mix of everything. Puya is a perfect example of Latin metal and Latin fusion done right. It was easy and natural to jump from something like ‘Solo’ to ‘Tirale’ without batting an eyelash. The Latin fusion juggernaut wrapped their performance with an encore of one of their most well-known and well-loved tracks, ‘Oasis’.
Puya was every bit as incredible as I had hoped they would be. I can cross them off of my bucket list for the time being but I’ll be waiting for them to come back to town. Come to think of it, heading back to the homeland to see one of my favorite bands sounds like a pretty good idea to me. Check out their impressive set list below.
Puya Set List
Ni Antes Ni Despues
Sal Pa’ Fuera
Pa’ Ti Pa’ Mi
WORDS: ALEIDA LA LLAVE
PHOTOS: ECHOES IN THE WELL
“This is the Puya comin’ straight to ya! This is the Puya comin’ straight to ya!” Puerto Rico based Latin metallers Puya have returned from their dormancy to embark on a brief tour of the USA. They hit a bunch of East Coast dates, landed at Sirius XM studios in New York City and and appeared with Jose Mangin on Liquid Metal, and more. The band is revving up their engines again on their way to participate in the Patria Grande Festival in Cuba this November. Hopefully more tours and new music are on the horizon for the ground-breaking act that combined Latin Jazz, hardcore metal, funk and Nu Metal. Check out our photo set from their recent Boston show at The Middle East Downstairs. A full review is coming soon.
Let it be known that, prior to this album, I had never listened to Trollfest before so I really didn’t know what to expect. Kaptein Kaos (NoiseArt Records) begins with ‘Trolltramp’ which is a short instrumental piece that sounds like something you would have heard when running around with cavemen in Chrono Trigger before the Reptites crash the party.
The songs that I enjoy the most are all in the second half of the album. Let’s start with ‘Solskinnsmedisin’ and its Latin influences. Did I hear a güiro underneath all of that crazy? This song sounds like something I’d catch my old man listening to when he can’t decide between merengue and metal. Honestly, it makes me think of a goofy Puya.
‘Sagn Om Stein’ is on the lighter side and makes me think of dingy bars where questionable bearded men can be found aka my kind of place. I don’t know what’s being said but my brain is interpretting it as “let’s party”. Grab a beer, grab a beard, and toast in a foreign language or two!
It’s difficult for me to decide between ‘Solskinnsmedisin’ and ‘Kinesisk Alkymi’ but I think I have to give the honor of my favorite song from Kaptein Kaos to the latter. I find the Asian influences and string influences extremely interesting. It would have been right at home in the Tekken or Mortal Kombat franchises. Why does everything about this album make me think of video games and alcohol?
Kaptein Kaos is a lot of fun to listen to and definitely not what I was expecting. I thought it was just going to be your standard dosage of folk metal but Trollfest used other musical styles that keep the listener engaged and amused. I had no idea what was being said for at least three quarters of this album but I want to go to a cabana party with an arcade inside.
ALEIDA LA LLAVE