It’s worth noting immediately that no one in the band 3 Mexicans From Gorma is actually Mexican. They’re Italian. The band hails from Verona and its three members – Luigi Calzavara on vocals/guitar, Marco Dal Molin on bass and Igor Lanaro on drums – make their debut on G.O.R.M.A. (Go Down Records), a narrative concept album that tells the story of a cowboy who wanders into a ghost town and gets trapped there by demons and forced to stay for eternity, and in case you’re wondering about style, as it says on the back panel of the jewel case artwork, “3 Mexicans From Gorma plays ONLY FUCKING hard Mexicans stoner music.” So right away, we know they are definitely not not fucking.
G.O.R.M.A. – the name of the town in the plot said to be derived from the band members’ names (I can see it with Lanaro and Dal Molin, though I don’t know how you account for Calzavara in that) – has several sketch interludes, complete with windy backdrop, heavily-accented speech and old-time radio sound effects of horse hooves and opening and closing doors. There’s one in the beginning, one in the middle, and one at the end, and between them, the trio riff rocks their way through songs mostly derivative of the desert/stoner mainstays without adding too much to the mix in terms of their own individuality. As I listen though, I almost wish both the sketches and the lyrics to the songs – we open with “Preface/Back to the Desert…” before “Intro” and “Intermission” take hold, so yes, it’s a while before the album gets going – were in Italian, and that there was more of a Western feel in the music. 3 Mexicans From Gorma touches on that, but with Italy’s rich history in the film genre of the Western – not to mention the accompanying music and incredibly influential work of Ennio Morricone – it feels like there’s an opportunity that Calzavara, Dal Molin and Lanaro are letting slip through their collective fingers. Our hero meets a mariachi later into the album, a two-and-a-half-minute acoustic interlude ensues that sets up the Kyuss-esque instrumental “Wah Wah,” and there was another acoustic interlude earlier in the form of “First Day, Jen… When I See You…” but that hardly feels like it’s all 3 Mexicans From Gorma could have done to play with the aesthetic they’ve taken on, and with all the interludes, sketches, intros and outros, there’s never really a flow established on G.O.R.M.A. from one song to the next.
Couple that with production that sounds more metal than rock on just about everything but the acoustic tracks and “Wah Wah,” where Calzavara seems to have a completely different guitar tone than almost all the rest of the album, and G.O.R.M.A. quickly becomes choppy and inconsistent atmospherically. Lanaro’s snare sounds triggered on “Desolated Man” and elsewhere, and across the board, it’s as though 3 Mexicans From Gorma were more concerned with telling the story than they were with writing the songs, which is a trap somewhat understandable for a band taking on such an ambitious project for their debut, but a trap nonetheless that saps G.O.R.M.A. of much of what might otherwise be enjoyable about it. As it’s broken into acts splitting it as though onto vinyl sides (Act I and Act II), I’m inclined to say the latter half is the more coherent, but that might just be the pairing of “Wah Wah” and “Precarious Hollywood” – the only words to which are “Oh yeah!” and “Come on, yeah!” – which at a solidly rocking 12.5 minutes between them represents the most cohesive section of the album. Needless to say, a sketch (“Inside Gorma…”) follows and the two-minute “Outro” moves in a different direction, undercutting the momentum built.
Mostly I think it’s a question of songwriting, and by that I mean 3 Mexicans From Gorma, if they’re going to look to do this kind of thing again, should be mindful of incorporating influences into a sound more their own and establishing a flow between tracks on an album rather than give the focus completely over to plotline. There are moments on G.O.R.M.A. where it feels like that potential is there, but even in those spots, the production – which is almost too smooth, too crisp – takes away from it. And I keep going back to that slogan, the whole “ONLY FUCKING hard Mexicans stoner music.” Aside from the grammar of it (which I’ll let go owing to the rule that I’d do no better in Italian), one thing that’s immediately clear in listening to G.O.R.M.A. is that Calzavara, Lanaro and Dal Molin don’t just play stoner rock. Even if you throw out the sketches, there are acoustic guitars, boogie shuffles and a few intricately arranged stretches that show 3 Mexicans From Gorma have more to them than just riff-based groove and ride cymbal crashes. I’d be interested to hear them work more to bring the narrative out in the music and establish a structure across tracks whereby the atmosphere is maintained no matter what they’re doing musically, and while I applaud the trio’s bravery in taking on such an ambitious project their first time out, I don’t see myself returning to G.O.R.M.A. as a tourist regular.
Tags: 3 Mexicans From Gorma, Go Down Records, Italy, Verona