Sunday, 11 December 2011

Aghora - Aghora 1999

Format: flac + cue + log
Genre: Jazz-Metal, Progressive Metal
Release Date: 1999
Label: Dobles Productions

Several acts have risen from the broken remains of technical jazz-metal
legends Cynic, and not the least among them is this shining gem of a band.
Aghora takes the deft rhythmic foundation of their progenitors and combines
it seamlessly with a presentation that's not so much metal as it is a melting
pot of Middle Eastern-influenced exoticism drenched in a metal aesthetic. I
suppose it would be accurate enough to say that there's about as much metal
on this disc as there was on Cynic's Focus.

Without a doubt, guitarist and primary songwriter Santiago Dobles employs
an arsenal of absolutely crushing riffs, as well as searing solos that evoke
images of John McLaughlin at his finest... but these things rarely dominate
the music. Indeed, inbetween occasional assaults of metallic fury Santiago
displays very subtle guitar work that includes classic Indian melodies which
stand as a consistent theme throughout the course of the album, exotic solo
pieces and soothing chord progressions as heard throughout "Frames",
atmospheric flailing as he dances with bassist Sean Malone on the
instrumental "Jivatma", and even extensive use of the sitar as heard primarily
on the closer "Anugraha". Santiago displays a wide range of influences that
stretch well past McLaughlin, and he effectively manages to not sound quite
like any of them - the result is extremely inspired, energetic, creative, and full
of fervor no matter what he happens to be playing.

The rhythm section... what is there to say, really? Sean Reinert on drums
and Sean Malone on bass, the infallible dream team of metallic fusion. Malone
once again delivers a performance that puts into question the role of the
bass as a purely rhythmic instrument - he acts as an enormous melodic force
throughout this disc while still maintaining a solid rhythmic pulse and filling out
the bottom end admirably. His elegant soloing on "Frames", spastic jamming
on "Jivatma", and absolutely show-stopping breaks on "Satya" and "Kali
Yuga" all go to show that the man has definitely not lost his touch. In the
rear, Reinert holds down the rhythmic foundation with his brand of
free-flowing, limber fusion drumming with little left to be desired. His cymbal
work is staggering, his rhythmic shifts are unpredictable and intelligent, and
his synergy with Malone is nigh unmatched. However, the contributions of
Malone and Reinert are far greater, as the way in which they develop the
rhythmic backbone of the songs offers a deep sense of mysticism - as if
there's something more going on in the music than just the music. I get this
feeling with much of the work that Malone and Reinert do together, though...
they definitely have something special between them.

The vocals have received some criticism, and while I'm not particularly crazy
about singer Danishta Rivero, I also don't have any major complaints about
her style. Her voice has an Indian vibe, and is pretty and quite soothing to
listen to. She can come off a bit repetitive throughout the first half of the
album, but she also has absolutely stellar performances on "Kali Yuga" and
"Existence", where she reaches for the stars and mostly succeeds.

There really is no reason to pass up on this album if you're a fan of
progressive metal that actually attempts to innovate and progress instead of
simply rehashing the same old sound. Additionally, if you're a fan of either
Sean Malone or Sean Reinert, or both, then this is an absolute no brainer -
they are at the top of their game and listening to them play is an absolute

Bio (Prog Archives)

AGHORA is an intriguing and unusual metal/jazz rock band from Florida. It
was put together by guitar virtuoso (and Berklee-trained) Santiago Dobles
together with ex-CYNIC members Sean Reinert (drums) and Sean Malone
(bass). They were later joined on vocals by Santiago's sister Danishta Rivero,
a classically-trained mezzo-soprano, and by death metal guitarist Charlie
Ekendahl. If you are familiar with death metal pioneers CYNIC, you will have
a good idea of where this music stands; however, AGHORA isn't a CYNIC
clone as Santiago incorporates many new influences to the material, making it
a bit jazzier and more oriental sounding. Echoes of Allan Holdsworth,
MAHAVISHNU and especially Steve Vai can be heard in this music.

This is highly technical progressive metal and not easy to get into; once
you've got beyond the complexity, however, you can't help but appreciate
the immense talent in this band: their music is intense, fun and exciting;
ambitious but not pretentious. The two guitarists, who frequently provide
heavily distorted riffs, complement each other well and the jazzy bass guitar
is aggressive yet consistently melodic. The purity of Rivero's melodic vocals (a
far cry from your regular 'cookie monster' growls) seems to make the
instrumental parts even crunchier, while the abrasive musical textures in turn
make her voice sound that much more ethereal. The only flaw is perhaps the
poor mixing, which tends to muddle and drown the drums.

Recommended for tech-metal fans who don't mind adding a little jazz flavour
to their metal diet.


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SpiralArray said...

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