Santa Mamba | Mother Culture
album review by John Powell
Hearing Mother Culture for the first time, you’ll likely not consider Santa Mamba to be coming out of Rhode Island. From the first notes an intense Latin rock hits like an exorcism. Over seven tracks the band rises and, well, doesn’t fall, but the roller coaster of ripping electric guitar and ferocious percussion does move.
Purists will appreciate the mostly-Spanish vocals, as in “Danza del Muerte”, a supreme opener. On record, the band portrays a much more rocking sound than live, where the vibe strikes more organic and free-flowing chords. Still, on this opener, Aaron Wade rips it up on the keys, hacking through the guitar like a machete through thick vines. The tempo is furious, and no luck for those looking for a crossover sound here.
Santa Mamba has the tenacity that makes Maná such a powerhouse. “La Mentira”, on the other hand, blossoms like an anthem right out of “Desperado”. Many thumbs up to vocalist J Gio Murillo, with expansive pipes that thread through the instrumentation, and even those not fluent in Spanish will melt at his emotive capabilities. Here John Medeiros also knocks one home on acoustic guitar, which sizzles like Los Gitanos.
The highlight is the near-bachata “Corazón”. The lighthearted flow of the band, perpetuated by Nick Wade’s thunder bass, is gorgeous. While I typically shy away from Spanglish, this song meshes languages flawlessely. Also, the group’s vocal harmonies add texture that deserves attention.
As a fault, they cover The Beatles’ “Come Together”, which I have found to be an overdone cover as of late. Props for speeding it up and refurbishing it with glitz keys, but it doesn’t remotely reach the original. Although, Mother Culture thrives on the party vibe, more so than any lyrical depth. Straight up, the album’s made to make you dance. Success, then, on a frantic cover, and those that just came to dance will get what they came for.
Santa Mamba deserves respect for their unrelenting energy, translated onto record nicely. The album is shiny. Those in for a raw sound won’t like the gloss on the guitar or the way the vocals stand out above the rest, although, once again, as a dance album it’s tweaked properly.
Latin rock is great simply because it is such a unique sound, and Santa Mamba holds such a sound close. They don’t reinvent anything. Instead, they hand you the classics on a platter and make you take notice: there’s a lot you can do within a structure, and sometimes it makes for a very cohesive album.
Bottom line: Latin vibes, scorching rock, ballads, anthems, and dance-worthy beats. Totally fun. Recommended.