¡Pendejo! – Volcán Review

’Twas two weeks and change before Christmas, 2018, when I went to see Madder Mortem. The venue turned out to be one of those backrooms behind a cafe, the kind regularly rented for family gatherings and bat mitzvahs and stuff, complete with random sad disco ball. There were 5 bands in total, and the whole thing lasted for 5 goddamn hours because of half-hour breaks. It was a weird and exhausting afternoon into night, and the only good thing until the main act hit the stage was a largely unknown troupe called ¡Pendejo!, who blew me away with a unique brand of brass-infused, Spanish-sung stoner metal. Recently I got the chance to see these guys again, and I knew then and there I had to introduce the world to them, because they sure as hell deserve more than a part-time bat mitzvah hall with a shitty disco ball.

In a surprise twist, the band is not actually from any Spanish-speaking country, but was formed in the cold flat and wet of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Two of the founding members do have roots in Colombia, however, and they haul the music up by the roots. The sun-blasted riffs, a thickened distillate of peers like Monster Magnet (with whom ¡Pendejo! toured), drip with sweat and tequila, confirming that this is a metal band first and foremost. Frontman El Pastuso punctuates the riffs with blaring bursts of trumpet or fills the gaps with short licks that pepper the songs with Latin-American flavor, with a trombone plastering an extra dimension onto the background with its warm notes. The bass has a great heavy twang, joining the understated drums in laying a solid foundation.

El Pastuso’s vocals are without question the most divisive element of the line-up. The oftentimes vulgar lyrics are delivered with enough gravel to fill the Gulf of Mexico and a timbre so hoarse, it’s like he smoked cigars through a bong filled with whiskey.1 There’s absolutely a theatrical element to this; some of the performance is rather clenched and forceful, like he’s squeezing the words out through his teeth. But it’s a good character played well, reminiscent of a bad-mannered bandit antagonist in a 60’s spaghetti western. And he proves there’s more depth beyond the surface with the excellent ballad “Hasta El Final,” which oozes the frustration, melancholy and regret of a man who knows his life will soon be over, but doesn’t want to go just yet. It may not be the prettiest style of vocals, but it heaves with personality rarely heard in stoner metal.

¡Pendejo! has been refining its style for well over a decade. The band knows how to use its idiosyncrasies to add variety to the tracklist, and the 44 minutes has been edited down with confidence, leaving an album with little fat. The front half is especially strong, with a one-two opening punch of hook-laden straight rockers, shifting down into a pumping mid-pace that gives more room to the brass for “No Te Vayas,” and showing off their dynamic songwriting chops with “Otro Dios.” The second half of Volcán is a small step down, however, with “La Reina de la Ametralladora” winding up a bit forgettable, and “Ninguno” failing to implement a stronger hook despite its effective downtempo heft. “Vamos A La Haya”2 compensates with some great brass lines and a gleefully stomping chorus, and the excellent production full of warmth and clarity3 makes it inviting to spin the record again despite its drooping tail.

Volcán is the band’s fourth proper album,4 their line-up largely unchanged since inception. Though everyone loves a spunky newcomer that blows everyone away, it’s hard to argue against the level of self-assurance and experience on full display here. While stoner tends to have a problem with every next band sounding the same, ¡Pendejo! is a breath of fresh air, and that air reeks of smoke, sweat and strong liquor, spiced with delicious brass and a brass balls attitude. Volcán is a kick to the cojones you’ll be happy to receive.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: pendejoband.bandcamp.com | pendejoband.com | facebook.com/pendejoband
Releases Worldwide: March 17th, 2023

Show 4 footnotes

  1. I call that…Tuesday. – Steel
  2. Meaning “Let’s Go to The Hague,” a play on the famous “Vamos A La Playa” (“Let’s Go to the Beach”). Puns are fun!
  3. Courtesy of Pieter “Pidah” Kloos, whose resume includes the likes of Dool and Urfaust.
  4. 2021’s Toma was some covers and some live tracks, so it doesn’t count.
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