Viaje a 800, Coñac Oxigenado: All Eyes Wait upon Thee

Half a decade after issuing their excellent sophomore outing in the form of Estampida de Trombones, Andalusian heavy rockers Viaje a 800 emerge a much different band on the follow-up, Coñac Oxigenado. Not necessarily sonically – their sound is still very much defined by an encompassing, moody tonal weight and the lower register vocals of bassist Alberto “Poti” Mota – however, Mota has revamped Viaje a 800’s lineup and shifted the songwriting process, going from a four-piece to a trio and writing some of the longest songs the band had ever put on an album. Where Estampida de Trombones had shorter pieces like “Nicosia” or “Zé,” none of Coñac Oxigenado’s five tracks clocks in at under six minutes, and the album as a whole is a full 51 minutes long. I’d say that the band had a lot on their minds after not issuing a record in five years, but the break between their 2001 Diablo Roto De debut and Estampida de Trombones was six years, and the second album was the shorter of the two. In any case, Viaje a 800 – who release the full-length, as always, via Alone Records – are well suited to the more extended form, and the album is clearly organized to showcase the longer cuts, with the three that run over 10 minutes positioned as the opener, centerpiece and closer. Those are “Oculi Omnium in Te Sperant Domine,” “Eterna Soledad” and “What’s Going On,” respectively, and each of them as well as “Ni Perdón Ni Olvido” and “Tagarnina Blues” between have something different to offer the listener who would take them on. The closer is notable for the departure from the band’s native Spanish to English lyrics, but even so, Viaje a 800 still sound like Viaje a 800 more than they sound like anyone else, and anyone who got into either or both of their other albums will recognize elements still present in their sound, whether it’s the insistent rhythms, vague Monster Magnet influence or choice riffing. Given that Mota is joined by two new players – J. Angel on guitar/backing vocals and Andres on drums – I don’t know and won’t presume to say how much of the songwriting was his to start with, but as Viaje a 800 came into their third with a strong sound developed over two prior outings, that they’d develop the sound rather than depart from it in spite of lineup shifts can only be a good thing. Particularly given how much Coñac Oxigenado rocks.

On either of their past albums, “Oculi Omnium in Te Sperant Domine” might have been more than one song. Viaje a 800 open with a driving riff that soon leads into the hook of a verse – Mota wasting no time in establishing a straightforward push – and soon Angel takes the fore with a couple leads offset by vocals here and there around the central figure carried across on rhythm guitar, bass and drums. Just past three minutes in, however, the pace cuts and flourishes of percussion and a descending stair progression lead the way out to a psychedelic interlude. Mellotron sounds underscore a sparse bluesy guitar before Andres ups the snare punctuation and Mota returns on vocals for a still-slowed verse. In turn, this gives way to a faster bass-introduced section topped with fuzz guitar that veers into flamenco claps and rhythmic intricacy. The guitar eventually comes back alongside Mota’s steady bassline and Andres’ consistent snare march, but Viaje a 800 never quite get back to the initial verse progression, ending instead what started out as a simply structured song with a lengthy instrumental jam. Whether or not it was their intent to catch their audience off guard, I don’t know, but the disorienting effect persists and it feels purposeful. The shorter “Ni Perdón Ni Olvido” starts out more metallic with a guitar like from Angel that feels culled from the playbook of Countdown to Extinction-era Megadeth – of course the context is different – that immediately grounds Coñac Oxigenado’s flow and sets the course for the next seven-plus minutes, most of which is derived from that initial distorted verse line. Angel’s lead work proves a highlight throughout the record, but as “Ni Perdón Ni Olvido” branches out so specifically from the guitar line, it seems especially notable on the second track. As “Eterna Soledad” gets underway with an organic-feeling mandolin groove, he becomes all the more a standout factor in Viaje a 800’s current incarnation.

“Eterna Soledad” is mostly instrumental but for an echoing spoken part that starts after seven minutes in, and up to that point – really, beyond it as well – the band crafts an effective musical build that reaches a not-overdone apex of acoustic/electric interplay, bass and drum shuffle and semi-psychedelic pulse. In many ways, it emphasizes the growth in Viaje a 800 since Estampida de Trombones, as it seems based around more of an atmospheric sprawl than much of their past material, but Angel’s guitar work has to get at least part of the credit for that. Mota and Andres make for a stellar rhythm section, and there’s a lot of musical personality that comes from the extra percussion spread across Coñac Oxigenado, but really it’s the turns the band makes that make the difference and the focus that their shift in approach has wrought. The following “Tagarnina Blues” is the shortest of the album’s tracks at 6:03 and among the most subdued, once again blending acoustic and electric guitars at the fore. Even though it’s the latter out front, “Tagarnina Blues” is the moodiest cut on Coñac Oxigenado, with a quiet vocal from Mota and an atmosphere and bassline that live up to its title as a blues. Angel dual-layers a solo over wah effects and Andres proves more than up to the task of keeping the song together, the drums taking part in a lead line here and there while also underscoring the central rhythm as the final movement takes hold. Feedback opens “What’s Going On,” but the closer retains the prior track’s commitment to ambience with squibbly volume swells and eventually a steady bass beneath a drum and guitar progression that seem to be nodding at The Doors’ “The End,” or at least toward it. The first several minutes of the total 14:41 are given to this kind of stillness, and it’s with a subtle shift that Viaje a 800 begin the build that will eventually lead to the melodic peak of the record. They have a while to go yet before they get there, but where the opener never reined in its extended jam, “What’s Going On” does precisely that, referencing earlier psychedelics while oozing toward the amp-noise finish of the last minute of the album. Mota’s vocals are a uniting factor, and much of the tonality has remained similar, but Viaje a 800 are trying new modes of songwriting on Coñac Oxigenado, and there isn’t an experiment on these songs that doesn’t meet with success. My only hope when it comes to this band is that the new lineup is able to release studio outings with more regularity than did the one prior, because five years is a long time to wait to hear how Viaje a 800 next develop these ideas. They continue to be one of the most underrated bands in heavy rock and perhaps the best heavy rock band ever to come out of Spain. Recommended.

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One Response to “Viaje a 800, Coñac Oxigenado: All Eyes Wait upon Thee”

  1. The Psychedelic Warlord says:

    You must check Poti’s new band “Mind!” is a spacerock/psych/kraut band… Debut album next 15th january!!!!

    you can hear complete album here:


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