It’s been a few years (three, I believe, to be precise) since I discovered a Colombian band named GUAHAIHOQUE and their promo track “Along A Path” and it mesmerized me from the start, with the use of Colombian native instruments and a dense atmosphere, which gave it this unique touch and sound. So from then on I was patiently waiting for more and despite having read rumours about a full-length album, I never managed to lay my hands on it...until now.
“The Return Of The Ancient Gods” is the title of their debut and they’re being labeled as “Extreme Folk Metal” and this actually fits pretty well. The musical foundation is a sort of Death/Black Metal with rough vocals, which also stand between these two genres, but there are several factors that elevate them from the many bands populating this particular sub-style, there would be the melodies they instill into their compositions and then Munseishi. What the hell is Munseishi, you ask? Well, he is the gentleman responsible for the ancient woodwinds that play such a big role not only in Colombian folklore and music, but also in GUAHAIHOQUE’s music and that is exactly what makes this band stand out head and shoulders from the pack.
“Revelation” unites all of these elements, including a breakdown leading into a very quiet passage with clear vocals and the woodwinds as lead instrument over a light acoustic guitar, while otherwhere in the song we get treated to everything up to blastbeats, but this closing passage is not just tacked on to the other song, but actually fits, which is the beauty of it all. “Elder Evocations” takes it even one step further, and is completely Folk, with light percussion and acoustic guitar, together with the flutes for a beautiful piece of music, which is equally fascinating and soothing.
When they get more brutal, they tend to lose at least some of their own touch, as for obvious reasons the originality factor is not as high in this case, but as soon as the woodwinds return, GUAHAIHOQUE are back in business and thankfully they do not make the mistake of over-emphasizing the woodwinds as only defining factor, but definitely know how to write good songs to begin with, so the flutes are not degraded to the level of being a mere gimmick.
While “Woods Whispering” once more is an instrumental emphasizing how the woodwinds used the right way can work even without any modern instrumentation around it, before they add acoustic guitars to the mix and then we get to the songs that started it all for me: “Along A Path”, overall the most quiet out of the bunch with vocals, it has this tranquil atmosphere that is not flashy, not extreme or anything like that, but just is there and puts you at ease.
Barely 31 minutes long, “The Return Of The Ancient Gods” is not a whole lot to sink your ears into, but it is a more than remarkable debut of an original band, which I have high hopes for for the near future, you’ve just got to love those woodwinds!
(Online November 8, 2008)