Release: 17 November 2023
Cabrakaän is a five-member symphonic folk metal band from Toluca, Mexico… just outside of Mexico City in the heart of what was once the Aztec empire. This is where they draw a lot of inspiration for their songs. Aztlán is their third album and second composed primarily in Spanish. They are aggressively proud of their heritage: Aztlán is a “place of whiteness” or “place of herons” in Aztec Mexico, and their intro video on YouTube talks about their inspiration drawing from indigenous and colonial forces in Mexico to add context to the album. I’d urge listeners to check out their video for Mictlán, as it shows off some impressive makeup and costuming.
I’m glad the music comes from a desire to share their culture with the world, but let’s talk about the music itself. It’s equal parts folk, operatic, and metal. The first few tracks are big, bombastic, and epic. There are surprising changes in “Fuego” and “Tlaloc”, and “Fuego” features some harsh vocals a little after the three-minute mark. The lead singer, Patrizia Cuikäni, has a warm tone that really makes these songs stand out. “Luces y Sombras” is the weak one: lots of epic excitement in the beginning before the action is pushed to the background. The sung melody lacks the energy and range of some of the other tracks. “Malintzin” commits the same crimes, but introduces harsh vocals back into the mix. “Mictlan”, mentioned earlier, sports a music video that shows off the band and its vibrant aesthetics, and the song is pretty.
The last two tracks slow down and wind down to the album’s closing. “Yolot” (“Heart”, as best as I can tell) is the embodiment of pretty. There’s a break to some folk instruments, and even the harsh lyrics are slower. “Xochitl” is slower still and shows off the vocalist’s range and vibrato. It’s warm and pretty. We close out with a cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “La Cigarra” where Patrizia shows off some energy and feeling that some of the earlier tracks could’ve used.
For us English speakers, the album also has English versions of “Mictlan”, “Fuego”, and “Luces y Sombras”. The English version of “Fuego” is my favorite song of the album. It’s got a memorable refrain and all the bombastic excitement and well-written folk metal dynamics. It’s absolutely worth seeking out.
I could easily write a sizable essay about all the topics I’ve learned listening and researching this album, from the tests of Mictlan to the very interesting life of Malintzin. If that, or any anthropology in general, is something that piques your curiosity, definitely check this out. If you’re looking for a solid operatic, folk metal experience, that’s here as well. Cheers!
- Luces y Sombras
- La Cigarra
- Mictlán (English Version)
- Fuego (English Version)
- Luces y Sombras (English Version)