There have been previous attempts at integrating flamenco elements into metal. There have even been successful, good attempts at doing so. However, there are few that have been successful at blending them seamlessly. This applies not just to flamenco, but any influence outside of metal. It’s either the case where a regular metal song suddenly erupts into an irrelevant genre break, or it’s barely a metal album. The latter case usually happens, for example, when jazz musicians get together and write an album that’s mostly in their own wheelhouse, with some minor metal elements. Even further, the most extreme of metal subgenres are usually spared these excesses. Enter Impureza, a band that skirts the line between progressive and technical death metal, and perfectly fits flamenco into that picture. The end result is just delightful.
The French band have been around for a while, but La Caída de Tonatiuh is only their second full-length. It’s also a strong improvement to their prior release. The strength of the band’s approach is in their dedication to the premise. It’s not a gimmick, it’s a core element of their sound. Just like Nile and their commitment to Middle Eastern elements in their music, Impureza are all in on flamenco. It’s not just a classical guitar break in every song with some maracas thrown in. Even when the band are doing death metal riffing, it’s in the style of Latin guitar. This commitment is what makes the band work. Rhythmic flourishes, chords, leads, chanting and other instruments that all are fully utilized both during crushing death metal parts and instrumental interludes.
The production is perhaps the most potentially divisive aspect of the album. Unlike some of their peers in modern death metal, Impureza haven’t gone for the pristine, slammed-to-the-grid sound. Instead, they go towards more of an OSDM revival sound, with thick, crunchy guitars. Along with the prominent fretless bass, this results in a very satisfying and full listening experience. Those accustomed to hearing their progressive death metal in a more pristine fashion may need some time to get accustomed to the approach here, but it’s not a poor production job, just a different one, so in the end it’s worth it. Additionally, the full on flamenco interludes, which the album dedicates not just sections in songs but full on individual tracks, sound great. There are homages to masters of the genre like Paco de Lucia, which sound great.
Overall, La Caída de Tonatiuh is fantastic. A great death metal album, and a perfect blend of flamenco stylings into a prog/tech death framework. Rarely do bands fully commit to a stylistic concept and actually make it work. This is the type of innovation and exploration we need in death metal.
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La Caída De Tonatiuh is available now via Season of Mist.