Review Summary: Long live metal
South America. A continent known for many things from fútbol, food, women and natural beauty throughout its landscapes but metal music? Not really. Hell the continent as a whole hasn't had any huge fanfare over a group or movement since Sepultura's heyday. Of course there are some gems--Chile's Pentagram and Argentinian thrash act Hermetica come to mind, but to find or say there is a consistent, strong metal movement on the continent would be debatable at best. One would have much better luck looking towards Europe or the states for that and honestly it's quite paradoxical because Latin America in general is pretty crazy about their metal. However, they don't support homegrown talent the way the west does. So here we come to the crux of the issue, a group like Andragon who, perhaps if they were from another part of the world would already have a stronger following but yet have been stuck grinding and playing for years somewhere that doesn't appreciate the perfectly suitable metal coming from their own backyard.
Twin guitar leads, crunchy riffs and a battery that keeps everything ticking along at a steady pace--nothing flashy but at constant headbanging speed. A vocalist who trades soaring cleans, guttural screams and at times even harkening to a kind of nu-metal stylized rap. At the Gates worshipping, your average melodic death metal band. You've heard the story before, so then what sets Andragon apart? To be honest--nothing. That sounds harsh. Nothing is perhaps not the best word but then again, it's not meant to be a criticism. Andragon do everything by the book. When you listen to them you're not thinking about what it is that sets them apart, what genre they should be placed in, what your friends or the metal community will think of the band but instead are just enjoying excellently executed metal.
The six song EP Ciudad Abismo leads off with the title track and comes out of the gates rocking a biting riff with underlying guitar harmonies provided by the brothers Fuenzalida. The vocals soon kick in and in a nice twist are sung completely in Spanish. Cesar Zuñiga switches between his cleans and harsher vocals for the duration of the song and by the time the chorus kicks in the listener is transfixed by the melodious leads and solid production. Zuñiga's harsh vocals are reminiscent at times of Jens Kidman from Meshuggah or a more throaty Matt Heafy of Trivium and provide a solid juxtaposition with the more harmonious cleans. One can tell early on that Andragon has done their homework. The guitar riffs and leads are on par with any melodic death metal group from the prime of the Gothenburg sound. They are catchy but yet not derivative, changing from song to song but still keeping a sliver of the underlying harmonies popularized by said scene. Tracks like "Enferma Illusion" and "Demonio Madre" are noteworthy because of their inherent catchiness which leads to immense replay value. If there are some criticisms to be made, one could argue that the drum work could be a little louder in the mix to give the EP more of a grandiose presence. The bass is hardly noticeable as well and so then like the drums could have been increased to give the rhythm sections more of punch.
Again, Andragon aren't reinventing the wheel in any sense but in a musical culture as saturated as it is in the internet era, where every band has to be doing something new and or different to get noticed it's nice to see a group who knows their roots creating good music with solid songwriting, engaging riffs and an overall great sound. Andragon will never be as big as a Deafheaven, Mastodon, Metallica, Pallbearer, fellow South Americans Sepultura or any metal group that has gotten huge press in the mainstream news but that's okay. In the end, one can take solace that even though metal in general, in its resurgence as of late has perhaps been more talked about in the mainstream music publications than ever before--it's the underground that has and will always truly keep metal alive and well. So, that being said, support some of your local metal groups and who knows, you might be surprised and find a diamond in the rough right in your town.