Amaral – Nocturnal


Guitar-led pop-rock with a little Mediterranean flavour…

Released on 27 January 2017 through Superball Music and reviewed by Ian Savage 

Never heard of these guys? You might be surprised. Over a twenty-year career they’ve sold over four million albums, won an MTV Europe music award (for 2002 breakthrough ‘Estrella de Mar’), and collaborated with Moby, REM’s Peter Buck and bandmates of Mick Jagger, Sting and Mark Knopfler, among myriad others.

Amaral, such as it is, consists of only two people – vocalist Eva Amaral and guitarist Juan Aguirre. Hailing from Zaragoza, their specialism is pop-rock with a uniquely Spanish twist which leaves little room for lazy journalistic comparisons. Nocturnal is their seventh studio album, unleashed upon their domestic market in 2015 and now finding a worldwide release as a two-disc edition featuring stripped-down acoustic versions of almost every tune.

In their own words, Nocturnal “showcases their most mature, obscure and personal side”. Being sung entirely in Spanish, your humble reviewer will have to take their word for that – although my elementary Castalleno still realises songs with the undying themes of love found and lost and the soul-searching only found in the quiet night-time hours.

Is it any good? To give the basic answer, yes. Some top-class session musicians and/or some first-rate programming lend a huge amount of sonic weight to the well-written songs on offer here, which rise clear of the heavily-trodden ‘acoustic-duo-with-female-singer’ approach. The ‘main’ album is pretty standard in terms of core instrumentation (guitar and vocal-led, with drums/bass/keys providing a solid backing), but there’s an undeniable Latin vibe running through the whole thing which removes Amaral from any potential English-singing contemporaries.

Disc one is largely mid-paced expansive pop-rock, with occasional electronic flourishes – ‘Lo Que Nos Mantiene Unidos’ and ’Chatarra’ are pretty typical. Imagine a Spanish version of Evanescence with less theatrics and a sense of irony and you’re in the ballpark; the ‘acoustic’ second disc is something of an ace in the hole, though, as the relentless radio-rock tempos of disco uno become a little wearing after a while.

Here, things are allowed to slow down a touch, with some more varied instrumentation allowing the songs to breathe (the violin in opener ‘Llévame Muy Lejos’ being a case in point – and just to point it out, ‘tus labios’ is ‘your lips’ in Spanish, in case you listen and become thirteen years old).

Regardless of your level of Spanish, ‘Nocturnal’ is essential listening for fans of guitar-led pop-rock who want a little Mediterranean flavour in their musical diet. Whilst nothing ground-breaking, Amaral have put out a record probably beyond the capacity of comparable US and UK bands by sheer dint of their heritage – it’s certainly worth an hour or two of your time. Just don’t be surprised if the bonus material makes your playlists in lieu of the ‘actual’ record.

Amaral – Nocturnal7.5 out of 10

Disc 1:

  1. Llévame Muy Lejos
  2. Obertura (Unas Veces Se Gana…)
  3. Unas Veces Se Gana Y Otras Se Pierde
  4. Nocturnal
  5. La Ciudad Maldita
  6. Lo Que Nos Mantiene Unidos
  7. 500 Vidas
  8. Cazador
  9. Nadie Nos Recordará
  10. La Niebla
  11. Libertinos
  12. Chatarra
  13. En El Tiempo Equivocado
  14. Noche De Cuchillos

Disc 2:

  1. Llévame Muy Lejos
  2. Unas Veces Se Gana Y Otras Se Pierde
  3. Nocturnal
  4. La Ciudad Maldita
  5. Lo Que Nos Mantiene Unidos
  6. 500 Vidas
  7. Cazador
  8. Nadie Nos Recordará
  9. La Niebla
  10. Libertinos
  11. Chatarra
  12. En El Tiempo Equivocado
  13. Noche De Cuchillos