When Anthrax and Public Enemy teamed up for their version of “Bring the Noise”, I think most people didn’t it as the future of music. At best, I saw it as a novelty act pretty good novelty idea. And then came the Judgment Night soundtrack, an entire album that teamed metal bands up with rock acts. Some of them seemed a bit forced (House of Pain and Helmet comes to mind) while others of them like Onyx and Biohazard began actually laying down the groundwork for a new genre of music that is still popular today – the rap/rock genre.
Those early beginnings opened doors and inspired even more bands to mix their own musical tastes into unique musical mixtures. Sepultura was probably one of the most famous of those, mixing elements of their native South American tribal sounds in with heavy music, creating “Roots,” one of the most interesting and heavy albums of the 1990’s. Another band that has pulled elements from their eclectic background and mixed it with heavy rock is Puya.
Puya’s latest studio album, Union, couldn’t have come at a better time. Nu-metal (God, I hate that term) is beginning to get stale. Anytime music develops a “formula,” it’s nice to have a band come along and break up the monotony.
For those not familiar with their work, Puya has developed a sound that mixes a fairly heavy metal onslaught with the latin sounds of their homeland. I don’t think anyone will confuse Puya with Ricky Ricardo anytime soon, but the salsa influence IS there and present on every track on the disc.
The best part of Puya’s sound is that it doesn’t sound forced. It actually sounds like four latin guys rockin’ hard and letting their background shine through. So many metal bands nowadays sound like they used to be a metal band, they recorded as a metal band, and in post production someone layed down a bunch of DJ scratching sounds over the top of their songs. Not so with Puya – from the drums to the bass to the guitars to the vocals, everything here feels integrated.
The disc opens up with “Ride,” a catchy song that shows off some of their funky latin grooves as well as a blast of tuned down guitars and screaming vocals through the chorus. As a new fan of Puya, I was a little turned off by the lead singer yelling, “this is the Puya / comin’ straight to ya,” over and over through the song, but it grows on you. I’m not a big fan of simple rhyming – “this is the Puya / and we say Booya” would have also been annoying, as well as “this is the Puya / I’d like to do ya” or “I’m gonna goo ya” or even “a cow can moo ya.” All of a sudden, “comin’ straight to ya” doesn’t seem so annoying.
Much like Sepultura’s classic Roots album, Puya’s Union takes some twists and turns down different musical alleys, but always ends back on rock road. The production on the disc is top notch, as are the musicians. In Erizo, the band first delivers heavy licks and Spanish growls, then migrates into a latin tribal groove, before coming back full circle to kick more ass. If nothing else, the music is interesting – the changes interweaving back and forth are done well and never bore or confuse the listener.
Did he say Spanish growls? Yes, that’s right. Some of the album is in Spanish, but the more I listen to it, the less I seem to mind. To me it again draws the Sepultura or even a Brujeria comparison, to where the music grooves so much and rocks so hard that a lot of the time I don’t really care what they’re singing about – and if you do, the lyric sheet has both Spanish and English lyrics printed. No more typing stuff into Altavista’s Babelfish to translate lyrics!
Union is a perfect title for this disc – it’s the perfect union of two styles of music that you wouldn’t normally consider mixing. For metal heads around the globe, hopefully this also represents the union between record stores and their cash! Puya have released a top quality disc that’s certainly worth a spin – whether you know how to mamba or not.
7. Si Aja
8. No Interference
10. Matter Of Time
11. Pa’ Ti Pa’ Mi