Flores Y Fuego
(Pirates Press Records)
It’s startling when one realizes how far punk as progressed over the last thirty years or so. It could be argued that the turning point in the history of punk’s greatest evolution was when Epitaph Records broke the barrier between pop and punk in the Nineties; suddenly, production values and styling began to change dramatically. Prior to that, punk tended to have more grit in it and less polish on it – vocals tended to be shouted more often than not and instrumental parts tended to be more two-dimensional or just generally dynamic-free. For Altar however, Guatalajara-based band Flores Y Fuego chooses to straddle the transitional space between those two evolutionary steps; like the punk bands which came along before the explosion in the Nineties, Flores Y Fuego snarls aggressively through each of Altar‘s eight cuts and the speed of the songs never diminishes. The catch is that – because the energy levels never dip, the songs feel as though they’re a lot longer than they actually are so, when the needle lifts from the album the final time and listeners realize that the album is over after just seventeen minutes, they’ll be stunned – dazed even.
On first play through the record, what listeners are in for isn’t perfectly self-evident. After the needle lowers, “Soy tu Voz”opens with a menacing, descending riff to give listeners an impression of what the album has in store, but then the tempo escalates and guitarist Rafael Sotomayor and drummer Eduardo Torres begin searing senses with waves of sound, followed by some shredding vocals by singer Melisa Diaz. The results insist that listeners galvanize themselves for what’s coming and, when the song finally collapses in response to its own exertion, those who successfully make it through with the band will feel some weight lift; the song is a powerful assault but will feel excellent when it ends.
The sequence of sounds which plays out through “Soy tu Voz” plays out with exactly the same kind of results through the rest of the A-side. Particular standouts including “Muerde el Anzuelo” and “GDL” just blast molten assaults at listeners in a very unrelenting way – only breaking when the needle lifts from the record after the title track. In that moment, listeners may feel as though they’ve gone much further with the album than they actually have (“Deeeso” only marks the halfway point), but they’ll still be ready for more when the time comes to flip the record over; there’s no question that the play through one side of Altar is both hard AND difficult, but the silence at the end of the A-side is invigorating.
…And the B-side absolutely holds up the pace set by its counterpart, right away, when Altar‘s title track opens it. Outside of having to physically flip the album over, there isn’t a whole lot which differentiates the play between the A- and B-sides, but there’s no chance that interest may languish, as the album continues. When Altar‘s title track opens the B-side, it does so with a slightly more methodical tempo, but Diaz fixes that when she enters the mix, her voice already sounding like it’s been scuffed by a bandsaw. The singer wastes no time in making eardrums feel as scuffed as her voice sounds, but the band illustrates that they’re capable of composing in more than one form as “Existir” slows the going down to something resembling a sludgy tempo and tone that The Melvins would be comfortable with before picking right back up to running speed with “Cireulo Vieioso” and then closing out the side with “Por una Cadena mas Larga” – which keeps the exact same tempo as its predecessor, if only to prove that such things can happen twice before the album closes.
After “…Larga” closes and stylus lifts from vinyl, listeners will have no choice other than to try and qualify what they’ve just heard – and really, if they ever want to subject themselves to it again. For the seventeen minutes that it takes to make one’s way through Altar in its entirety, listeners are subjected to an unrelenting storm of sounds that they may not be capable of understanding (it’s caustic, it’s aggressive, it’s loud and it’s presented in Spanish), yet it always feels excellent as it plays and listeners may find that they’re left energized when it ends. That might not be the progression that listeners expect initially, but it’s a result they’ll definitely appreciate, in the end. [Bill Adams]
Flores Y Fuego – “Soy Tu Voz” – Altar LP
Altar is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pirates Press Records.