Album Title: Descender
Label: Blood Music
Date of Release: 26 April 2019
Ah, I’ve missed this – discovering new bands and feeling a strong urge to write about them. It’s why I set up my website in the first place and why, after several months in the doldrums I am back with a greater determination than ever to spread the word about great music to as wide an audience as I can.
So, today’s victim is Avandra, a melodic progressive metal band from Puerta Rico. Truth be told, I’ve had this record downloaded for some time but it wasn’t until a conversation with a musical brother at ProgPower Europe recently that I was urged to give it a proper listen. Of course, that advice was correct, because ‘Descender’ this South American quartet’s sophomore effort, is a really rather good record.
What could initially and erroneously be dismissed as ‘boring’ or ‘lacking a wow factor’ is actually down to the fact that the eight songs on this album are incredibly smooth and are proper growers, meaning that the more you listen, the more the material gets under your skin and embrace you in their warm, melodic glow.
The smoothness of ‘Descender’ is, in part, down to the vocals of Christian Ayala which are surprisingly understated and soothing for this kind of music. He has quite a breathy quality, almost a gentle croon, which actually fits the music exceptionally well. Alongside the noteworthy vocals are plenty of acoustic guitars, pianos and synths, all of which add to the aforementioned smoothness and undeniable elegance. Just take a listen to the sumptuous ‘Beyond The Threshold Part 2’ or the moody, bleak and vaguely Katatonia-esque ‘A Decision Must Be Made’.
The Katatonia reference might raise an eyebrow, but I also hear occasional nods towards Iron Maiden, thanks to the galloping rhythms that emerge in places within the opener, ‘Beyond The Threshold Part 1’. I also detect a smattering of dark/doom intent here and there although at it’s core, ‘Descender’ is firmly a melodic prog metal affair with plenty of classic references to be heard.
Whilst the opener might be a candidate for a ‘best intro’ award thanks to its expansive and cheeky-sounding joie-de-vivre, I’d have to also nominate ‘Even You’ which builds beautifully from humble beginnings to really grab my ear.
I feel like I have said this a few times of late, but if there was a negative aspect to dwell upon for a moment, it would be that a few of the songs veer into ‘unnecessarily long’ territory. The upshot is an eight-track record that is a full hour long. Personally, I think that the album could easily have been as impactful had it been ten minutes shorter. But hey, that’s just my opinion; you may disagree.
Don’t let my slight misgivings deter you, however. The melodic intent and vibrancy of songs like ‘The Narrowing Of Meaning’ or the gorgeous electronics-laced introspection of the closing instrumental ‘Q.E’ more than make up for any minor imperfections evident elsewhere.
If you are prepared to stick with it, ‘Descender’ is a quality prog metal record worthy of the effort and one that will almost insidiously creep into your playlist much more frequently than you realise. Like a silent assassin, it’ll get you in the end.
The Score of Much Metal: 87%
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from 2019:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: