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Mago De Oz
Released: 2000, Locomotive Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
It would be easy to say that folk metal is a style you either like or you don’t, but I think that would be oversimplifying the matter. While I have liked some folk metal in the past, it’s not a universal thing. Skyclad are generally regarded as the kings of folk metal and I confess not one of their albums has ever really done anything for me. Other types of folk metal are hit or miss. Luckily, however, the up-and-coming Spanish band Mago de Oz and their massive double-CD FINISTERRA appeals to me a great deal, and has reaffirmed my faith in folk metal.
FINISTERRA is a double album that is probably some kind of concept album, but my Spanish is a bit rusty and I can’t quite follow it all. Oh, did I mention that this album is entirely in Spanish? Thankfully no knowledge of the language is required to thoroughly enjoy this album. It is what you’d expect folk metal to sound like – a lot of traditional melodies and rhythms, including a hell of a lot of fiddling, backed by some heavy guitars and the accouterments of metal we’re familiar with. While some tracks are fast and furious (like “Satania” and “El Senor de los Gramillos” on disc one, or “Kelpie” on disc two), a fair number are slower, and there is a larger than usual scattering of ballads. This may turn off some listeners, but if you’re not expecting a band like Mago de Oz to be “br00tal,” you probably won’t mind. I like the change in pace now and again. I also liked the Rhapsody-esque feel of the opening of the title track “Finisterra,” which is probably the strongest track on either disc and rightfully so. The musicianship, vocals and production on this gigantic project are consistently excellent. The vocals are well-suited to this material. Furthermore, the more I listened to FINISTERRA (and a few of the other Spanish-language metal CDs I’ve procured lately), the more I’m convinced that Spanish is a much better language for singing metal than English is!
One of my favorites on this set comes toward the end of disc one, where a track called “Duerme…” turns out to be nothing less than a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest song, “Scarborough Fair”! It’s in Spanish of course, and at first is played in the soft, sad, lullaby-like style of that classic old song, but when some metal guitars kick in, it shows you how great this song can really be when played with some power. Hats off to Mago de Oz for even attempting something like this – and hats off again for succeeding.
FINISTERRA has firmly put Mago de Oz on the list of bands that I could have seen at Wacken and now wished I had. Unfortunately they played at 3AM on the last night of the festival (I had to catch a plane to a friend’s wedding at 5AM) so the chances of me seeing them were not very realistic to begin with. But if these Spaniards ever wash up on nearby shores, I’ll definitely want to catch their show.
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