Gibraltans Breed 77 have been mainstays of the British underground metal scene for years now. However, despite a lauded debut album and seemingly relentless touring, they have never quite managed to breakthrough into the more mainstream success that their sound so unashamedly covets.
Until now, that is. Recent single The River, the centrepoint track of their new album, grazed the UK Top 40 last month. That may not mean as much as it used to but hey, how many other heavy metal bands do you see muscling their way past the pop claptrap in the charts at the moment?
Of course, if you’d only heard The River, you might have no inkling that Breed 77 are a heavy metal band. After all, with its luscious strings, flamenco guitars and soaring chorus, it has “made-for-radio” coded within its musical DNA. And it’s not alone either – the likes of Numb and Breaking The Silence are also acoustic-driven numbers with lovely flourishes of flamenco and equally incisive melodic hooks.
But this ability to add Mediterranean flavours to songs, this desire not to bludgeon for the sake of it, is one of Breed 77’s chief selling points. In the hands of other bands it could come across as gimmicky, but when you originate from the ickle place that still has the Spaniards getting hot under their castanets from time to time, it’s simply natural.
The infusion of Eastern promise adds a greater texture to anthemic, hard rocking numbers such as Individuo, La Ultima Hora and Calling Out. Meanwhile, tracks like A Matter Of Time, World’s On Fire and The Only Ones are riff-tastic metal feasts, albeit with the thread of deliberate, melodic choruses that runs through the whole album.
If criticisms were to be made, then you could say that nothing here is mindblowing and that the production is occassionally wanting, with the full force of the riffage sometimes muddied and the vocals slightly too high in the mix.
However, such observations should not distract from the key point, namely that Cultura is a polished set of very strong songs that, by running the gamut from sensitive Spanish acoustica to power metal, features something to whet everyone’s taste buds. In short, this Rock of Gibraltar is well worth a visit…