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Avandra - Skylightning Award winner

Avandra
Skylightning
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 15 October 2020, 2:53 AM

San Juan, Puerto Rico newcomers AVANDRA return with a new album, less than two years after their debut “Descender” in 2019. I had the pleasure of reviewing “Descender” in 2019, and was quite impressed with their brand of smooth Progressive Metal, and also found their sound to be a breath of fresh air in the genre. So, here we are with their latest offering, the sophomore effort “Skylightning,” which contains seven tracks.

“Celestial Wreaths” opens the album. The riff is catchy right out of the gate, and the sound is rich with these wonderful keys. Christian’s vocals are smooth and inviting. The riffs lead to a seamless entry into a guitar solo, done with a resourceful touch. The harmonies in the chorus are augmented by the intelligent use of keyboards. “Noetic Probes” opens with some light and airy moments, and wonderful melody from the piano. When the main riff drops, you know you are listening to Progressive music. The lead guitar parts overtop of the vocal harmonies are absolutely dreamy.

“Life is not a Circle, but a Sphere” opens with some very pretty guitar notes and this slightly sad feeling which digs at your emotions. The harmonized vocals are just gorgeous. The guitar picks up with ambient keys in the background, just lightly chugging, allowing the vocals to take center stage. A heavier riff drops, but the melody is still there. What a sophisticated and charming song this is, indeed. “Eternal Return” is just under ten-minutes in length. It opens with dual guitar parts, one is keeping the rhythm and the lead guitar provides emotional peaks as it climbs into the upper ranges. The vocals are both tranquil and seductive. It starts a slow, captivating build and then finishes on a smoot note.

“ProcGen” begins with melancholy guitar notes and again, a slightly sad feeling. The vocals are as smooth as warm butter. Suddenly, these positive tones come out, with a lead break. The sadness slowly fades away, traded for feelings of hope and optimism. The charming piano and key notes just after the half-way mark ooze with a subtle but oh so pleasing melody. Lead guitars carry the melody forward. “Afferent Realms” is a seven-minute song, opening with blistering lead guitar notes and a faster sound. Once again, those vocal harmonies grab you and don’t let go. They get a little bit technical with the lead break after the half-way mark, building in layers, with some heavier and darker elements, with even some harsh vocals towards the end.

“New Origins” closes the album, and as it opens, these beautiful textures begin to escape, painting your once drab world in vivid colors. Spoken words over a soft bed of keys carries the sound forward. It’s a wonderful way to wrap up the album, and you can feel it pick you up and whisk you away to a different dimension, with a calm peacefulness all around. Towards the end, the remaining instruments join in, with this majestic excitability, and then it slowly fades to completion.

AVANDRA have done it again, proving that you don’t have to play Progressive Metal with overly technical elements…just let it breathe, and that’s what they have done here. Great music should make you feel warm, and alive, and that’s exactly how I feel after listening to “Skylightning.” There are many different paths that Progressive Metal can take, and AVANDRA have trail-blazed their own path, not following anyone’s lead. The end result is seven breath-taking tracks of sublime beauty that will run you through a bevy of emotions, and the key to making it all work are the various textures they display, their attention to the songwriting, and the vocal work of Christian Ayala. This album should be on every Progressive fan’s top 10 this year for sure.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Celestial Wreaths
2. Noetic Probes
3. Life is not a Circle, but a Sphere
4. Eternal Return
5. ProcGen
6. Afferent Realms
7. New Origins
Lineup:
Christian Ayala – Guitars, Vocals, Keys
Luis Javier Rivera – Guitars
Gabriel Alejandro Rodriguez – Bass
Adrián Arroyo – Drums
Record Label: Layered Reality Productions
     


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Edited 20 October 2020
 

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