Independent Release

Review by Mortuai

It’s days like this when I’m glad my first impressions are sometimes incorrect. I’ve had some bands send me releases for review before with little to no detail about the band or their background and more often than not, I’ve been disappointed by what I’ve heard for one reason or another. So when I received the request to take a look at “Oxygen”, the debut full-length from Santiago, Chile’s AghonyA, I quite frankly wasn’t expecting all that much, especially when I noted several of the track names on the MP3 files I was provided were misspelled and the band’s website and MySpace sites provided literally no information about the group’s background. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. This did not bode well in my mind, but I gritted my teeth and hit play, expecting an upcoming trial of endurance. Boy, was I wrong. After a bit of background digging through the miracle of the Intarwebs, I’ve still only managed to figure out a few things, namely that the band was apparently formed in Santiago in 2004, that their only prior release was a two-track self-titled demo released in 2006 and that they’ve played as a support act for a couple of the major names in femme metal when those bands came to Chile in the span of the past couple years. Which major names would those be? Funny you should ask, because they happen to be two of the bands who are fairly clearly the strongest influences on AghonyA‘s style. I’ve often noted that a well-formed band properly marries the style of the vocalist with the style of the music, and in the case of AghonyA, it’s a near-perfect union. Vocalist/lyricist Cati Victoria Torrealba‘s vocal style is most frequently reminiscent of a slightly lower-toned version of Sharon den Adel but with less of a ‘sweet’ tone and incorporating more of a forceful edge in an obvious nod to Floor Jansen. Not surprisingly, the band’s music matches up with almost exactly the same combination, incorporating strong influences of recent Within Temptation combined with more than a hint of latter-era After Forever. In less capable hands, such an attempted combination may have been disastrous, but fortunately, AghonyA manage to pull off the blend quite well. Synth effects and keyboard lines are strongly prevalent in almost every track, as could well be expected with the style of music, but perhaps in some cases they are a bit too prevalent – sometimes to the point where other instruments wind up being overshadowed by symphonic sound. For the most part, it’s entirely forgivable, but the group does commit one of my cardinal sins on the otherwise excellent cut “As It Dies”, absolutely burying a killer guitar lead from six-stringer Sebastian Coulton. That point said and ignoring the effects-driven intro and outro instrumental tracks, this is one flat-out superb release, chock-full of gorgeous and emotive layered-harmony vocal melodies, instantly-singable chorus segments, and downright catchy – if sometimes simplistic and occasionally derivative – music. Post-intro opening cut “Worlds Apart” and single-designated track “Lead Me Into You” reveal a third influence, calling immediately to mind recent releases from Lacuna Coil, particularly the latter, which features a vocal harmony line which would’ve fit right alongside the ‘Coilers tracks from “Karmacode”. Though those two songs are most likely to garner the most airplay for the band, the better songs in my mind come a bit later in the disc. Standout cuts are many. “Wish You Gone” is a killer groove-driven tune with some truly addictive melodies in both the musical and vocal departments, though it reveals a minor quibble of mine in Torrealba‘s occasional attempt to shoehorn too many words into too little time, resulting in a disruption of the rhythmic flow – never so much it ruins the song, but definitely noticeable. The title track, an impassioned plea for a reduction in pollution, brings the After Forever influence to the forefront with its crunchingly-heavy riffs and emphatically-delivered vocal lines. “Finding Eternity” just plain crushes in a slow, hammering fashion…definitely the heaviest moment on the album…and “Endless Illusion” is another good candidate for a single release given its combination of nicely-flowing rhythms and strongly-memorable vocal harmonies. The best moment on the release, though – at least for me – is strangely enough the least ‘metal’ of the songs…the heartbreaking piano-and-vocal-driven personal introspective piece “One Last Lullaby”. Absolutely beautiful song, that’s all I can say, even if it does almost sound like something you might expect to hear as a pop diva ballad. In all honesty, I really wanted to rate this album even higher than I did because I really enjoyed listening to it. It’s not often I can listen to an album twice in a row straight through and not want to skip to certain tracks I like better than others, but this was certainly one of those deserving releases where almost everything (again, save for the intro and outro) was more than worth the time for another full playthrough. Unfortunately, the admittantly relatively minor issues I have with the album do add up to keep this from getting a perfect mark from me. Though slightly marred here and there and perhaps a little too derivative of their influences for those who might be craving something truly unique, “Oxygen” is still an all-around excellent debut, especially for an independent release, and marks AghonyA as a band to support now and to keep an eye on in the future.

Rating – 90/100

 

Tracklist

  1. The Blood of the Machine
  2. Worlds Apart
  3. Lead Me Into You
  4. Sure Way Out
  5. Delirious
  6. How Can I
  7. Wish You Gone
  8. The Last Lullaby
  9. Oxygen
  10. As It Dies
  11. Finding Eternity
  12. Critical Failure
  13. Fading Frequences

 

Line Up

  • Cati Victoria Torrealba – Vocals
  • Andres Cruz – Keyboards
  • Sebastian Coulon – Guitars
  • Javier Guzman – Drums 

 

Links

MySpace * Facebook