The hardest part about listening to Peruvian experimental doomers El Hijo de la Aurora is trying to imagine whether their mysterious musical concoctions were crafted in a darkened science laboratory amid bubbling vials of green and blue liquid, or in a pagan forest amidst animal skulls and unspoken heathen rites. If the cover and general atmosphere of the Lima trio’s second full-length (first for R.A.I.G.), Wicca: Spells, Magic and Witchcraft Through the Ages, is anything to go buy, it’s probably the latter, but given some of the bizarre turns and villainous twists contained within these eight tracks (there are nine listed on the back of the disc, but eight show up when I put it in my player), I’m still not sure. Something about this kind of stuff just seethes with malefic and haunting forethought.
El Hijo de la Aurora — which boasts drummer and effects-master Joaquin Cuadra (who also produced here) and bassist Manolo Garfias (also guitar), formerly of Don Juan Matus alongside vocalist Rafael Cantoni – made their full-length debut with last year’s avant drone outing, Lemuria (review here). What the two records have in common, aside from dense atmospherics and a foreboding throughout, is a slew of guest appearances. Wicca engineer Saul Cornejo shows up on Hammond for the later shuffling rocker “Akasha,” Marcos Coifman wrote the lyrics to that song, and takes vocals on it and “Vril,” which follows, Tania Duarte sings on the shorter acoustic closer “Cuentos de Bosque Encantado Part II,” as she sang on the finale of Lemuria, and there are numerous other appearances as well on theremin, Hammond, Moog and vocals. A big difference between Lemuria and Wicca is the inclusion of Cantoni as a uniting vocal factor throughout at least several if not most of the tracks, and as Wicca is less barren and instrumentally drone-based, I’d say there’s been a shift in songwriting approach as well.
That shouldn’t be surprising, given the avant and openly creative feel El Hijo de la Aurora showed on the debut, but the raw Sabbathian doom definitely comes to the fore from the start of Wicca with opener “Der Golem,” which I think is combined with the sampled intro “El Ojo Hipnotico” (“The Hypnotic Eye”) to get the track listing/disc disparity. The song starts with Cuadra on drums setting a mid-tempo plod for Garfias to follow on the riff before Cantoni rides the groove vocally. All told, Wicca is a more active-feeling album than what Lemuria, but nothing feels sacrificed in terms of ambience, and the blend of classic riffage and doom that El Hijo de la Aurora proffered there remains one of the strongest assets here. In the hands of a band less capable of affecting a mood, “Psicodrama” might just come off as stoner rock, but El Hijo de la Aurora make the song more than the sum of its riffs, setting up the massive 14-minute “Libro de las Sombras (Including Dios Astado & el Escrito)” like the person who bends down behind you while someone in front pushes you over. Just when you think you know what to expect from El Hijo de la Aurora, they change it on you.
“Libro de las Sombras (Including Dios Astado & el Escrito” boasts theremin, sampled screams, and the best bassline of Wicca, but even that can’t really begin to cover what makes it work so well. It’s worth noting that most of the guest appearances come in the album’s back half, and for the opening three cuts (four really, since “El Espejo de la Bruja” just has backing vocals listed from Jorge “Coco Cortes III”), it’s just Cuadra, Garfias and Cantoni setting themselves up as the foundational trio for the rest of the songs to expand on, which they do. Things only get weirder following “Libro de las Sombras (Including Dios Astado & el Escrito)”’s classic back half and the return to the rock of “El Espejo de la Bruja,” as “Mas Allá de Toda Pena” (“Beyond Any Penalty”) twists Wicca into a dirty acoustic Delta blues. Julio “Ñaka” Almeida donates throaty and drunken-sounding vocals to the cause, and it’s yet another example of El Hijo de la Aurora doing the thing least expected. That seems to be their specialty.
The final movement of the album – “Akasha,” “Vril” and “Cuentos del Bosque Encantado Part II” – show development of classic rock ideas and rarely-tread ground for doom alike, and as their second album comes to its contemplative, once-again acoustic finish with Duarte singing (I think, I’m pretty sure I blew figuring out the lineup last time and may have again), what’s abundantly clear is that El Hijo de la Aurora have hit upon a highly individualistic take on doom and classic rock, peppered with elements even further outside of either genre and yet not inappropriate in their inclusion. I’d be interested to hear Cuadra, Garfias and Cantoni take on the task of the songs themselves, but as Wicca lacks nothing in cohesion, I’m not about to complain about all the guests who show up, many for the second time around. If El Hijo de la Aurora is going to be a loose-knit collective of creative individuals contributing around the skeletons pieced together by the core trio, so be it. As long as their material remains so creatively unbound, that’s just fine by me. I don’t doubt that I’ve lost something in the lyrics (penned by Cuadra with the exception of “Akasha” by Coifman) and overall execution of the Wicca: Spells, Magic and Witchcraft Through the Ages as a concept record in my ignorance of the Spanish language in which the words to the songs are spoken, but the overall feel of the album is universal. El Hijo de la Aurora — even on the level of doom — are never going to be a band that’s accessible to everyone, but their second record is easily worth multiple looks for heads out there with adventurous ears. Wherever it was created, lab or forest, the latest experiment is a success.
Tags: El Hijo de la Aurora, Lima, Peru, R.A.I.G.