(Rock CD 2016)
There was a time not too terribly long ago when Spanish power metal was among my favorite metal subgenres. Bands like Saratoga, Tierra Santa, Avalanch, Northwind, Red Wine, Azrael, Saurom, Sheratan, Warcry and others harnessed a blend of Iron Maiden and Helloween, to which they added characteristic melodies and typically Spanish-language vocals with just the right balance of charisma, grit and range. Of late, however, those offerings have waned. Some of the bigger names have experienced disappointing stylistic changes, moving toward more commercial, softer pastures and therefore fading from my consciousness. (As a general rule, those who wimp out are dead to me.) More importantly, fewer new Spanish power metal acts are reaching my ears these days, perhaps because of my aversion to digital downloads and the prohibitive shipping costs exacted by the Spanish postal service. That said, I was very impressed by the Frenzy EP released last year, and the Taken debut is excellent.
To that category of outstanding new Spanish power metal albums we must add Blast Wave’s ‘Renacer,’ which saw the light of day at the tail end of 2016. From what I understand, Blast Wave formed back in 2010; however, they struggled for years to achieve a stable lineup, which they’ve now apparently accomplished. Let’s not mince words: ‘Renacer’ is a spectacular example of the Spanish power metal style at its finest. As with many of their peers, Blast Wave construct their sound on a base of classic Iron Maiden, with plenty of dual-guitar histrionics courtesy of Ivan Estevez and David Cabanillas (check out the harmony section in “Resistire,” wow!). In places, they ramp up the speed and heaviness, but also occasionally import some of those big Hansen/Weikath-type melodies, and top it all off with the commanding, Spanish-language vocals of Jon Marcos, which are clear and expressive like so many Spanish metal singers. What sets Blast Wave apart (in a good way) in their chosen genre is the purity and intensity of their attack. Whereas many Spanish bands inject AOR elements or dilute their power with pompous keyboards, frilly balladry and overwrought epics, Blast Wave keep the hammer down throughout. No, ‘Renacer’ isn’t a thrash or speed metal album, but keyboards are kept to a minimum, guitars are front and center, tempos stay pretty consistently on the quicker end of the spectrum (with the occasional exception like “Larga es la Noche”), the songs are to-the-point and never become bogged down in pretension, and the entire record is bristling with energy and the ever-important cojones.
If you’re the kind of person who loves the Saratoga ‘Vientos de Guerra’ album or Tierra Santa’s first few records (before they turned away from metal), then Blast Wave should be mandatory listening. If the idea of well-executed guitar-centric European power metal with powerful Spanish-language vocals and memorable songwriting appeals to you, then ‘Renacer’ should likewise be on your shopping list. It does my heart good to hear a newer band like Blast Wave execute this style so effectively and with so much verve and passion. Good stuff!
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~