Nino Planeta

2.0

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Hard-rocking Puerto Rican quintet Nino Planeta ("Young Planet") formed in 2000 around ex-Materia Prima drummer Ernesto Padilla. Tapping ex-Sol D'Menta vocalist Ricardo "Ricky" Diaz, ex-Pinta guitarist Josue "El Mapache" Diaz, ex-Kamma Project bassist Humberto "Kama" Cruz, and guitarist Alcides Muniz, Padilla christened the new group Nino Planeta, after an imagined superhero who will would save the world with music. Diaz' vocals are sung entirely in Spanish, and the group incorporates such Latin influences as Soda Stereo into their amalgam of American hard rock. Much wider in scope than their self-titled debut, 2.0 finds the band expanding on the Mr. Big-meets-Vernon Reid shred fests of their first album to incorporate both the harmonies of Alice in Chains and the grandeur of Dream Theater into their unique sound. Despite hair metal's popular flameout in early 1991, it has continued to thrive, and Nino Planeta is a good example of how the genre's extremes have been refined, keeping the huge riffs and soaring voices but losing the mamby-pamby spandex, lipstick, and Aqua Net that is, unfortunately, hair metal's legacy. That said, Nino Planeta rocks with authority on "El Juego" but tempers its considerable sonics with touches of instrumental subtlety. "El Angel" features a mixture of both live and programmed drums, and "Estrella" is a power ballad complete with harmonized guitars and a chorus tailor-made for waving cigarette lighters aloft. 2.0 also features a gorgeous, largely acoustic remix of "A Fuego Lento" from the debut. But best is "Noche en la Calle," a leering, strutting rocker led by Padilla's aggressive time changes and an enormous, man-eating guitar riff. Nino Planeta's adherence to the sounds of its heroes -- as well as their ability to expand on and experiment with those sounds -- proves that hard rock is wide awake in the Americas.

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