This immaculate shore

Cóndor | Nadiaco | 2013

“Because […] many would not write for a single person, as this is hard work, and one would want […] to be compensated. Not with money, but with people beholding and reading the work, which is, if possible, followed by praise. And of this thesis Cicero says: “honour creates the arts”.
Who thinks that the soldier who is at the top of the ladder cherishes more hatred for being alive? Certainly, this is not so: [it is] rather the will to be praised that makes him put himself in harm’s way; in the arts and letters, it is much the same.”
– Anonymous, Lazarillo de Tormes, 1554.

A review by Degtyarov


When in 2008 the Russians named, through the boundless and sacred power of the vote, politician Pyotr Stolypin their all-time second-greatest countryman after slayer of Swedes Alexander Nevsky, it seemed as though the people of this great nation possessed a healthy view of their own history. However, it is generally assumed that the vote was rigged in order to prevent the national embarassment that would have ensued had Georgian and paranoid mass-murderer Josif Stalin been declared the winner (uncle Koba came in third). After all, Stolypin may be venerated by the Russian elite, but to the populace he is somewhat of an obscure figure. It goes to show that, as great as democracy may sound in concept, the ever-present temptation of falsifying the results for the greater good of man reflects this system’s intrinsic inclination towards the retarded. Any attempt to herald the grand democratic project as the summum of millennia of political evolution should thus be met with a deaf ear.

If we were to look for an equivalent in metal of Stolypin’s admiration by a select few, we would have little choice but to gaze into the general direction of Cóndor. This relatively new formation has its roots in Colombia (and not Columbia, you geographically oblivious half-wit), and it has so far released one album, Nadia (2013). At the time of writing this review, though, the second full-length – Duin – is to be released in a matter of days. In any case, Cóndor might not even make it onto the shortlist of greatest Colombian metal bands if it were up to a popular vote, but those who have delved into their small but stunning oeuvre would have no qualms about manipulating the results in their favour.

As it stands now, Cóndor is still among the most obscure of bands: while the reviewers who have thus far covered their modest discography are unequivocal in their praise, among the general metal audience they have yet to make the waves ascribed to them by said laudations. The answer as to why they have yet to catch their ‘big break’ can be derived from the most important conclusions of the afore-mentioned reviews. First and foremost, the Colombian quartet produces music that requires patience and dedication before it is fully appreciated. Cóndor develops its compositions in such a way that the inaugural tones of any of their songs are only fully understood once the final notes have been played, thus asking a good bit of backtracking on the listener’s end. Secondly, the faster you stop expecting Cóndor to move into a particular direction, the sooner you will start appreciating their all-encompassing compositions. Indeed, their debut album Nadia is a metal album above everything else, and trying to capture it within the confines of a specific subgenre will leave you disillusioned. Sure, there are elements of death metal, as well as doom metal and even a hint of prog-rock. But as soon as you try to capture Cóndor in any one of those terms, Antonio Espinosa’s compositions will remorselessly sway you into the exact opposite direction. The key to understanding Cóndor is appreciating their music for what it is – a sophisticated blend of all that which makes metal worth listening to. So set free your expectations and prejudices like the band’s eponymous bird, and you are in for quite the journey.

caballero2

Speakers of Spanish will also want to take note of the truly excellent lyrics featured in Cóndor‘s work. Nadia is themed around the mission of finding national identity in Colombia, this tierra de nadie (no man’s land) that is the New World. The eloquence with which this theme is formulated lays bare the poetic mind of lyricist Francisco Fernández. For instance, on the titular opening track, the singer exclaims: “Oh, terrible gods of yesteryear / Why have you forsaken me in this no man’s land? / Why have [I] arrived at this immaculate shore / To invent homelands under the guidance of the stars?” [1]. Later, in the song “Lector in Fabula”, Fernández invokes the forest trope, likening the chaotic, hostile nature of this environment to the unstable path of the Colombian nation towards its own national genius [2]: “Like our spirits we traverse / The black labyrinths of the forest. / Feral, insufficient, extensive / [Is] Our obscure immensity.” [3]

Cóndor‘s identitary contemplations come at an interesting time for those Westerners who feel the borderless world proponed by the internationalism of the European Union, NATO and other such jolly organisations is starting to crumble. Simultaneously to Colombia and other Spanish-American nations who are trying to unearth their identity from the intricate plexus of cultural, racial and political ramifications bestowed upon them by historical reality, Europeans are currently struggling to rediscover themselves amid the tensions brought forth by the attempted abolition of the nation-state model. As such, much of the lyrical content on Nadia is directly applicable to the situation Europeans find themselves in when they question what the frontiers of their respective countries represent in this day and age.

Let it be known though, that, regardless of political implications, the lyrics of Fernández above all contribute towards the contemplative, poetic nature of Nadia as a whole. Moreover, the geniality of Cóndor is such that the lyric by indigenous poet Jorge Gaitán Durán, lifted for the track “No pudo la muerte vencerme” (Eng. “Death was unable to conquer me”), appears in no way out-of-place when juxtaposed against the band’s own texts, and indeed its art at large; the music fully absorbs the content of this poem, making its words the property of the band as much as the person who originally penned them.

“The key to understanding Cóndor is appreciating the music for what it is.”

Taking into account how eruditely Cóndor went about creating its debut, it is mind-boggling for this 26-year-old and slightly intoxicated reviewer that the band members are still in their early twenties. In Holland, we have a phrase that dictates “wisdom comes with the years”, but given how after one album these youngsters already prove to be in possession of more astuteness than a lot of metal bands have emanated throughout their entire career, we are at liberty to cast at least a few doubts over this piece of rural Dutch insight. Needless to say, the expectations for their soon-to-be-released follow-up Duin are sky-high. Let us hope this brand-new full-length will not be ignored by a bigger audience.

Staying on the topic of big audiences, while the innumerable end-of-year list abominations are already borderline insufferable, some publications even insist on compiling them in a democratic fashion. For the benefit of the metal scene as a whole, it might be worth entertaining the thought of manipulating the results of such sensationalist polls next time around. After all, the metal scene would ultimately benefit more from acquainting itself with the transcendent sagacity of Cóndor‘s efforts than jumping on the bandwagon of vulgarity that some metal publications – which shall respectfully remain unnamed – appear to be driving forward year after year. The Great Purge of mediocrity cannot come soon enough…


Nadia

Cóndor

Cóndor - Nadia

1. Nadia (8:39)
2. Lector in Fabula (7:04)
3. Aurë entuluva (9:21)
4. Éowyn (9:21)
5. No pudo la muerte vencerme (5:41)
6. El roble será mi trono eterno (10:21)

Total time: 43 minutes

Notes:
[1] Original Spanish text:
“Ay, Nefastos Dioses de Antaño!
Por qué me abandonasteis en esta tierra de Nadie?
Para qué llegar a esta orilla virgen
A inventar patrias bajo la guía de los astros?”

[2] A reference to Ernesto Giménez Caballero’s idea that each nation should aspire towards its own synthesis, whereby politics, culture and everyday life are all aligned with the national spirit. Read his work Arte y Estado (1935) for a more profound exploration of this idea.

[3] Original Spanish text:
“Negros laberintos del bosque
Recorremos como nuestro espíritu.
Salvaje, insuficiente, extenso,
Oscura inmensidad nuestra.”

All translations from Spanish by Degtyarov. Do notify us on the off-chance that he has inexplicably messed up.

About degtyarov (121 Articles)
Molotov cocktail in the face of music whorenalism.

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