Baron Rojo - 'Volumen Brutal' / 'Metalmorfosis'

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Baron Rojo - 'Volumen Brutal' / 'Metalmorfosis'

Enjoy a classic throwback to the 1980s.

It's clearly inaccurate to describe Baron Rojo as a NWOBHM band – being Spanish – but their style, influences and popularity are intrinsically linked to that movement. In the early 1980s, album sales in the millions lead to some huge live performances including the Reading Festival alongside Iron Maiden, Twisted Sister and many others.

This pair of re-issues from the Cherry Red label are probably the two most successful – two chunks of pure Metal before changes in line-up and some experimenting with their sound saw interest and sales begin to slide. Driven by the twin guitars of brothers Armando and Carlos de Castro, the band produced a mix of Classic Rock and Heavy Metal, ably supported by rhythm section of Jose Luiz Campuzano, bass and Hermes Calabria on drums.

'Volumen Brutal' ('Brutal Volume') was released in two versions – Spanish and English vocals with Bruce Dickinson being credited with assisting the translation and vocal phrasing with the aim of making the album more acceptable than the Spanish only debut; it's a move that proved worthwhile with over two million copies sold worldwide. This release is the original Spanish only, not that it should detract in any way from the music on offer

'Incomunicacion' ('Incommunication') starts things off with some classic Metal riffing from the de Castro brothers with Carlos also handling vocals and a killer lead break. 'Los Rockeros Van Al Infierno' ('Rockers Go To Hell') is more mid-paced with the vocal duties being shared around and Campuzano proves to be equally adept. But like the full-on Metal pace of the pounding rhythms of 'Las Flores Del Mar' ('The Flowers Of The Sea'), every song is packed full of gritty attitude and power making the understanding of the vocal (to most of us) irrelevant. There's little let up all the way through until the finale of 'El Baron Vuela Sobre Inglaterra' (The Baron Flies Over England') reminds us of the type of instrumental that Maiden produced in their own early days.

1983's 'Metalmorfosis' ('Metalmorphosis') was a fine follow-up, although a little more melody and a little less Metal than its predecessor, lacking quite the same intense consistency. 'Siempre Estas Alli' (You're Always There') is a heavy ballad and 'Hiroshima' a near seven minute epic tale. You can see that the band are trying to develop their writing with longer, more ambitious songs to good effect, but at the same time that spark of magic that got them noticed is beginning to slip. 'Metalmorfosis' remains a solid album, but not special enough to really stand out above the plethora of bands that had emerged by that time.

Nevertheless, this pair make a fine couple of re-issues, packed with strong tunes and backed up with comprehensive notes and interviews in each package. Ultimately the language issue certainly contributed to BR's decline with fewer fans likely to be attracted to the band. But these early albums celebrate their own enthusiasm and the huge influence and inspiration they provided to Spanish Metal and indeed the Spanish speaking areas of South America.

If you are not familiar with Baron Rojo, ignore any concerns and just enjoy a classic throwback to the 1980s and remember that with figures in the millions, these albums are good enough to have achieved the sort of sales that most bands today would kill for.

Ian Parry

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