Red Wine - Cenizas 3/5

Reviewed: 2-18-05


1. 806
2. Miedo-dolor
3. Salva tu hogar
4. Lagrima de soledad
5. Una vida mas
6. Despierda
7. Fantasma del pasado
8. Vientos de libertad
9. Ojos de ley
10. Negando lo envidente
11. Mi universo

For some time now, I have touted Red Wine as one of the great hopes for Spanish power metal. Their 2001 debut, 'Hijos del despertar', showed boundless promise, borrowing elements of Spanish metal heroes Tierra Santa and Avalanch and adding solid songwriting, strong performances, and a slightly heavier approach than the much-beloved typical Spanish metal sound. The follow-up, 2002's 'El fin de los tiempos', was a bit of a letdown, but Red Wine returned with all guns blazing on 2003's stellar 'Suenos y Locura' release. Now the prolific Spanish sextet return with their 4th CD in 4 years, 'Cenizas'.

Beginning with the superficial features, 'Cenizas' falls short of its predecessor on several levels. The cover art by Mattias Noren (whose work is quite in fashion in metal circles these days) is okay, but conveys way too proggy an image for this band, and is a far cry from the awesome Luis Royo and Jean Pascal Fournier paintings that graced their first 2 CDs. On the production side, a step down in quality is evident, presumably because the band went for a self-produced job instead of using Carlos Creator like they did on their last 2 CDs ('Suenos' even featured technical contributions in the mastering department from uber knob-twiddler Piet Sielck). Thankfully, 'Cenizas' fares better on the merits than these initial omens might portend. Red Wine continue to mine the stylistic territory of their previous CDs, with a crunchy guitar-driven sound that's a step heavier than many of their Spanish brethren. Keyboards are relegated to the background (where they belong!!!), and the majority of the songs are of the uptempo, double-bass persuasion. There is some variety in moods, tempos and feels to the material, with the most notable outliers to this general description being "Fantasma del pasado", a fairly dreadful commercial rock piece featuring a prominent Hammond organ and representing bassist Dani Ohm's first (and hopefully last) songwriting foray in the band, and "Mi universo", a strikingly beautiful acoustic ballad to close out the CD. I like the Spanish-language vocals of Mario Suarez, whose high-pitched delivery is fairly typical of his countrymen but whose voice has a sufficiently unique timbre to be distinguishable from his peers.

At the end of the day, 'Cenizas' is not the hammer I had hoped for. Although there are some stunning tracks on display (including most notably "Ojos de ley" and "Salva tu hogar"), the material is a notch below that featured on 'Suenos y Locura', which clearly remains Red Wine's finest hour to date. Maybe 4 CDs in 4 years depleted the guys' creative batteries. Maybe the band suffered from the absence of Carlos Creator in the producer's chair. Whatever the explanation may be, 'Cenizas' will be remembered a respectable effort of well played Spanish power metal, but lacking the knock-out punch necessary to ascend to the next level on the Spanish metal sweepstakes. Better luck next time, gents.




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