Mettavolution, the title of acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela's fifth studio album, is drawn from two distinct words. "Metta" is Sanskrit for loving kindness, compassion for self and others, and one of Buddhism's engines of "bodhichitta," the awakened heart's desire to benefit all beings through meditation and action. The word "revolution," with its Latin root, offers several meanings, including "a fundamental change in the way of thinking about something." What does Mettavolution have to do with rock & roll, particularly the metal- and flamenco-influenced inspiration of R&G's music? Doesn't beautiful music benefit all who encounter it? Mettavolution is the first studio album by the duo in five years. After revisiting their root inspirations for 2014's fine 9 Dead Alive, R&G vowed to "reconnect with the physical rush and emotional core of the music they first made together." They developed material in their studio in Ixtapa on Mexico's Pacific coast, roadtested it, then sent it to producer and collaborator Dave Sardy in Los Angeles; the latter also contributes bass, percussion, and selective "synth effects" to these songs.
While the album's most previewed track is a sense-altering 19-minute cover of Pink Floyd’s "Echoes," it's in the five front-end cuts where R&G reveal their latest musical evolution. The title track displays Gabriela Quintero's furious, flamenco-inspired rhythmic invention as the duo's musical heartbeat. She flits through jazz and R&B syncopation, pointed harmonic inventions, and propulsive dynamics. Rodrigo Sanchez's lead playing criss-crosses metal and hard rock, classical music and blues. Along with Sardy's, their actual voices join in a wordless chorus ushering in its soaring conclusion. "Terracentric" is introduced with a gritty R&B-styled rhythmic groove, as Sanchez's twinned string leads deliver shard-like riffs and fills, while Quintero delivers a Nile Rodgers-esque vamp in the choruses. The duo combine flamenco and earthy cumbia in "Cumbe," with leads coming from a clipped wah-wah pedal framed by bass, shakers, and sundry "clickity clacks." After the bluesy rock groove of "Electronic Soul," the whirring sound of space introduces "Krotona Days," that offers the most intimate, dazzling guitar interplay on the record. "Witness Days" closes out the first half with its funky backbeat, desert-themed melodic assignations, and metallic pyrotechnics on both lead and rhythmic guitars in a startling array of rhythmic grooves. The staccato lyric fills set up a contrast for the labyrinthine "Echoes," that commences briefly with an insistent, clarion single-note pulse. This version doesn't drift. It asserts its languid bluesy persona before articulating the melody in verses that preface the innovative themes that emerge later. It's a breathtaking conclusion that serves to underscore the abundant originality and soul R&G bring to everything they play. Mettavolution is the R&G record where all of their gifts are on display and in sync; it sends listeners on a holistic journey of musical discovery and emotional resonance.