Speed Metal from Spain
It’s that wonderful time of year – there’s a fresh layer of pristine, white snow on the ground, the house is warm and cozy, mom’s baked some cookies, and your excitement is palpable. You can hardly contain it all. What could you have possibly gotten from the jolly old man this year? Could it be that toy truck that you see on every day time commercial? You just hope it’s not coal., after all you’ve been good this year! Hmm…maybe it’s a new football? No. It’s thirty eight minutes of pure speed metal. Merry Christmas!
Don’t let their peculiar name fool you, Santa are the real deal. They’re a female fronted band from Spain that played a style that lies somewhere between traditional heavy metal and speed metal. The immediate comparison is a slightly slower version of Belgium’s Acid. Apart from Barón Rojo,and to a lesser extent Angeles del Infierno, Hispanic metal has been largely and unjustly ignored by the rest of the metal-sphere. With that said, Santa’s debut, Reincarnatión, is arguably almost as important as Barón Rojo’s Volumen Brutal when it comes to the history of the scene. Santa were one of the first bands to move more in that classic speed metal direction and they were also one of the first, if not the very first, Hispanic band with a female vocalist.
Given the structure of Santa, the vocals are very much front and center. Azucena, our star vocalist, is a gritty, take-no-prisoners type with a lot of bite to her voice. The unmistakable edge and charisma in her voice calls to mind Leather Leone, the mighty US power metal queen of Chastain fame. While not quite a match for Leather, her vocals are still fantastic.
Azucena is a high energy and powerful vocalist filled to the brim with character, but she doesn’t outshine the instrumentation. Jerónimo Ramiro is a master of the axe and has a penchant for writing catchy, classic metal riffs. The songs bring to mind the early German heavy metal scene, bearing resemblances at times to acts like Accept. Perhaps the most interesting part of the band to me is drummer Bernardo Ballester. I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely pay attention to drums unless they’re particularly awful or exceptionally strong – in this case it is definitely the latter. His drumming, in tandem with Julio Díaz on bass, is aggressive and forceful which helps to bring out the punch in Ramiro’s riffs and Azucena’s vocal lines.
The major blemish of this album is the song “Mis noches tienen rock & roll”, a track that is far more hard rock than it is classic heavy metal or speed metal. Azucena is great on it and there are some catchy, fun riffs but it just does not fit in this album at all. Santa’s later career moved toward album-oriented rock (AOR), and this song is the first real hint of the unfortunate path that they would later take. Other than that, I just wish the band was able to capture the speed metal magic of the opening title track. It’s a banger through and through and isn’t quite repeated in the rest of the album, which slows down a bit.
Santa’s debut is a fun piece of Spanish metal history with a lot of charm and fantastic riffs. Much like the jolly fat man that they’re named after, they’re sure to bring plenty of joy. Reincarnatión is a strong album that I highly recommend all metal fans to listen to – especially those who speak the language. It may not be the perfect Christmas gift that you’ve always wanted, but you might just have to settle for killer heavy metal instead.
Album Rating: 86/100
Favorite Song: Reencarnación
Haphazard_Hall · August 24, 2018 at 10:14 pm
I never bothered much with Santa. I don’t know if it’s the goofiness I associate with their name (I know it means St.) or the fact that they did stray away from the metal sound and I’ve only hit their later work, but I never gave them a full go.
Great review as always Marco.
Marco · August 26, 2018 at 11:30 am
It’s definitely a funky name for sure, I also put off listening to them for a long time. I hope you at least gave the title track a chance!
Drew · August 26, 2018 at 11:18 am
Just gave this a listen, this review let me know what to expect. Reminds me that I need to hit more non-english trad.
Marco · August 26, 2018 at 11:31 am
The Japanese, Swedish, French, Hispanic, etc. metal scenes are all pretty deep and you can easily get lost exploring them. Lots of great stuff out there that barely has any exposure in the West! I know I have a lot of digging to do myself when I free up.