Rodrigo y Gabriela
Growing up in Melbourne in the ‘90s, I became consumed with heavy metal. Thrash metal mainly, courtesy of a friend of mine in year eight, who lent me – on my third day at a new school – a tape of Metallica’s 1989 album …And Justice For All. I’d never heard anything like it. I had never even vaguely dreamed that music like that was possible.
What drew me in then – and it consumed me, I spent the next four or five or six years listening to metal and metal only – was the pure power, the blatant aggression, that writhing groove and the sheer terror of hurtling towards a riffed-out breakdown at triple speed, riding the back of Kirk Hammett’s blistering guitar work, holding on for all I was worth. I was instantly hooked, and it’s fair to say that day changed my life forever.
Though I’ve broadened my musical horizons dramatically since then in my never-ending quest to find sounds to slake my musical thirst, there’s always that little ‘something’ in the back of my mind that equates ‘What I’m Going To Like’ with ‘Those Metal Sounds Of Old’. And not necessarily the sound per se, but the aforementioned power, the aggression (to an extent), the galloping grooves, the things that got me so hooked back in year eight. Being a big blues fan too, there’s not been much (aside from a slew of stoner rock) that’s brought that and the love of metal together, yielding something different and as (if not more) exciting – until I found Rodrigo y Gabriela. The power, the precision, the aggression, the groove – in spades. And they’re about as far from metal as you can get, to the naked eye, anyway.
Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero did actually begin their musical careers playing metal. They met in the ‘90s in Mexico, playing in a thrash band called Tierra Acida before teaming up and heading to Europe where they began to forge the style and sound they’re now globally recognised for. For those who don’t know this dynamic duo, to see their guitars mesh so forcefully (for they are virtuosic players), Latin-tinged, acoustic guitar juggernaught, their strings soaked for weeks in lighter fluid, scorched and flaming high by the end of only the first song. They draw heavily from their Mexican heritage, they lean on Latin fire and rhythm, they drink from the well of metal, or at least the spring from which that well feeds – it’s something that sets them apart, that makes them so good.
As a duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela, as they are known, released their debut, Foc, in 2001, but it wasn’t until their self-titled 2006 record, that they began to garner the recognition they now have. Indeed, as Sanchez says, the records before Rodrigo y Gabriela hardly even count. “Yeah, I don’t really count them as official albums,” he muses on Foc and ReFoc (’02). “But certainly before then, we were a touring band, so those albums were for us to only sell at gigs.”
Regardless, the success of the self-titled effort propelled the duo into the musical stratosphere and subsequent records – Live In Japan (’08), 11:11 (’09) and Live In France (’11), not to mention their extensive work on the fourth Pirates Of The Caribbean film soundtrack last year – did nothing to deflate that rising balloon. Today though, sees the duo in a reasonably different spot. They’re about to release a new record, Area 52, and it’s not really as you’ve seen these two before. Well, to an extent it is, but largely, it isn’t.
Samuel J. Fell
Area 52 is available now through Rubyworks / Warner Music.