Monday 8 November 2021

Tripulante - Lickan Antay (2021)

Country: Chile
Style: Heavy/Power Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 21 Oct 2021
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I thoroughly enjoyed Tripulante's debut album, Mensajero del tiempo, a couple of years ago, but, as good as it was, it felt like a band coming together. They were a new band, that debut appearing only a year into a musical partnership of vocalist Aymarita Colque and multi-instrumentalist Julio Cesar Moya. I felt that the latter dominated, not through any discrepancy in talent but simply in the opportunities that the songwriting gave him, but that's emphatically not the case here, with the two finding the balance I hoped they would on this, their second album.

It starts out well with Sotar Conti, which is a vibrant and up tempo opener with hidden depths, but I have to say that the album didn't grab me by the balls until Ckuri, which wraps the first half and sets us up for the second, which just keeps getting better and better. The early tracks are all good ones and none of them let the album down but, however many times I listen through Lickan Antay, I leave it convinced that the second half exceeds the first.

The better balance between vocals and music is one obvious change, but it's not the only one. For a start, I believe Mensajero del tiempo is sung in Chilean Spanish, but this isn't, though I'm unsure as to which language or languages it is sung in. Google isn't much of a help here, but I'm assuming that Colque sings in at least Kunsa and Quechua, because Heutur translates to Rise in the former and Amawta is a skilful or wise leader in the latter.

As for the album title, the Lickan Antay are an indigenous people of the Atacama desert, who are found in northern Chile and Argentina and into Bolivia, while this album appears to be an attempt to pass on knowledge from various Atacaman cultures, presumably including theirs. That may be a difficult task when it's done in languages I can't identify, but I applaud this approach and hope to learn more about what's actualy going on. The only other word I can identify is Chakana, which is the Incan stepped cross.

All this leads to another more surprising change, which is that there seems to my uneducated ears to be less of an ethnic flavour here. It's obviously there on the interlude called Alikhantu, with its heavy use of Andean flutes weaving in and out of each speaker. Also, at least one song appears to be, if not an actual cover, an interpretation of an older Chilean song, and that's Lalcktur Cuijai, an easy one to find on YouTube by O. E. Galleguillos Colque, a surname which makes me wonder if the neat melodies on this one were written by a relative of Aymarita Colque.

I presume at least most of the rest is original, because the overt influences here are metal bands like Iron Maiden and Helloween, not only in the heavy/power metal genre sound but in the way the guitars develop and the songs build. There's even an epic to wrap up the album in Gentiles, a sustained gem even at eleven minutes and change. The first half of it is great but then it steps up even further as the keyboards swirl six minutes in, out of which emerges an excellent riff to start the escalation of the second half.

It's definitely one of my favourite tracks here, but there are others. Ckuri isn't the first song here to highlight just how well Colque can sustain notes, but it's impossible to miss how she doesn't just hold notes for extended periods but does interesting things with where those notes go. Each time I listen through the album, Ckuri stands out more and more, as does Heutur after it, making them a rock solid heart to Lickan Antay.

Oddly, because Tripulante only need help when performing live because there's just no way Moya can play everything there that he does in the studio, these are also the two songs featuring guest vocalists. Ckuri has a second powerful female voice in Cinthia Santibáñez from Chilean prog metal band Crisalida, who I now must check out, and Heutur features Yen Squivel as the male voice that counters Colque's.

I really dig Colque's vocals throughout this album. As I mentioned last time out, her pitch is lower than we might expect for a female metal singer but she still has quite the range. There are points where I think she's stretching too far upward and then she soars beyond it to highlight how it isn't a problem for her at all. I'm intrigued as to who influenced her the most, because I hear a heck of a lot of Bruce Dickinson in her voice, which makes obvious sense, but he's not alone and I can't see who else is in there.

So to rating this. I gave Mensajero del tiempo a 7/10 and this is clearly a step up on that excellent album, but some of it is two steps up. I'm seeing it easily as a highly recommended 8/10 and now I have to echo what I said at the end of my review of the debut but even louder: "I really can't wait for the next album! Let's see how they can grow!"

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