Guest article by Belisario
Now that the end of 2019 is over, with its list-saturated madness, it is a good moment to look backwards in search for the decent albums we may have overlooked during the year. That might be the case of the debut album by a discrete Spanish band under the name of Calyx. Released in the month of May, it was published by no less than Iron Bonehead Productions, a well-known middle-sized label which is lately supporting smaller and lesser known bands, a move certainly worth praising.
Hailing from the city of Zaragoza, this young band has been active for the last six years, releasing a total of three demos before addressing the longer format, a strategy that tends to be increasingly scarce in the digital era, and naturally redounds to solid compositions and a confident performance. Vientos arcaicos is certainly not an earthquake that could shake the foundations of extreme metal as we know them, instead it is a genuine and clear expression of a band’s vision skillfully transformed into music.
The album’s formula is mainly rooted in a basic yet robust variety of black metal, which leaves enough space to assimilate other influences and develop each individual song. Many of the tracks sound like something that could be defined as black/thrash, although under the surface there is a restless crust punk element breathing at all times, bringing in dynamism without excessive simplification. Each song tends to articulate around strong riffs that follow one another, changing the course in a vigorous manner and using mood changes and even rhythm variations to revitalize the action and push it forwards.
As a general rule, each riff is repeated several times in a somewhat rigid way, yet the effect is always powerful. In the best songs, there is a recurrence of the initial motif upon reaching the end, played in a very similar form but not exactly the same, which provides a logical and coherent conclusion as well as an undeniable sense of completeness. This happens specially in the first half of the album, since the four final tracks, excepting maybe the last, are rather inferior, in spite of which the balance remains positive.
The band manages to compensate their manifestly humble technical skills through structural and organizational solutions which, despite being simple, are nonetheless quite effective, such as complementary derivations of a single riff or accentuated variations in rhythm. We find one single solo in the whole record, which is by no means spectacular, but this lack of adornments is compensated by the ability showcased by the band in crafting riffs that are simple but extremely powerful, captivating from the first listen.
Some songs are permeated by other recognizable subgenres, such as speed metal on “Asedio infernal”, but the band knows how to assimilate those influences in order to expand their scope of action without aping any specific reference. In general terms, we find a clear unity of style in spite of the diversity of structures and rhythms presented, and this is perhaps the biggest appeal this album has to offer and also its most laudable feature. All of the aforementioned reveals that this material was probably cultivated with patience and great care before the recording sessions, hence the positive result.
Along with the stylistic references mentioned above, the entire album is pervaded by medieval echoes, not only on the acoustic intervals that can be heard in the introduction, the conclusion and a couple of interludes, but also in the suggestive and catchy melodies played by the electric guitars. These recurrent elements relate to the topic dealt with, namely old tales and legends, recreating through sound what is also expressed in the lyrics. These are not only written in proper Spanish, they’re also quite suitable and evocative, despite the slight abuse of syntax inversions and the omission of articles for the sake of concision.
The care taken to write good texts as well as the use of the band’s native tongue instead of a standardized and hollow simple English are welcome features, although the music itself mirrors the magical, dark and ancient world which fascinates these young musicians. Said universe is also vividly portrayed in the album cover, which looks like an illustration from the “Leyendas” (“Legends”) by Spanish Romantic writer Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, clearly a strong inspiration for the lyrics, together with low-budget fantastic horror movies from the seventies, many of which were filmed in Spain.
As said in the beginning, Vientos arcaicos does not offer anything really new, nor any original reinterpretation of an established genre, but what it does offer is a quite personal and accomplished recombination of old influences and styles which gain a new dimension and therefore breathe with new life, something that is far from negligible.
Calyx is a newcomer with clear ideas that resolved to go beyond standard black/thrash, a usually powerful but also flat and simple mixture. It succeeds in its endeavor through its amalgam of metallic styles and punk energy, cohesive enough but also sufficiently diverse as to become permeated by its sources of inspiration and display a stunning variety of forms. The result is a straightforward but also authentic and evocative record, surpassing by far the usual generic and conventional product. It will please those who value the correspondence between vision and realization above merely technical considerations.
Originally published in Spanish at El Negro Metal: