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8 KALACAS: Fronteras

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Atomic Fire Records

Release: 25 March 2022

Sitting down to listen to the new album from 8 Kalacas sounds like it’s gonna be exhausting, but if it lives up to the hype also very rewarding.

Promising a blend of early System Of A Down, Slipknot’s heaviness and Social Distortion’s energy, the band have a lot to live up to if they even want to get close to those three. I guess the only way to find out is to give it a spin, so here we go…

It’s also important to point out the band sings in a foreign language, which means the song titles are written using alien technology, and I have no idea what most of these song names mean.

Frontera is the first track and opens up with heaps of static and distorted guitars that gradually build into a mass of metal that is quickly punctuated by….

I’m pretty sure that was a brass instrument I heard but surely not…

Vocalist Sr Kalaca begins menacing the microphone and the proverbial fun begins!

This song is so beautifully eclectic I am already a touch unnerved.

The music is sporadic, frenetic and dangerous, but the well-placed moments of (yes, I heard right) trumpet and trombone change the tact and direction of the song so many times I don’t think it even knows its own name any more.

This is crazy, brutal, and, surprisingly, sensational.

Don’t get me wrong, I have heard ska heaps of times but never mixed with – and I am already in agreeance here – the heaviness of Slipknot and the energy of Social distortion.

I am yet to hear the S.O.D influence but with eleven songs to go I am sure I will hear that and more.

Pudrete (even my spellcheck is telling me this is wrong) begins with a cavalcade of drums and horns, quickly gathering momentum and sounding very much like a marching band on crack.

I honestly don’t know how they kept this pace up long enough to finish a song in the studio but I already feel like I have done 3 hours of Aerobics Oz Style, and it’s only halfway through the second song.

The brass sections are a delight and add vibrancy and direction in places that could easily get crushed by the sheer heaviness of what is happening around it.

There’s even a guitar solo for a bit before drummer Adam feels left out and double kicks the fuck out of his kit that seems like a challenge to every other band member who systematically set out to crush their bandmates.

I still have no idea what I am listening to but I fucken love it. Ska/punk/metal/thrash Knot. What a combination!

Recent single Mutante arrives on the back of an awesome guitar riff that is consumed by some of the nastiest drum work ever, and then the horns kick in again. Sr Kalaca seems to be finding his voice here – I think he may have even been confused up to this point – but I still have no idea what the fuck he is talking about, but it sounds like he is angry about something.

I’m gonna have trouble even spelling the next one, but Esquizofrenia is next to the plate and if I had to have a crack at deciphering the title I would guess that it has something to do with schizophrenia.

Not that it would be anything different on this album if it were, because I have counted at least seven different personalities so far…

Eight. Make it eight. Almost as many as the ex-wife…

Once again led by a solid drum fill this track quickly proves me right, with more timing and tempo changes in the first 17 seconds than most bands do on one album.

There’s an extended musical intro here, with the horns actually calming things down before Sr Kalaca spits and barks his way into the asylum and the cycle continues. I don’t know if it’s just me (probably… usually is) but it sounds like he is actually singing Schizophrenia so maybe they just can’t spell?

R2rito is flat out and exhausting, and it hasn’t even started yet. I think they are trying to out metal themselves here, but quickly realise their mistake and send the horns in for the rescue. It’s like death ska. Is that even a thing? It is now.

Just hold on for a minute while I change the batteries in my pacemaker…

Thank fuck Labios Negros is just starting as I get back, with its regular-sounding guitar intro one-paced and somber given the organized mayhem that preceded it.

This is like a swinging punk number and must have been inserted to stop potential internal malfunctions for the listener. Shame it came one song too late for me.

Luna (is that of the moon?) is an ambient number to start, with finger picked flamenco-style guitars over the top of a bottom-end rumble that would bring the dead to life.

If bands like 8 Kalacas have a power ballad then I guess this would be it. It’s groovy as fuck, with Sick (that’s his name) spewing forth the bass licks like someone from the Motown era. It has a lot of funk and even more groove, and sounds like it is the absolute starting point for these guys. Most bands I have heard would be stoked to be able to even play a song like this, so when I say it feels like a warm-up number for 8 Kalacas that’s a pretty big compliment.

Adam gets to work on the toms, rolling thunder with each strike from his drum sticks and accentuating the almost Jamaican vibe of the track.

Very cool.

Garras is swept onto the sonic plane by an invisible gust of wind that is sent packing by yet another wicked drum roll that continues over the top of an almost screeching guitar that seems to be a challenge for something more aggressive.

Of course these fuckers deliver, jamming amongst themselves before Sr Kalacas gets the shits and starts yelling at the rest of them, calling them Garras from what I can tell.

They seem to not give a fuck, smashing away at their instruments as if to tell Sr that this isn’t just his show and he can fuck right off if he doesn’t like it.

Probably not, but this is my review and I will think what I want.

Luz Y Fer can be roughly translated to Lucifer and if so these guys must have a much cooler lower power because this devil plays brass instruments hotter than hell (yes, I meant that) and the dual-pronged attack of these magnificent brass pieces of machinery in this track is… fuck me I think I just heard him say tequila? Another plus for the devil… anyway, this track rocks. It has so much of a blues vibe permeating throughout that only the pinky toe on each foot is tapping.

Gato (or get out?) skas into life, another brass-led number that has more depth than most flat-out metal albums of late. This really has its ska going, guitar play mixing with horns so well I’m thinking of going out salsa dancing.

Flatline is actually written in English and also throws the first major curveball of the album.

Led by a wicked piano interlude, acoustic guitars quickly join in and suddenly we are in Spain readying for the running of the bulls.

This track is light and dreamy in a non dreary way and is surely setting the scene for a massive finale with 1941 next up to close out the album.

Again, this one comes out all ambient and flamencoey. Are the band exhausted too? I hope they don’t go out with a whimper.

I’m pretty sure they heard my concerns because little drummer boy Adam interrupts with a cool drum pattern that slowly drags in guitars and the brass section, who seem to have had a final lease on life heading into the end of what has been an absolute – and pleasant – musical journey.

It threatens to explode a number of times before it actually does around the two-minute mark, with 8 Kalacas obviously keen to leave us on a high rather than go down with a sinking ship.

Make no mistakes, being this eclectic is actually really difficult, and to make so many genres not only work but blend seamlessly as well over an entire album is an absolute sign of genius brutality at its finest.

And don’t just take my word for it.

In the words of a prominent Australian metal guitarist, “I don’t dig brass in rock, but I do when they do it.”

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