9 Dead Alive is the latest offering from Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. Recorded in Mexico and mixed in Los Angeles by the well-travelled Andrew Schep, (Metallica, Black Sabbath) it is the fourth studio album by the pair and the first in five years. The album is said to be a “personal celebration of individuals who have passed on” leaving each track dedicated to a particular inspiration – first track The Soundmaker being a tribute to Spanish guitarist and luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado, for example. This is hundreds of years of history crammed into nine tracks.
Since their 2009 release 11:11, the duo have spent time recording soundtracks with notorious composer Hans Zimmer for films such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. A brand new set of songs was only natural to follow, and so they did. Previous albums have seen the band fall neatly in line with their latin-focused style of playing, however 9 Dead Alive is a move towards the heavier, acoustic rock side of things. With an engineer on board with credentials such as Metallica, perhaps this change was inevitable.
From the word go, it’s clear the two musical virtuosos are in good form. The Soundmaker is spontaneous, fluctuating between the full on percussive use of the guitar and the tuneful light melodies of its upper frets.Throughout, the duo almost takes each other on. Each of them tries to outwit the other with long complex melodies versus bounding percussive rhythms. This is easily seen on numbers such as Sunday Neurosis and The Russian Messenger, both being stark contrasts of each other, whereas songs such as Megalopolis and Torito are great examples of the pair just having fun together. Being entirely instrumental the album is all about the music, and it does take a fair amount of intent listening to really appreciate it. Those wanting some easy background music may not be entirely satisfied.
From start to finish 9 Dead Alive is all about fun, spontaneity, just two people jamming away in a room together. They capture the sound of their Latin roots in a much broader rock and roll setting, showcasing the bands resourcefulness and their ability to entertain with ease. These nine songs are filled with elegance, passion, and a fantastic dedication to ones instrument. Its delivery is at times, flawless and it leaves you with nothing much else to do but to sit and admire such musicianship.