Photo Courtesy of Rodrigo y Gabriela / rodgab.com

The Buddhist-Themed Flamenco-Inspired Rock-Driven Acoustic-Metal Album We Need

What on earth is a mettavolution? As far as my spellcheck is concerned, it’s not even a real word. And what’s up with that cover art? It looks like the aliens from Independence Day are trying to destroy Yosemite. Why does this guy have blue hair? Why do they cover so much metal and classic rock? What is going on??

Rodrigo y Gabriela’s history is as mythic as the cover of their latest album, Mettavolution. They met as teenagers in Mexico City’s metal scene, where they played in a band together, dated, and then left the city—first for Ixtapa, and then for Dublin. Years of busking and playing the odd wedding or gallery-opening gig culminated in their debut EP, Re-Foc.

Their musical story is never punctuated by a period. It’s an exclamation mark, as in their EPs and their debut self-titled album. It’s a lingering ellipse in the more self-aware follow-up, 11:11. An interabang, if you will, best describes their previous album, 9 Dead Alive, where somber, existential pieces are contrasted with songs filled to the brim with life.

And here’s why you should listen to them.

Their music is infectious. It seeps into you, the melodies lingering in your bloodstream longer than any shot of Rubi ever could. Mettavolution is a technical milestone for the duo—songs like "Cumbé," "Electric Soul," and the title track bring out the cleanest production on any of their albums, giving every note the attention it deserves.

While most of their studio albums are purely instrumental, Mettavolution experiments: a touch of piano here, a 2/4 disco-style clap there, and the occasional electric guitar distortion to add intensity where they may need it (and don’t even get me started on that "Terracentric" pitch bend). It’s a welcome development that never detracts from their sound but adds a new dimension to the Rod y Gab we’ve heard before.

Their music is borderless. They’re not metal, and they’re not flamenco. They’re not quite rock or classical either, although they’re influenced by all. The song structures are dead-on classic rock.

The ferocity with which Gabriela Quintero coaxes percussion and chordal rhythm out of her guitar are influenced by her metal days, but also by the Irish bodhrán, much more so than flamenco or rock. Rodrigo Sanchez’s melodies, on the other hand, constantly oscillate between tender and vicious in a manner evocative of the flamenco guitar legends that echo their passion. The two are pure energy.

They’ve recorded live albums in Manchester, Dublin, Paris, and Japan. They have songs dedicated to Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Sor Juana Inez de La Cruz, Harriet Tubman, Jimi Hendrix, Viktor Frankl, and Dimebag Darrell.

Mettavolution’s title itself is a portmanteau of the Sanskrit word "mettā," (meaning benevolence and good will), and, well, evolution. You may be asking yourself: Is this instrumental acoustic guitar duo that contributed to the soundtrack of the Puss in Boots movie really advocating for the altruistic advancement of the human race?

Yes. The album is grateful through its homages to past legends (read: 20-minute cover of Pink Floyd’s "Echoes") and its grounding in simplicity and authenticity. You can hear their respect for one another, for their instrument, and for the talented suite of artists from which they draw.

I’ll end my love letter with a quick anecdote from Gabriela herself, originally published in The Independent: “I’ll never forget when we played for Barack Obama at the White House, in 2010. It was very strange: I remember Barack introducing us to the Mexican president and his wife, who didn't have a clue who we were, and Obama said, ‘You don't know them? They're from Mexico—I have their music in my iPod!’”

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