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Avandra – Prodigal Award winner

by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 05 October 2022, 1:11 PM

From their EPK, “War. A human concept. And one that has fascinated artists of many different shapes and sizes as long as human history has been recorded. War tends to be used to justify a good cause or the defending against a bad cause. But too often, the perspective of those actually fighting the war and what it can do to them is one that is not considered. The abstractions of us vs. them or ‘the glorious purpose’, seem to overshadow the very human suffering that lies beneath the glorious outer shape. And it’s this very concept that AVANDRA has chosen to base their new album “Prodigal” around.

The album contains ten songs. “Codename Pharoah” is the first. Dare I say that this is a bit heavier than past offerings? The beginning features a spoken word sequence from the past, talking about when America was “the greatest country in the world.” The music is just a bit tense, but it breathes from the vocals of Christian. Keyboards are features prominently, and the song sounds like a warning to me…a warning of war. “The Downpour” features a calmer and pleasing melody, fueled by bright keyboard parts, a dominating riff, and harmonized vocals. Following a smooth yet dangerous guitar solo, bass guitar notes thump away, and harsh vocals enter. The ending sequence is beautiful in its simplicity.

“New Beginnings” has a gentle and tranquil sound, with some strings. You can begin to feel a bit of hope developing, but it is so fleeting, it could be gone with a breeze. This song is so sweet that it calms the inner beast, if only for how long it lasts. “A Trace of Home” is an eight-minute song. The guitars roar forward with a purpose, and keyboards join in. The combination of harsh and clean vocals over a bed of melodic leanings provides a sublime sound. Progressive elements abound, mostly in the odd time meter. As the song moves forward, you begin to grow weary, and perhaps empathetic with the situation. The war is far from over. “In Traumen” is a short and charming song with somber piano notes. “Traumen” in German translates to “dream” in English. The dream is mostly calm but there are also hints of caution. “In Memoriam” has a hastier sound but it is not without glorious melodies. This is classic AVANDRA…a combination of musicianship and melody, without one overpowering the other. It gives you vigor, and clout.

“Facing and Armored Dreadnaught” one would think would be a terrifying sound, but the gentlemen create a soothing and serene sound, from a simple but effective riff and calm, harmonic vocals. “Dissembling the Artifice” is a darker song that urges the listener to consider another perspective. At “artifice” is “clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others.” This embodies war in many ways. The sound is very mellow and pleasing, but not without a note of discretion. Harsh vocals serve as the reminder of that. “The Earth Inside” is a pretty but bitter expression that we, the entire human race, all live on the same planet, and there is only one. War tears apart everyone, and the sentiment is sanctioned. The sound is perfectly reflected in the birds chirping…spring always brings hope with it.

“Daybreak” closes the album; a culmination and a final token of the concept. Like KATATONIA,  the sound is a striking combination of heaviness and delicate beauty. This final movement is as charming and brisk as it is an awakening of your conscience. AVANDRA took on an ambitious effort here with their first concept album about the terrible machine of war. They used harsh vocals more, which reflect the subject matter well. They tell the story with passion and enthusiasm, and I know that I have said this before, but it’s the vocals of Christian Ayala Cruz that really move me. This is a mature effort, with every note placed with thoughtfulness and consideration. It’s past time to start talking about AVANDRA as one of the heavy-hitters in Progressive Metal.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Codename Pharaoh
2. The Downpoor
3. New Beginnings
4. A Trace of Home
5. In Traumen
6. In Memoriam
7. Facing an Armored Dreadnaught
8. Dissembling the Artifice
9. The Earth Inside
10. Daybreak
Christian Ayala Cruz – Vocals, Guitars
Luis Javier Rivera – Guitars
José Miguel Vázquez – Bass
Adrián Arroyo – Drums
Valery Velázquez – Live Vocals
Record Label: Layered Reality Productions


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