Condenados – El Camino de la Serpiente Review

I find it endlessly fascinating how metal develops differently from continent to continent. In South America, it often seems like metal isn’t ‘developing’ at all, not in the sense of change and evolution. Most bands I’ve reviewed from that section of the planet seem more interested in emulating the old school than pushing boundaries. Condenados from Chile is no different in that regard, dredging up 70’s proto-metal as their primary influence. But old school doesn’t mean bad, just as envelope-pushing doesn’t automatically mean good. How does this dynamic duo do?

Not bad at all! Infusing the traditional Black Sabbath-style doom with smoky desert vigor, El Camino de la Serpiente (The Path of the Snake) rocks and rumbles rambunctiously. There’s a pleasing looseness to the music, a cool devil-may-care swagger that makes it impossible not to move along to the many, many riffs packed into the 46-minute running time. Because make no mistake, riffs are the alpha and the omega here, from the swaying mid-pace bangers of “Alma Podrida” and the grinning hop-and-bob pogo bounce of “Jinete Ácido” to the ominous plodding “Tierra de Cementerio” and the short but sweet spur of road rock that makes up the title track. The songwriting is not especially original, but the foundation is solid, the variety in mood and style achieved with solid craftsmanship, and the bare-bones nature of the music leaves no room for tricks or gimmicks to hide behind.

It’s certainly not perfect. Though intros are rarely brief nor relevant, I’d be hard-pressed to find one more overlong or divorced from what follows than the 4-minute introductory span of random atmospheric sounds that seems to gear up for funeral doom instead of a proto-metal riff-fest. The vocals are the obvious weak point, a somewhat nasal drawl of limited range and skill. The kindest thing I can say about these is that they don’t stand out or draw attention enough to be actively detrimental to the record. The exception is “El Carro y la Torre,” which sounds like it was double-tracked without either vocalist hearing the other’s input at any point, resulting in more talking over each other than a presidential debate.

The vocal issue would have sunk most albums in this style into the marshes of mediocrity, but a secret weapon elevates the band enough to clamber from that bog. The bass steps up far beyond the confines of a mere supporting role, standing shoulder to shoulder with the lead guitar and sometimes taking over entirely. With a deliciously old-school sound to both, the result exceeds the sum of its parts, a fun and dynamic style of playing that adds the necessary depth to an otherwise very simple-minded record. I do wish the production had been a bit more old school as well, though. While I enjoy the guitar and bass tones, the master is overall fairly basic and doesn’t nail the kind of 70’s nostalgia it’s going for.

Still, I had a good time with El Camino de la Serpiente. It’s a ride with a rattle, but its flaws have charm instead of casting the shadow of missed opportunities. These guys have a genuine love and passion for the material and that carries through in the music, not in anything quantifiable but in sheer spirit and energy. Between a cavalcade of rousing riffs, that smooth and delicious bass, and oodles of earnest enthusiasm, Condenados has managed to produce a fun if unassuming record that won’t hurt at all on a summer drive with the windows down.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Evil Confrontation Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 10th, 2023

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