Avandra is the brainchild of Christian Ayala, a progressive metal musician from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Tymora was the product of several years of work and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. In the end, Ayala (who goes by the moniker Volteau) created an instantly impressive album that is abundant in melody and potential.
I listened to Avandra’s latest album for a while before I learned that nearly every instrument was played by Ayala himself, with the exception of the drums, which were mostly programmed by Ayala but improved by Jorge Andre Rivera, a friend of Ayala’s. I am grateful that it took a while to learn that, because I was able to enjoy the music without having the novelty of the “one man band” thing influence me. And from the first few seconds of ‘Threshold of Evolution”, I was hooked. The music was dramatic, heavy, and atmospheric. It was reminiscent of Dream Theater and Vanden Plas circa-00s, but with a dense, synth heavy atmosphere.
After a bit, the vocals come in. Yes, the guitar and synth work on this album are awesome, and I don’t want to discount that at all. But there is something really powerful about Ayala’s breathy, atmospheric voice. So many prog bands have singers with incredibly high voices that spend all their time in the rafters, and it usually suits the music. But Ayala’s expressive baritone voice makes this project stand out. At times, I almost hear one of my favorite vocalists, Seal, as Ayala harmonizes with himself over dense layers of synth. I know that Ayala is hoping to have a band soon, but I hope he continues to sing on subsequent albums.
There are several other shining moments on this album. “Chimerical Visions” is fast and intense, with Haken-esque rhythms and Phrygian scales. “Reveries” and “Alma Matter” are a tad slower, but still heavy and ethereal. But days later, “Threshold of Evolution” is the one I’m singing to myself.
What I hear when I hear Avandra is potential for greatness. That is not saying it is bad at all. It’s a really enjoyable listen, and the production is quite good at creating a spacey, unique vibe. But I would love to see Avandra live, with a band of top notch musicians, or hear it released on a major label. I understand the limitations of living in a place where progressive music is not really on the radar for most folks, but I think that Avandra is deserving of a much higher profile.
Buy Avandra’s debut album, Tymora, here.