Wednesday 2 January 2019

Mathras - Sociedades secretas (2019)

Country: Argentina
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Jan 2019
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website

I hadn't heard of Mathras before now, but they're from Buenos Aires and they're not bad at all. All the musicians have been together since 2008, with Ariel Varas joining them on vocals in 2013, so it's not surprising that they're tight instrumentally. This is their third album, after a self-titled release in 2009 and a 2015 album called Alquimia.

As you might expect for an Argentinean band, they sing in Spanish and I haven't picked up enough of that yet to figure out what they're singing about. I do know enough to see that the album name translates to Secret Societies and the cover art has some medical connotations to it, but the track names are rather general: After March, Walking in the Dark, Sisterhood, Awake, Clarity etc.

What I do know is that they play heavy metal in the traditional style. If it wasn't for the clean 21st century production, the crunchy bass and the unmistakably modern drums, this could be mistaken for an eighties album. They've played on bills with Saxon, Raven and Virgin Steele, none of which are out of place at all. They're faster than Saxon and more melodic than Raven, but the style fits well.

That style is interesting, especially on diverse tracks like Claridad, the first real standout on the album. It begins like a downtuned ballad, then escalates the underlying doom vibe with clean operatic vocals and hanging guitar lines that are really tasty, but ratches it up at points as if it wants to play speed doom. Varas is clearly influenced by some of the bigger names in the genre like Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet and Bruce Dickinson, but there's certainly some Messiah Marcolin in there too. Ritual does some of this too, shifting tempos and styles almost as fast as we can keep up.

Instrumentally, the influences are all over the map. I just referenced Candlemass, so it seems odd to suggest that the most overt one to me is Rainbow, albeit in an intriguing cross between the Dio and Bonnet eras. What's weird is that, on tracks that remind me of Bonnet, they play slower and heavier than Rainbow would, but on tracks that remind me of Dio, they're faster and more biting. Caminando en la oscuridad betrays a strong NWOBHM influence, like Diamond Head with double bass, while Experimento reminds of early Metal Church, down to the overlaid vocal section. Both Despierta and Ritual are faster paced, with the latter adding some rapid harmonic play. Nuestro valor and the album's closer, La maldita máquina de matar, mix slow power chord backing with heartfelt vocals for a real impact.

There are instrumentals too, though Mateo 10:16 and Carta magna really couldn't be more different. The former is a peaceful interlude (featuring a bubbly baby on guest vocals, believe it or not) that's presumably named for the Bible verse which reads "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." The latter, though, is a gloriously patient exercise in melodic power. Maybe one is representing sheep and one wolves, with the two wrapping around Ritual. Without knowing the lyrics, I can only guess.

What that leaves is an album that feels old school, rooted in a lot of different sounds from the early eighties, but with good production values of which bands then could only have dreamed and combinations that would never happened back then. It's easy to listen to but it rewards exploration too. I like.

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