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Symphonic Prog • Spain

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Azabache biography
Usually when I find some Spanish band in the Symphonic sub-genre I have some doubts, not about their quality because most are really impressive but about the category in which they should be included, being that in most of the cases are clearly Flameco or Andaluz inspired and for that reason belong to the Prog Folk sub-genre.

AZABACHE is not one of this cases, of course they have some influences of their national and ethnic identity (Something absolutely nobody can totally avoid) but their structure and general atmosphere is clearly oriented to a lighter Symphonic atmosphere borderline with Neo Prog..

In 1978 - 1979, after their participation in another project called AZAHAR, Gustavo Ros (Keyboards) and the Uruguayan bass player Jorge "Flaco" Barrall ("Skinny") join Daniel Henestrossa (Guitar/Vocals) and Ricardo Valle (Drums) to form a new band named AZABACHE, all this in the dark years when the Classic Progressive Symphonic bands suffered under that earthquake called Punk and the commercial success of Disco Music.

As any product of that era, their sound is no longer as strong as the the one from the original pioneers of Symphonic neither to the Flamenco or Andaluz Folk oriented Prog, the commercial influences are stronger but still the project had great merit keeping alive the spirit of Progressive Rock in the new Spain.

They were able to release two albums "Dias de Luna" ("Moon Days") in 1979 and "No Gracias" (No Thank You") in 1980, with a moderate success, maybe the problem is that this releases were too soft for the traditional Prog fan used to bands like TRIANA or AZAHAR (More oriented towards the ethnic Andaluz style) but too challenging for the mainstream audience.

If you're a fan of Spanish Symphonic bands with a touch of their exquisite ethnic influence you should give AZABACHE a chance, it's worth.

Iván Melgar Morey - Perú

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AZABACHE discography

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AZABACHE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.28 | 15 ratings
Días De Luna
3.08 | 6 ratings
No, Gracias

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Días De Luna  by AZABACHE album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.28 | 15 ratings

Días De Luna
Azabache Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars A late-70's entry in the Spanish Prog scene, actually somekind of an Azahar offshoot band, featuring Gustavo Ros on keyboards and Uruguayan Jorge Barral on bass.The original line-up included also Daniel Henestrosa on guitar/vocals and Ricardo Valle on drums, their debut ''Diad de luna'' was recorded at the Estudios Sonoland in Coslada with the help of Juan Carlos on strings and flute and was launched in 1979 on Movieplay.

Azabache sound like any other Spanish Prog band of the period, they made strong use of synthesizers and had a special Latin touch on vocals and melodies, they constructed their music with a well-hidden love for Classical Music and semi-symphonic orchestrations, but they existed during the wrong time, because the era did not allow many deep and trully progressive experimentations.The generator of their birth AZAHAR and early MEDINA AZAHARA have strong links to the music of Azabache, which twisted around neurotic synthesizers, sweet piano lines and pretty sharp guitars with sentimental vocals all over the place.Their compositions were pretty good, having an efficient balance between laid-back orchestrations and more emphatic instrumentals with the vocals playing a huge role, but the frequently cheesy-sounding keyboards suck much of the album's pleasure.Additionally they had a fair dose of commercial tunes popping up here and there, either being a chorus or a rockin' theme full of cheap keyboard showering.Fortunately they kept a nice profile throughout the work and most of the tracks sound like split in several mini variations, the band avoids to keep the same tempo for over one minute long and the result was a set of decent pieces with specific moments of instrumental majesty.They were pretty unlucky to operate at the dawn of the 80's, because a different instrumental selection would have made this sound a lot better.

They released one more album in 1980 before disbanding , ''No, gracias'', here Valle was replaced by Hermes Calabria plus singer and flutist Miguel Torres was added to the line-up, this one is said to be even more commercial.Later on Jorge Barral played with Labanda, Calabria became the drummer of the Heavy Metal act Baron Rojo and Gustavo Ros performed with Jan.

A bit cheesy Spanish Prog from the dark years.Some great and fiery instrumentation throughout with a few dramatic interplays, but parts of the vocal delivery and synths are quite mediocre.I found the good stuff though to be more satisfying, so this is considered as recommended.

 No, Gracias by AZABACHE album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.08 | 6 ratings

No, Gracias
Azabache Symphonic Prog

Review by seventhsojourn
Special Collaborator RPI

3 stars On the strength of Azabache's excellent debut album Dias de Luna (1979), I decided to buy its successor No Gracias (1980). In the intervening year between the release of these two albums, Azabache's sound appears to have changed considerably. Gone are virtually all vestiges of the symphonic prog that permeated Dias De Luna. My review of that album highlights a prominent Yes influence that this recording sadly lacks. What we have instead is really not much more than a collection of soft-rock songs. I don't think there's any question of this being a concept album, but there does seem to be some kind of ecological thread running through the disc with song titles such as Smoke And Gases and The World Is About To Explode. The title track, No Thanks, is undoubtedly a protest against nuclear energy. The monochrome album cover reflects this idea and features an industrial landscape, with an inset of a suited businessman caught in crosshairs.

From the credits on the digipack cover it's evident that the band had gone through some personnel changes since the previous album. The nucleus of the band remains in situ, and consists of Gustavo Ros (keys), Daniel Henestrosa (guitars) and Jorge 'Flaco' Barral (bass). They are joined here by Hermes Calabria (drums) and Miguel Torres (flute and viola). Torres also handles virtually all the lead vocals, which contrasts with Dias De Luna where the vocal leads were shared among the band. This helps to give the album a more unified sound, while sacrificing some variety. Ros and Barral handle most of the song writing, although new drummer Calabria chips in with a couple of compositions.

Despite the apocalyptic subject matter, Humos Y Gases (Smoke And Gases) is a generic pop song. Contra El Viento (Against The Wind) is the first of two songs that feature guest backing vocals by The Plaster Chorus Band. Guest percussion player Mingo Rivara also adds some roto-toms on this and a couple of other tracks. Gustavo Ros deploys a wide range of keyboards throughout the album including Mellotron, synthesizer and string ensemble, but none of these instruments can prevent the likes of El Calor De Tu Piel (The Warmth Of Your Skin) sounding like just another standard pop song. Sopa De Mar (Sea Soup) is the first song of any real interest so far on the album. The Plaster Chorus Band features prominently on this song and there are some brief vocal flashes that are reminiscent of the choral effects used by Uriah Heep. There's an instrumental section midway through featuring a Daniel Henestrosa solo on Spanish guitar, accompanied by roto-toms and traditional Spanish percussion. Estar Contigo (Being With You) brings the first half of the album to a pleasant close.

The title track begins gracefully and sounds a bit like Yes with cromoharp and mandolin, both played by Flaco Barral, and acoustic guitar. The mood picks up gradually with the choir joining the band in a chorus of 'No, no quiero energia nuclear'. I don't think you need to be a linguist to get the message here. El Mundo Va A Reventar (The World Is About To Explode) is a catchy rocker that was, I believe, issued as a single in Spain. Por Los Viejos Tiempos (For Old Times) is a sentimental-sounding ballad with a fine guitar solo to finish. The album closes with Cabeza De Test (Head Test), the most progressive piece on the album. It's a two-part song, the first part featuring a plaintive melody and heartfelt vocals. The second part is faster in tempo and almost seems like a new wave song; this new wave influence seems to be a peculiar feature of some Spanish progressive albums of the period.

This album doesn't hold a candle to Dias De Luna; if you are interested in Azabache I would strongly recommend you to start with that album. No Gracias features a very different sound and really isn't very progressive in nature, but with repeated plays it's starting to grow on me. Overall, this is quite a good album with some nice moments so I'll be generous and award it 3 stars.

 Días De Luna  by AZABACHE album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.28 | 15 ratings

Días De Luna
Azabache Symphonic Prog

Review by seventhsojourn
Special Collaborator RPI

4 stars From 1979 comes Azabache's seemingly little-known gem, Dias De Luna. In my opinion this album has been criminally overlooked on PA; only one previous review, and that was posted in July 2005! Azabache hailed from Spain but there is very little distinctly Spanish flavour on the album, although vocals are in their native tongue. The music does however consist of some great light symphonic prog, with a definite Yes influence throughout. Just listen to the guitars and bass to see what I mean. Unlike Yes, there are no 20 minute suites here. The longest track is 7.22... hardly an epic; what you do get is a collection of melodic tracks that blend soothing soundscapes with catchy hooks and riffs. With the exception of the drummer, lead vocals are shared by all band members. Various short sound effects link all the tracks on the album; the sound of gushing water, a car crashing, sounds of a rainforest etc. I'm not always sure how these effects relate to the songs, if at all, but they add to the general ambience.

Cuidado Con La Marisol opens the album. It's a fairly short and simple song; really it's like a pop tune, very upbeat and having a catchy chorus. However it features Mellotron, synth and a nice guitar solo that make it more worthwhile. Los Dias Sin Sol begins with synth and bass, followed by electric guitar and vibes. This intro is slow and has a lovely melody, with strong echoes of Steve Howe and Chris Squire in the guitar and bass. The song then builds into a romantic ballad with heartfelt singing and another catchy chorus. Track 3, Cuando La Luna, is quite dreamy in mood and features some liquid flanged guitar as well as more Steve Howe reflections. Tio Carlos also starts off in atmospheric mood with electric piano, guitar, whispered vocals and a great melodic bass line. The chorus contains falsetto vocals, then the tempo picks up midway with some nice guitar and synth interplay. The song then reverts to the opening theme with synth and vibes, before finishing with a guitar solo and some quacking synth. This is the most symphonic track thus far on the album, and prepares the way for the fantastic second half of the disc.

Algun Dia is the 7.22 focal point on the album. After a rocking intro with Mellotron, synth and electric guitar, the bass and drums provide a groove that is pure Yes. Kickin'! Around the two minute mark things settle with acoustic guitar and vocals. Electric piano and guitar lead to a pitch-bend synth solo and another of those booming Squire-esque bass lines. Further tempo changes ensue before returning to the main theme, and another guitar solo a la Steve Howe then brings the track to a close. Great stuff. Noche De Meigas Galopantes opens with some suitably galloping drums (the title is Night Of The Galloping Witches in English). This is an instrumental track and may be based on a Galician folk melody. It's an exciting, bombastic chase through the night forest with electric guitar and Mellotron playing the first theme, synth and bass then playing the second subject. Solo En Mi Ruta starts off acoustically before developing into a medium tempo rocker. It then goes into an atmospheric section featuring synth pads and tubular bells, played by a guest percussion group from Madrid. We also hear strums on a chromoharp and some brief flute, again played by a guest. The main theme then returns with Mellotron in the background. The album finishes with a short instrumental piece featuring bass and bell-chime electric piano, along with sounds of a rainforest.

This is a great symphonic prog album that undoubtedly deserves a higher profile. I hope I haven't overplayed the Yes influence. Guitars and bass are very reminiscent of Howe and Squire, but vocals are nothing like Jon Anderson. Most of the songs have fairly simple structures; it's not the most complex of music, but the melodies are just so memorable and there are more guitar solos and classic keys than you could shake a large stick at. This is one of my favourite albums to come out of Spain in the late '70s and I recommend it highly to fans of the more song-oriented prog.

 Días De Luna  by AZABACHE album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.28 | 15 ratings

Días De Luna
Azabache Symphonic Prog

Review by erik neuteboom
Prog Reviewer

3 stars As a fan from Spanish flamenco inspired band Azahar I was curious to their offshoot named Azabache. After a first listening session I concluded that the music has echoes from Azahar but more polished and a less Spanish flavored atmosphere. In fact I was a bit disappointed but when I gave it another chance, I started to appreciate it more and more. The compositions sound melodic and often accessible but the arrangements are very tasteful with beautiful colouring of the keyboards (piano, lush strings, short synth soli and guitarwork (some great howling soli). The vocals are disctinctive, sometimes a bit high pitched but they sound warm and inspired. The 'magnum opus' on this CD is the composition "Algun dia" (7.22): lots of changing climates (from mellow acoustic guitars and swinging to bombastic and propulsive with echoes from "The gates of delirium" from Yes), excellent guitar soli (from bluesy and rock to fiery). A WONDERFUL AND ELABORATED PROGROCK GEM FROM SPAIN. By the way, I'm glad that Prog Archives eventually has taken time to include bands like Azabache because they deserve a place on this progrock site more than Talk Talk, Captain Beefheart or Radiohead. And now I'm waiting on Alameda, Diego De Moron, the Malibran DVD, Maury E Y Pronomi, Distilleri Di Malta, Dr. No.....

Thanks to Tony R for the artist addition. and to Ivan_melgar_M for the last updates

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