Review Summary: A Latin-tinged, more melodic counterpart to Tosin Abasi in Animals as Leaders, Javier Reyes' EP shows us what he can do on his own.1 of 2 thought this review was well written
It is a bit disheartening that Javier Reyes, the the other guitarist in Animals as Leaders, is not even remotely as famous as his bandmate Tosin Abasi. Although the aforementioned band is pure jazz/metal shred heaven(although to my ears, the shredding often comes to be a detriment to the music itself), Reyes' side-project Mestis is almost completely devoid of any flashy technical ear-candy at all. And guess what? That is a welcome positive.
I got this EP expecting to hear more of the same old 8-String guitar technicality which has emerged in this whole "Djent" genre. It was shocking to hear none of it at all. In fact, there are no solos on here at all, except for a few slow, lyrical phrases and long-held notes. That's not to say that this music is not difficult to play technically. It is full of jazzy chord voicings and some fast up and down the neck playing, as well as some dazzling and tricky riffs. As well, the addition of Latin percussion and trombone really give this music a unique feel.
Opening track "Te Mato" is the heaviest track on here, opening with a tense, melodic, chaotic and heavy riff eventually moving into a neat Latin groove supported by a really funky trombone line. Eventually the track moves into a sparse ambient section held up by the continually groovy drumming, before coming to a close with the main riff, one that sticks in your head.
Semilla(my personal favourite), begins with a really beautiful and jazzy riff full of tasty pull-offs. This track has the only guitar lead of the album, a simple line that adds to the joyous nature of the music. One can really hear the beautiful guitar chord-voicings Reyes uses in this piece.
Olvidada is a solo guitar piece played to windy ambience. The guitar work is extremely lyrical in this piece, and speedy or technical at all. Eventually a fingerpicking passage enters and sounds reminiscent of something King Crimson would do in their more melodic pieces.
Menta is the most Animals as Leaders' type track on here, as the opening riff sounds very tricky and speedy. It too eventually settle down into a heavy Latin groove, once again supported by trombone. This eventually turns into a proggy Discipline-era King Crimson riff, giving Reyes' ample room to shred. But he doesn't. Instead he plays very slow lyrical lines, often with long sustained notes.
Album closer Luz y Cielo is another solo guitar piece set to shimmery ambience. It is truly beautiful, and very classical guitar inspired. I am sure it is also difficult to play, with lots of chord shapes, yet that is not the point here. It is the emotional aspect of the music that counts.
All in all, Javier Reyes seems to want to create beautiful, melodic and interesting music, and seems wholly unconcerned with being hailed as the latest guitar god. A very refreshing spin on the whole extended-range metal/djent genre.
I should note that although Basal Ganglia is under 20 minutes long, it certainly should not be faulted for that.
Hopefully more people check this one out. It certainly deserves to be heard.