Voz Elemental, for all intents and purposes, is a new band. A band that plays a form of alternative rock music in Spanish. They have not had their first concert yet, but the creative forces behind this band are all very familiar. The songs that Voz Elemental plays will not be all new. They will be the songs that many people knew as being from the now-defunct L.A. Spanish rock band Sombra. That is because Voz Elemental is half of Sombra.
Sombra had a long and winding history, starting early this Millennium, playing where ever they could and recording one of the most professional sounding demos in local Spanish rock. Their sound seemed destined for greatness, Heroes del Silencio style guitar playing, and a singer with a stunningly similar voice to Beto Cuevas of La Ley. Somewhere between the Police, Heroes and La Ley. After becoming professionally managed, Sombra really soared for a year and a half. In 2004 they achieved huge success on Batanga.com, an Internet radio station that exposed their music internationally and placed their ?Vide de mi Vida? song at Number 3, between Julieta Venegas and Caf? Tacuba. This was something unprecedented for an independent artist. They were selected to be on a Jack Daniels CD sampler of Latin Rock, they performed on the Universal Amphitheater?s Sirius Stage opening for Alejandra Guzman. ?Vida de Mi Vida? was charting in Miami. 2004 was pivotal for Sombra.
2005 was a new year and band members were on edge. They decided to put it all on hold. The Sombra phenomenon ceased. Lead singer Karl Fernando Montiel wanted to spend some time with his best friend Craig Baxter in their mostly English band, Labhed. Guitarist/music writer Kenny Noriega took the time off to pursue other interests.
2005 was not without success for both. Noriega toured Mexico with Tom Morrisson. Montiel started integrating some Spanish songs into Labhed?s English music. They became a bi-cultural band and had two songs appear in a Sony film. Those that missed Montiel?s distinctive voice were happy to hear him again. But Labhed was no Sombra. Darker and more experimental, they did not have the same radio friendly rock sound. Craig Baxter was a great guitarist, but the chemistry between it and Montiel?s vocals lacked the punch of Sombra. It was like Morrissey without Marr. Not quite The Smiths.
At the end of summer, Montiel and Noriega began to talk. They decided to do some practices as Sombra and agreed to play a show in Tucson, Arizona, a place they had a strong fan base. There was still all of the pressure of being ?Sombra? and all they had achieved. It was time to start anew.
They got a new bassist and drummer who were excited about the project. They decided it was time to end the Sombra era, and start a new one. Voz Elemental was born. Those that have heard their sessions say that Karl Fernando Montiel?s voice is truly at it?s prime.
?Voz Elemental is going to be for us,? says Montiel. ?Sombra was about trying to make it to the next level all the time. Doing what our Manager said. Now, we are just playing because we like the music we make, we like playing together. We just want to make good music and hope that people like it.?
You can judge for yourself. Voz Elemental plays The Joint on Pico in West L.A. Sunday; November 6, 2005 at 8 PM. Tickets are just $5. You can hear their previous music as Sombra at www.myspace.com/sombratheband for now but eventually it will all integrated with www.myspace.com/vozelemental
Camilo J. Arenivar:
Camilo Arenivar is a freelance journalist who has been covering the Spanish Rock scene for several years. He also has written movie reviews at Currentlyplaying.com and maintains a blog of his articles at http://camiloj.blogspot.com/