Musician and composer ‘Christian Ayala Cruz’ first introduced himself to me sometime in 2017. He was at the time busy auditioning musicians in order to form a band and take his ‘Avandra’ project onto the road and more particularly for the possibility of appearing at the ‘ProgPower Festival 2018’. I subsequently listened with great interest to the excellent ‘Tymora’ project that Christian had written produced and recorded. I don’t know why but, I found it quite interesting that such thought-provoking and well-engineered music of a progressive metal genera was being produced in Puerto Rico.
Following the publication of my review of ‘Tymora’in ‘Progplanet.com’ It was always my intention to follow up the progress of ‘Avandra’ but then in September 2017, tragedy in the form of Category 5 hurricane ‘Maria struck Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.’ It was regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect those islands causing untold damage and a complete shutdown of services and communications.
Whilst everyday life is still not fully back to normality in Puerto Rico, I’m pleased to say that ‘Christian’ has moved on somewhat having come to the attention of ‘Nelson Varas,’ the director of award winning metal music culture documentaries and who also and subsequently he introduced the band to‘ Blood Music’ record label. And so now with an interested backing behind them, there is nothing to prevent ‘Advandra’ progressing to international fame.
‘Descender’ is indeed a comprehensive progressive album full of delightful twists and turns and changes of pace over the eight tracks. Indeed it is a well-balanced mixture of heavy metal riffing overlaid with intricate breaks of tricky lead guitar with scale progressions that soar out at you from the basic music stack. However, within the balance it is a marked division between the powerful heavy metal interludes and the more thoughtful and quite whimsical progressive elements that take on special stylisations, for example: definite moments of a Spanish classical leaning. There too is an abundance of melodic piano fragments interwoven within the mix which transport the music between the various phases and different time change sections. Not so obvious on first listening are the synthesizer flurries that expand to bloister out the collective sound patterns which again, just like the piano runs, embellish the spaces between the various musical fragments.
The softly delivered vocal arrangements take on an almost spiritual feel and are extremely well suited to the movement of the music. I’m pleased to say, no heavy growling or ugly screaming is included , just an extremely controlled and thoughtful projection of the human voice that fits comfortablyas one with the music as it flows through its various guises.
The drumming is first class throughout and the sound from the collective guitars quite wonderful.
Summary: A masterclass of exciting, fast moving modern progressive rock with a distinct emphasis on tuneful well considered guitar arrangements.
Artwork: Mystical and quite imposing sculpture like art from Travis Smith
1. Beyond the Threshold: Part 1 - Helios Awakens
2. Beyond the Threshold: Part 2 - Helios Descends
3. A Decision Must Be Made
4. The Narrowing of Meaning
6. Adder’s Bite
7. Derelict Minds
Christian Ayala Cruz - Voice, Guitars, Synths
Luis Javier Rivera Guilbot - Guitars
Adrián Arroyo Schuck - Drums
Gabriel Rodríguez Martinez - Bass
Guitar solo in track 2 - Christopher De Léon Jones
Guitar solo in track 4 - Richard Henshall (Haken)
Guitar solo in track 5 - Israel Romero Pérez
Keyboard solo in track 7 - Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater, Chroma Key, OSI)
Percussion programming in track 8 - Daniel Schwartz (Astronoid)