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Ruff, Ruff! I’m Poochie, the Rocking Dog! - 80%

whensunburnsred, September 19th, 2010

Powerful like thunder. That’s the meaning of Poderoso Como el Trueno, and while the album may not be THAT powerful, it’s as electrifying and striking as the lightning that comes after. Obús is one of the legendary heavy metal bands in Spain. Together with Barón Rojo they had their golden age in the 80s heavy metal scene in that country, and released several albums of which this is the second one, and the best. Of course there were other good bands like Ñu, Panzer or Ángeles del Infierno, but Ñu were not really 100% heavy metal, Ángeles started in the mid eighties and Panzer’s masterpiece didn’t come until 1985.

Since there are not any reviews for this band so far (shame on you, lazy Spaniard reviewers in the MA!) I will start with an introduction to Obús’s sound, which will be the formula used by many Spanish bands along the eighties; simple riffs, catchy choruses, many mid-paced songs, extremely loud bass and straight forward heavy metal, with little melody in the vocal department. Moreover, this an early 80s release, so as usual you’ll also get a dose of hard rock - even rock & roll in “Prohibido hacer rock”, or some bass lines in “Estúpido acusador”. On the whole, Obús is not remarkable for having a heavy sound. In fact, all the bands mentioned before (except for Ñu) are way heavier than them, but they certainly are very catchy and reflect perfectly the metal scene that was taking off in Spain.

Let’s start first with the production. It’s very well balanced and crystal clear, so you’ll be able to enjoy every instrument; no blurry moments asking yourself “where’s X?” or “what the hell is that sound?”. The bass, for example, is constantly present and the result is superb; it creates a thick atmosphere that contrasts with the thin, high-pitched vocals of Fortu. There are also some other additional elements that contribute to the sound; some keyboard hints here and there, high doses of echo and Doppler like effects for the guitars, and sometimes more distortion that makes these sound a bit fuzzy. Even though, it doesn’t get tiresome, when I listen to this I don’t feel it’s overloaded with too many effects, so this shouldn’t be a problem for those who dislike too many additions in their music.

Moving on to the vocals, you’ll find that these aren’t very solid, and have both moments of glory (“Invasión de las máquinas”, “Perdido en la ciudad”) and dramatic downs (“Poderoso como el trueno”, “Dame amor”); “Buscando acción” is a very good display of harsh singing, personating the classic bad boy rocker with some spiteful vocals; “Perdido en la ciudad”, on the other hand, shows a more melodic singing but also harsh at the same time, and very heartfelt in the chorus lines. However, when you listen to the title track you get a very high-pitched, forced singing – I was going to say falsetto, but the correct term is forced –, like if he were trying to hit the highest note that he is able to sing by stretching his neck. And this is a problem, because the main strength of Obús is the vocal lines that completely lead the songs. Guitars, bass, drums… they are there, but just to create the atmosphere – which would explain choosing such a thin guitar tone -, but the glorious moments are really scarce; the main riffs of “La invasion de las máquinas” and “Dinero, Dinero” are possibly the only ones that are memorable and catchy, and only the former takes the leading role. Keeping on with the guitars, you won’t find many flashy shredding solos around, but more psychedelic styled, in the vein of early Black Sabbath – “Wheels of confusion” is an excellent example of how Obús’ solos sound – and sometimes also reminiscent of Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny. Bass lines are really good – I would say the bass is the co-protagonist in this play -, not just a decorative element to double drums and rhythm guitars – it also does that, but it’s not its only function -, and adds quality to the music; the lines around the chorus and guitar solo of “Estúpido acusador”, for example, are completely independent of the rhythm and lead guitars and complement the music perfectly. The final instrument, the drums, are sadly quite indifferent; just generic, mid-paced rhythmic beats and never adds anything extraordinary. It’s ok… it fits the music and it’s adequate for the style proposed… so you can’t really complain about it… also the tone is a bit muffled, so it’s perfect to stay in the background.

Highlights are “Perdido en la ciudad”, “La invasion de las máquinas”, “Estúpido acusador” and “Dinero, dinero”, in that order. “Perdido en la ciudad” is an ode to the night, and offers a very addictive, pleasant, melodic bridge and chorus that will get stuck in your mind. This is the darkest song of the album; mid-paced tune, with ballad like passages mixed with some psychedelic guitar work. The result is an excellent song that won’t disappoint anybody. As a counterpoint, “La invasión de las máquinas” is an up-tempo tune, and the one with the heaviest sound. I find remarkable Fortu’s singing in this one; how he cuts some words, unites others, the different length of the stops between… it gives the song a fast, trotting sensation. To end with the highlights, “Estúpido acusador” uses the old trick of the catchy vocal lines, combined with good verse rhyme and the classic “Fuck you if you don’t like metalheads” topic to conform the catchiest song in the album.

The counterpoints to the highlights are “Poderoso como el trueno”, “Dame amor” and “Prohibido hacer rock”. In addition to the annoying singing, the title track has some boring guitar work, and the “explosion like” drum beats in the chorus sound so weak and hollow, that it’s ridiculous to pretend those are thunder sounds… “Prohibido hacer el rock” is the rock and roll song, with the most generic, clichéd and overused tune ever. So this time we get a song that doesn’t do anything interesting – even the chorus is boring and doesn’t work very well – and screams for the skip button. “Dame amor” is the cheesy abortion that once in a while must infect the mediocre album of a good band you like; it may be named “Don’t tread or me”, “Weekend warrior”, “Electric crown” etc., but you’ll be able to recognize this song – despite the name change – thanks to its characteristic repetitive, boring as fuck nature, as well as for the idea “Were they having a brain hemorrhage when they did this?” being going round and round in your head while it’s on play. Seriously, I can’t find almost anything that is even average in this song; the pace is slooooow and it plods for almost 4 min, with the cheesiest chorus ever “Daaaaaameeeeeeeee amoooooooor” repeated several times, prolonging each word and the torture…

Despite those 3 mediocre tracks, you still get 6 good ones, some of them excellent. So, those who really like old guard heavy metal should give this one a listen. If you liked this one I recommend you Barón Rojo’s Larga Vida al Rock & Roll, Panzer’s Toca Madera or Obús’ Prepárate.