Saurom - Once romances desde al-andalus 4/5

Reviewed: 10-10-08


1. Inspiraci n espectral
2. Reina de la oscuridad
3. Laberinto de los secretos
4. Lejos del mar de rosas
5. En el abismo
6. Romance de la luna, luna
7. Wallada la omeya
8. Zulema
9. Un castillo de versos nostilgicos
10. Nada es eterno
11. El monte de las animas
12. Mis alli de la tierra prometida
13. Sollozos desde el destierro

Mago de Oz are perhaps universally regarded as the monarchs of the Spanish folk metal scene. Over the last decade, however, Saurom (formerly known as Saurom Lamderth) have quietly crept up on their more acclaimed countrymen. One stellar release followed another and Saurom assembled a formidable body of work spanning 5 outstanding CDs, to the point where a compelling argument could be made that Saurom are equals to the mighty Mago. Sure, Mago are better songwriters and have a peerless sense of melody as well as the incomparable voice of Jose Andrea at their disposal, but Saurom are much more firmly grounded in bona fide heavy metal, without the periodic dalliances into wimpiness, daffodils, rainbows, puppy dogs, pink ponies, and other genres that sometimes render Mago CDs so frustrating to listen to. To put it somewhat coarsely, Saurom are crunchy top-drawer Spanish folk metal with balls of steel.

The first 4 Saurom CDs are all recommended to any fans of Spanish-language folk metal. To my ears, though, the band really hit their stride on their 3rd and 4th CDs, 2004's 'Legado de juglares' and 2006's 'Juglarmetal', both of which represent the very pinnacle of this style, with punchy guitars, devastating melodies, epic songwriting, and fantastic storytelling, literary lyrics (that is, if you can translate them from Spanish). For that reason, I was initially disappointed with Saurom's latest output, 'Once romances desde al-andalus', because there are significant changes afoot to the band's sound. The guitar tone has gotten muddier, more downtuned and more modern-sounding. The rhythm section has taken on a decidedly modern, chaotic tilt as well. The overall sound is darker, heavier and gloomier, and less bright and upbeat than on previous Saurom releases. It's frankly a bit jarring. In some ways, Saurom's evolution can be compared to that of Elvenking on their controversial 'The scythe' CD, still retaining their folk metal framework but pushing everything in a darker, heavier and more modern-sounding direction. The distinction is that Saurom's sonic shift is less pronounced than Elvenking's, but it's a difference in degree, rather than in kind. For that reason, I would not recommend 'Once romances desde al-andalus' to a Saurom neophyte, and I'd go so far as to say that I suspect this CD may cause some Saurom devotees to jump ship.

In time, however, 'Once romances desde al-andalus' insidiously worked its way under my skin and won me over. Miguel Angel Franco's unique lead vocals continue to impress, as he channels rough Hansi Kursch and Blackie Lawless at his grittiest. The songwriting is not as immediate on previous Saurom efforts, being obscured perhaps by the somewhat chaotic and harsh arrangements, but the songs themselves are excellent. The folk instrumentation is utilized to perfection. It is also most certainly Saurom's most diverse CD to date, with large doses of pure power metal, as well as touches of gothic, black, progressive and Gothenburg metal, all added to their folk metal stew, with even a couple of Arab-sounding moments to boot. It's the kind of CD that reveals more of its treasures to the listener on each listen. I've spun 'Once romances desde al-andalus' enough to know that it's very good, but how good is a question that may take months to pin down with precision. The production job still sounds too abrasive to my ears, but I've gotten past it. What I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the 9-minute epic "El monte de las animas" is a triumphant achievement, capturing the grandeur of classic Iron Maiden, the emotional qualities and spirit of latter-day Blind Guardian and the true essence of Saurom. This CD is well worth hearing for "El monte de las animas" alone. Spain's juglar metallers strike again, and take another decisive step in their quest for global domination.




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