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Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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4 stars Fusion, thrash, eastern influences and classic female vocals. Yes, this is Aghora. This is one of the most satisfyingly complete prog-metal albums I've ever heard. Malone's bass is simply astounding. He's consistently melodic, and still has plenty of aggression. Reinert's performance is pretty much perfect for the album. Absolutely essential for progressive metal fans looking for something beyond the same ol' thing.
Report this review (#31912)
Posted Saturday, July 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Yes, it's a metal musical vein (DREAM THEATER, SYMPHONY X) if you listen to first track "Immortal Bliss" intro. But . not all tracks have metal part. It also reminds me to FINNEUS GAUGE or BILL BRUFORD's "Feels Good to Me" or sometime BRAND X. Not because of female vocal but it's more on the way vocal's singing style. This is an excellent debut album. I observe that the bass player is very dominant. The way he plays his bass guitar reminds me to JACO PASTORIUS of Wheather Report. AGHORA's music is a blend of metal and jazz rock fusion. This is a new invention, I think. I never heard this kind of music before. Can you imagine: Wheater Report / Finneus Gauge / Bill Bruford meet with RHAPSODY (Italian metal warrior with lead guitarist and mastermind : LUCA TURILI), YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. Why do I consider this way? Look at how the guitar is played, it's a kind of LUCA and sometimes Yngwie. (track 3 - Transfiguration).

The opening part of track 4 "Frames" is definitely FINNEUS GAUGE kind of music. But it is then blended with metal heavy guitar riffs followed by howling guitar and dazzling jazzy bass guitar play in the vein of Jaco Pastorius. This track represents the richness of Aghora's music.: metal meets jazz rock fusion! Innovative and original!!!

Track 7 "Jivatma (11:23)" is a very unique track with a sort of eastern music at opening and followed by a PORCUPINE TREE like music. The solo guitar is stunning; there is no metal music component in this track. The solo bass guitar in the middle of the track creates a jazzy nuance of this track. It is then followed by solo electric guitar again. This time, the lead guitar reminds me to TOMMY BOLIN's solo in "Stratus" of BILLY COBHAM's "Spectrum" album and sometime Yngwie's style. Wonderful solo guitar and bass line! I love this instrumental track. Unfortunately this track ends up with "fade out" (so sorry I don't favor this kind of ending. You may have no problem.)

Track 8 "Existence" is another excellent track with jazz-rock fusion and metal flavors. It has female vocal here. Sometime reminds me to FLORA PURIM or GAYLE MORAN of RETURN to FOREVER. The drumming part is dynamic in this track. I'm so grateful having this kind of music. Last track "Anugraha" has a dynamic opening followed by female voice; drums dominate the scene. The eastern music nuances have influenced this track.

The only thing lacking of this album is its production. It has a poor mixing so that the sound of drum sounds strange. Overall, it's an excellent debut album. I'm curious how their next album would look like. Gatot Widayanto - Indonesia.

Report this review (#31913)
Posted Monday, July 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's funny how we pretend to amuse ourselves with "old cows" all the time. Sincerelly, this album breaks a lot of walls toward the perfect fusion in between rock and jazz. These guys really are trained musicians, from tip to toe, and in every song there is a sense of groove and magic... warning in here!!! they're not trying to create an "impossible" record, or something is at the end "unplayable", is a very honest approach of what might happen if all the anger from rock is mixed with all the despair of jazz: a brilliant record. A data must be taken in relevance: Sean Reinart and Sean malone are in the so called "rhythm section" a pair of great musicians exploring a little bit further from their previous effort with CYNIC.

Now, i've heard at least 15 times this record and every time makes me smile beacuse of the breat textures and colors it presents, not only a dash of "strange" instruments, but a whole range of chords and arpegios that reminds me sometimes CHOPIN and the great OSCAR PETERSON. Yes, the variety of eastern sounds help create a wider mood and a more vibrant ambient through the record, however the lyrics sometimes seem to be a little bit too "mystic" and deep, but is a minor flaw, the voice of DANISHTA reminds me the voice of LISA GERRARD or the forgotten and lost project from CYNIC called PORTAL with the vocals of ARUNA ABRAHMS, a complete different point of view for us prog-rockers.

So, this record has to be seen from the fusion side of the coin, becaus after distilling every song to it's minimum and i suggest you download the song in here EXISTENCE and try hard to hear that is jazz with distorted guitars and not the opposite, i mean it, the best example is the instrumental JIVATMA, a glory of jazz oriented improvisation.

Again, i defend this record and say that is a lost masterpiece, a must have for the music lover. peace

Report this review (#38596)
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I actually find this album quite superior to the legendary only album released earlier by Cynic. It's still very technical but somehow Danishta Rivero's voice gives to the music a more spacey sound. Once again Reinert and Malone make an outstanding rhythm section and their technical skills increase while you go on at exploring this excellent one shot. It's complex and very metal sounding indeed, and in my humble opinion, far more superior in quality than the sterile and smoothy Gordian Knot projects which are to follow.
Report this review (#42630)
Posted Friday, August 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Aghora music can be described as technical death metal with jazz influences. But unlike the other death metal band in general, they have a female vocalist who sings only with her clean vocals; absolutely no growling at all. This, together with the jazz influences on their music making them has a somewhat unique and a bit softer sound than some other technical metal band.

This self-titled album is their debut and actually it’s quite interesting. You get some nice combination between heavy and technical with some jazzy and somewhat a bit of eastern folk sounds on this album. For example, the opening track ‘Immortal Bliss’ kicks out straight from the beginning with some heavy riffs and guitar solos, although it’s not totally heavy and technical through the entire song. The same can also be said about the other tracks. Almost every song has lots of heavy parts, but they also have a lighter side which make them interesting and not too heavy listening. Check out the middle part through the end of ‘Frames’. Those parts are excellent. The combination of the instruments flows nicely and gives a nice feeling to the song. Or listen to ‘Kali Yuga’ which has some great keyboard melody and solos. For more interesting instrumental works, listen to ‘Jivatma’. It’s an instrumental track that has lots of guitar solos and a few but great bass solos too. My favorite part of this album is probably the last two tracks, ‘Existence’ and ‘Anugraha’. ‘Existence’ is the track that gets me into their music. It has a great guitar works, nice bass lines and keyboard melody, and also the drumming toward the end of this song. ‘Anugraha’ is another story. It’s the lightest track in this album, and it’s really nice. This song sounds more like a jazz song with a little of eastern folk influences.

Overall, this is quite a good effort, especially being a debut album. The fusion between jazz and metal is really interesting. The female vocals make this album even more interesting, although in a few parts I think it goes a bit too high but that’s fine. However, this isn’t an album that you’d go for an intense listening. It’s something that goes enjoyable at times, but it’s not something that would make you want to listen to it over and over again continuously. If you keen on technical metal and don’t mind with some jazz fusion and female vocals on metal, this album could suit your musical taste.

Actually I’d give this album 3 and half stars, so you can cut the “…but non-essential” part from the rating description, if you like…

Report this review (#129608)
Posted Saturday, July 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Aghora" is the self-titled debut full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Aghora. The album was released Dobles Productions Inc. in october 2000. The label is owned by band founder, main composer and guitarist Santiago Dobles. In addition to Santiago Dobles on lead guitars, Aghora also feature female vocalist Danishta Rivero, rythm guitarist Charlie Ekendahl, Sean Malone on bass and Sean Reinert on drums. The latter two are known for being the rythm section on "Focus (1993)" by Cynic but also for their involvement in other high profile acts like Gordian Knot and Death.

The music style is somewhat in the vein of Cynic but with a latin music touch. That means progressive/technical metal with a strong fusion rythm section. What stands out the most though is lead vocalist Danishta Rivero. It was quite unusual to have a female singer in a technical/progressive metal band in 2000 (and probably still is today) and she really adds a unique element to the band´s sound. Unfortunately her singing style is rather monotone and the melody lines are not very strong or memorable either. It´s quite a shame because she has a beautiful voice. I´ll be honest and say that I would have preferred some Chuck Shuldiner type raw vocals instead or preferably some more memorable melody lines. When that is said the instrumental part of the album is excellent. We are talking high quality technical/fusion metal with progressive twists and turns played by very skilled musicians.

...I´m kinda biased towards this album, as I find the instrumental part of the album irresistably charming while the melody lines and the monotone female vocals leave me cold. I´ll try not to let the latter issue affect my rating too much. I´ve read other reviews that praises the vocals, so I guess it´s an aquired taste. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is warranted.

Report this review (#160322)
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Debut album of Miami's Aghora isn't just your next metal album. No way. Metal quartet plus classically trained female vocals. Not very usual combination for the year 1999.But it is not all story.

They aren't playing operatic metal or symphonic pop-metal, as many bands started to play some years later. They are playing metal fusion - melted mix of heavy metal ( even trash) sound and jazz structures and rhythms. Intrigued? OK, and their rhythm section is Sean Malone (bass) and Sean Reinert ( drums, tabla, percussion), Cynic's rhythm section! So, now you know what to expect from their music.

But there is not Cynic's clone. They use many Latin and orient elements in their music, plus female vocalist Danishta Rivero sings in almost angel's soprano voice. Unhappily, music isn't focused enough, Danishta's classic vocal is of very limited range, so after few songs sound become a bit monotonic. But the best album's value is great rhythm section!

Interesting enough example of not very usual metal fusion music. Especially recommended for everyone, who likes Cynic or Sean Malone works. As well for fans of female singers in metal music - very original and unusual combination ( much more exclusive, than Opeth, Nightwish or Without Temptation).

Report this review (#259470)
Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Florida death metal scene. It had spawned such great bands as Death, Cynic, Atheist which I note since they also pushed death metal in a technical/progressive direction. Well, one very unknown Florida metal band is Aghora. This is their debut album, and it is a great one! It is a nice merger of metal and jazz. However, unlike Atheist and Cynic before them, this is NOT death metal. While they may have heavy riffs, (and do they!) the music is far from death metal.

Even farther are the vocals. In fact Aghora uses a female vocalist. This adds obvious melodicism but also beauty. Atheist was jazzy metal, but pretty rough on most average people I'd imagine. Perhaps Cynic is better, bet still rooted in death metal somewhat. "Aghora" has some heaviness but that is about it. The vocals really add icing to the cake. The music is brilliant! However, the beautiful, sometimes chilling, vocals just really pull it together.

In terms of music, this debut album album is actually MORE progressive then "Formless" in my opinion. Formless is a lot heavier, with a lot more use of Santiago's crushing riffs. "Aghora" however, is almost more jazzy then metal! Almost, maybe it's about 50/50. Anyway, its a nice blend of jazz and metal. Lot's of melodicism.

Santiago's guitar work is amazing. He can play heavy riffs, jazzy licks, beautiful minimalist pieces, and lots of trippy, (almost eastern sounding) noises, (thanks to Sitar!). He is a wonderful soloist as well. His solo's range from shred metal, to flamenco, as well as melodic.

Sean Malone, of Cynic fame, plays bass on this album and it is glorious! You can hear it much more than there second release, (which is a shame because Alan Goldstein is amazing! I recommend you check out his youtube page!). Anyway, Malone lays down some truly amazing bass. He also plays the piano, which does have some use on the album.

On drums we have Sean Reinert, from Death and Cynic, (crazy, two big names in the Florida metal scene appear on this album yet it is still so obscure). Anyway, Sean's drumming is amazing. It is jazzy, tasteful, technical and complex and he can lay down some nice double bass! His drumming on this album, (as well as Formless) is almost never thrashy, (at least not too thrashy) which again separates Aghora from it's tech/jazzy death metal counterparts.

Every song on this album is great, and there are never slow/boring parts. I am captivated from beginning to end. This is one of those rare jewels. A real musical journey, maybe it's not experimental enough for some proggers, but I never got that. I mean how much music is different EVERY song, and personally this album is quite varied. Each song takes you through different pieces and frankly, the music ranges from cool to melodic, from nice to downright beautiful.

While you can't go wrong with any song, I will say the second half of "Frames" is truly beautiful. The type where if I was lying down, with music quiet, totally dark I could almost go to a different place in my mind. Any fan of prog-metal, metal, jazz fusion, harder prog MUST check out this album. I guess if you have no tolerance for heavy guitar then this may not be right for you, but please give it a listen.

Five Stars

Report this review (#284956)
Posted Friday, June 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Compared to their second album, this one is more varied, stylistically, and there is much more jazz influence. Not surprisingly (due to the presence of the two former Cynic members) this album is like a hybrid between Cynic's first record, Focus; Aghora's second album, Formless; and the two Gordian Knot albums. Although it may be argued that there is not enough jazz influence to make this album qualify as "fusion", if there is enough, then I would say that this is among the top two jazz-metal fusion albums that I've heard so far. To me, it is also one of the top progressive metal albums that I've heard, and I have heard a lot!

In terms of weaknesses, some of the vocals on the final track, Anugraha, are too musically "easy" or "pretty", and at times, the guitar riffs can be a repetitive. Some overdubs or additional layering on top of what is there could have made some songs more interesting.

Report this review (#376671)
Posted Saturday, January 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I totally agreed reading UMUR's review. After all the praise, the vocals are exactly what I don't like at this album. Agora is a floridian jazz/metal band featuring Death/Cynic members. This album is under different settings. This is not death or extreme metal. But it's very technical. Aghora has an oriental touch (sometimes Latin influences too), and is a female fronted band, and the fusion of this two points generates the mistake. Santiago Dobles's sister has a good voice, but this project would be better without her. While the music is pretty detailed, with Sean Reinert amazing drums and Sean Malone incredible outstanding basslines, the melodic lines are boring. I do not like her way of singing. I'm a little bit prejudiced when I heard about female fronted metal bands, because most of the leading girls are very similar "goth" chicks, singing just the same way and sameness melodic music style. Well, this album could not be bad at all, we have a great line-up here, but the mix of Cynic/Gordian Knot with this kind of female vocals really don't pleases me. Other hand, this debut album is actually much more better than Formless (2006 album).
Report this review (#1008679)
Posted Tuesday, July 30, 2013 | Review Permalink

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