Rodrigo y Gabriela
9 Dead Alive
ATO Records

It’s back to basics for the amazing duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, guitar virtuosos who draw ferocious sounds from their nylon-string instruments. After exploring orchestral music (2012’s Area 52) and contributing to major movie soundtracks—a journey that took them nearly five years—the two sequestered themselves in their studio in Ixtapa, Mexico, to pay musical tribute to nine individuals who continue to influence world events, even after their death.

The compositions are virtuosic, passionate, and intensely rhythmic. Rod and Gab began playing together in a Mexican metal band and on 9 Dead Alive those roots come through in the riffs, power chords, and breakdowns that drive many of the tunes. Yet “Megalopolis” and “La Salle Des Pas Perdus” also reveal the duo’s appreciation of classical guitar. Each guitarist has a specialty: Gabriela’s fingerstyle technique blends fast, flamenco-inspired rasgueado and strumming with sophisticated, driving guitar-body percussion. Rodrigo takes the lead guitar role, gripping a plectrum to play riffs, lightning palm-muted lines, and melodic solos. (On “Torito” he even plays slide—imagine Elmore James over Phrygian power chords.) By blending Spanish, classical, blues, metal—even Celtic—sounds, Rod and Gab celebrate the 6-string’s history with their spirited music.

Must-hear track: “Megalopolis”