Exquirla – Para Quienes Aún Viven – Album Review
Album Title: Para Quienes Aún Viven
Label: Superball Music
Date of Release: 17 February 2017
One of the main reasons I continue with the Blog of Much Metal is so that I can spread the word as much as I can about music that I believe people must hear. I love making new discoveries and then shouting about them. Well, prepare to reach for your ear defenders because I’m about to get very loud.
The subject of my excitement is the debut album from a Madrid-based band called Exquirla, entitled ‘Para Quienes Aún Viven’ (For Those Still Alive). However, before I get into the music itself, a little background is required. You see, Exquirla are not exactly a brand new band full of new colleagues and naive exuberance. The exuberance exists but amongst an already established group of musicians. Essentially, Exquirla is the Spanish instrumental post rock band Toundra fronted by a singer. But not just any singer. Instead of a ‘normal’ rock vocalist, Exquirla are fronted by Niño de Elche, a flamenco singer. Sounds bizarre or not your cup of tea? Read on, I implore you.
If that is your first thought, you share my initial sentiment. At this juncture I must lay my cards on the table and say that, in general, I’m not the biggest fan of instrumental music and I definitely have to be in the right mood to enjoy post rock/metal music. As such, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to check this out at the outset. I am not as familiar with Toundra as perhaps I should be and the idea of a flamenco singer had me thinking all kinds of stereotypes. Well, I was wrong and I’m glad I was open-minded to give this a go. The music on ‘Para Quienes Aún Viven’ has made me realise for a start that I need to hear more of Toundra, that’s for sure.
In short, this is an extraordinary album, a rich tapestry of human emotion pulled together in a truly unique but compelling and absorbing manner. I’m not aware of any other acts that sound quite like Exquirla but, as with all great ideas, you find yourself sitting there wondering how on Earth no-one ever came up with it before.
If you are familiar with Toundra or post rock and metal of any kind, you’ll not be surprised to discover that ‘Para Quienes Aún Viven’ is something of a rollercoaster of sounds and textures, from quiet minimalism right through to all-consuming walls of sound that assault the senses. It is both jarring and exquisitely beautiful but more than that, it resonates. It is almost as if this could be the soundtrack to my life, where angst and frustration gives way to anger and despair and then in turn, to serene happiness and brief moments of euphoria. It is all packaged up in a production that is vibrant and organic which only makes the whole experience that much stronger and authentic.
And atop all of this, you have the vocal talents of flamenco singer Niño de Elche. I suspect that some will love his style whilst others will hate it, given its intensity and uniqueness. Personally, I find it utterly intriguing and compelling. His delivery conveys so many emotions and it does so in a way that leaves nothing at the door. He commits 100% to every word, to every inflection and to every note. With this style of singing, it never sounds over polished; instead Niño de Elche sometimes sounds like he is in danger of being about to crack, such is the fragility at certain points along the way.
The album is most definitely best enjoyed as a whole, so that the emotions and the drama of the music are given the best chance to work their magic. That said, there are a few tracks and moments within the songs that have a real impact on me which I feel should be shared within this review.
First up is the opening piece, ‘Cancion de E’ which begins with a spoken-word monologue from Niño de Elche atop an insistent and repetitive guitar line that builds in intensity until it resembles an impenetrable wall of sound only to freefall into a spellbinding and rich melody that sends shivers down my spine before once again building to an all-too-swift climax.
‘Destruidnos Juntos’ takes over and begins in true post rock style thanks to a minimal yet ominous soundscape that features another simple and repetitive guitar line. Niño de Elche fades in and out, beginning softly only to become more forceful as the composition develops. Just after the half-way mark, a really beautiful melody enters the fray to add another layer to the already impressive song, only further enhanced by more subtle and emotive vocals before we’re hit by an explosion of sound at the death.
‘Hijos de la Rabia’ is a personal favourite thanks to the way in which it builds from a rhythm-heavy opening, accented by powerful drumming and rumbling bass to then open up into arguably the most gorgeous melodic section anywhere on the album. This is one of those moments of sheer happiness and unadulterated euphoria about which I spoke earlier and it feels stronger and more effective given the more confrontational and turbulent music that surrounds it. It is this daring and bold juxtaposing of sounds and textures that makes ‘Para Quienes Aún Viven’ such a compelling listen in my opinion.
‘Contigo’ is an acoustic guitar-led track that conveys tangible sadness primarily via the captivating vocals of Niño de Elche which sound raw, heartfelt and entirely honest. There’s an Agalloch ‘White EP’ feel to this song thanks to its emotional nature, the overriding atmosphere and its simplicity.
And then there’s ‘Un Hombre’ which opens up with a stunning melody that genuinely tugs at the heartstrings and stops me in my tracks. If I’m being picky, I’d like to have heard a reprise of this melody later in the ten-minute track but instead the composition once again gently and serenely builds, ultimately flowing in a different direction to explore harsher and more dramatic climes. Along the way, I love the way in which the track ebbs and flows only to ultimately explode to reveal the most primeval and intensely raw vocal sounds anywhere on the record.
It is a long time since I have been so taken by a post rock/metal album. However, with ‘Para Quienes Aún Viven’, Exquirla have created something truly unique and thoroughly captivating. It isn’t an easy listen; it is an emotionally draining experience in many ways. However if you are prepared to give yourself over entirely to the music, it ultimately delivers in spades. This comes with a huge recommendation from me.
Score Of Much Metal: 8.75
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day