The first Puerto Rican Latin Rock band signed by a major record label, Sol D’Menta, returns with their follow-up to their 1996 self-title debut album. Produced by John Avila (Oingo Boingo, Reel Big Fish, Voodoo Glow Skulls) and recorded by John Erwig Jr. (311, Sugar Ray) El Concepto features a very calibrated band that knows how to handle the radical changes of salsa, ska, hip-hop and soca with funk and hardcore, all of which appear on the record.
The production opens up with “El Concepto,” a daring exchange of funk and ska, that builds up in intensity, turning into malevolent hardcore music. This is followed by “Hay Que Pensar,” a great tune for a suspense movie, where the tension created by the Metallica-styled guitar riffs and other spooky sounds serve as the intro that resolves to a macabre hardcore assault.
The touching ballad “Padre” (a posthumous tribute to the bassist/songwriter’s father) will start any brain to ponder about the experience of losing a relative. However, the exquisite acoustic arrangements provided by the violin, acoustic guitar and upright bass make its diversity from the rest of the power tracks in the album is too radical. This song should have been left off the album altogether. Also, to pick “No Voy en Tren” (a cover of Charlie Garcia’s song) as the first single seems correct because of its commercial potential, but this kind of Latin Pop/Rock does not portray the band’s musical strength.
Worth mentioning is the robust stir of funk and industrial with a muscular afro-descarga break, and some cool turntable scratches, in “Pedro Callejero,” and the towering swap of metal, hip-hop and industrial/soca in “La Calle.” Other highlights included the infectious western/polka/punk in “El Arte de Olvidar,” and the fresh funk/ska with a lelolai bridge in “Cerro Maravilla.” The latest presents a true story about the trials related to the killing of two men by the Puerto Rican police, event that served as the plot for the movie Show of Force.
A sophomore album is a very nerve-wracking project if the first one enjoyed some success. After selling 30,000 copies of their debut album, Sol D’Menta is not frightened by the challenge. El Concepto is definitely a progress in their career, exhibiting maturity as musicians and confidence as songwriters. Sol D’Menta’s trademark badge of funk and hardcore, fused with abrupt stamina changes of ska, hip-hop, salsa and soca, makes of El Concepto a vigorous manifestation of what has been accomplished in the Latin rock genre. PolyGram Records, 825 Eighth Avenue, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10019