After first looking at the album art, I bet myself $5 that the most obvious comparison for Guerra Eterna would be Under the Sign of the Black Mark. I am now $5 richer (or poorer?). The Spaniards of Sacrificio made a name for themselves churning out two decades of Blasphemy homage in Proclamation. The Blasphemy 2.0 approach worked thanks to an uncrowded early war metal scene and its relatively unexplored sound. Attempting to replicate that success with well-worn first wave worship was always going to be trickier. Debut Guerra Eterna definitely nails the throwback mood, but whether they offer anything meaningful or not, that’s up for debate.
The buzz-and-fuzz guitar tones. The Quorthonian vocals. The raw yet sinister ambiance. All the hallmarks of Bathory’s original sound check in early on in Guerra Eterna. Sacrificio build on this landmark visage with tracks of similar construction, trading the rampant fury of their Proclamation years for rhythmic and compositional simplicity. Tinge the solos with a little Hellhammer chaos, throw a nod toward the evolved heavy metal riffing of Venom and you’ve got a throwback stew going, baby. However, Sacrificio’s take never extends or excels beyond material you could pick off a 1980’s compilation. “La sombra en la ciénaga” illustrates Guerra Eterna’s pros and cons in equal measure. The opener plods through mismanaged atmospherics before speeding into a decent passage saved from tedium by its superior solos. Those leads immediately reappear on “Razas del sepulcro” and suggest (forebode?) that as long as axeman Juan C. Deus is squealing out odds and ends, Guerra Eterna will hold your attention.
The unfortunate truth of the matter is that Guerra Eterna does very little to elicit a truly visceral reaction. My initial impression improved slightly as I familiarized myself with the album. But even later spins resulted in ticking boxes on the solo count or zoning out for long stretches. Without those solos to spice up the proceedings, cuts like “Centinela de los túmulos” fall flat completely. I suspect the issue stems from the middling quality of the riffs and the muddled nature of vocals. Sacrificio cannot replicate the jagged memorability of Cronos or Quorthon and the record suffers for it. Even on stronger cuts, I still find myself clicking back onto the hooks of “Woman of Dark Desires” and “Poison.” This flaw does not necessarily damn the record; instead, it necessitates the listener be specifically invested in either the genre or the band1 for their judgment to surpass a casual “Eh, not bad I guess.”
Deus’ solo work sets the high-water mark for the album, the also-vocalist/keyboardist/timpany & gong-man doing his best to unhinge proceedings that transition between scalding and shrug-worthy. His chaotic style often recalls the dueling flamethrowers of Slayer’s King-Hanneman connection as they break up the riff structure on “La marca del hereje” and “Vástagos de la abominación” and elevate “Razas del sepulcro” to highlight status. Sacrificio beef the front-end production up to modern standards, at least in comparison to the 80’s source material. The record could use some individual touch-ups though, as the the drums languish in the background. The kicks in particular sound as if recorded from a couple of rooms away.
I can understand Sacrificio’s need for a change of pace. I could use one myself after a solid month of uninspiring black metal, and by the looks of it, so could the rest of you. Never fear folks, it only gets colder and darker from here! Guerra Eterna does not induce crickets on a grand scale, but with such lowly heights it cannot overcome the fact that the entire album boils down to a shrug. If Sacrificio’s particular brand of throwback registers as hot-blooded on your scale, well, more power to you. Maybe in a year I’ll come back to Guerra Eterna and find myself completely enraptured. I doubt it though.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions | Nuclear War Now! Productions
Releases Worldwide: December 9th, 2016