Hailing from the City of Maldonado, Conkistadores is a recently-formed band whose sound lies somewhere between hard rock and heavy metal. The current lineup comprises singer Gabriel “Rubio” Laborde, guitar player Angelo Galeazzi, drummer Darwing “Pato” Cabana, bassist Jonathan Garcia and keyboard player Juan Lujambio.
They all have played in bands from Maldonado before – Darwing played in “La Mole” and “Gangster”, Gabriel sang with “Minerva”, Angelo was the guitarist for “Cardíacos”… even Juan (the youngest member) is a well-known face in the local scene, having formed his first metal band when he was just 14.
The band has just finished recording its debut EP. It is bound to be released soon, and Conkistadores is playing his first gig in Montevideo on the 13th of November at La Comuna along with the bands Cimarrón and Ginebra (from Salto and Montevideo, respectively).
Musically, Conkistadores references the ‘80s in a dynamic and constant way, with bands like Iron Maiden, Warcry and Yngwie Malmsteen being just some of their clearest standard bearers. But so are Guns ‘n’ Roses, Dream Theater and the Argentinean band Rata Blanca.
You can tell the band members are not new to the game when you listen to them playing. Gabriel’s vocals are sonorous in the best sense of the word. The bass work is decidedly mellifluous, and the guitar is an effective emotional vehicle. More than often, it is hard to believe that the keyboard parts come from someone who is just 15. And Pato is playing the drums with the strength and conviction that only those who have had a close call can muster (he was involved in a near-fatal motorcycle accident not so long ago).
Out of the six songs that are going to be featured on their debut EP, my personal favorite is “Nadie Escuchó” [Nobody Heard]. It deals with the murder of a 10-year old girl in Maldonado (“Un demente con una estaca de Madera/dejó muda una ciudad entera”) [A madman with a wooden stake/left a whole city speechless] and it is a good example of the band’s ability to touch weighty issues without sounding preachy or overbearing.
The song also has my favorite guitar solo of the whole EP. A true sense of walled desperation is conveyed. Nobody would mistake it for Eric Clapton’s famous weeping guitar, but it is an instrument that is speaking a language capable of moving even those who have not been personally marked and marred by tragedy.
In the end, such achievements are all the more remarkable when we think where the band actually comes from. In Uruguay, it is difficult to make music. Not even people from Montevideo (the capital city) have got it easy. But when it comes to the rest of the country, it is even harder. Resources are even more limited, recording facilities are scarcer, the eventual projection that a band can have is circumscribed. But the story Conkistadores are writing one note at a time stands as an inspiring example or succeeding against the odds.
I don’t know if they will ever shift 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000 copies. That doesn’t matter. Like Mother Teresa once said, “You might think that what you are doing is nothing but a drop of water falling into the ocean. Yet, the ocean would not be the ocean without that drop of water”. Uruguayan music would not be the same without the sound coming from outside of Montevideo. And a band like Conkistadores has got all it takes for bursting many people’s preconceptions, while reminding us of that eternal truth: “United we stand, divided we fall”.
This is the band’s MySpace profile.