Cóndor is a Colombian band whose first release, Nadia, made some best of 2013 lists. Their next album, Duin is set to release on January 27 through their bandcamp.
The first thing that struck me upon listening to Duin was its explicit acknowledgment of influence from the great romantic composers. The first album acknowledged Mendelssohn. This one opens with a transcription of Smetana’s “Die Moldau.”
The arrangement is wonderful. For one thing, if you listen to the original, you will hear the scalar accompaniment pattern start with a flute. But if you’ve never looked at a score, then you probably don’t realize that the part is divided between two flute players.
The band draws out this division by also having two guitars do the pattern, but at the end of the each player’s part, the note is held instead of passed. This creates a beautiful, deeper texture than if the note was immediately released. The band ramps up the distortion and volume to simulate when the full orchestra comes in.
This would merely be an interesting way to start the album if it was left at that. But it isn’t. The album has a consistent core built around this first song in a way that almost no other album I can think of has. The disparate songs are tied together by it.
For example the second track brings back variants of the Moldau melody through solo and riff material. A later track (the fourth) uses the Moldau compositional technique: a flowing background scalar pattern under a soaring melody. In every song on the album you can find traces of the Moldau. This is what makes the album so special. Each song is vastly different but makes sense in the whole as a deconstruction of the first song.
Now that is an overview of how the album fits as a whole, but are the songs any good? The individual songs each are excellent in their own right. Most have a raw, old school doom edge to them, but other tracks are more death oriented. Out of the turmoil comes flowing melodies and peaceful moments. Are they pain or beauty? The fact that I can’t tell is part of the appeal.
The album is great, because it muddies the water. Art should raise questions and push boundaries and not attempt to simplify things by giving clean answers and playing safe. This album pushes the idea of what metal can be doing (without quarter tones or some other avant/experimental stuff) and raises uncomfortable ideas about imperialism, religion, and death through vivid imagery.
Now on to the negatives. The playing is not very clean. This sometimes works in their favor, because it produces a raw, human element. At first, I wanted to consider it a fluctuating tempo issue, but after a few listens I realized this wasn’t it at all. The scalar patterns aren’t played evenly. Like I said, this is a good effect on solos, but when two instruments are playing in unison, it sounds like a mistake.
I’ll admit, this was not anything that detracted from how much I’ve enjoyed my time with this album. Overall, I give this a 9.5/10. Head on over to their bandcamp on the 27th to hear it for yourself.