Primitive Origins: Cristal Y Acero’s “Kuman”

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

So this time around, we’re moving ahead in time a bit, all the way up to 1984, because this album was recently brought to my attention and it’s absolutely insane.

Cristal Y Acero‘s Kuman is a Mexican metal rock opera from 1984. I wrote that sentence then just sat here staring at the whiteness on my screen next to it for a minute because how do I follow that up? Well, let’s let the music do the talking.

And that talking is bat-shit crazy. For example, before we go any further, here, click on this link, which will take you about seven minutes into this haywire, ambitious, ambitiously haywire album:

I can’t even. But I must, because this is my job, so… this is somewhere between Sesame Street, Queen’s most head-shaking moments, and maybe some Frank Zappa stuff that irritated me at some point. Or, need some ’80s soft rock? We’ve got you covered:

The band flirts with so many sounds throughout this album, it goes from outrageous to hilarious to absurd to downright impressive. I mean, we get doo-wop, we get spy music, we get so many genres here, and it all sounds like it’s played by guys who have mastered the genre at hand. So, while it’s easy to joke around about this album, it’s also important to realize there is some serious skill behind it all.

Now, where’s the heaviness? These guys look like pure Mexican metal maniacs in their photos, but this album reminds me more of Meat Loaf than Manowar. Here, this part is moderately rockin’:

But here’s where the band finally brings the riffing in, the album living up to its incredible cover art for a brief moment:

And, here, riffs that belong on Metal Massacre all over the place (solos, too):

And, check out the frantic and not un-heavy last 60 seconds:

But, really, this album wasn’t about the heaviness of the riff, despite what that cover art would lead us all to believe. It was about crafting a goddamn Mexican metal rock opera in 1984, and our boys in Cristal Y Acero did that with an astounding amount of grace and ease here on Kuman; the end result may result in arched eyebrows and blank stares taken out of context, but I can guarantee this album is worth listening to at least once, for its ambition alone, if nothing else. (To hear the band rockin’ out in a more straight-laced fashion, check out the 1986 follow-up Espades de Cristal.)

And now, the surprise ending: these guys are still around today, having released an album as recently as four years ago.

Oh, and there’s this:

Cristal Y Acero’s Kuman – The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: Yes.

Heaviness factor: Cover looks like an Omen record, lots of this sounds like… not Omen. Not heavy.

Obscura Triviuma: Their 1998 album is a rock opera about Dracula, FYI.

Other albums: Tons. 12 others, at least.

Related bands: Camelot, Luzbel, The Legion of Hetheria, Halach.

Alright, fine, if you must: This would be a riot after a couple joints.