Thursday, January 21, 2016

Album Review: Mano Humana - "Sombras"

South American metal has a certain flavor, doesn’t it?  A natural rhythmic heaviness that permeates every moment of the experience and makes the entire showcase idiomatically South American.  Every act from the continent has possessed this same quality and Chileans Mano Humana are no exception.  Their record “Sombras” continues to carry the banner for the genre like so many that have come before.

Hold the phone, though.  Mano Humana is not just offering straight up and down South American metal, now are they?  Certainly, there’s the usual pounding and grunting that accompanies the idiom, the aural assault that surrounds and immolates the senses, but there’s something else in the brew.  There are some hardcore roots mixed into the soul of this record, plus just a little Fear Factory, too.  It sounds strange, but true; while Mano Humana hardly qualifies as industrial, some of the dry deliveries and stark, singular lines of “Grita En Silencio” strike as coming from the old school FF playbook.  In the end, the total package offers a diversity of sound that’s refreshing in a splinter genre often trapped by its own patterns.

Mano Humana stumbles somewhat in the delivery on this promise, however.  The mix of all these ideas can be creative and intriguing, but too often regresses back to the mean.  “Sombras” shows the great potential of the idea, but sadly becomes a template example of South American metal in the long honored and imitated tradition of Sepultura and all who came before.  In addition, several of the selections on the back end of “Sombras” are just plain too long.  The musical idea of “Arbol” ends before the song does, the piece dragging on for another minute of the same measures repeated.

While that’s a huge hurdle to overcome, the good news is that Mano Humana also shows flashes of brilliance.  The bass intro of album opener “Jueces” would be captivating all on its own for about an hour, the blur of notes capturing the attention and drawing the listener’s adrenaline into the mix.  The doubly screamed, practically in-the-round chorus of “Acata y Ataca” (‘Abides and Attacks’) is infectious and enticing.  The hardcore inflection of “Desintrospeccion” and the veneer of industrial throughout the record are well-executed accents to the hallmarks of South American metal that we expect.  So there’s plenty of musical hope for the future of Mano Humana.

And naturally, as all these albums have, there’s a song with a title ending in ‘-cia,’ which is then screamed while clearly enunciating every syllable.  In this case it’s the thumping “Demencia” which works pretty well.

So “Sombras” is a mixed product.  The great single moments, like “Jueces” are truly great, but there are more than a fair share of dead spots on the album, which drag down the experience as a whole.  It’s an occasionally frustrating mix, only because Mano Humana clearly has so much talent, leaving the listener wanting more of the flickers of evident greatness.

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