Aghora
Formless


4.0
excellent

Review

by Shattered_Future USER (50 Reviews)
January 12th, 2007 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: After a 7 year period between albums, Aghora come back with a worthy second album. With a new lineup and a new batch of songs, they are truly a treat to hear.

Good metal music is hard to come by in the States, generally. The more popular metal scene consists of bands that couldn’t write an original tune to save their lives, and each one sounding more and more like a worse version of their predecessors. It’s a crying shame that this is what people associate “metal” with: highly unoriginal blather.

There is hope, though. It comes in the form of a state called Florida. As many know, in the early 90s, Florida was THE place to be if you were in a death metal band. Florida gave start to many of the significant bands in the heavy metal music scene, including Death, Morbid Angel, Obituary, Kamelot, and a very unique band called Cynic. Cynic is regarded by everyone who knows anything about metal music as one of the best bands in what is known as the “jazz metal” music scene, along with Atheist (ironically, Atheist hails from Florida as well). They made fusion music unlike any that anyone had heard before.

Now, the members of Cynic weren’t just content to play in Cynic. Bassist Sean Malone and drummer Sean Reinert got together with guitarist Santiago Dobles to form the band Aghora. Aghora’s first album, a self titled affair, was released in 1999 to much fanfare. Or, not. Aghora seemed to slip under the radar, because judging from the reactions I get from many of my musically inclined friends, nobody has any idea who the hell these guys (and girl) are.

Fast forward to 2006. With a completely revamped lineup (save Dobles and Reinert for part of the album), Aghora have released their latest masterpiece to the world, entitled Formless. All I can say is this:

It was WELL worth the wait.

Aghora share the same love of odd time signatures and unique fusion style music as Cynic did, but to call them the same would sell the band short. Dobles (who serves as the chief songwriter) writes music that can only be termed “progressive.” Not progressive like shallow instrument showoff based compositions. Progressive as in never staying put in one place, and always changing, much to the listener’s delight.

Dobles’s music is heavily rooted in many different styles. From Middle Eastern sounding guitarwork to Spanish flamenco stylings to absolutely crushing riffs, Dobles has truly crafted a masterpiece here. What’s most amazing, though, is the fact that the album rarely gets boring. At times, the downtuned block of instruments flows together, making certain songs hard to distinguish between, but there is enough variety in songwriting throughout to keep the listener entertained. Coming from an AMERICAN metal band, no less, this is a near impossible feat, but Aghora manage to pull it off. Kudos.

Now, of course there is the fair share of showing off, but it is done tastefully. The single of the album, Atmas Heave, displays Santiago’s extremely impressive guitar ability. Sweeping galore, epic solos, and crushing technical riffs all come together to create an aural onslaught that rarely lets up. Instrumental track Dime also brings out the best of Santiago’s guitar prowess.

Don’t get the impression that the album is nothing but technicality though. It is SO much more than that. The atmosphere created by Santiago’s arrangements is terrific. I find that the music has a very uplifting quality to it. It puts the listener to peace, even with a guitar tone heavier than sin. Formless displays the two sides of the band perfectly. The longest track on the album, clocking in at around 12:30, it alternates between spacey and heavy multiple times throughout, never making the track feel like it drags on at all.

Without Malone on bass, you can actually HEAR the guitars. That was a problem I had with Aghora’s first album. I mean, Malone is a terrific bassist, but on that release the bass overpowers EVERYTHING in the mix, which is never good to have. New bassist Alan Goldstein is mixed significantly lower, but you can still hear his basslines. Personally, I'd rather Malone. After listening through this album again, Goldstein is kinda...boring. He does have some VERRRY sweet fretless basswork, and a few bass fills here and there, but he follows the guitar most of the time. I would have liked to see him branch out a bit more.

Another gripe I had with Aghora’s former album was singer Danishta Rivero. She had a very good range, and interesting vocal arrangements, but something about her was off. I didn’t like the tone of her voice much at all, although that comes down to more personal preference than anything. Diana Serra, Rivero’s replacement, makes the band exponentially better. Serra has an almost Marcela Bovio (Elfonia, Stream Of Passion) - esque quality to her voice. Considering I think Bovio is one of the greatest singers ever, that only enhances the band even more. Serra is blessed with a beautiful, yet still powerful, voice.

I think the main factor of why this band is so good, though, is the togetherness factor that they all display. All the musicians play off each other perfectly. They read each other, knowing when to tone it down and when to crank it up. Especially with music of this caliber, it’s extremely hard to pull that togetherness off, yet Aghora does it with apparent ease. That extra factor puts them head and shoulders above all of their competition.

2006 was a strange year for the music scene. Many of the year’s best albums came at the start and at the end of the year. The two best albums of the year, in my opinion, were released at the extremes of the year. Devin Townsend’s Synchestra was released in January, and remains one of the best things I have listened to since. The other album was released in December.

What is the other album, you may ask?

It’s quite simple.

That album is Formless.

Recommended Tracks:
Atmas Heave
Moksha
Open Close The Book
Dime
Formless


After listening through this album a few more times, more problems popped up. It's still a quite excellent album, but it's not as good as it would let you believe.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Tyler
Emeritus
January 12th 2007


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Definitely agree with you when you say the new singer is better, but I dont think this is anywhere close to a 4.5

PinkFreud
January 12th 2007


9 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review. I've been digging this album a lot. Reinert's drumming is still top-notch and all the instrumentation is interesting.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
January 13th 2007


3768 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

AAccck. I need to hear this album! Im one day away from getting back home from holiday. Gar. Cool review.

Duman
January 13th 2007


2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, but I think Danishta Rivero was better (and sounded more like Marcela) than Diana Serra.

Shattered_Future
January 13th 2007


1540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I dunno, I found that I couldn't listen to the first album for a long period of time because of her. There was just something about her voice that I didn't like.

paranoid923
January 13th 2007


6 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review. I actually like Rivero and Malone more but I agree that this is an awesome album and the band is very cohesive. One of the best things I've heard in a while.

Tyler
Emeritus
January 13th 2007


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

How did this not have a single vote? Yeesh. I voted.

Shattered_Future
January 14th 2007


1540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

More importantly, why is this not getting more hits? :mad:

south_of_heaven 11
January 14th 2007


5433 Comments


The more popular metal scene consists of bands that couldn’t write an original tune to save their lives

So true :lol:
Good review. I need to hear this soon.

Det_Nosnip
January 16th 2007


374 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Listening to it now. So far I don't really like it...I definitetly prefer Rivero's voice. It was more distinctive, and I suppose leaned more in the jazz direction than the metal direction, whereas Serra's voice sounds exactly like every other female singer in a metal band. She does nothing with the songs, and is just kinda...there. Also, the lack of Malone hurts their sound. I guess that the things I liked the most about Aghora's self titled were less the "metal" elements and more the fusion/eastern elements. This album feels much more "metal." First track was pretty sweet, though, as are most of the filler tracks. I can understand why you would want the guitars higher in the mix, but now they overpower the bass! And when you can hear the bass...meh...nothing special. This Message Edited On 01.16.07

blueyxd
January 16th 2007


77 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review SF.
I think this new album is great. Diana's vocals are easier to listen to and the music is heavier. It's generally better than the first.

My main gripe is that most of the heavy guitar parts are too heavy, I can't really figure out if it's just one note/chord or several of them because it all sounds like "crunch". I also miss Sean's prominent bass lines.

Also, I noticed a few "cameo" appearances - bits of songs from the first album reused in Formless. I've only noticed two so far, but they are used well, so that's ok.

I know in my review of the first album I gave them nearly a top score, but in hindsight, I would lower that and give that score to Formless instead. This is better in most aspects.This Message Edited On 01.16.07

Shattered_Future
January 16th 2007


1540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Eh, I guess I'm more inclined to like the metal side. :p

While the basslines are a lot less prominant (mostly because nobody is as good as Malone), Goldstein still has some cool stuff. I like the end of 1316, where he busts out his fretless and goes to town. I'm more a fan of good guitarwork than good basswork anyways.

Det_Nosnip
January 16th 2007


374 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

...ok, but the first album had good guitarwork AND good basswork. Dobles was still in the band...:confused:

Either way, if I'm looking for some truly killer guitarwork, I would rather listen to Jeff Loomis or Michael Romeo than Santiago Dobles, if truth be told. There are a few billion metal guitar heroes but not quite as many bassists, and really not too many groups with prominent bass, and that element was a part of what made Aghora unique. Sean Malone is a better bassist than Santiago is guitarplayer, and he's also a much better musician+songwriter (as evidenced by the pwnage of Cynic, Gordian Knot, the first Aghora album, and anything else the man has touched). Having both of them and Reinert was just dandly, but now it honestly feels like the Santiago Dobles show (esp. since Reinert merely sessioned the album, not an actual bandmember).

TemperamentalGoat
January 19th 2007


87 Comments


Have to agree with the sole negative opinion. Their s/t sounded a lot more original, this release bores me for the same reasons the above poster mentioned.

Det_Nosnip
January 19th 2007


374 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

*whorage* *whorage*

Those who liked this album, or even those who didn't but thought they would have, might wish to check out Alas, whose album "Absolute Purity" I FINALLY got around to reviewing after about...oh...half a year. :p

http://www.sputnikmusic.com/album.php?p=10787

paranoid923
January 21st 2007


6 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

After listening to this more, I'm starting to get bored of it. Its certainly a good album but no comparison to the s/t.

Shattered_Future
January 25th 2007


1540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Bump for edit.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
February 28th 2007


3768 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Ah, so I've finally got a hold of this and... Well... it sounds like Aghora without all the shiny bits that made them sound so awesome on the first album. I miss the great and prominent bass, Rivero haunting vocals, and more varied music in general. It's not a bad album, Santiago is still a killer player and a great songwriter, but it's lost the great edge Aghora had.

TheHamburgerman
April 11th 2008


1292 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Huge thumbs up for the recommended tracks, exactly my thoughts too

danielrego
May 20th 2008


7 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

While the self-titled debut focussed more on spacey atmosphere punctuated by the tight bass and drum grooves, Formless seems to be a more traditional prog-metal affair. I don't necessarily think one is better than the other, but I guess the debut was more special and unique. I still consider Formless to be WAY above what most prog bands output today anyway.



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