I am always open to some new music, and I tell the guys here to send me music under my genre umbrella! So I tend to do the rock and blues material at the magazine, as regular readers will know. When this one popped into my intray as “symphonic folk metal,” I truly had no idea what that entailed or would sound like. 

Aztlán is the third album from this Calgary-based outfit, originally from Mexico City. They have a strong visual look about them and are clearly out to kick some booty, so it was on with the headphones and turning up the volume to see if they could kick mine!

The album is an independent release.

The band is:

Pat Cuikani- vocalist, co-founder and lyricist of Cabrakaän, is a classically trained light lyric soprano vocalist based in Calgary, Canada. Cuikani, who hails from Mexico City, performs multiple styles of music in Spanish, English, Italian, Nahuatl, Zapoteco and others across her multiple projects. When not performing Mexican symphonic folk metal, she performs classical-folk fusion both as a solo artist and with her co-founded group, Fibonacci Ensemble. 

Marko Cipaktli, is a founding member, conceptual artist, and drummer of Cabrakaän. Based in Calgary, Canada and originally from Mexico City, he credits his earliest beginnings in music to his sister’s influential musical projects. At 10 years old, Cipäktli picked up his first set of drumsticks and, without delay, developed a lifelong passion for performing heavy, energetic styles of metal. Since then, and especially with the advent of Cabrakaän in 2011, Cipäktli has evolved into a multi-skilled composer, arranger, recording and audio engineer, and sound designer with an attuned ear for a great mix. 

Alex Navarro is Cabrakaän’s lead guitarist, joining the band in 2016 to record their sophomore album, Cem Anahuac My Home. Based in Mexico City, Navarro is a well-established musician entrenched in Mexico City’s historic metal scene. Performing in Mexican metal bands since the late 1990s, he began playing for large audiences in highly promoted events like Hard Rock Live Mexico’s tribute to Iron Maiden and Metallica and internationally-known festivals Heaven and Hell, Circo Volador, and Foro Sol with mythical thrash metal band Makina.  He trained at the prestigious Fermatta Music School and honed his composition skills under the mentorship of Timo Tolkki (ex-Stratovarius). In 2021, the Encyclopedia of Mexican Rock recognized Navarro for his outstanding contributions to Mexican music history.

Brendan Wilkinson is Cabrakaän’s Australian counterpart and their latest addition, performing rhythm guitar with the group. Now based in Calgary, he brings nearly two decades of musical experience and a wealth of heavy influences to his musical style. 

And David Saldarriaga is a skilled multi-instrumentalist from Medellin, Colombia. Now based in Mexico City, his self-taught beginnings in bass and guitar evolved into formal training in cello and classical guitar. Saldarriaga’s studies extended to classical and flamenco guitar at the University of Antioquia’s conservatory in Medellin, and, in later years, he explored and trained to perform folk and classical instruments including the Colombian tiple, the bandola, double bass, cello, harmonica, and piano.  

As for the album, it was released on November 17th; it’s out on all platforms, and here is the review!

“Tonantzin” begins with this, I guess, Aztec-type flute sound and rhythmic drums before it hits this rather lovely melody that almost seems to be out of one of those Highland adventures of long ago!  It really sets the scene.

Before the sound hits, the rain and the sound of birds introduce “Fuego.” We are now in fast rock territory with great soaring vocals. The vocals are more symphonic metal, lifting over this really heavy guitar riff. The whole track shifts to this death metal sound later on, which caught me out.

“Tlaloc” is more of a dark death metal piece. It connects different styles and has a riff-based guitar under the vocals, and those vocals are almost operatic in places!

“Luces y Sombras” is a really top-notch track. It is interesting musically, multi layered and with strings in the mix too. The feel of this track is slightly lighter, and I feel it would be the obvious choice for commercial metal radio, albeit on the heavier edge!

“Malintzin” heralds us in with some flute and then these operatic vocals delivered on top of a death metal nihilism. It’s really hard to describe this, and I thought I was good at writing. You basically have a juxtaposition of death metal apocalypse with opera and grunge. It shows how talented this group is musically that they can get away with it.

“Mictlan” has a slow and rather beautiful opening, almost classical and shows the folk element before it hits this massive black metal wall of sound. I liked the chorus in the piece.

“Yolot” builds up the dangerous jungle drum sound well; it is a song built around the drums, and it gains from that a sense of danger and power. It has a strong punch behind it. 

“Xochitl” opens with the folk side of the band, and it is straight out of a late-night bar in Spain with the vocals stretching out over land. It was very much my kind of song, and I liked it! It’s a really beautiful track, and it takes me back to those warm nights back in the day. I put this one in my downloads. Well done on this, guys.

“La Cigarra” is another song that zips off into new directions and showcases the sheer diversity of this band. The whole build-up of sound is incredible. Again, it reminds me so much of a great night out in Spain; the feel and infusion of that culture are very strong, and there is so much to like in the track.

The album finishes with some English versions of a couple of the tracks.

And for an overall impression, this is not a traditional death/black metal album; it is very eclectic. The band certainly has the musical chops and delivers a great sound, and a couple of the tracks are superb examples of musicianship and vocal power. They are a band that grabs attention and deserves to do well. As a small criticism, some tracks have too much in the pot; like any recipe, you can overload the ingredients, but when they get it right (and that is often when they simplify things a bit), they are very impressive indeed.

Standout tracks: “La Cigarra,” “Xochitl,” and “Fuego.”

You can download the album from here

Band website

By Stevie Ritson.

I hope you liked the review, and may I wish you all a happy Christmas season? If you liked what I did, then please show your appreciation by buying me a coffee at the link below. It always makes me smile! Also, hang around a bit and check out our features, reviews and merchandise. Nice having you here!


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