Azrael - _Mafia_
(Locomotive Music, 2000)
by: Alvin Wee (7 out of 10)
Despite an increasing number of bands breaking out from obscure scenes like Peru, Singapore and even Lithuania, Spanish heavy metal seems reluctant to leave its cloistered scene untouched by foreign hands. Bands like Tierra Santa, Mago de Oz and Ankhara all deserve a level of recognition far above the adoration received in their homeland; for Azrael the case seems to be no different, despite the two fairly well-received albums behind them. Moving away from the almost glam-rock sensibilities characterizing the earlier efforts, _Mafia_ stands the band in better stead to be accepted by the speed/power metal crowd overseas, the only obstacle being the characteristic Spanish stubbornness (or lack of ability?), refusing to write in anything other than their native language. A small setback, considering the quality of material on offer here: lovers of old-school HR/HM will warm to Azrael's somewhat nostalgic delivery of '80s-obsessed heavy rock-made-metal. The ballad "Vendiste Tu Propia..." hints at the band's comfort in the mellower realms, but rippers like "Vuela" and "Atrapado" (see the language problem?) dispel any doubt about their metalness. Progressive touches litter the album sparsely, with odd time signatures and dissonance thrown into the mix, not to mention the blazing fluidity of the solos... All adding up to a quirky originality that admittedly takes some getting used to, but once sucked in, it's a ride well worth paying for. While not the most brilliant thing to come out of Spain since flamenco (the honor belongs to Tierra Santa), Azrael do serve up some considerably mature and solid material, enough for me to urge the more adventurous to go in search of this album at import dealers, or possibly Sentinel Steel in the US. Last minute: news is just in that there's an English version of the album out there...

(article published 25/10/2000)

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