INTRANCED – No One Expects The Spanish Inquisition!

May 31, 2024, a month ago

By Mark Gromen

feature heavy metal intranced

INTRANCED – No One Expects The Spanish Inquisition!

The California quartet have issued their debut full-length, Muerte Y Metal, via High Roller Records. A quick look at the track sequencing shows an additional song, as well as a brief instrumental, all titled/sung in Spanish. The initial EP offered "El Gran Deseo" (albeit with English lyrics) and last year, the single "La Fuerza Negra" christened the alternating Anglo/Spanish lyrical pattern that is reprised for the current title track. "3/4 of the band are of Hispanic heritage," states James Paul Luna (vocals, ex-Holy Grail/ex-White Wizzard), as a matter of fact. "So I wanted to experiment with bi-lingual lyrics."

Even if you don't know that backstory, beyond the Death And Metal title (en espanol), the listener is greeted by the international scope of Intranced, right away. "Reyes De Las Tinieblas" (Kings Of Darkness) is the storming opener, entirely in Spanish. 

"I was sort of worried about starting the album that way," confessed Luna. "I was worried people might think it's a (all) Spanish record, but the guys were into it. There aren't a lot of Spanish lyric bands, especially in the States, but there are a lot of Hispanics." Since the initial Japanese language releases by Loudness (read: pre-Thunder In The East), through the global success of Rammstein, even the isolated Norwegian black metal, metalheads have been open to non-English singers, as long as the music kicks ass. Said track sets the table for what's to follow. 

"It has sort of a Lost Boys meets rocker vibe," begins the singer. "It's dark, but not necessarily looking to suck your blood, or something. With my lyrics, I like to let the listener develop their own interpretations. There are some life lessons in (the album), but also rock/metal themes. A friend suggested that we call a song ‘Muerte Y Metal’. So when we were in Argentina, I wrote the song and played around with both English and Spanish. The guys were into it." Asked about the South American trip, Luna explains. "Drummer Ben Richardson's wife was having a baby, so the rest of us headed to Argentina, for a month. One of the guys has a house there." He continues, "I don't know if we'll end up doing an entire album in English or Spanish. We'll have to see how this (one) is received." While he contends the use of Spanish is not a one off and will be continue on future output, he admits, "I don't want to be like Manowar, writing 18 different versions of a song in various languages. Actually, (back in Holy Grail) we recorded some of (those) songs with Spanish lyrics, but nothing was ever done with them. Maybe one day they'll see the light of day. Who knows?"

But how does he decide when to select which language? "The music always comes first. Then I do scratch tracks, scat over the music and initially, it's just sounds, then word that fit the melodies. From there, I build the rest (of the lyrics)." Live, during the high octane performance, do the two languages cause any confusion, or is it all phonetic, once the sound has been recorded? "My parents are from Mexico and I grew up speaking Spanish, more than English, so once it's in my muscle memory, it's sort of phonetic. I have parts of the song that are like characters (in a story) and I just remember them that way."

The Intranced sound is a unique blend of old and new, a step back in time, to late ‘70s hard rock and early heavy metal. Luna calls it "old school," adding, "There are definitely a few that are hard rock." Case in point, "I Dunno Nothing", with recurrent, although out-of-the-blue, high-pitched accent/shout of "whoo whoo" (ala The Sweet), come the chorus. What gives? "Was trying to go with something like Ian Gillan was doing with Deep Purple," Luna claims. "Although I can't recall which song, or more classic rock, like Foghat or The Doobie Brothers." Elsewhere, there's "Passionate Pretender", with its noticeable early Judas Priest vibe. With a laugh, the jovial singer, a smile seemingly permanently etched on his face, explains, "Could have gone (in the vein of) Judas Priest, 'Dissident Aggressor' or Lucifer's Friend/'Ride The Sky', but my voice is closer to Halford. He's my guy, so I decided to go in that direction."

The masterpiece of the album is the slower/emotive finale, "See You On The Other Side", which, fittingly, seems lifted from the Uli Roth era Scorpions. "That was something I had laying around for a long time. It was just me with a few acoustic guitar notes. Right before we started tracking drums for the recording, I showed it to the guys. I wanted some sort of a ballad, to close out the album. I think Fili (Bibiano, guitar) channeled his inner Uli Roth on that one." Agreed, amazing.

So the band has more than a moniker in common with the classic German outfit. As to the band's choice of name, Luna says, "When I first heard that album, In Trance, by the Scorpions, I was like, 'What is that?' It had a profound effect on me. Back in 2003, I was playing with old school metalheads that were 12 or 13 years older than me. At a break, in rehearsal, they put that on. I was only familiar with the (commercial) Scorpions' hits. I had no idea about that era. I was sort of surprised the name was not taken. Everyone's trying to pick a name that's an homage to the greats. We toyed with a couple of different spellings, but it looked too much like 'Entrance' (opposite of Exit), so even though it's not grammatically correct, we went with it." 

Song ideas, line-up intact and a name to guide her by, Intranced set out to make themselves known. "Fortress (Bibiano's former act) were on High Roller," confirms Luna. "So we already had a foot in the door. We knew people. Their catalog of bands and reissues fits our style. Initially, they passed on us, so we put out the EP ourselves. When it came time for the record, they said, no (twice) as they didn't have an opening (in their release schedule). Then they approached us and said, "If you want to do this, we can do it." To date, the deal is currently just for the debut and while the label are fairly hands-off, in terms of arranging tours, or offering financial support, they have pointed Intranced in the direction of the appropriate promoters and like-minded bands." We definitely want to get over to Europe, but we know they plan stuff a year, year-and-a-half, ahead of time. We just want to get the name out there." 

That would include domestic work, including higher profile festival gigs. Onstage, as well as in promotional photos, the singer plays up the visuals, including a light dose of make-up. "Always liked the theatrics of Alice Cooper," contends the singer. "Turbo Negro, even going back to The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown (‘Fire’)... he was like the first theatrical rocker. I want to create more of a character, with props. It's something I have some ideas about, moving forward, the presentation, designs for amps, etc. I definitely want to do more with it."

At both gigs witnessed by BraveWords, the band pulled out a blast from Luna's past. "At Hell's Heroes (in Houston, March '24), we only had 30 minutes. The EP can fill a half hour. He had plenty of material, from the album, as well as the EP, but we decided to play "High Speed GTO" because we thought that crowd would recognize it. Not everyone knows I was in White Wizzard (or Holy Grail), so it was sort of a bridge (to the new music). I was stoked to play it." 

As soon as the metal community hears Muerte Y Metal, there will be a whole new batch of favorites. Check it out!

Latest Reviews