Aghora is a progressive metal band formed in 1995 by Guitarist Santiago Dobles. In 2000 they released their first album, self titled Aghora, recorded in 1999 with Sean Malone and Sean Reinert both former members of Cynic. The band is currently recording its second album, Formless which is being mixed and produced by Santiago Dobles & Neil Kernon.
All is bliss., April 17, 2003
Reviewer: Lord Chimp (Monkey World) -
Stunningly unique and rewarding, Aghora's first release is a dazzling marvel sadly overlooked by most fans of the progressive/technical metal field. Aghora finds a natural integration of breathtaking female classical vocals, heavy & progressive twin guitar brilliance, a deft jazz-fusion rhythm section, references to Old World folk and Indian melodies, exotic tones, unusual harmonic systems, and more. The overall sound is very fluid and the interplay tighter-than-thou.
Some have expressed aversion to Danishta Rivero's vocals but I love them. Her voice is pretty, unfolding with sweet, diatonic, almost repetitive simplicity. Her style of ultra-compact singing is hypnotizing to me. She reminds me of the effortless but tense vocal perfection of Suzanne Lewis (ex-Thinking Plague), and to me that is good.
It would be easiest to put say the music has a metal aesthetic, and I suppose it is partly true -- however, the roaring metal riffs that appear opening the first song "Immortal Bliss" or the ones that sunder the peaceful vibe of "Mind's Reality" never dominate. Metal is a term I would apply out of convenience rather than perfect description. Aghora crafts a very unique sound with this album -- like the best progressive music, _Aghora_ constructs its own subgenre of music. Guitarist Santiago Dobles brings a fresh cauldron of influences spiced up with his own tricks, proving to be very subtle and imaginative musician. Tonally and melodically his playing is stunning and burns like holy fire. He employs exotic sounding scales and permutations but gives them a soaring metal fury, and likes to alternate between minor and major keys a la John McLaughlin (not that McLaughlin is the only guitarist to do it, but the phrasing is similar). His solo on "Frames", with his two-finger tapping achieving a gorgeous legato effect, is one of the finest I've heard. He also uses the choral sitar with remarkable effects throughout. For example, on the last song, an instrumental titled "Anugraha", his sitar playing finds itself morphed from an angry tension to a deep peace, mirroring the ancient Tantric group Aghora (from which the band takes its name) that sought to grasp the dark side and take it into the light. Musicians concentrically weave and adapt to each other, balancing colorful, orchestral sounds with precise, punctuated guitar work. "Transfiguration" is also great, with a base of dexterous fusion and jingling arpeggiated chords, broken up by ominous slower passages featuring that sitar's haunting murmur. Rivero's liquid vocal is amazing here too.
Sean Malone further proves that he is the finest bassist in metal: his beautiful note selection, timing, technical skill, and tantamount interplay with other musicians (especially drummer Sean Reinert) is always a marvel to hear. The Malone-Reinert rhythm section is grounded in a jazz-fusion orientation, often baffling to a listeners' sense of time (many passages in five and seven, with weird accents in a measure's subdivisions). Malone is almost another melodic voice, slyly shifting between rhythmic and melodic interactions. Reinert is irreproachably tasteful and intense, a very unique drummer among. Listening to them play is a joy worth the album's purchase on its own.
Although the music is mostly written by Dobles, the band exhibits a innate understanding for the needs of the music. The taut "Jivatma" began as a jam between Dobles and Sean Reinert, a seductive dance of percussion and bittersweet weeping guitar wails. It was fleshed out later into a more lush, engrossing atmosphere with amazing complements from Malone. The acknowledgment in the liner notes verifies the band's good taste, as they dedicate this track to Shakti and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, two of the ultimate fusion outfits of all time.
I'm sure I didn't say everything I wanted to, but this review must eventually end. Absolutely essential for progressive metal fans looking for something beyond the same ol' thing.