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Album Of The Month January 2006
Aghora | ‘Formless’

Those of you already familiar with Aghora will no doubt have been waiting eargerly for this, the band’s second full-length album. Their debut was a breath of fresh air to the progressive metal circles and showcased most of all what an Eastern influence could achieve when interlaced with some great metal riffing. Now, a whole six years later, the band have come a long way both in terms of their songwriting, and most importantly, in being able to bring us a second album at all.

Guitarist and band leader Santiago Dobles has stated on numerous occasions how close he came to abandoning the whole project due to constant set-backs and line-up changes. Thankfully that scenario hasnt played out, and this cluster of new work has seen the light of day. So how does ‘Formless’ actually sound?

Opening with more of the majestic Eastern vibes that were strewn throughout the debut album, ‘Formless’ quickly dives into a whirlwind of heaviness, intense drumming, fluid guitar playing and spacious soundscapes. New vocalist Diana Serra can certainly hold her own and brings plenty of character and expression to the fold, from the concordant melodies to the haunting wails and cries, reminiscent of what you might hear on a Dead Can Dance album. It’s difficult not to make comparisons to the first release because all the trademark sounds are still present, and in particular Santiago’s lead tone with those now famous fretboard gymnastics.

On repeated listens it also becomes evident that some specific licks from their debut have resurfaced once again (listen out for the riff from ‘Existence’ towards the end of the second last track). One could be forgiven for thinking that the music has stagnated ever so slightly but it’s not the case. This is the kind of album that needs time to allow it to be fully absorbed. Enough listens though and you’ll soon begin to settle into it fully, almost to the extent where you become unaware of time and the turbulence of the world, which is clearly demonstrated throughout the explosive instrumental number ‘Dime.’

Other standout songs include ‘Open Close The Book’, ‘Fade’, and the colossal title track ‘Formless’, which altogether encompass pretty much everything this band is about. The musicianship on display here is simply stellar, just as it was on their debut. Those of you in the know will be glad to hear that legendary drummer Sean Reinert who performs on a handful of tracks is on top form, while relative newcomer Giann Rubio seems to handle the majority of the more aggressive drumming and with striking aptness.

It’s also worth mentioning that for a thirteen-track album, which clocks in at seventy-odd minutes, there’s little if any filler. Clearly the right mixture of weight and lucidness have been thought through and poised in the correct proportions. On the production front, they’ve stepped it up a notch and rightly so. When word got out that the band would be employing the talents of the enigmatic entity that is Neil Kernon, it could only have meant good things and the results are most definitely audible.

Divergence is what Aghora do best and there’s something on this album for the lovers of most genres of metal. With myriad bands out there currently calling themselves progressive metal, Aghora seem to be one of the few who can actually make such a claim, and ‘Formless’ has earned them the right to do so. They are one of the leading beacons of light in what has become a genre that appears to be spawning more superfluous wannabe acts than actual proper progressive metal bands, with the emphasis being on the true meaning of the word.

Hopefully this new album will give Aghora the exposure they deserve and that we don’t have to wait another six years until the next one. ‘Formless’ is a worthy addition to any music lover’s collection and is most certainly for fans of progressive metal, which goes without saying. However, fans of Tool, The Gathering or even Isis should definitely give them a listen, as they are bound to find something of intriguing interest within.

4.4 / 5 – David McCann ::: 19/01/06

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