October Equus are an instrumental outfit from Spain that plays a refreshing and intriguing mixture of avant-garde & progressive rock with elements of fusion thrown in as well. Their second album Charybdis released on the Russian label R.A.I.G. is a fine example of how this quartet is able to blend these various styles and mold into their own unique sound .
They certainly don't waste time, coming out of the gate strong and grabbing the listener's attention immediately with the opening track "Architeuthis Dux". After drummer Josť Varela's lively, rhythmic drum introduction underneath Victor Rodriquez's almost buoyant keyboard arrangement, the calm is suddenly broken by the piercing squawk of Francisco Mangas' saxophone. His playing throughout this three and half minute song immediately brought to mind Ian MacDonald's frenetic playing on King Crimson's debut album In The Court Of The Crimson King. Resisting the urge to compare the overall sound and performances of these talented musicians to KC, it's hard to ignore the very distinct Crimson-esque feel running through much of these songs. Whether it's the aforementioned, blazing sax work from Mangas or guitarist Angel Ontalva's jagged, Fripp inspired excursions on tracks like "Forgotten Sirens" and "Abyssal". Likewise on the title track Ontalva's dark and ominous intro helps to gradually build the feeling of tension before the arrangement eventually shifts unexpedately into funkier territory. Bassist Amanda Pazos , along with Varela keep the rhythm section firmly anchored, providing the perfect amount of muscular backbone necessary for these intricate arrangements. She also gets a great, warm & meaty tone out of her bass which comes through very prominently in the mix as well.
Charybdis works extremely well on so many levels. Besides the fact that each of these musicians are extremely competent and articulate players, the band has a fabulous aura of darkness embedded in their arrangements. Sometimes they'll contrast these elements of darkness with lighter shades, for example on the song "Unknown Pilot". The menacing guitar and what appears to be a mellotron percolating slightly beneath the murky surface gives this track it's dark under tones, yet its Tom Zunk's airy waterphone solo throughout which provides a perfect counter balance.
Repeated listens to Charybdis reveals something new each time and one will marvel at the amount of musical depth waiting to be uncovered within these multi-layered compositions. For a band that has only released two albums to date Charybdis is a remarkably mature record made by a band that sounds like they've been doing this forever.
Note: The picture of the album presented in this review does not accurately represent the full scale version of the digipak. Like all R.A.I.G. releases they pay great attention to detail with regard to the artwork to ensure it matches the high standards and unique vision of each individual artist.
1) Architeuthis Dux
2) Frozen Sea
4) Fata Morgana
5) Unknown Pilot
6) Forgotten Sirens