Avandra - Skylighting review

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Band: Avandra
Album: Skylighting
Release date: November 2020

01. Celestial Wreaths
02. Noetic Probes
03. Life Is Not A Circle, But A Sphere
04. Eternal Return
05. ProcGen
06. Afferent Realms
07. New Origins

The good prog just keeps coming.

Avandra, from Puerto Rico (one of only two bands from the island in our database as of writing), secured a nomination in the prog category of the 2019 Metal Storm Awards with their impressive sophomore effort Descender, on which they had managed to secure an impressive roster of guest musicians that included Richard Henshall (Haken), Kevin Moore (OSI and ex-Dream Theater) and Daniel Schwartz (Astronoid). A band with upward momentum, Avandra did not rest on their laurels after the release of Descender, with Skylighting dropping just over 18 months later. How does it stack up to its predecessor?

The first thing that drew me into Descender when I gave it a try last year were the vocals; Christian Ayala's soothing, rich, echoing tone, with an almost synthetic quality to it, offered much to enjoy, and it does so again on Skylighting, serving as perhaps the most effective tool in Avandra's arsenal. Given just how enveloping his cleans are, the decision to use growls in the closing moments of "Afferent Realms" is a curious one; they're not unlikeable, but I'm not sure whether they're a great fit for the band's sound. Outside of that, Ayala delivers stirring vocal melodies throughout, working nicely alongside the band's distinctive brand of prog.

That brand of prog traverses sounds old and new; there is a classic prog side exhibiting influences from Dream Theater and their ilk, with the band no slouches technically, arguably most strongly exhibited on the lengthy centrepiece "Eternal Return". However, there's arguably more in the form of modern influences and sounds on display on Skylighting. The opening minutes of "Celestial Wreaths" bring to mind later Neurotech in terms of its synth-heavy, ethereal atmosphere, whilst the riffing approach and lead guitar melodies on "Noetic Probes" are closer to 00s prog-metal acts that lean closer to atmosphere and nuance. The tone (the end of "Afferent Realms" aside) is predominantly mellow throughout, with a lot of gentle guitar work to match the soothing nature of Ayala's vocals. Almost all the songs serve as good examples of this, but "Life Is Not A Cycle, But A Sphere" and "Procgen" are amongst the strongest and most engrossing cuts here.

Skylighting is 20 minutes shorter than Descender, weighing in at a slender 40 minutes; this was partially achieving by featuring one less song, but also by the songs themselves running shorter. In contrast to 2 songs on Descender, nothing on Skylighting breaches the 10-minute barrier. The one that runs closest is "Eternal Return", and it makes good use of its extended runtime, taking the listener on a journey that features some warbling synths, post-rock tremolo, large riffs, slick atmospheric grooves, and Dream Theater-esque keyboard/guitar trade-off solos. Probably the standout track on Skylighting, "Eternal Return" serves as a strong midpoint on the record, exhibiting many of Avandra's biggest strengths together in a single package.

All of the above is very positive, and overall I like Skylighting rather a lot; however, much like my recent reviews of White Walls and Teramaze, I do have to say that this is an album that is consistently very good, but not one that necessarily excels, either throughout or in specific songs. In a year filled with great releases in the genre, the lack of a song that stand outs in the way that "Icon" (Pain Of Salvation), "Leaves Of Yesteryear" (Green Carnation), "From The Sky" (Protest The Hero) and others does mean that I probably won't be going back to Skylighting all that much. However, it's a rich and intelligently crafted album with a lush atmosphere, and is well worth checking out if you're a fan of the genre.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8


Written on 24.11.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 3   Visited by: 58 users
25.11.2020 - 11:24
JoHn DoE
Good band, i'm gonna listen to this as soon as I can.
I thought the two primary purposes for the internet were cat memes and overreactions.
25.11.2020 - 15:24
Just received my copy (from the band) in the mail the other day. I really do enjoy these guys. This one was indeed a journey. Mission complete in matching the theme of the album. There were a lot of times that it felt as though some tracks were linear/plain, only to clearly reveal themselves as intricate and interesting.

I knew it was shorter than Descender but didn't realize it was that short. It really feels it too. 40 minutes is a respectable album length, but I feel that this one would have benefited from a little more legroom. Nonetheless, it was a good experience. The noted harsh vocals were a nice touch. Certainly they were less contrasting than the (wonderful) guest appearance/performance of Einar Solberg on Haken's 'The Architect'. Both work for me. Thanks for this review.
28.11.2020 - 22:10
Really really good music, thanks classie

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