The T 666
I'm very proud to write the first-ever review of an album from my country here in MetalMusicArchives. And what makes me even happier is that the album doesn't suck, at all. Ecuador has never been a great cradle of musicians. If there's one art that has been poorly treated in my country, that's music. Ecuador national's genre (pasillo) is a sad excuse for alcohol drinking, depressive, defeatist, and musically-poor. Attempts at academic music have been few, and never achieving the level that composers of other countries have. Even in pop music, the simplest of genres, Ecuador has never been able to launch a truly successful international star.
Curiously, is in the darker and more "revolutionary" (socially speaking) areas of hard-rock/metal music where one can find the best Ecuadorean musicians. A genre that was at first reserved for those in the outskirts of society, the poor and the angry, is gradually gaining acceptance and welcoming better ideas. The good amount of live performances that heavy metal international bands put in Ecuador (such as ANGRA, NIGHTWISH or THERION) has allowed metal musicians to be more open-minded and more internationally-oriented than pop or folk artists, and that has been reflected in a new wave of bands that have finally been able to overcome the problems of mediocre recordings and poor musicianship. There have been even some that have started to mix traditional native elements to their rock (AZTRA is an example of that).
If I have allowed myself to digress so strongly from the point of a review (which should be to comment on a particular album), it's because some background was needed in order to understand how happy I am that VIUDA NEGRA ("Black Widow", in English) has been able to record a collection of songs that finally can stand toe-to-toe in most aspect with any metal recording or band of anywhere else in the world.
VIUDA NEGRA's first album, "El Final del Silencio" (which I will review soon), showed some promise but the DREAM THEATER influence was so heavy that the band at times sounded like another clone of the legendary New York outfit. But "La Voz de los Bosques" is a complete different story.
The band has evolved from being a clone to being a good power-progressive-metal group that shows its influences but that also has a sound of their own. The first thing one notices about this album is that, even though the style is very reminiscent to that of ANGRA and DT (in some riffs mostly), VIUDA NEGRA has achieved to play music that has a distinct flavor, something especially noticeable in the great track "La Sinfonia de los Elementos" or in the excellent title track. There's even a hint of Andean sound here and there, even though there's no Andean instruments in the record (an idea that could be discussed in the band's next opus). The neo-classical metal elements are blended with odd time signatures and complex song arrangements to create true progressive-power-metal in the vein of the mentioned Brazilian band or Norway's PAGAN'S MIND.
But this is also international prog-power-metal. Gone are the times when I could easily tell apart a band from my country from one of another just by hearing a few seconds of one song. This is played with first-class musicianship (Villalba, the guitarist, is very good, as is Maldonado, the keyboardist, who's probably the best artist on this record) and it has been recorded with first-class equipment. If this band sounds a little bit like ANGRA, believe me, that's a great compliment to a band from a country where saying that would've been impossible a few years ago. But the rock movement has finally started to give birth to good bands, and VIUDA NEGRA is a shining example.
The only minor complaint I have about this album refers to the vocal department. Silva has a good voice (he sings well) but doesn't have the raw power that most international metal singers have. At times his voice is completely overshadowed by the music; he can't rise to the occasion like an Edu Falaschi (ANGRA) or a Nils Rue (PAGAN'S MIND) would. Also, the vocal melodies aren't that strong sometimes, especially when they seem only to follow the guitar lead. This could be improved upon with more training and hard work. But there's material from where to build, as Silva shows that he can carry a tune, something he proves in the melodic and atmospheric slow song "Ausencia", where he and the piano command the whole stage.
A very good album marred by just some minor elements, VIUDA NEGRA's "La Voz de los Bosques" should be a welcome addition to any fan of progressive-power-metal.
I hope more bands from my country continue to prove that good music can be created anywhere. It's all a matter of hard work, talent, having an open mind and having the will to do it.