Madrid’s metalliferous foursome OFFTOPIC have been delivering consistently catchy slabs of Prog-tinged Heavy Metal for over four years to date, and if the appropriately-titled "Impacto" is any reliable indication, then OFFTOPIC have only sharpened their claws in the interim.
Fusing the Thrashy interludes of WINTERS BANE or PANTERA with the straight-ahead catchy driving choruses of Japanese megastars ANTHEM, OFFTOPIC has carved a uniquely listenable niche for themselves musically. Though ostensibly waxing Prog Metal at certain intervals, OFFTOPIC is wise enough to know that their songs needn’t span a length exceeding four-to-five minutes for experimentation‘s sake (IRON MAIDEN, take detailed notes). Thusly, "Impacto"s more avant-garde moments are given just enough time to surprise and delight, without overstaying their welcome or giving way to wanky three-minute instrumental passages. It’s the band’s more classic moments that shine the brightest, however, and the contrast between the two styles provides welcome counterpoint.
From the opening volleys of the addictive "Cuarto Sello," the album goes for the back teeth. Rosa Ibáńez’s vocals are belted with conviction and perhaps even a touch of pomposity, and at times her uncharacteristically low voice (for both a Metal singer and a female Metal singer) also has the capability to soar, punctuating heavier passages in resplendent fashion. Toni Sanchez-Gil‘s guitar work impresses immediately, as he not only can shred when it’s time for a solo (which isn’t as often as you might assume) but he also possesses the seemingly rare talent of knowing when to pull back and ride a solid riff. All this is apparent from the very first track! A good sign, indeed. "Fuera De Si" is more riff-driven quasi-Thrash, and its follow-up, the more considered, sludgy "Siempre" is long on build and high on replay factor, while "El Elegido" stands out as pure balls-out ACCEPT/JUDAS PRIEST worship with a side of Blues Metal executed in convincing fashion. Rosa is given full range to sing here, and doesn’t fail to impress.
The album’s middle chapter slows down a touch, though the curious pairing of "Abrázame"s more melodic, anthemic sensibilities with "Pierde El Control"s unbridled head banging stands as a welcome exception to this rule. "No Hay Nada" is where Cristian Millan earns his paycheck behind the drum kit with an absolutely brilliant off-beat performance standing vigil over Rosa’s majestic vocal harmonizing and yet another blistering, MAIDEN-esque guitar solo. "Iberia" and (its eastern-tinged intro track) is one of my favorite songs on the album, having a slightly epic quality without abandoning the band’s preference for pure riff-laden groove. "Hoy Tocas Para Mi"s fusion of NWOBHM riffage and mid-section experimentation solidify it as a definite stand-out in the album‘s latter half. That it’s coupled with the potent follow-up of "Mas" and the closer "Sigo Viva" undoubtedly works in the album’s favor.
"Impacto" isn’t perfect, however. The choruses - while powerful and instantly memorable - can at times get homogenous. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that the ‘samey’ songs are bad necessarily, just that at times the weaker tracks achieve something of a blending effect. This isn’t a proclivity the album’s strongest songs are given to, however, and fortunately for OFFTOPIC, this album has more than a few stand-outs to preclude the record from becoming muzzled by this tendency. I heartily recommend "Impacto" to fans of Classic Metal with a touch of improvisation and unpredictability.
Stand-outs: "Fuera De Si," "Hoy Tocas Para Mi," "Pierde El Control."
Guest review by Daniel "RazörFist" Harris
(Online November 11, 2011)