Two months after the release of their first single, Mal Hijo have graced their fans with the release of their second single; another contributing piece to their conceptual puzzle, ‘Superstar Crematorium’, which they began to shape in 2018 and have since recorded and mixed independently in bedrooms and flats! As a reminder, Mal Hijo are a 5 piece prog band formed in Liverpool in 2017, having met through their music course at university. The lineup consists of Mike Blue (main vocals, rhythm guitar), Billy Price (lead guitar), Jacob Hackett (drums, backing vocals), Tyler Swindley (bass) and the recent addition of Tristan Apperley (synth/keys). Having been established as a heavy prog band, Mal Hijo’s new single, titled ‘So The Story Goes’, is an even more ambitious offering; a six minute through-composed piece of music, meaning that nothing repeats but instead each new idea develops from the previous one, taking the listener on a musical journey.
As previously outlined, the concept revolves around the central character of Fenix who exists in two different musical points in time; in act 1 he exists in the late 70’s/early 80’s whereas in act 2 he exists in the modern day. Their first single, ‘Mal Hijo’, features in act 2 of the album, detailing Fenix’s sense of alienation existing in modern times and rejection of his musical style. ‘So The Story Goes’ takes us to the very beginning of the story before Fenix’s stardom in 1979; like many dreamers hoping to make it in the music industry, Fenix laments his youth and the way he was belittled by everybody around him for having unrealistic goals for the future. Despite everyones lack of faith, Fenix strives to turn his dreams into a reality and prove everyone wrong. Having released two singles so chronologically far apart certainly keeps listeners guessing as to how the story progresses from ‘So The Story Goes’ to ‘Mal Hijo’.
As this is a concept album, and in the true style of a concept album, the piece begins with the last chord of the first song on the album. However this chord has been reversed so that it crescendos into ‘So The Story Goes’ – a neat and cool way to tie these songs together. Once this crescendo has ended, the song truly begins; a journey full of light and shade, it inhibits influences of the classic hard rock greats such as Queen, as well as retaining the influence of Pink Floyd previously heard on ‘Mal Hijo’. And Pink Floyd is exactly what comes to mind initially; the piece begins as a ballad, Price playing a Gilmour-esque solo accompanied by Swindley’s gentle piano chords, some careful cymbal work from Hackett while Apperley’s hammond lingers in the background. Hackett and Price drop out to allow Blue’s vocals to take centre stage; Hackett also sings in this section, providing a harmony to Blue’s vocal line and Price even chips in with a tasteful falsetto line on the word ‘goodbye’. The vocal lines are a striking feature of this song throughout, whether it be unpredictable falsetto lines that succeed in taking the listener by surprise or Hackett’s higher vocal harmonies that, as I’ve previously mentioned, mingle very well with Blue’s voice. At around the 2.40s mark, we hear the song take a change of direction as the whole band now plays at its fullest, even featuring a cheeky violin part courtesy of the multi-talented Apperley. Price, again, displays his virtuosic guitar playing with another of his Petrucci-esque solos, shredding to his hearts content during this euphoric and uplifting section. Another change of direction as the song returns to a more sombre atmosphere, Swindley’s bass taking point, outlining a descending chord progression and underscored by Apperley’s subtle synth parts and a lilting 12-string acoustic guitar. This brief section quickly explodes into a violent and menacing chromatically descending section which constantly develops, especially through Apperley’s organ parts that evolve as this menacing section ruthlessly tears its way through the rest of the song. Price’s guitar parts are also ever changing – for me, the best bit is when he begins to play a repeating, crunching melodic riff under the chord progression. With the name of the track being shouted in the background and Hackett letting rip on the drum kit, his faultless and stylistic playing adding to the drama, the song makes its big climax before the dynamic is brought down once more for a final reflective section that sees the return of Swindley’s piano from the beginning. What sounds like a police siren finally brings this part of Fenix’s journey to a close.
Another great offering for listeners to immerse themselves in while eagerly awaiting the release of the full album that will outline how Fenix’s journey will continue from this epic beginning. It certainly requires more than one listen as there are many hidden nuances that reveal themselves as you become more familiar with the track – it just goes to show how talented and thoughtful these musicians are. My anticipation has now been heightened having heard this awesome track – I cannot wait!
Written by Dominic Sanderson
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