Voltax - Hiding into flames 3.5/5
1. Burst of pain
3. Estruendo letal
4. Hiding into flames
5. Obsession for the dark
6. Escape without return
9. The vision
It’s really easy to pull for Voltax. These heavy metal maniacs hail from Mexico, which has an abundance of metal fans but a shortage of bands that have ever achieved any reasonable measure of worldwide success. They played at the Warriors of Metal Festival in Ohio this past June. Decked out in zebra-striped shirts and other like-minded 80s apparel, the short, skinny quartet (don’t know where the other guitarist Matt was, but they performed as a 4-piece) won over the crowd with their infectious enthusiasm and old-school traditional metal sound. When they stopped their show so the guitarist could ask in halting English whether anyone had a knife (I guess to repair his axe), it was one of the funniest, most endearing moments of the entire festival. The next day, I spied one of the guys walking around the campground with a bottle of Jagermeister in one hand and a bottle of Jack Daniels in the other. Language barrier and shy personalities were no deterrent whatsoever, as Voltax made many friends and fans that weekend in Pataskala.
‘Hiding into flames’ is already CD #3 for the Voltaxers and their first not to be released by their homeland’s Blower Records (which has pretty good international distribution, especially in America and Germany). Unfortunately, ‘Hiding into flames’ is on the Sade Records label, which was heretofore unknown to me and which does not appear to have had much luck getting the CD into vendors’ hands in the USA or Europe. Hopefully, that will change soon, but for now it is a challenge to find a physical copy of ‘Hiding into flames’. The band were selling copies at WOM Fest, so I grabbed one, and now I can bring you the scoop on all things Voltax.
The rough, crude pencil drawing of a burning church afflicted by blue-tinted vaporous skulls on the cover of the CD is actually an accurate representation of the music inside. Voltax are not a polished band in terms of production or performances. The mix is pretty rough, there are audible bum notes at times, and vocalist Jerry has a tendency to screech in a manner that is sure to polarize the listening public. Also, the songs this time around don’t feel particularly cohesive or concise, but instead sound like the product of loose rehearsal room jams. Funny enough, none of the above is actually a criticism. These attributes are all part of the charm of ‘Hiding into flames’. For those who desire their metal delivered in an antiseptic, flawless ProgPower USA-type manner, Voltax is not recommended at all. But for those who appreciate vibe rather than technical perfection, energy and spirit rather than mechanistic precision, and heartfelt sincerity rather than clinical detachment, ‘Hiding into flames’ can be a really fun listen. When guitarists Diego and Matt crank up the killer riffs and melodies on tracks like “Rebellious”, “Escape without return”, and “Obsession for the dark”, with Jerry caterwauling over the top, anybody who loves old-fashioned heavy metal music will be hard-pressed to keep from smiling and breaking out the air guitar.
Much to my chagrin, however, there are a couple of minuses which constrain my enthusiasm for ‘Hiding into flames’ vis a vis its predecessors. The Hammond organ featured on several tracks is a problem. It doesn’t really fit the 80s metal vibe we’ve come to expect from Voltax, instead adopting more of a rock’n’roll Deep Purple feeling or something. To me, it saps the power from the guitars and the songs. The bigger issue is the somewhat freeform nature of the songs. The first 2 Voltax CDs each clocked in at under 40 minutes, with concise, well-crafted tunes. On ‘Hiding into flames’, though, everything is much looser. I read an interview with Diego in which he said that the band really wanted to tap into their 60s and 70s influences this time, so they just jammed to their hearts’ content. It sounds like it. That approach may distinguish Voltax from many of their 80s-obsessed contemporaries, but it’s an open question whether that distinction is positive of negative. If you can make it through the 9-minute jammy “The vision” without becoming bored or irritated or homicidal, you’re a more patient metalhead than I.
Let’s not come down too hard on Voltax though. ‘Hiding into flames’ is a blast to listen to for the sheer unadulterated joy of old-fashioned heavy metal/hard rock. If I were to take off my “reviewer” hat and put on my “fan” hat, and just sit back and let the CD soak in without dissecting it element by element, ‘Hiding into flames’ would be a mighty enjoyable way to spend 3/4 of an hour. I like the band, I like the CD, and I’m pulling for them big-time. But it’s an awfully competitive marketplace out there, and I’m afraid ‘Hiding into flames’ is a small step back for them in international competitiveness (dropping them a bit behind their countrymen Split Heaven, for a quick example). Here’s hoping they regain their mojo on CD #4, ditch the organ, tighten up the songs, and bring their guitar-repairing knives to stages all over the USA and Europe to kick our collective asses.
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