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The Invincible Army. - 100%

maverickvkz, July 13th, 2008

Tierra Santa is a band that I came to learn of on 2003, thanks to a nice friend, who loved their music to death. I didn’t know too much metal by that time, and that’s why this album became such a marvellous experience for me. Before Tierra Santa, I hadn’t learned about many bands that focused on lyrical themes of dragon stories, mythology, and ancient battles. As a matter of fact, hundreds of bands have already tried it, and they can succeed musically, but lyrically it all turns into a fiasco. However, Tierra Santa is not the case, and, in my opinion “Sangre de Reyes” marked the highest achievement for a young Spaniard band who risked everything since the very first day and tried to follow a different path that many heavy metal bands took by the mid 90’s, where they imitated the old school metal, without owning a bit of originality.

Anyways, let’s get back to business. Tierra Santa had already released three interesting and smart albums (“Medieval”, “Legendario”, and “Tierras de Leyenda”), which made the band grow in every corner, but it was not enough. It was time to level everything to the adequate place, and this is when “Sangre de Reyes” came to life. While “Medieval” had absorbing atmospheres, was powerful and fresh, “Legendario” was more solid, had a better production, and the lyrics had also improved way too much. Meanwhile, “Tierras de Leyenda”, their third album, was supposed to be their highly anticipated masterpiece, since it was one of the most popular albums of 1999, and it included both elements from the first two.

Now, if you combine all of the above, and add to them the maturity and the shining experience of a band which has already embarked in successful tours worldwide, and is ready to walk the next step, you might as well get an instant classic. Also, don’t forget that in those years, the band reached creative heights, so they had to start the new millennium with something BIG. In addition, the band had a loyal fan base, which grew day by day, and left no doubt that there was nothing that could stop these monsters from conquering new frontiers. No one ever thought that these Spaniards could do something more ambitious and fantastic than “Tierras de Leyenda”.

They were all wrong…

“Sangre de Reyes” is such a complete and perfectly worked jewel, that I still shiver every time I push “Play” so I can enjoy it one more time. It has undoubtedly a professional heavy metal structure, but it also goes from efficient speed metal moments, to impressive power metal blasts. This is not a band that likes to make any instrument sound higher than the rest, and leave the other musicians behind. No, each instrument has the appropriate sound level, there’s a place for every band member to show his abilities without stealing the show, and overall, they worked as a nice team. The high end mix makes the drums blend very well with the rest of the music, so they don’t sound neither too high, nor too low. There are cool riffs in every song, but, as the guitarists don’t have a huge and stupid ego, we won’t listen to five-minute solos or something like that. Angel has never been the best singer in the scene, but his voice owns such a strange magic, which allows him to have the right pitch for each song, and he delivers a brilliant performance which proves that there is no need for high-range vocals in order to make an outstanding heavy metal release. Keyboards are also included, but only in small doses, where they wonderfully help to create medieval atmospheres, and add a miraculous final touch to the songs.

Moving on with the album content, I can say that there’s not a song which leaves you dissatisfied. There are no fillers, no disposable intros, and they don’t screw up the only power ballad of the album. It will be difficult for anyone to stay motionless after listening to the first song, because this release was made to energize any metal freak who seeks for new and exciting experiences. If there’s a production that describes absolute equilibrium, then “Sangre de Reyes” definitely has it from head to feet. As I mentioned before, the main lyrical themes focus on epic battles which took place somewhere back in time, like “David y el Gigante”, which is a power-metal oriented song about the Bible passage of young David against Goliath, but it also encourages everyone to not fear any enemy, no matter how tall, how big, or how powerful he is. This is the opener, and it just blows you away, because after its short piano intro, the bass introduces itself with a blazing personality, while the growing speed takes control of every sense from your body, and the chorus stays inside your brain whether you like it or not. A beautiful guitar solo follows the second chorus, and this is how the band proves how much they have grown up in every aspect. I cannot go any further, without mentioning that this is one of the catchiest songs that I’ve ever heard in my life.

Now, if you liked what you’ve read until now, and you want more songs in the vein of “David y el Gigante”, then you can also check “La Armada”, perhaps the speediest song, featuring double bass drumming, and preceded by a soft prologue named “Dos Vidas”. These songs tell us a story about a young man who is called to the army, obliged to go to war so he can defend his country, and unfortunately has to leave his family behind. Maybe you can feel that “La armada” is a little bit generic, and it’s true, but it doesn’t become repetitive. However, there you have “Pegaso”, another highlight, which has more depth and it’s magnificently elaborated, because it sounds as if all of the instruments are soaring, but what really defines the course of the song, is the perfect execution of the bassist, whose instrument is perhaps a little bit louder than it should (Only for this song), and so it seems as if the musician’s balls are on fire. As you can imagine, the lyrics tell the story about the legendary winged horse “Pegasus”, a mythological beast of the Greeks.

You mustn’t worry, because it’s not all about speed. There are mid-paced songs like the fabulous “El Laberinto del Minotauro”, which provides heavy metal nitrous shots, and aggressive riffs, combined with the talent of Angel, who shows new intensities in his voice, it’s cleaner than usual, and he doesn’t force it at all. There are female vocals in the bridges, as well as in the chorus, but what bewitches your ears is the mix of Angel’s vocals with the stormy guitar passages, which are worth to listen. Meanwhile, “Juana de Arco” is faster, it has more symphonic elements, and due to its short but shocking lyrics, there’s a long guitar break, where this instrument seems to be begging for mercy and it tries to reflect the excruciating pain that “Joan of Arc” lived in her last minutes of breath, when she was burned at the stake a few centuries ago.

As I said before, all of the songs are decorated with discreet keyboard elements, but once the ballad “El Amor de mi Vida” begins, they become the essential part of this beauty made music. If any human being has loved, at least for once in a lifetime, then he or she knows exactly why songs like this exist. What would a metal album be without a charming ballad like this? If the most influential bands in history have at least one song of this nature in their repertoire, how can Tierra Santa stay behind? It’s like in any novel. There’s always a special spot for love, that one particular feeling which is said to make the world go round and round. This is a song dedicated to the love of your life, and it moves itself with such a pleasant and peaceful harmony sweetened by lovely guitar riffs, while the vocals reveal Angel’s strongest assets. He is also joined by a female singer, who performs the final bridge and chorus, and it duplicates the emotions that you are already feeling in your heart. If you have never loved in your life, and you’re laughing after reading these word, then don’t bother in listening to “El amor de mi vida”, and walk away from it. Its lyrics are EXACTLY what any man should say to his girl, if he really loves her that damn much, and there’s nothing cheesy about that. For me, this is one of the best ballads of all time.

Tierra Santa’s third release wouldn’t have been excitingly enough without a few melodic power metal tracks, and that’s when “La Ciudad Secreta” and “La Sombra de la Bestia” show up. These are two songs with similar features (Speed, riffs, vocals), but the first one is very macabre, and the latter has edgier interpretations, as it’s the devilish song of the album. While “La Ciudad Secreta” speaks about the purgatory and describes with detail what happens when a person dies, “La Sombra de la Bestia” focuses on the internal conflict of a werewolf, who is about to succumb to the madness of the beast that lives inside him. Last, but not least, we have “Mi Tierra” and the title track, which are worth to listen, as well, but I won’t say anything more about these two, except that the title track sounds very much as “Legendario” (A song from a previous album of the same name). I’ll better let the reader find out the rest by himself.

What else can be said about such an outrageous creation like the one you have in front of your very eyes? Listening to it is like reading a book about mythology, but all of its characters, landscapes, feelings, battles, plots, and conflicts are brought to life in almost 50 minutes of modern heavy metal inspirational madness. As you can see, “Sangre de Reyes” is very unique in its genre. It is a pearl within a sea full of oysters, where the genre has been brutally mishandled by thousands of acts that want to sound similar to some heavy metal pioneers as Helloween, Gamma Ray, or Yngwie Malmsteen, as I mentioned in the first paragraph. Today, it’s not easy to find an epic heavy/power metal album that doesn’t become monotonous and repetitive. Nevertheless, Tierra Santa’s fourth work marks the difference, and it stands out with a ferocious army of killer warriors as “David y el Gigante”, “Pegaso”, “La Sombra de la Bestia”, and “El Laberinto del Minotauro”, with epic reinforcements as “Juana de Arco”, “La armada”, and “La ciudad secreta”, and the undeniable feelings that prevail in every human being as “El amor de mi vida” and “Mi Tierra”. All of these songs became anthems and were played live from that moment on, and the band’s fame skyrocketed. That’s why “Sangre de Reyes”, an album that has an unbreakable personality, and is full of infinite passion, deserves to be crowned as Tierra Santa’s most complete, impressive and innovative album in their catalogue.