Veneración del Fuego
Seems as though you can't take three steps these days without hearing or reading about the prevailing topic of 'women in metal.' Sure, they've always been in the overall picture -- albeit outnumbered -- but never before has their presence received more comprehensive attention and coverage, particularly with regard to the doom/sludge/proto realm. I, for one, believe the transformay-she-oh-nay has been long overdue. Historically speaking, heavy metal has always been much slower in terms of intermingling both genders as compared to our punk cousins. And this ain't no Loyal Order of the Water Buffalo meeting, ye grizzled tallywackers, so it's high time we all heard a lot more roarin' around these parts.
That being said, despite the fact that I've flipped my shit over a huge portion of the current bands that feature a robustly dynamic female presence behind the mic (Jex Thoth, Witch Mountain, Royal Thunder, Rose Kemp, Worm Ouroboros -- to name a few), one of the many things I find compelling about Peru's Reino Ermitaño is the fact that Tania Duarte's vocals don't necessarily take up the full spotlight. She sounds great, mind you, but the ebb and flow between her decidedly gritty delivery and when she's notably more polished never fully overpowers the rest of the elements in the band'sformula, so the end result is a satisfyingly even mix that comes across more like a doom band that just so happens to be fronted by a woman, and not the other way around… if that manages to make any sense.
If I were forced to pinpoint the principal Reino Ermitaño motif, I'd give the nod toward 'heft.' There's plenty of ancillary psychedelia and bits of folk to help fill the corners, but Veneración del Fuego's primary duty is to pull you under the tank treads for a good ol' fashioned trampling. In fact, given a properly cranked set of heavy speakers, you'd be hard-pressed to find a heavier traditional doom stance in 2012, especially concerning the absolutely sick bass tone throughout. The onset of "Cuando la Luz te Encuentre" ("When the Light Finds You") and "Vente al Fuego" ("Solvent Fire") is proof enough of the band's burly gist, and a solid 90% of the rest of this record fits well within this governing principal.
But those ancillary 'corner' elements certainly help to slam the sale home. Pinches of psychedelia flare up often: Whenever newcomer Eloy Arturo rips through one of his numerous fried leads; during the wildly wobbling Moog that closes out "Sobre las Ruinas" ("On the Ruins"); or the dark 'n' trippy violin that reinforces "Cuando la Luz te Encuentre" ("When the Light Finds You") before it slides into -- hold onto your hats, sports fans -- a sweet one-and-a-half minute drum solo. And the album's folk components jump onto center stage for the last five-and-a-half minutes of "Sangre India," which features loads of prettily strummed acoustic guitar, floating Chincha flutes, and Andean harps that eventually give way to the softer side of Tania's delivery and a hugely satisfying lead that smokily drifts until things gradually close out on another hefty note.
Reino Ermitaño might not be the most prolific doom band on the block, but they sure as hell mean business when something finally drops. Veneración del Fuego represents 67 minutes of some of the heaviest classic doom you'll hear in 2012, and I'm sure there's no need to remind people about the sheer number of players currently floating around in that particular realm. The album works on most every level: The burliness, the lighter touches, and hell, even the cover artwork is top notch. (Done by co-founder/bassist Marcos Coifman, as it happens.) Yes, it's another female-fronted band in a seemingly ever-increasing sea of contenders of late, but it's high time folks stop thinking about this subtle shift of the spotlight as a "flavor of the month trend" and recognize it as a long overdue push toward a more comprehensive balance. It's a good thing. A permanent thing. And with high-quality acts such as Reino Ermitaño in the mix, praise and respect is a snap.