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Juglares del metal, a tale of mixed sensations - 81%

Observer, June 29th, 2007

Saurom, where did they come from? Oh, yes, Spain. I certainly didn’t know this band till I stumbled upon their website via random links and later found the rest of the info here at the Archives.

Saurom is everything Mägo de Oz wants to be but fails due to their recent and utter gayness and lack of creativity (they are making the third part of a saga… can’t wait to see how gay and hideous will be their next cover.) Ok, but this review is about “Juglarmetal”, latest album by Saurom and also a pretty solid one!

These guys play metal mixed with folk elements. Most songs feature competent violins, flutes, bagpipes and other ‘folky’ instruments, all mixed with heavy usage of keyboards and crunchy guitars with a bass that sometimes can be hard to hear but it’s always there accompanying the melodies.

This is an album that takes a bit to get into. The first issue is that it’s completely sung in spanish. It makes a quite poetic use of the language (full of popular phrases and such), thus, it might be pretty hard for an english listener to completely grasp the lyrics but don’t let the language barrier separate you from what is a more than an acceptable work. Indeed, Juglarmetal is damn good, yet not a classic.

There is a second, and more nit-picky, barrier placed by the female vocalists featured in several songs. It’ll instantly turn away a lot of people as you might think this is just another Evanscence/Within Temptation monstrosity that mixes a ‘growling’ male lead with ‘angelic’ female leads, etc, etc, etc. Wrong! The band is full balls, people. It just happens to have a couple of female guests sadly and unnecessarily placed in the middle to balance things.

Juglarmetal is one of those albums that start out fine with a pair of excellent songs and then goes to hell only to return to glory in the later tracks with amazing tunes. At times, I have the feeling that this album was structured this way on purpose.

Personally, I hate when a freaking good song just stamps on your ears the crappy female vocals that always sounds the same, which is, like whiny emo shit.

However, the album kicks in with “Las Tropas del Génesis”, whose lyrics are completely fantasy oriented and far from that ‘real life’ nonsense full of ‘emotion’ and complaints. In fact, the first three songs are based on the Zaluster’s Chronicles, apparently, yet another Tolkien tribute, but made the spanish way.

The lead singer is amazing and makes the entire album worth. It has a great tone which can be compared to the vocalist of Grave Digger. Certainly, pure balls. And even when he sounds pretty harsh and ‘aggressive’ (thought I am not sure that’s the proper word), he does several and interesting melodic approaches. Can’t say the same about the female vocals, which only sound good in “Las Tropas del Génesis”.

“Missa Pro Defunctis” starts with melodic keyboards but then goes with completely retarded ‘growling’ that sounds more like a barking dog rather than singing. The chorus and later catchy keyboards bring things up but it’s probably the most irregular song, although not the worst as “Dracum Nocte” wins in that category.

Ah, “Dracum Nocte”. This is almost similar in mood as the infamous “Diabolus in Musica” from Mägo de Oz. While less gay than the other, “Dracum Nocte” still feels like what I guess they tried to attempt: goth crap. The female vocals are incredibly annoying. Cringe-worthy. If it weren’t for those vocals, the song could be acceptable, considering the title (Dracum Nocte, I think, is the latin for ‘Night of the Dragon’, though most of the lines are a strange mish mash of ridiculous stuff, you can almost picture ‘vampiric’ tones, argh, so pathetic…) but it gets too annoying. I absolutely despise and hate the freaking way they pronounce “Dracum Nocte”. I usually skip this song without thinking twice.

There is a semi-ballad called “La Musa y el Espíritu” which, again, also tortures us with random and unnecessary female vocals. Did you notice all the choruses are usually sung by the male vocalists except in “Dracum Nocte”, which is precisely the worst song by far? This is no exception and, despite the female vocals are there, things keep a good pace so the song turns to be quite good. Perhaps this one is the radio-friendly tune.

After “Dracum Nocte” things only go up till the end. And bless the divinities for that! From “Dioses Eternos” to “Historias del Juglar II” it is just superb and flawless. I think they should’ve taken away a couple of songs and only leave this half with some additions because they make the entire freaking album worth.

“Dioses Eternos” features a beautiful instrumental introduction with flutes and guitars mixed to compose an alluring tune that the guitars and bass come to enforce. However, the chorus is a bit similar to “Missa Pro Defunctis”. Not good to have songs that sound so similar in the same album…

“La Taberna” beats the crap out of those ‘happy whippy’ songs that Mägo de Oz always tried to make in their late albums, also involving taverns and bar-like places. It features excellent vocal lines, but the lyrics are extremely clichéd and the guitar riffs are quite generic. Flutes and bagpipes are featured here and those carry the melody more than the guitars or even the drumming. Special mention to the latter, which goes notoriously regular throughout the whole album. This tune screams for a live version, it’s an almost mandatory sing along.

The last pair of tracks are indeed the best ones, especially the short instrumental beauty that “Marcha del Inca” is. It starts with a mix of guitars and a jazzy piano. Later on a regular flute joins the mess and finishes it. At a first glance, the song could wrongly feel like something out of a Mega Man X soundtrack (especially the 8th installment) but it manages to retain the folky feeling and remind us of mysterious incan roads.

To close this strange album we have “Historia del Juglar II”, which is a short epic song with beautiful lyrics and superb use of the classical instruments. It is really one of those cool songs you can’t stop listening. Here you can finally hear the bass clearly and the guitars have more interesting riffs.

So, in conclusion, “Juglarmetal” is not perfect but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s a great and solid album that has a couple of flaws that some may ignore and other won’t forgive. You might notice I complained a lot but I ended up giving an 81% thanks to the second half of the album. Those songs alone redeem Juglarmetal.
Recommended, but listen with care, might not be suitable for everyone.