Avandra – Prodigal
Avandra is a Progressive/Power Metal band formed in 2011 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Prodigal is their fourth full-length album. It breaks new ground sonically, going darker than some of their earlier works, but never succumbing to that darkness and becoming bereft of hope. They tackle the subject of war from the perspective of the warfighter, not from the geo-political theory of conflict, though they acknowledge the politics with spoken word from various speeches. The story is as big as the wars they depict while setting the stage for how the military-industrial complex came to be.
- Christian Ayala Cruz – Vocals/Guitars
- Luis Javier Rivera – Guitars
- José Miguel Vázquez – Bass
- Adrián Arroyo – Drums
- Valery Velázquez – Live Vocals
Prodigal will be released on November 18, 2022, via Layered Reality Productions. https://www.layered-reality.com
- Codename: Pharaoh
- The Downpour
- New Beginnings
- A Trace Of Home
- In Träumen
- In Memoriam
- Facing An Armored Dreadnaught
- Dissembling The Artifice
- The Earth Inside
“Codename: Pharoah” is the launch point for this tale. It opens with part of a speech by former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower. The speech, used as the backdrop of the intro to the song, speaks of being in three wars, American exceptionalism, and the need to use this preeminent power for good. Our success in this largely depends on where you live, as many view the United States as a global aggressor, while we see ourselves as the world’s heroes, fighting oppression and terrorism on a global scale.
The slow building of the intro, with the keys increasing slightly in volume, set the stage beautifully for the kick that is the song’s main body. The riff is big and bold and heavy. The is another shift with more of the speech playing, then the vocals come in low and serious. The bass is subdued yet dramatic, and the drums vary wildly, going from slow and even to alternating pedal patterns. The overall composition is outstanding, providing an excellent start to the story.
Keeping the story moving, “The Downpour” has a similarly progressive styling for the music. The vocals are cleaner, using less grit than the previous track. The keyboards and guitars interact dynamically, twisting around each other to keep the rhythm flowing in and around itself, not just flowing in a straight line. In “New Beginnings,” the intro is slower and backed by strings. The vocals use layered harmonies to add depth to the emotion, making this almost a power ballad. The guitar solo even follows, staying within the melodic confines and avoiding some technical shredding seen on earlier tracks.
One of three songs that top the eight-minute mark is next, “A Trace Of Home.” The intro starts with keyboards that are joined by the bass, which then give way to a massive Prog guitar/drum combo. Here, the vocals go beyond the grit and straight to harsh. Much like in war, the harsh reality of landing in a conflict zone is thrust upon those condemned to fight the actual battles.
“In Traumen” acts a bit like a lead-in to “In Memoriam,” setting the stage for the story’s next phase. There are only a few whispered lines here, with the piano playing the lead for the entire song. There are ambient noises and synth passages, but this song feels like the somber realization that you are at war and people are dying around you. “In Memoriam” seems to support that a bit lyrically. Here, the time has passed, and memories remain of friends lost and nightmares endured together. Only those who have seen war understand the suffering their friends endured.
We again get a somber opening with “Facing An Armored Dreadnaught.” Gentle guitar tones and subdued electronic drum sounds (maybe sampled on keyboard) run the song’s length. A piano comes in and out, going discordant towards the end, making it feel like the song ended on a sour, painful note. “Dissembling The Artifice” goes back to the heavy side of the spectrum this album displays, incorporating the harsh vocals back into the story, creating tension within the track. The melodic sections use clean vocals, offsetting the darker passages.
“The Earth inside” uses some dark phrases without the heavy guitar work seen earlier in the record, instead relying more on tuning and tonality. This is another song that doesn’t go for heavy amplification, instead using more of an ambiance to make them feel more dismal and desperate. War ravages everything it touches, the land, the people fighting, and the population trapped with nowhere to go. This song sounds like that must feel. It is haunting and dark and not easy to comprehend, but it needs to be said.
The album concludes with “Daybreak,” a song that uses heavier amplification but has a brighter tone, a subdued hope. As the war ends, everyone involved begins to rebuild what remains of their lives, trying to put the past behind them, move on, and create something new that will allow them to live again.
I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan during times of conflict as both a military member and a civilian. Some of what this record did was remind me of what I felt then and even how I sometimes still feel. The music on this album is stunning. The Progressive Metal does not live in a vacuum here. There is Power Metal, Progressive Rock, Death Metal, and Melodic Metal.
This is a major accomplishment, both as a story and as a musical piece. The range and depth of emotion on display are astounding. The tones, tempo, time signature shifts, and phrasing variations are complex and captivating. The whole concept is bold, brave, and daring. Avandra has done something few bands are willing to try, and even fewer are capable of pulling off. I probably put way too much of myself into this, but that is what great music does; it reflects us to ourselves, making us look at how and why we feel the way we do.
- Guitars – 10
- Rhythms – 10
- Vocals – 10
- Songwriting – 10
- Production – 10
- Overall – 10