Aghora is a seldom talked about band that holds a great deal of potential and that is saying something considering how wonderful their first album is. The version I am reviewing is the Immortal Bliss European release, which is identical to the US release save for the artwork and packaging. The European version is definitely hard to find.
Aghora line-up on this album:
Danishta Rivero // Vocals
Santiago Dobles // Lead Guitar, Coral Sitar and Programming
Charlie Ekendahl // Guitar
Sean Malone // Bass, Piano, Stick
Sean Reinert // Drums, Tabla and Percussion
Additional Guests // Jason Gobel (guitar textures) and Mark Mantini (Dijeridu) on "Jivatma"
"Immortal Bliss" starts out the album with a thick syncopated riff and nice background effects preparing you for a great experience in the first riff alone. This song has some well-placed lead guitar work by Dobles, I really liked the guitar embellishments with the vocal lines in the end of the first verse. "Unique" is a word that comes to mind throughout the album. There is a sick guitar transition that leads into a "Meshuggah-esque" break leading into the last groove and return to chorus section to end.
"Satya" is by far the strongest track on the album in my opinion, having a lot of depth and moving passages. The song has a nice fusion style intro with Sean Malone dominating the verse sections and Sean Reinert making good use of his triplets as usual. Around the halfway mark Satya really kicks into overdrive and has a fantastic instrumental section including some very tasteful mature drum fills, a "worth rewind" guitar solo and a interesting bass/piano unison transition that will leave your jaw effectively dropped.
"Transfigurations" is another song largely dominated by the rhythm section with guitar opting during the verses to lay back adding effects. I would also like to mention that Danishta's vocals are at their best on this track showing more range and depth. There are some really grinding metal sections throughout the latter portion of the song and another well-done solo by Dobles.
"Frames " I would say is one of the weaker songs on the album. It lacks the cohesion that the other songs display. There are great sections to this song though; the ongoing acoustic guitar line in the background is a nice touch reminiscent of Cynic and a great performance by Reinert in the clean section near the end.
"Minds Reality" jumps right in with a great chopped up hi hat/bass drum rhythm and another of those inspiring bass lines that Sean Malone is so good at creating. Middle of the way through you are treated to some well executed odd times and whining lead guitar work with a heavy backdrop by Ekendahl. The interaction between Malone & Reinert is incredible and as usual one of the best aspects of the album.
"Kali Yuga" has a ethereal anticipation effect created by a simple yet well placed piano line and background percussion with a sporadic lead laced through it. I am not sure if the mix was done different on this song but the bass guitar drowns out most everything except the drums and vocals. There is a much needed more straightforward section with steady double bass and a really inconspicuous sleek polyrhythm that Reinert adds in pitting a china against the rest of the kit, total ear candy for the discerning drummer.
"Jivatma" is largely an instrumental with "voice" over top in various places and I would like to note it is dedicated to Shakti and Mahavishnu Orchestra. At just over eleven minutes it is a satisfying instrumental with a lot of trading off between Dobles and Malone with a constant percussive pulse provided by Reinert who seems much more subdued on this song letting the drum set carry the vibe. A very tasteful well executed instrumental.
"Existence", otherworldly sitar intro aside, definitely has some of the hardest metal moments with some insane footwork by Reinert, who blasts 32nd note double bass through several sections and creates some unique ride patterns. I would say this is the most intense performance by him on the album. As usual the metal gives way again to the pure vocals of Danishta. Another of the piano/bass unison transitions pops up in this song, this one better than the first. The last minute and a half of the song heralds a masterful accompanied solo drum section showing yet again why Reinert is one of the best out there.
"Anugraha" is a sitar driven jem of a song, Danishta carries out simple yet graceful vocal lines while the rhythm section dishes up a solid driving pattern. A break allows Danishta interaction with tabla by Reinert. Anugraha is a very soulful close to a moving musical experience.
The first album by Aghora is tremendous in it's musical stature. I do believe that the recording quality could be a bit better as it has a real flat sound but it is far from unsatisfactory. The musicianship is top notch; vocals are well executed, unique and the songs themselves are incredibly strong material. I do have to note as I did before that Sean Malone and Sean Reinert really made this album work for me, their work on it is nonpareil. I recommend this to any progressive metal fan and I think great things can be expected of this band in the future.
1. Immortal Bliss
5. Minds Reality
6. Kali Yuga