If there’s anything that can be gleaned about the giant web that is the world of heavy metal, it’s that you can always draw influence from outside of the genre’s comfort zone to provide a fresh flavor to the oftentimes stagnant scene. Whether it’s pulling from other sounds beyond metal, bringing in a new philosophical or religious slant, or simply injecting your culture into your sound, it’s pretty much guaranteed that, good or bad, you will be remembered. Cóndor are a product of Bogotá, Colombia, both in its rich ancestry, and its currently ridiculously high crime rate, terrorism, and poverty. Recalling how impressed Happy Metal Guy was with their Nadia release, I wanted to give their newest, Duin, a spin and see what all the fuss is about.
Now, normally I don’t give huge details about instrumental openers, as I just want to dive into the album as a whole. In this case, “Río Frío” gets a pass, as it has some really beautiful and impressive guitar playing rich with Cóndor‘s heritage. Both Francisco Fernández López and vocalist Antonio Espinosa Holguin show off and impress early, creating melodies that are both historical and somber.
And I mention the intro only because, going forward, it devolves into some rather rudimentary doom/death metal. Follow-up “El Lamento de Penélope” reminds me of Skydancer-era Dark Tranquillity, without the twin guitar melodies, but with sloppier drumming. “Condordäle,” despite having a couple of incredibly emotive moments, suffers the same mistake new bands always make: painfully long songs (in this case, over the ten-minute mark) with no flow or memorability. And it’s a damn shame, because when the band does inject their cultural upbringing into their music, such as on “Río Frío” and fellow instrumental “Adagio,” and during solos, especially on “Coeur-de-lion,” they can be quite captivating.
The production, although dynamic, does them no favors whatsoever. The guitars are super trebly, lacking heft and thickness. The bass lacks any major punch, and the drums are too high up in the mix. And those cymbals are too damn bright and sometimes painful. But even with a better production, Duin is the sound of a young band who still doesn’t know how to make things flow better properly, and they need to learn their craft if they want to make a significant impact outside of their country.
There is little worse than a promising band saying, “hey, look what I can do!” and then boring the listener to tears. Cóndor definitely have the skill to impress and stand out. Now they need to learn how to hold my attention, and they haven’t with Duin. Maybe next time.