Once more down the yellow brick road.
There is a fine line between genius and insanity, or so the old adage goes, and few names in the metal community have brought this dichotomy to a fever pitch as that of Spain’s veteran folk metal proponents Mago De Oz. Indeed, their 30 year career has been met with ambivalence, if nothing else, from the metal masses given their eccentric brand of musical eclecticism that often involves long interludes outside the very bounds of the genre under consideration. In recent years there has been a greater degree of metallic flavoring brought into their shepherd’s pie-like stew of sound, largely in the form of a more biting array of power metal-infused anthems that has brought this old guard folk outfit into closer proximity to the likes of Elvenking and Vexillum, perhaps prompted by the exodus of keyboardist/vocalist José Andrea in 2011. Be this as it may, the picture painted on Ira Dei, this outfit’s 14th studio LP is in keeping with the smorgasbord of influences that has generally typified their entire career.
If there is one element of constancy within this highly varied array of songs, spanning 2 CDs and over an hour and a half of music no less, it is an obsession with Celtic folk tunes. To the unschooled, the notably Irish-like flavor that result from the array of dancing melodies emitted by this band’s violinist and flautist might seem ironic given the band’s Spain-centered lyrics and cultural affinity, but a discerning mind sees a fitting revival of the old Celtic empire that covered most of Europe, including the Iberian Peninsula, prior to the conquests by Rome. Naturally there are some points where the band’s folk sound is given a breather, such as the metal opera arrangement of “Nessum Dorma” towards the end of disc one dubbed “Opera Mortis”, which is notably similar to the 2002 Manowar arrangement of the same song minus the dramatic soprano vocals and the wild lead guitar display at the song’s climax. But for the most part, this is an extremely long running folk metal with a wide array of side dishes.
The predominant musical character of this album is one of epic songwriting and lofty progression, mostly leaning towards the grandiose character of recent Elvenking outings, but often dovetailing with the ambitious character of the likes of Avantasia and Angra. Starting off in a serene overture like something out of a Celtic-inspired Manga film and sporting a principle theme remarkably similar to the theme from The Last Unicorn, “Jerusalem D.C.” kicks off what proves to be an ironically heroic album that is lyrically torn between political fatalism and escapism. What follows can be best described as a neurotic fit of genre-hopping that often lands in the most bizarre of places, yet there is a fairly consistent power metal base to it all when considering more driving, quick-paced odes of Stratovarius with a folksy twist like “El Amor Brujo”, heavier rockers in “Tu Funeral” and “La Cantiga De Las Brujas” (the latter featuring some prominent harsh vocal work by Diva Satánica), and quasi-symphonic nods to Nightwish like “Ciudad Esmeralda”.
The album is bookended by two tracks which initially don’t seem to fit as pieces of the puzzle, but ultimately work to prove the record truly unique character. In similar fashion to the lion’s share of Avantasia’s output, things begin and end of extremely long and drawn out notes, with the album’s first proper song “In Eternum” being a 9 minute epic cruiser of Hellöween meets folk-infused goodness as one might expect out of Vexillum, and loaded to the brim with brilliant guitar and keyboard work to boot, and the closing song being a near 18-minute monster of a closer and title song “Ira Dei” that is loaded to the brim with ideas to the point of rivaling Symphony X on their best day. On the other side of the experimental coin is a genuine head-scratcher in “Te Traeré El Horizonte”; best described as a folk rocker after the Korpiklaani mold with a techno/post-disco intro like something off a Battle Beast album. Yet barring the odd elements of the aforementioned song, the oddball children’s song from hell “Opus Tenebrae” and a few other quirky moments, the good ultimately outweighs the weird.
If there is a way to ultimately sum up what this is, it would be an album that is great yet often struggles to be good. Even when compared to a number of double CD releases from Iron Maiden’s Book Of Souls to Helloween’s Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy, there is so much music packed into this that veers off in so many different directions that it would ultimately work better if treated as two separate stand alone parts to a series similar to this band’s own previous albums under the Gaia title, and even then it would be a bit much for the average consumer to process. Strong performances by strong and heroic tenor vocalist Zeta and an exceptional display of musicality from this band’s entire 9-piece arrangement (not counting over a dozen guest musicians) shine through the occasionally confuted mixture of styles, and arguably some of this band’s best songs ever recorded can be found on here, but this is an album that will occasionally cross the line between greatness and overkill, and will probably only collectively appeal to a narrow audience that is as wildly eclectic as they come.
Released by: Discos Radioactivos Organizados (D.R.O.)
Released Date: March 8th 2019
Genre: Folk / Power Metal
- Javier Domínguez ‘Zeta’ / Vocals
- Txus di Fellatio / Drums
- Carlos Prieto ‘Mohamed’ / Violin
- Juan Carlos Marín ‘Carlitos’ / Lead guitar
- Francisco Gómez de la Serna ‘Frank’ / Rhythm guitar
- Patricia Tapia / Backing vocals
- José Manuel Pizarro ‘Josema’ / Transverse flute, bagpipes, galician gaita, castilian whistle, irish whistle, bodhran
- Javi Díez / Keyboards, synthesizers, accordion, rhythm guitar
- Fernando Mainer / Bass guitar
“Ira Dei” Track-listing:
1. Jerusalem D.C.
2. In Eternum
3. El Amor Brujo
4. Tu funeral
5. Ciudad esmeralda
6. Tequila tanto por vivir
7. Te traeré el horizonte (feat. Ara Malikian)
8. Opera Mortis
9. La cantiga de las brujas
10. Espera en el cielo
11. Opus Tenebrae
13. Y que nunca te falte un “Te quiero”
14. Bajo mi piel
15. La triste historia de Jimmy “Tiro en el pie”
16. Infinitum – Trine 2 Maim Theme
17. El séptimo sello
18. Ira Dei
The Anger of God, an all too familiar subject for the pious and decadent alike, becomes the inspiration for Spain’s prolific and long-running institution of surreal storytelling via metal opera with a Celtic twist