“A Costa Da Morte” by Mago De Oz

Artist: Mago De Oz
Title: A Costa Da Morte (Coast of Death)
Label: Locomotive Records
Release Date: 11/20/2007
Genre: Progressive Rock/Metal
Rating: 4/5

This live offering from Spain’s Mago De Oz (Wizard of Oz) serves as a great introduction to their more than decade long body of work, a nice way to sample some of the best songs from their expansive studio catalog presented in a well recorded and engaging double CD set.

Describing themselves uniquely as “folk-metal” the band actually goes far past that pigeon-hole by taking giant leaps across many musical genres. If it’s folk at all, it’s the folk of a band like Jethro Tull, in a style that fits comfortably between pastoral pieces like “Living In Past” and the smoking riff-rock of “Locomotive Breath”. The influences fly hard and fast even in the course of a single song, conjuring the likes of Iron Maiden (“Leyenda De La Mancha”), Deep Purple & Dio era Rainbow as well age old gypsy and Galician melodies. Maiden’s influence is particularly evident in this ten member band’s twin lead guitar attack as well as singer José Andrea’s frequent forays into stratospheric vocal ranges which approximate Bruce Dickinson or “Burn” era David Coverdale. It was not strange to learn that the group was originally called Transilvania in honor of the Iron Maiden instrumental and have covered “Strange World” for Nuclear Blast’s Tribute to the Beast, Volume 2.

The lyrical content and between song banter may be lost on non Spanish speakers but most of the songs, sporting titles like “The Holy Grail”, “Pagan Festival”, “Dance of Fire”, “The Legend of La Mancha”, carry the listener along quite nicely without the need for immediate lyrical cognition. Many tracks are in the 6-7 minute range and give the band plenty of room to stretch out but each tune has its own inherent arrangement and we are never subjected to mindless or monotonous soloing for shred’s sake. Some extended instrumental sections have the ring of 70’s progressive bands like Focus and Prog fans will likely enjoy the classically inspired bits as the fiddle and flute players spin filigree of notes over whirling dervish speed tempos. This set even includes a lovely rendition of Kansas’s “Dust In the Wind” sung in Spanish and here titled “Pensando En Ti” (Thinking About You).

One must remember when hearing the “influences” in Mago’s music that much of the folk structure is coming directly from the source of its origin. For instance, the Moorish underpinnings of a track like “Astaroth” (which will remind you of Zep’s “Kashmir” & Rainbow’s “Stargazer”) are built on scales and motifs originally appropriated from Mago De Oz’s homeland. So, like modern day Bartok’s, the band returns the favor and continues the cycle by sending those melodic idioms back our way with an added nod to their favorite Brit metal bands, thereby completing a tail swallowing musical Ouroboros. Mago De Oz also brings a handful of special spices to this stew (paella?) by adding a pinch of afro/Latin rhythm to the indo-Celtic rock flavor in tunes like “Santo Compana” and quite honestly I would have enjoyed even more of those asides and breakdowns.

Though all this may sound like a hodgepodge of disparate musical pieces Mago De Oz cohesively encompasses most of these styles with great facility and very few missteps. While “Hijo Del Blues” (“Son of the Blues”) from Mago’s first, self-titled, album (1994) is probably the least successful of the included tracks in it’s attempt to meld Chuck Berry style 50’s rock with Scottish Reels and Irish Jigs, their later effort “Rescosix En Hispania” totally succeeds at the same task forging Celtic reels, heavy guitar chords & huge hunks of Bach into a strong multi-vocalist set piece.

The set has a well-mixed live feel without too much arena rock ambience. The sound staging sits you approximately between the band and the audience The enthusiastic crowd sings along and gladly fills in lyrics for singer Andrea during one of their more popular tunes “Molinas De Viento” which is one of a quartet of powerful performances that open the first disc. The fans also gleefully join in on the chanted Latin mass prayer at the center of “El Fin Del Camino” (“End of the Road”). The later song is the final “it is accomplished” tune on Mago’s magnum opus/rock opera “Jesus De Chamberi” (1996). This work that takes a modern look at the passion of Christ, and joins Mago thematically to their countrymen Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali by taking a jaundiced glance at Spain’s particular brand of Catholicism (as in “You never expected the Spanish inquisition”). The band also dips into songs from their 1998 song cycle updating Cevantes’ “Don Quixote De La Mancha” and their year 2000 double CD Finisterra (World’s End) which incorporates local Galician legends of Pagan and early Christian origin into a futuristic tale of good versus evil.

Overall I found A Costa De Morte to be a thoroughly enjoyable musical excursion of a couple of hours with many tracks that will bear repeated listens to truly reveal their full breadth and scope. Though I still have a soft spot for the Rainbow Rising aura of the studio version of “Astaroth” most of the performances on this live package clearly eclipse their original versions, and even previous live versions, in energy as well as performance technique. It is an exceptional primer to the work of Mago De Oz and an entertaining catalyst for further exploration of their catalog as well as the multitude of styles they present.

Track Listing:
1. Intro Gazza Lladro
2. El Santo Grial
3. Molinos De Viento
4. El Que Quiera Entendre
5. Santa Compana
6. El Fin Del Camino
7. Hasta Que El Cuerpo Aguante
8. La Insula De Barataria
9. Pensando en Ti
10. hijo De Blues
11. La Leyenda De La Mancha
12. Maritornes
13. Astaroth
14. Jesus De Chamberi
15. Resacosix En Hispania
16. Satania
17. Txus Presenta
18. La Danza Del Fuego
19. Fiesta Pagana
20. Despedida (Ancha Es Castilja)

Official Web Site: http://www.magodeoz.com/

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