Review by Vard Aman
Founded in St. Peterburg in 2006, Guaho are certainly one of the more original bands around from both a musical and a topical perspective. The name Guaho, meaning “secret power” is taken from the works of Carlos Castaneda who wrote much on the topics of shamanism and the occult practices of the Yaqui Indians of northern Mexico. Castaneda himself became an apprentice to the Yaqui shaman Don Juan Matus. The album title is derived from one of Castaneda’s books, “Journey to Ixtlan”. A nagual, from which Guaho’s guitarist and songwriter, Erema Nagual takes his name, is a powerful Mesoamerican sorcerer skilled in the arts of shapeshifting. However, Guaho do not limit themselves to the topics of Castaneda and the philosophies, spiritualism and occult practices of Mesoamerica only, they cover similar topics from elsewhere too. So Guaho incorporates a lot of magic, mysticism and ancient teachings into their imagery and lyrics; but it does not stop there (which is fortunate for those who don’t understand Russian): their music is magical too – which is no doubt why I am unable to stop listening to it. Despite the Mesoamerican influences, do not expect something along the lines of Tenochtitlan (a Russian supergroup combining Doom Metal with Mayan and Aztec folk music). Guaho play what has been described as “Esoteric Dark Metal” or “Esoteric Gothic Metal”; the esoteric part being mostly in their imagery and lyrical topics.
But they are by no means ordinary Gothic Metal either; Guaho have a sound that is distinctly theirs – a sound they have created, mastered and perfected. Two things in particular have contributed to Guaho’s musical rise above most of the inhabitants of the vast sea of Gothic Metaldom: the exceptional songwriting skills of Erema Nagual, and the exceptional vocal skills of Daria Ivlitskaya (also known as “Mau” – an ancient Egyptian half-feline half-human goddess). The songwriting and arrangements are excellent. The songs are melodic; conjuring the appropriate desired moods, often of a melancholic nature. Meticulous attention has been paid to the details; everything is done right and in just the right amounts. Daria’s vocals are perfect for the music and she sings with immaculate control. She uses her voice wisely so that her vocal style best suits the part she is singing over, and this to me is the trademark of a really good vocalist. She also has a unique voice and stock vocal style, particularly in the way she ends many of her notes, so it is hard to mistake her for or to compare her with any other vocalist. To top it all off, she is capable of operatic vocals as well, which she uses sparingly but to great effect (e.g. in “Kadga Saditsya Solntse”).
Few vocalists have the kind of range and versatility that Daria has, and even fewer have the self-control to use it so effectively. Yep, Mau has a new worshipper! Erema Nagual does his fair share of singing too (as well as a few spoken passages) and he is also a very competent vocalist. His rich, dark Gothic vocal style is very effective, especially in the parts where he and Daria sing together (e.g. in “Sumerki”). There are 12 songs on this album, including an intro (“Bhītabhāvana”), outro (“Dharma”) and an interlude (“Lepis”). The intro is fantastic, and the interlude a bit chaotic (which it is no doubt meant to be). The songs on “Na Puti v Ixtlan” are all very good, but some are real stand outs: they are “Kadga Saditsya Solntse”, “Era Vodoleya” and “Sumerki”. “Magiya” is the song Guaho recorded a video for, and thus I presume it is the single. I don’t rate it quite as highly as the other three I mentioned, but it does incorporate more of Guaho’s versatility into one song than the others do. Guaho manage their variations (style and tempo) well throughout the album, but listening to the album from beginning to end the general tendency is that it gets gradually slower and more powerful, from the fast paced tracks near the beginning, “Guaho” and “Vostok”, to the slow paced melancholic Gothic song at the end, “Koliybelnaya”. The album as a whole is as well crafted as the individual songs on it. So, what is this band’s secret power? Well, their power is in a combination of everything, and everything done in exactly the right amounts and in the right places; and their secret is… I can’t say: that secret is locked in the talented creative minds of a shapeshifting sorcerer, a half-feline goddess, and their powerful mythical and arcane companions.
Rating – 92/100
- Магия [Magiya – Magic]
- Гуахо [Guaho]
- Восток [Vostok – East]
- Когда Садится Солнце [Kogda Saditsya Solntse – When the Sun Goes Down]
- Позади Одни Огни [Pozadi Odni Ogni – Only Lights Behind]
- λεπίς (Коллаж) [Lepis (Kollazh) – Scale (Collage)]
- Эра Водолея [Era Vodoleya – Age of Aquarius]
- Пралайя [Pralaiya – Pralaya]
- Сумерки (Для Тех, Кто Уходит) [Sumerki (Dlya Tekh, Kto Uhodit) – Twilight (For Those Who Leave]
- Колыбельная [Koliybelnaya – Lullaby]
- Daria “Mau” Ivlitskaya – Vocals
- Erema Nagual – Guitars, Vocals, Harp & Singing Bowls
- Sergey “Naar” Makarov – Guitars
- Andrey “Andrezz” Petuhov – Keyboards
- Pavel “Leshiy” Antonevich – Bass
- Vova “Hyperion” Babhin – Drums