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Avandra - Descender Award winner

by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 20 March 2019, 3:29 AM

Having started as a one man project, by Christian Ayala, AVANDRA is a Puerto Rican Progressive Metal band borne of hurricane fueled strife to become one of the scenes breakout acts. After releasing their first record, “Tymora,” demand was so high that it left Ayala feeling obligated to bring his work to the stage. Soon after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, and alone in the dark, Christian wrote most of the second record. Having gained international acclaim, one fan, Nelson Varas, an award winning metal culture film director, ended up writing to Blood Music about the band. Suddenly they had a deal. 2018 was a whirlwind for AVANDRA recording their new album with Daniel Schwartz of ASTRONOID and then mastering with the legendary Magnus Lindberg. Featuring guest spots from current and former members of HAKEN, DREAM THEATER, and ASTRONOID, the band seems poised to unleash something truly special.

“Beyond the Threshold, Pt. 1 opens with a dance of guitars and keys and some nifty meter shifting. It definitely has a Dream Theater vibe. The clean harmonized vocals are very charming, and they catch you right away. Don’t miss out on the impeccable musicianship however. Just enough to show you their prowess without taking away from the song, Piano and vocals bring the song to a close, seguing into “Beyond the Threshold, Pt. 2.” The opening guitar and piano sequence are beautiful. Something about the vocals of Ayala are just so soothing to listen to. The master the song like a seasoned band would, creating layers of wonderful music.

“A Decision Must be Made” opens with slow clean guitars and keys, and the pensive voice of Ayala. The song is pure melancholy bliss…just takes you away to a secret place deep inside a forest grove where you hear the soft trickle of water in a creek, with the sun on your back, as you sit peacefully. “The Narrowing of Meaning” is an eleven minute beast, opening with a fantastic piano melody that leads to dexterous guitar work, and an ever-shifting meter. It moves fairly quickly but retains that melancholy sound throughout, as if you were dreaming but awake at the same time. The lead guitar solo is about as perfect as anything I have heard lately.

“Even You” opens with a pretty little key melody that sound like drops of water over stones. The guitar riff is heavy and ushers in an ominous sound with it. It’s a shorter song but leaves an impression with its melody. The drums drop off after the half way mark but a steady pulsing continues. What would a Prog album be without a 13-minute masterpiece? That’s what “Adder’s Bite” is. Opening with clean guitar notes, it seems innocuous yet you can hear that hint of darkness in the background, a technique that OPETH use a lot. It moves slowly but with the precision of a master alchemist creating something out of nothing. Just before the half way mark, a riff hits that is heavy but not overwhelming. It then turns pretty for some moments, then becomes menacing, reminding you of the mastery the band has over all various elements.

“Derelict Minds” closes the album. Opening with a fast moving technical riff, but high with melody as well. They go deep with the technical elements here, heavy and accented guitars play underneath a bed of beautiful vocals. Keys come in and a warm and content feeling washes over you, and as it rolls to completion, the smile on your face is unbreakable. What a fantastic and fresh sounding album here. The technical elements are easily heard but kept in check, allowing the music to flow through you, lifting you to new heights unimagined. The album has character and depth; two things that are missing from a lot of music today. The hypnotic vocals of Christian Ayala establish a new standard in the genre as well. I guarantee any fan of Progressive Metal will find this as fresh and exciting as I did. Marvelous!

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

5 Star Rating

1. Beyond the Threshold, Pt. 1
2. Beyond the Threshold, Pt. 2
3. A Decision Must be Made
4. The Narrowing of Meaning
5. Even You
6. Adder’s Bite
7. Derelict Minds
Christian Ayala – Guitars/Vocals/Keys
Luis Javier Rivera – Guitars
Gabriel Alejandro Rodriguez – Bass
Adrián Arroyo – Drums
Record Label: Blood Music


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Edited 29 March 2023

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