Four long years after their magnificent sophomore album Ulises, Cordoba, Spain’s screamo quartet Viva Belgrado have finally returned with their third effort.
Right from the start, we hear that the band hasn’t stayed idle but has used the past few years to revise the sound they have perfected through their two previous albums and go in a slightly different direction. As a result, the post-rock-influenced screamo epics that made me fall in love with the band have been substituted with a much calmer and more varied, genre-wise, compositions. And tons of catchy vocal melodies. Oh, those vocal melodies! I’ll hum the sparsely haunting melody of the closer “¿Qué Hay Detrás de la Ventana?” forever haha.
With the expansion of the ways the band expresses itself, they have managed to imbue their music with many more influences than before, too. There’s pretty much everything from indie rock to pop and even a bit of rap and flamenco. And a whole lot of Wildlife-era La Dispute. The latter’s signature vocal style and drumming are noticeable thorough many of the album’s songs, especially the opener “Una Soga,” which has a vocal delivery reminiscent of that in “The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit.” However, this is not to say that they just mindlessly quote their influences, the band’s way too professional to do that. Instead, just like all other great artists, they have taken these inspirations, imbued them with high emotional intensity, and created something new and uniquely theirs.
Luckily, the band hasn’t completely abandoned their roots, as seen by the awesome mid-album emotional gut-punch of a song that is “Un Collar.” Interestingly, this most conservative for the band song is preceded by their strangest and poppiest one yet, “Más Triste Que Shinji Ikari.” Though I’m a huge fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion in general and its protagonist in particular, I can’t say the same about the infectiously catchy but kind of cliched rapping in the song. Though not a bad song per se, it is one of the weakest ones in this otherwise brilliant album.
Interestingly, these two songs create a kind of a pattern where a song with a Japanese reference in the title is followed by a heavier piece. This makes not only for a very interesting and dynamic auditory experience but also for an intellectually exciting one that creates a thread between the imagined future, actual past, and fetishized past of Japan.
With Bellavista, Viva Belgrado have managed to create their most varied and mature album to date and I sincerely hope I wouldn’t have to wait four more years to hear where they go next!