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Ardra – Unto Leviathan Award winner

Unto Leviathan
by Santiago Puyol at 19 May 2020, 10:09 AM

American Death Metal band ARDRA seems to have set out to make an outstanding debut record and they simply succeed on "Unto Leviathan". Mixing elements from several Death Metal subgenres including Technical Death Metal, Deathcore and Melodic Death Metal, adding just a pinch of Progressive Metal and Mathcore, this band from San José, California, shows how talented they are.

A soft ambient intro opens the record on "Carrion Dawn", before delving into crunchy riffing, pounding bass and thrashy drumming. Sick, Metalcore-ish breakdown midpoint through. The guitar work has a slight Progressive Metal flair to it. An immediate opener that wastes no time.

"Trek for the Fallen" features some interesting vocal layering, with low- and high-pitched harsh vocals place together to convey an anguished feel. Their Prog Metal technicality becomes even more apparent here, with some tasteful and deeply melodic soloing. ARDRA even manages to slow down the pace a little when the track needs room to breathe, putting an emphasis on songwriting rather than flashy musicianship. Any technical prowess it put in service of the song. Beautiful arpeggiated guitar work on the last third of the song.

Groovy and hard-hitting, "Dominion" is pure fun Deathcore, with breakneck speed drumming and squeaking guitars. The slight technical approach from the band feels slightly reminiscent of very early BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, albeit in a more focused way. It is a weird choice to end with an abrupt ambient coda with some cello that doesn’t even flow nicely into "To Walk with Fire".

Tribal drumming and melodic softness coexist with some powerful Melodeath choruses and energetic outbursts. The rhythm section lays down a warm groove about two minutes in, while lonesome clean guitar provides an atmospheric backdrop to harsh vocals. Equal parts GOJIRA and OPETH when it comes to musicianship. This is followed by another anguished chorus. Everything capped off with an exquisite, complex and alluring guitar solo.

"This Thing Lives" is probably the most crushingly heavy track of the bunch, starting right off the bat with manic drumming and deep growling. It gets strategically paired-up with "Hunger of the Witch", one of the heavier, longer tracks on the record. More pulverizing riffing, high energy playing from the rhythm section, and classy soloing.

Playful syncopation makes "Malformed Almighty" veers closer to funky Mathcore, even if it never leaves the Death Metal realm of ARDRA. A short banger with brief, nasty breakdowns, before moving onto the epic six minutes long closer.

The title track closes the record in dramatic fashion. It slowly builds from ambience and guitar feedback into a fully fleshed Melodeath track. The drum work plays a huge role in setting the mood, while the guitar provides an exotic, soundtrack-like feel in the slower sections. It never loses its edge, yet still manages to be a slower and softer track. It closes with an echoey coda, filled with reverb-drenched guitars and distant, almost indiscernible harsh vocals.

The main reason to ARDRA’s success on "Unto Leviathan" clearly has to do with the top-notch songwriting that goes together so well with the skilful musicianship. The eight tracks here are well-constructed and odd-choices aside everything seems to fit perfectly together. A solid debut record that promises many great things to come.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Carrion Dawn
2. Trek for the Fallen
3. Dominion
4. To Walk with Fire
5. This Thing Lives
6. Hunger of the Witch
7. Malformed Almighty
8. Unto Leviathan
Line-up unavailable
Record Label: Independent


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