“Our best album in terms of naturalness, The sea does not stop; the best in terms of freshness and immediacy, Trails of betrayal; the best when it comes to creative madness, The spirit of the wine; and the best in terms of punch, Avalanche”. Pedro Andreu, drums of Héroes del Silencio, goes off on a tangent when we ask him what his favorite album of the quartet is. And the truth is that the analysis is correct. The Zaragoza quartet separated 25 years ago, in 1996 (then, in 2007, they reunited for a tour of only 10 concerts), abruptly, when they were creatively alive. This week a book has been published, Heroes of legend (Penguin Random House), the history of the group written by Antonio Cardiel, brother of the band’s bassist, Joaquín Cardiel. Next week (April 23) a documentary will be released on Netflix, Heroes: Silence and rock & roll, directed by Alexis Morante, and its corresponding soundtrack.
In their 12 years of life, Héroes del Silencio released four full-length studio albums, none of them weak, perhaps the first (The sea does not stop, 1988) is less good. The other three shine at a great level: Trails of betrayal (1990), The spirit of wine (1993) and Avalanche (nineteen ninety five). The guitarist, Juan Valdivia, chooses for this newspaper the one he enjoys the most: “Trails of betrayal, because it sounds nice. Several things came together: a good engineer, a good producer and good communication between the members of the group ”.
This work opens with the two great classics of the quartet, both songs by right among the anthems of Spanish pop-rock. Between two lands, with the sound architecture of Valdivia and a letter about confrontation and betrayals. This was the first song in Castilian that the Germans sang loudly without knowing a word of Spanish. Over the years, even that “don’t be a quince” doesn’t squeak. The disc continues with Damn Goblin, a halftime whose lyrics are still the subject of discussion among the group’s followers. The most widespread theory is that it deals with the effects of psychotropic substances (“and this room does not stop waning”) and its subsequent hangover (“it dawns so early and I’m so lonely, and I don’t regret yesterday”) .
Also from Trails of betrayal it is The letter, a letter will be directed by the vocalist to his father. A letter with his reproaches: “I have always listened and I no longer believe you. / Because I do not understand you, because you are so far away.” Regarding the lyrics, we asked Fernando del Val for an opinion, who has studied them in detail to shape his book. The Bunbury method (Difácil, 2020), where appropriations of various poets are discovered. “The songs of Héroes del Silencio I don’t think they have any message. The variety of authors within, often contradictory, makes their interpretation impossible. But still its appeal comes from incoherence. An extreme case is The right spark. In it the curse of El Ángel, the sensuality of Neruda, the commitment of Benedetti and the darkness of Arrabal coexist. It looks like a mess. Could there be more different aesthetics? They are almost incompatible. So, beyond concrete verses, I don’t think there is anything to understand. Even so, this lack of meaning has proven to be a virtue, facilitating free interpretation ”.
Heroes of Silence: the glory and the traumatic end of a groundbreaking group
Prayer it turns out brilliant, with beautiful guitar arpeggios from Valdivia, and anticlerical lyrics from Bunbury. Perhaps more against priests than against the Catholic religion. In the early 1990s, the singer showed an interest in Orientalism, which probably accentuated his rejection of the Catholicism instilled in his home. Prayer closes with the most dramatic Bunbury, howling “no, no, no!” In his unstoppable artistic search, the vocalist had met Mar Otra Vez, a very personal Spanish band whose singer, Javier Corcobado, was probably fascinated. This tendency of hers to chant tragic is very Corcobadian.
The first letters of the group are naive compared to those that emerge from the second album. It is at that moment when Bunbury’s artistic ambition grows and he seeks to strengthen the texts. Out to sea belongs to that first stage, a song of love and passion that Bunbury presented live as “oral sex”. From the first album it is also The pond, where Valdivia dazzles again: the song could be perfectly instrumental; in fact, the voice does not enter for two minutes. Another circumstance that confirms the specials that were Heroes of Silence.
The spirit of wine It was their most ambitious and complex album, a double work that according to some members of the group would have been better reduced by songs. There it is included The wound, in which Bunbury deals with the relationship between him and Juan Valdivia, formerly friends, now at odds. “What about two friends when they seem lost after all and prefer others?” Intons Bunbury. Our names Y Appearance is not sincere they perfectly represent the concept of this third album: long songs (six and seven minutes), with intricate structures and complex lyrics (even more so). On Appearance is not sincere there is a guitar solo that many top guitar players would kill for.
Avalanche it is the most rocker work of the quartet. It was produced by Bob Ezrin, a guy they respect, someone who has worked with Alice Cooper, Kiss, Lou Reed or Pink Floyd. It is the first time that the group has submitted its criteria to debate. Ezrin suggests ideas, changes structures, argues with the quartet. There is tension and fights, but the result is spectacular. Avalanche it’s the best album grunge in Spanish. It opens with a one-minute ambient piece they call Drift. Then it explodes Wheel of fortune! a fast and heavy song. Juan Valdivia’s work is sensational, with a stylized and aggressive solo almost at the end in which the musician shows why he is one of the best guitarist in Spanish rock.
Also from Avalanche it is Opium, which apparently narrates the hallucinogenic effects caused by this plant. “The most trivial things become fundamental.” There is one of the stanzas that quotes The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Bosco: “Splinters of air, indecipherable arcane. / In the garden of my delights I belong to the breeze.” Complete the list of our twelve essential Heroes Submerged Iberia, same title of a book by Gabriel Celaya, and Bunbury’s critique of the last government of Felipe González.
The idea of a meeting to record new songs always haunts the huge core of the band’s fans. Perhaps what drives them is something impossible to achieve: the memory of what a group as different as it was essential in the nineties.
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