As Christian Ayala admits it on his own, Puerto Rico is not a “place not thought of as being a mecca of progressive metal and progressive rock.” But it is always a great pleasure to come across a band hailing from a country that is not associated with the genre. We were previously introduced to the work of Zafakon, who also come from San Juan in Puerto Rico, and who were chosen as an opening band for Metallica when the US metallers played there recently. But let’s not digress too much.
As hinted, Avandra is a one-man progressive metal band of Ayala, who also goes by the name Volteau, and Tymora is his debut full-length album. There are 14 songs here in total, the first seven being the regular versions, with the remaining seven being fully instrumental tracks. Kicking off with an instrumental prologue aptly titled “Intro(spection),” Tymora marches forward with 8-odd-minute “Threshold of Evolution,” a number that was included as one of the songs on the Progotronics 4 digital sampler. While it starts out a bit slow it’s certainly forgivable, because it picks up fairly quickly. During its playtime the song is changing moods, making it for an amazing experience, overall.
Probably one of the most standout factors of any Metal recording is the riff work. In many cases—more so with Progressive Metal than anything—the riff work is at the forefront of the music in a very obnoxious manner, and it overshadows the rest of the things going on in a song. With Avandra this isn’t the case; Ayala seemingly takes a Progressive Rock structure and blend it with elements of Metal to produce what I find the sound of Progressive Metal SHOULD be. In his case, the guitar is used pretty regularly, but it’s never obnoxiously placed at the forefront of the music, and instead falls into place with everything else that’s going on. Between the catchy riffs, melodious leads, and everything else that is happening on Tymora, Ayala’s riff work is definitely worthy of praise. Take for example “Chimerical Visions.” Christian delivers tons of great riffs, harmonies and solos, but it doesn’t stop there. Although he certainly is not the best prog metal singer out there, his voice does a fairly good job accompanied with the instruments that are present in the mix. A symphonic touch in the second part of “Chimerical Visions” is a well-thought move, one that hints that more experimentation is yet to come.
A lush interplay between Ayala’s acoustic, his voice and string arrangement in “Reveries” does give the album well-needed heterogeneity. And just as you’re lulled in with it, Avandra drops a masterful creation in the shape of “Ubiquitous,” a number that sees Ayala letting his vocal chords into the upper registers, all along with a guitar solo that is all over the place—something that displays how greatly non-predictive this record is. And if it’s not prog enough for your taste, you get yet a Hammond organ godsend solo, which would certainly be appreciates by likes such Rick Wakeman, or Jon Lord (RIP).
Following “Alma Matter” has a cool, spacey vibe to it at the beginning which sounds as a soundtrack through the cosmos. Tymora keeps its best for the end; 10-minute “Garden of Remembrance”does so much for the record weaving through a progressive maze of intricacy.
In conclusion, Tymora is something that everybody who listens to Progressive Rock or Progressive Metal on ANY scale should listen to, hands down. I believe the term “the best band you’ve never heard of” comes into play here, and with an album this good, it’s incredibly easy to say. In a scene where there are numerous clones and rehashes, this album is a breath of fresh air.