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El Cuervo de Poe - Ex Libris
CD Reviews
Written by Doctor T.   
Thursday, 08 November 2012
El Cuervo de Poe CD Review
Ex Libris'
El Cuervo de Poe - Ex Libris


CD Info


Self Released 
14 Tracks

English & Spanish Lyrics


El Cuervo de Poe has a lot of things going for them, and one of the things I like best about the band is their use of their native language, Spanish. The band is from Mexico so that shouldn’t come as a big surprise, vocalist Brenda Gaviño does all but one track in Spanish and the results were highly agreeable with me. This is a more traditional metal than some although there is a killer violin that appears with regularity. You don’t get a lot of symphonic components, choral work is limited and probably produced electronically. But the vocals are solid and the production work makes use of everything our dark haired chica can provide. There’s not the range you get with a Simon Simons but the range works with the material presented. And, she does occasionally kick it up a bit to the soprano level, sometimes to the top of that range with surprising results. All in all, no complaints with the vocals, although you may have a little difficulty following the English on the one track done in that language. Of course, if you’re not fluent in Spanish, that one will be the least of your problems. But, as is the case with the vast majority of non-English speaking singers, Gaviño sounds best working in her native language.

I’m pretty sure most of this material is self-written. There was one track I recognized as being a bit of a cover. That track is La llorona and it’s a famous "son istmeño mexicano", from the Istmo de Tehuantepec, which, I understand is Oaxaca. You’re probably familiar with it, it’s said to be from pre-Hispanic times, and that means it’s pretty old. Of course, the band puts its own original spin to the tune, a bit more metal, to say the least, but, once the vocals begin you start to recall the tune. And, the lyrics take us back to that historical time:

La pena y la que no es pena, Llorona / todo es pena para mí.
Ayer penaba por no verte Llorona / Y hoy peno por que te ví.

The music can be viewed several ways. There’s not a lot of extremely dark Gothic, although one could certainly utilize that term in a general sense. You could certainly categorize much of the material as melodic metal, with the regular intrusion of a blazing guitar just to keep you on your toes. But, there are regular Latin touches, musical and lyrical, I mean, the title does mean "The Books" and those of you familiar with the Dutch band of the same name are probably familiar with that term. But the band is pretty good at putting variance into the model, as we stat guys like to say. You don’t get too many tracks that follow the more typical patterns of stanza / chorus / stanza. Which may make them a little hard to follow if that’s what you’re familiar with. I guess that’s on purpose because it’s a pretty consistent direction. Some might argue that it makes the songs harder to remember, you know, no hooks. But, that wasn’t the case for me, I got the hooks from the lyrics, some of which were just to verbally and vocally interesting to forget. That’s a measure of the vocal quality, as much as anything else. But, musically, this is a little different than traditional metal.

There’s some pretty nice variety to the music in terms of style. With Spanish music of any kind, you pretty much have to expect that there will be variety, although the stronger metal tracks here are certainly not representative of typical Mexican music by any means. But, there are some that might better fit that category. For instance, Nostalgia de Ti seems to fit more comfortably into what we might expect with a Mexican sound, although the violin does send things into a slightly different direction. However, the more classical acoustic guitar is certainly more in line with what we might expect from this locale. The vocals also tend to remind us that this is a "South of the Border" sound, and a lovely one at that.

The "Official Video" for this production is La Semilla de la Vida. It’s clearly a rocker; you get to see the more dramatic material the band is capable of. Sometimes these "official videos" don’t make much sense, but this one sure puts the band, their music, and their featured vocalist in a fired up light. I mean, if this one doesn’t bring the blood to a boil there’s something wrong with your body chemistry. Especially of interest is the utilization of the violin which is a bit more pronounced here than in some numbers. In my humble opinion, you can’t have too much violin, especially with this kind of music.

It’s probably worth noting the "English language" track, if for no other reason than to capture those lyrics for interpretation. The track is No Fears and it begins, interestingly enough, with something that damn sure sounds like a sitar. Ravi Shankar in Mexico? Who knew? Whatever it is it sure provides an interesting sound that carries on throughout the track. Again, this one rocks, the violin provides some limited background, the drums and guitars crank, we get some nicely overlaid vocals that take the lyrics into interesting territory. And, although like I said, they’re a little hard to understand, both from the standpoint of the pronunciation and the structure of the music, they are kinda interesting:

You roamed the shadows / of my innocence,
Knocking on illusion's doors.
All tears were spilled, / Today, there's nothing left for you
All tears were spilled for you.

On the subject of interesting introductions, Lamento Romani takes us in another direction. We begin with the more traditional acoustic guitar, something that is at the core of Spanish music. However, as the song progresses, we hear what is clearly a classical interpretation of the Spanish vocal, clearly one of the highlights of the CD. Then, the violin checks in and the guitars begin a somewhat harder brand of music, one that plays back and forth between the multiple options. Pretty complex sound and one that would work with the Allman Brothers back in the day, assuming they had a female vocalist. And damn, that violin can blister.

Presagio returns us to the more metal sounding material. This one again has a jazz fusion feel to it in some parts. You get the harder guitars, the pounding drums and the screeching violin that direct the vocals into a direction that captures a component the band only demonstrates on occasion. The really interesting thing for me was how the vocal changes for a track like this one. The girl can really belt it out when the boys get cranking. And they damn sure crank on this one.

The final track is El Jardin. In some places, this one is viewed as 3 individual tracks. However, on my copy it was one. If you listen, you can kinda hear where there might be breaks, slightly different sounds. Either way, it’s clearly a significant work, lots of solid metal, the vocals are outstanding. Pretty much the "Big Finale" and done to capture that concept. The vocals here are, again, more classical in nature, pretty fantastic actually. And, there’s some symphonics that really set this track off. Probably the highlight of the CD for me, as good as it gets in this type of music.

Well, Edgar Allen never sounded better, can you imagine this as a soundtrack for "Quoth the Raven. . . ."? And Poe probably didn’t know the Latin. Anyway you cut it, fine Gothic material, and in a language that only makes it more interesting for me. Not matter what your choice of language, I suspect you’ll agree.

9 / 10

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