A new Mägo de Oz album can only mean one thing: party time! So let’s follow them down that yellow brick road and see what’s going on.
Mägo de Oz is one of those bands you either love or hate. There doesn’t seem a middle road when it comes to these Spanish folk metallers. Just about everything they release tends to be over the top, big, bold and bordering on overwrought. A Mägo de Oz record is a masterclass in excess, and this troupe revels in it. Having created a niche for themselves with their particular brand of Spanish-language celtic folk metal, they are revered in Spanish-language countries and basically unknown outside of them. What doesn’t help this band is that they stubbornly and proudly refuse to pander to English music fans insofar that there isn’t even an English-language option on their website. All the lyrics are in Spanish, all communication is in Spanish and unless you speak it, you won’t have a clue as to what’s going on. I understand why some people give up on the band altogether because of that, but I’ll be damned if they’re not missing out on some splendid music, big stage shows and, just because they can, a guy in a dancing penis superhero costume at the end of those. It’s infantile and infectious at the same time and they get away with it because they have the musical chops to pull it all off.
If I’m correct, Ira Dei is the band’s thirteenth studio album and it once again is a double album. Counting two CD’s or three vinyl records, Ira Dei is jam-packed with ninety-five minutes of music and that’s a lot to handle, especially when you can make heads nor tails from the Spanish titles, none of which tend to stick. I gather it’s another concept album, this time having something to do with religion, and it would seem it’s a sequel of some sorts to their second effort Jesús de Chamberí from 1996. As far as the lyrical content goes, that’s all I’m able to divulge. Let’s dig into the music instead. Ira Dei counts a whopping eighteen songs, sprawled onto two discs, each with its own musical intro. As always, the band starts out with an orchestral opening to the proceedings, complete with horns and choirs to let you know you’re in for something good. Jerusalem D.C. is followed by the proper opening track In Eternum, and it’s all you could ask for from a Mägo de Oz songs. Pounding drums, metal riffing, flutes, violins, high-pitched metal vocals; it’s all right there. They even managed to sneak some Dvořák and Vivaldi into the solos before it turns into an Irish jig to round things up. That’s everything including the kitchen sink right there.
As renowned for their riveting album openers, so too are they for their epic closers, and Ira Dei’s seventeen minute long closing track does not disappoint in that respect. It’s no Atlantia and it sure as hell isn’t as magnificent as La Cantata del Diablo – Missit me Dominus from 2005’s Gaia II: La Voz Dormida (which they will never top when it comes to sheer awesomeness), but it’s a damned good, multi-faceted song that ticks all the right boxes. Beginning with a church organ and a guitar intro that paints an almost Ennio Morricone-like picture, the songs builds and builds through choir parts, orchestration and multi-part vocals into a rollicking metal song in three parts, each of them marked by a keyboard flurry straight out of a Super Mario game and with big folk parts layered on top of that. It never reaches the dizzying heights of La Canata del Diablo, but it’s a massive epic in its own right and a perfect closure to an album that’s big in every aspect.
In between those two tracks, there’s plenty to enjoy too and there’s more than an hour left of it too. Herein lies both the curse and the blessing of Mägo de Oz albums. There is so much to take in, and while most of it ranges from good to outstanding, there is certainly some fluff on Ira Dei (and in fact every album these guys release). For example, I’m not exactly sure what the purpose of something like Opera Mortis is, where Patricia Tapia works her way through Nessun Dorma from
the Manowar album Warriors of the World Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot opera. The same goes for the instrumental track Infinitum, which is a cover version of the main theme from the video game series Trine. Although wonderfully done, it sort of breaks the pace. Also a bit lacking is the following El séptimo sello, especially when jammed in between Infinitum and the closing track. Cut those three tracks from Ira Dei and you’ve lost ten minutes of lesser music whilst being well on the way to a long single album release instead of an overlong double album.
On the other hand, this is par for the course for Mägo de Oz and somehow it adds to the infectious party vibe they’re obviously going for. There’s a definite sense of raucous fun to these records which is in part accomplished by just throwing everything in there and releasing a collection of songs as eclectic as they come. Ira Dei packs a number of fun party tracks like Tequila tanto por vivir, Y que nunca te falte un “Te quiero” and the joyously Irish La triste historia de Jimmy “Tiro en el pie” which gives Flogging Molly a run for their money. Elsewhere, there’s a wonderful ballad in Espera en el cielo and Patricia Tapia gets a chance to shine in the wonderful Ciudad Esmeralda. You’ve got your heavier metal on Suspiria or La cantiga de las brujas (including some death metal grunts sprinkled throughout), traditional/power metal on stuff like the aforementioned In Eternum and a few more radio-friendly hitters like the single Te traeré el horizonte. It’s varied, it’s eclectic and for the most part it works.
Ira Dei, like most other Mägo de Oz albums, is an overlong, at times overwrought, warts and all release. Some songs work better than others, but by throwing it all into the melting pot they have once again released an album that somehow, feels like a live album sans the crowd. It’s a big, loud party with a couple of built-in moments where you can pop off to the loo or get a drink for yourself and your Spanish speaking buddies. Turn the volume up enough and you might even be enticed to sing or shout along on more than one occasion. Ira Dei is a joyful, fun album and as infectious as the Spanish flu was in 1918.
Label: Warner Music Spain, 2019
- Jerusalem D.C. (03:15)
- In Eternum (09:01)
- El amor brujo (05:55)
- Tu funeral (05:16)
- Ciudad Esmeralda (04:35)
- Tequila tanto por vivir (03:48)
- Te traeré el horizonte (04:45)
- Opera Mortis (02:42)
- La cantiga de las brujas (05:54)
- Espera en el cielo (05:51)
- Opus Tenebrae (00:57)
- Suspiria (04:08)
- Y que nunca te falte un “Te quiero” (03:46)
- Bajo mi piel (04:31)
- La triste historia de Jimmy “Tiro en el pie” (05:08)
- Infinitum (04:15)
- El séptimo sello (04:09)
- Ira Dei (17:57)
- Txus di Fellatio – drums
- Carlos Prieto ‘Mohamed’ – violin
- Juan Carlos Marín ‘Carlitos’ – lead guitar
- Francisco Gómez de la Serna ‘Frank’ – rhythm guitar
- Patricia Tapia – backing vocals
- José Manuel Pizarro ‘Josema’ – transverse flute, bagpipes, galician gaita, castilian whistle, irish whistle, bodhran
- Javi Díez – keyboards, synthesizers, accordion, rhythm guitar
- Fernando Mainer – bass guitar
- Javier Domínguez ‘Zeta’ – vocals
Review by Ralph Plug