Released Friday, April 26 is “Descender” from Puerto Rico’s Avandra. After multiple listens, I’m left feeling nostalgic, comforted and happy. The music is reminiscent of the early Magna Carta catalog (think Altura, Lemur Voice, Dali’s Dilemma). “Descender” is in that 90s/2000 vein of progressive metal & neo-prog as opposed to the current crop of “extreme” progressive metal and/or djent. This is a compliment, by the way!
You won’t find guttural vocals or blast beats. I find the chord changes intentional and impactful, thoughtfully placed. The vocals are in delivered in a smooth tenor with lots of harmonies which I appreciate. One will find mid-tempo distorted metal with some odd time-signatures baked into the compositions, strong keyboard and synth tones, and warm production that’s not participating in the volume wars. There are moments of sparse vocals and piano, there are syncopated guitar double-leads, there are prog-metal flourishes, but most importantly all these features are used strategically to serve the songs.
The movement from track one to two is almost imperceptible and, while these are two separate songs, they have a certain emotional weight to them that underlines the fact that they are kept together. I’m having flashbacks of early Pain of Salvation during the guitar solo.
Track three is slow and moody but something causes me to pay attention and enjoy it rather than just wonder when it will be over and I can get on to some heavier music. The first of two epics on the CD is A Narrowing of Meaning, clocking in over eleven minutes. It’s not a “difficult-to-listen-to” epic but a “lots-of-melodies-to-show-you” epic. There are some thick harmonic moments in this track that bear repeat listens.
If you don’t hear the Cynic influence on track 7 I’m not sure you are reading the right website. Again, another compliment. A final track of instrumental music, almost post-rock, is an interesting decision, but not a bad one! There is some guitar, some orchestral synths, and some electronic drums, and even though this sounds like it’s from a different band and CD, it caps an emotional ride with a sort of palette cleanser and although it seems risky on paper, experiencing the flow from track 7 to 8 was a nice, turbulence-free landing.
One of the best ways to leave a review is wanting to listen to the music again and Avandra have left me with a reason to visit Descender a few more times
1. Beyond The Threshold Part 1 – Helios Awakens 6:20
2. Beyond The Threshold Part 2 – Helios Descends 6:09
3. A Decision Must Be Made 6:01
4. The Narrowing Of Meaning 11:06
5. Even You 4:43
6. Adder’s Bite 13:13
7. Derelict Minds 7:20
8. Q.E. 4:20
Label: Blood Music
Release Date: 26 April 2019