Spanish Excalibur started kicking it around in the early 80s no less, but around mid-90s decided to give up the ghost. For some reasons, known only to Excalibur members themselves, they decided to resurrect the band after more than a decade of dormancy. I guess this speaks in equal parts to dogged persistence and outright stubbornness. I guess they didn't want to give up that ghost after all. Or maybe they are still chasing the everlasting dream ...
Humo Negro shows that whatever dreams Excalibur have left are still stuck way back in the last two decades of the previous century. In some ways the album reminded me a little of Dark Moor's first album, Shadowland, or even more exactly the Dreams of Madness and Flying demos which preceded it. But if Dark Moor proceeded to refine it from Shadowlands and beyond, Excalibur remain grounded on Humo Negro. Spaniards love their soccer, so let me use a soccer analogy. With their power metal symphonics Dark Moor tried to become fancy Real Madrid, while Excalibur stayed workmanlike Getafe. They must believe that beauty lies in naïveté, but at times they simply display way too much of it.
Most of the album relies on simple, rhythmic palm muted riffing gallops, with periodic and way too obvious synth touches (Excalibur, El indigente). Paco Mira's voice is mostly passionate proclamations, joined by some gang support here and there. Mixing wise it is way up front, but it never reaches or even attempts super high notes. The music like this needs massive, gigantic hooks, and eponymous Excalibur and title track have them. El indigente and Fuera de lugar, despite some strange phrasing (the whole album is sung in Spanish), have them as well. Rock and Roll slips into almost ridiculous heavy metal cliche, but at least flourishing solo saves it. Europa and Fiesta motera, however, despite Fiesta motera turning in some lounge piano sounds, are way too bland. Attractions are simply missing here, unlike Fuego, which is probably just as cliche, but at least it has heroic epic sounding hooks. When Excalibur wants to be a little slower, they sound almost San Remo festival like (I know, this is Spain, not Italy), until bass guitar penetrates to create spine for the acoustics, as is the case in Levantate.
If you are a historian of heavy metal, or simply like many bands Shadow Kingdom Records uncovers, Humo Negro is a perfect addition. For lovers of anything more sophisticated, even if you are a true power/heavy metal devotee, the album may come off as too unvarnished and almost primitive. It is, however, honest, and probably illustrates bandmembers true beliefs.
Alex quoted 69 / 100
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