Review: Bala – ‘Maleza’

Coming four years after their sophomore album ‘Lume’, incendiary Spanish duo Bala returns with album number three ‘Maleza’, and doesn’t so much knock on the door, instead, they kick it down and announce their arrival with a ritualistic stomping.

Consisting of Anx (guitars/vocals) and V (drums/vocals), Bala (Spanish for ‘bullet’ – such an apt band name), don’t believe in subtlety. ‘Maleza’ (roughly translated as ‘undergrowth’ – although the band’s choice of ‘weed’ is way cooler) is loud, fast, brash, and intense, as well as quite trippy in places, and hugely melodic in others. Apart from a few lines in English, ‘Maleza’ is sung in Bala’s native tongue, but fear not as any issues caused by the language barrier are more than made up for with the universal language of noisy rock music.

Beginning with the stoner-infused tones of ‘Agita’, Bala doesn’t bother hanging around and goes for the throat from the instant that the vocals, drums, and chainsaw riffage join forces to make an almighty, glorious noise. It’s almost like a Royal Blood-related meme; “How do two guys make that wall of noise?” – Bala…“Hold my pint”. ‘Hoy No’ has the pair flooring it on a demented, punky-come-Native American chant-filled banger of a track. Fast and furious, but without the car-porn, and bald leading men. ‘X’ continues the mayhem with one of the catchiest pieces of ear candy that you might just hear this year. The hypnotic vocals bring a trippy vibe to the party, then the big-ass fuzzy riffs kick in and blow the roof off. And that’s just the opening six minutes.

The listener doesn’t have time to get bored, for Bala never really let up on the levels of intensity and once the swirling, mind-fuck that is ‘Mi Orden’ fades out, the tribal drumming of ‘Cien Obstáculos’ begins and all bets are off. Some great playing on this one, and it’s easy to imagine this track totally killing it when live gigs resume. The echoing, sinister backing vocals, combined with the pounding drums, and fierce guitar-play, make for a fiery few minutes. ‘Quieres Entra’ begins as if it means to give the listener a breather, but then the guitars kick in and the volume control is turned skywards in appreciation of the nasty, gnarly tones that Anx coaxes out of her instrument. ‘Rituais’ is a Tarantino-Rodriguez soundtrack in-waiting, perfect for a sequel to ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ that doesn’t suck (pun intended), while ‘Bessie’ brings a whole heap of Iommi-sized riffs along for the ride on a short, sharp moment where the vast majority of the two-minute running time is a feedback-filled, distorted instrumental.

Ending on ‘Una Selva’, ‘Maleza’ is a vicious maelstrom of an album. Void of any unnecessary fat, it’s a lean 25-minute long album that impresses from start to finish. The standard of playing is high, and although the album is very strong indeed, it’s easy to imagine that Bala put on one hell of a live show and that’s how they will stand out in a circuit already bulging with memorable two-piece acts.

Available now through Century Media.

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