SummaryGehenna awaits you
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When it comes down to early progressive/power metal bands, your options are obviously rather limited. You’ve got Fates Warning, Crimson Glory, Queensryche and Adramelch, but there’s one band that could easily be included with those four; Mexico’s Gehenna. Here we have a band that, had they been from another country, may not have descended into obscurity instead.
Gehenna put their own unique spin on progressive/power metal, yet given this was 1987, it obviously has more in common with flexible, off-kilter power metal than odd time signatures and whatnot that sounds related to progressive rock. On one hand, the guitarists release melodic, yet tasteful riffs that rely on their catchy appeal here – blending with evocative keys, exotic acoustic passages and even gothic-sounding church organs. On the other hand, the guitarists throw plenty of Maiden-on-steroids lead-riffs into these compositions that may ring a bell. Let me clarify: if you enjoy Adramelch’s low-fi, yet riff-driven progressive/power metal attack of Irae Melanox, then the wildest moments of En busca del valle de Gehenna should certainly be of interest to you. Add a determined bass player who occasionally follows his own route (take the mad bass-run on “Gehenna” for instance, it becomes so suspenseful!) and a unique vocalist and you end up with a very cool record. José Avilá sounds passionate, yet vulnerable and besides the occasional wimpier high note, he mostly stays in his comfort zone. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though – besides a singer such as Midnight would sound far too overpowering for this kind of stuff.
Alas, there are some clear problems with En busca del valle de Gehenna. It is somewhat stylistically inconsistent and its pacing doesn’t do much favors either. Putting the most restrained tracks at the start is a misleading move and these aren’t exactly the highlights on the record either. Kicking off with “Buscando” immediately bring to mind some plain Iron Maiden worship – while it’s got some fancy guitar work and a mood-setting intro of peaceful acoustics and space-laden synths, it’s obviously not great stuff. “Escuchame” gets closer to the progressive territory of the album and starts off with slower, mood-building riffs. Unfortunately, the track fails to work towards a specific climax and instead you end up with keys and acoustic guitars interrupting in between. Indeed, En busca del valle de Gehenna doesn’t make a fantastic introduction… but fortunately, things turn for the best soon after.
It’s as if the band wasn’t too sure whether they wanted to get their hands dirty and it’s a shame, because once they do, the results are fucking superb. My favorite track would be the band’s self-titled track and it’s a classic of ripping, yet memorable progressive metal that totally foreshadows the direction of Adramelch’s Irae Melanox. Like a whirlwind of melodic guitar riffs appearing left and right, it’s a difference of day and night when compared to the tamer guitar work that defined the aforementioned two tracks. The track doesn’t rely much on a chorus, as it’s a repetition of the track’s chorus in an evil manner, but since I’m a close minded guy who’s easily impressed by those flexible, yet empowering riffs, it’s all good. To think that this came out in 1987 just blows my mind… absolutely incredible and inspiring stuff. “La voz del viento” is another worthy track and highlights the band manages to make their progressive metal sound like absolute fun. A high-spirited intro riff leads things towards greatness, as it quickly follows up with a choppy verse before José Avilá steals the spotlight with a catchy, yet worthy chorus. I’m also fond of the atmospheric touches thanks to those church organs in between – who said that gothic atmosphere and power/progressive metal riffs couldn’t mix?
The production is also surprisingly decent; it makes the drums sound grand and the guitars relatively crisp, while the non-metallic instruments obtain the right spot in the mix. Although I wish that Gehenna had released a superior second album after this, En busca del valle de Gehenna makes a solid slab of early progressive/power metal – it may not benefit from a proper introduction (or second track, for that matter), yet things become seriously magical soon after. Gehenna awaits you and if you got some taste, you should know which direction to head towards.
Release date: April 1987
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