With my Graduate World Cinema course at the Savannah College of Art and design, one of the particular aspects I have been studying is trying to reduce the Eurocentric (often Americentric) vision of the world. For cinema, this is easy as watching films with subtitles, even though the images can tell the story just the same. For music, this is a far more difficult task. I could have easily asked for Jose Carballido to provide me with some translations, but rather, I chose to challenge myself and listen and review this album solely based on how the language, which I do not speak or understand, interacts with the music. I think I failed.
What does not fail is Jose Carballido‘s progressive metal opera Requiem. It is a very dark and Gothic release, featuring a relatively simple story backed by a complex musical journey (from what the artist’s website offers). While many concept albums and rock/metal operas are epic in detail, Requiem is a doozy to get through, particularly if you do not know Spanish. The songs all have their own particular set of sequences and phrases that set them a part with counterpoint vocals and musical sequences, the latter of which occurs far too often without repeating the leitmotif of the entire album.
Carballido’s website states that the story line is about a couple, one of which suffers greatly when God interferes and takes the other’s life. Choices are posed for the mortal one to join the other in the afterlife; posing questions of existentialism. One of the most difficult issues when reviewing this album is that I only speak English and Requiem is Spanish. However, one does not need to know another language to be able to know that the phonetics and the voice that utters them are beautiful and matches the dark, Gothic style of the music. But due to the language barrier, it difficult to know how well the lyrics translate this story to the listener.
In terms of the mix, the snare drum is far too high, while the most delicate instruments such as the flute are rather diminished. The flute, played by Alejandro Salgueiro, often adds a special element to the compositions, but the softness it creates stifles it to the background, a shame. Many of the drum fills match and harmonize with the melodies, a progressive metal trope that should give most prog metal fans a hook to cling on to.
The album features songs that are elegant fusions between classical compositions and progressive metal. The Latin American musical influence, particularly in the percussion, is the aspect in which I have enjoyed the most, as well as the flute. The choir that backs many of the songs add to the Gothic aura and assists the vocal counterpoints.
Requiem is a gorgeous album and the epic composition as a whole is grand. Carballido’s site explains that the album is being toured in two versions, with the choir and without. Listening to the trimmed down version live, I can only imagine, would defeat the purpose, but logistics are never fair to art. This album is relatively accessible for a non-Spanish speaker, music wise. I have chosen to approach the Spanish lyrics not as an untranslated language, but as another instrument (which it is), and have come to the realization that Requiem is a listenable album, and even if a translation was provided, it may not accurately transfer meaning to the English language.
Requiem is available at the Jose Carballido website.