Review Summary: It's harder, darker edges add flair to their nearly danceable, hyperactive acoustic-latin-metal-whatchamacallit style. Rodrigo y Gabriela have perfected their sound with 11:11.
Some people have taken issue with how to classify Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela's music. Acoustic-flamenco-progressive-latin-metal? Maybe. They certainly aren't playing flamenco, but it sure does have a similar rhythmic vibe and danceable quality. In any case, those attempts at classification are just meant to give Rodrigo y Gabriela virgins an idea of what their music sounds like. With 11:11 they expand on their unique style, bringing the album experience closer to their awesome live experience with crystal clear production. Some tastefully added studio effects and brief guest spots help round out the experience.
As with the previous albums, they aren't shy about revealing their inspirations. The album's liner notes reveal who each song is dedicated to. The list ranges from rock legends such as Jimi Hendrix to latin-jazz players such as Michel Camilo to the Hindu solar deity Shakti. One welcome change is that this time they don't honor their heroes with a single cover (as fantastic as they were on previous occasions), instead offering us eleven original tracks.
The album opens with a rocking riff and two things are immediately apparent: Gabriela's rhythm playing is as fast and as pounding as ever, and Rodrigo's leads still dance playfully from riff to riff. But now more than in their previous albums, their hard-rock/metal side breaks though with harder edged riffs and ominous melodic passages. The track Buster Voodoo is built around a riff which could have been written by Jimi Hedrix had he just had a three-way with Rodrigo and Gabriela.
They've mastered their ability to mix their heavy side with their latin-jazz style. A single song can weave in, out, and through a variety of moods and styles while still feeling cohesive. The track Hora Zero is one such example (out of many). It starts with a quirky staccato riff which playfully mocks the listener, not giving any clues as to where the song is going. About halfway through the song we hit a dark interlude aided by some wah-wah which cleverly builds back to the quirky staccato, and finally climaxes with heavy riffing.
It's no surprise that the heaviest song, Atman, is dedicated to Dimebag Darrel (from metal band Pantera). The song is introduced by its preceding track Chac Mool, a slow and somber piece which may be mourning Dimebag's tragic death. It kicks into Atman, guitars shredding to what sounds like a cross between middle-eastern melodies and eastern European folk music. If you added distorted guitars you would a have a fast paced, melt your face metal song. Actually, they do, with the inclusion of a fitting overdriven electric guitar solo by Alex Skolnik (from the influential metal band Testament).
The album's atmospheric closer, 11:11, is a great way to unwind after the whirlwind that was Atman. Both guitarists play softly and melodiously, working up to a nice chugging riff before fading away to a soft piano. As it plays its last notes I feel Rodrigo y Gabriela have finally figured out how to write a cohesive album where you can hear an undercurrent of inspiration that ties the songs together. The frequent references to Hindu culture and mythology are just a part of this through-line which weaves parts of the album together.
The album starts off strong and finishes stronger. It never lets up, finding the appropriate moments to take a breather and gather its energy. It's harder, darker edges add flair to their nearly danceable, hyperactive acoustic-latin-metal-whatchamacallit style. Rodrigo y Gabriela have perfected their sound with 11:11.