Who knows me, my reviews and my profile, also knows that a double album titled "FinisTerra" of a Spanish band named MÄGO DE OZ has truly captured me. That one is proud two years old and if I had not done so already before, last year's live celebration at "Bang Your Head" was enough to make me crave for more studio material of the eight Spaniards, which finally has arrived in the form of "Gaia". In the noble and very fat Digi book including bonus DVD it has found its way into my hands and once more shows that they really give it to the fans, looks great!
What, of course, may not be left out is the usual whacked out cover, which has grown into a tradition by now and just as usual the booklet is great, thick, very well done and great looking, puts you into the right mood right away. Now "Gaia" is not a double album anymore (after "FinisTerra" as well as "Fölktergeist" had been double DigiPaks, I at least quietly had hoped…), but let's not hold that against them. Flutist Sergio Ponce de Léon has been promoted to being a full member of the band and thus his instrument has its very fixed spot in the band sound nowadays.
But on to the album. It starts out with the pretty long and epic opening instrumental "Obertura MDXX", before the title track "Gaia" starts out softly with piano, which then the flute sets in to, to continue in epic mid-tempo, something that I would not have really expected as an opener, but which still builds up the typically folky MÄGO DE OZ atmosphere. That the track is more than 11 minutes long does not show at all, because it always keeps the tension that marks a good song from a very good one. Following "La Conquista" then puts the pedal down a bit more, including Hammond organ, just as energetic as "Alma" with strong guitars and a very variable structure.
"La Costa Del Silencio" then has a very strong Folk influence, flute, violin, energetic rhythm and suiting vocals including choir, even though the song is not as heavy as one might be used to from MÄGO DE OZ, it still is typical for the band and a strong song for sure! Overall the Spaniards show us a different side of their sound on "Gaia", not as powerful, energetic and straight as on the previous album, but a bit more reigned in and measured, as the instrumental "La Leyenda De La Llorona" shows. Some might miss something while the first listen as you (almost automatically) expect another gripping smasher like "FinisTerra", but after a few listens it becomes clear that the band has just evolved and not just simply tried to rehash the successful sound.
Only the closing (again more than 11 minute long) "La Venganza De Gaia" we get some more power again, but as I said, the songs all still are MÄGO DE OZ and nobody else, you just have to listen to them a bit more often. Fans of the Spaniards will befriend the "new" sound after a short time only and maybe even those folks among you, who did not like the band too much so far should check out "Gaia" as they sound a bit different than before.
At the beginning I had mentioned a bonus DVD and it definitely is a good one, but let's start at the beginning: At first we get a quite haunting video for the opening instrumental "Obertura MDXX", followed by drummer and main song writer Txus, who tells us more about the concept of "Gaia", with one drawback, he does so completely in Spanish, where I am left out completely… Same goes for the following tale of creation of the album, which is a real pity, because what one could see looks really interesting. What remains in the end is the video for "La Costa Del Silencio" and the photos, which also are consumable, if you do not speak/understand any Spanish, a real pity that they could not even do some sub titling, which would have made this DVD essential for each and every fan.
I personally would have hoped for a little more pop, but once you have really listened to it, these songs also work without any problems whatsoever. MÄGO DE OZ have been and still are one of the most original bands out there and "Gaia" is absolutely recommendable, no doubt about it! (Online January 1, 2004)