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Mavara

Consciousness

Review by Gary Hill

I'm going to open this review by stating one of our tenets at Music Street Journal. We don't do negative reviews, If we don't like something more than dislike it, we don't review it at all. There are a number of reasons, but ultimately, with so much good music out there, why should we spend our time (and our readers') trashing a work that musicians constructed in earnest when we could instead be reviewing something good. So, when reading what I've got to say beyond here, keep that in mind. If this wasn't more worthy of praise than complaint, it wouldn't be reviewed here at all.

I'd say that there are some exceptionally strong songs here. There a few that I think should have been reworked or dropped from the release. My main issue is the vocals. There are times when they really shine. There are other points where they seem to struggle to stay on key and become disharmonious. There is one song where at least one instrument seems to be out of tune with the rest. Both of those issues are really a shame because these guys are very talented and have a unique sonic map.

Some people play with disharmony and dissonance as an instrument. Much of the Rock In Opposition music was based on it. Some artists have made successful careers out of singing off-key. So, maybe these guys are playing with disharmony in ways that I'm not capable of fully grasping. The very fact that they can pull it together at times as well as they can shows me that they must have a decent understanding of key and harmony. So, maybe I just "don't get it." Either way, though, these guys play a blend of metal and prog rock that leans toward things like Dream Theater and Rush at times and more metallic stuff at others. Still other moments are tied to even more obscure and less mainstream sounds. All in all, this is an intriguing album. It definitely lands in the "more good than bad" end of the map. To me, though, there are some obvious problems. I'd like to see these guys solve those going forward because they have a lot of promise.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Invasion (636 Gregorian Calendar)

There is a weird ambient sound behind spoken vocals. It gets trippy as it moves forward. This feels like something from Shakespeare. As the spoken bit ends there is the sound of some kind of animal grunting. That continues as some weird keyboard sounds are added to the mix. Another instrument rises up to join the arrangement. This has a definite world music element, but twisted toward strange space music. The sound of a sword slash moves this into the next section. The rock music, fast paced, hard edged and quirky, comes in from there. This is part space rock, part Dream Theater and all cool. It's a full prog instrumental treatment. From there vocals join and we're in definite modern prog territory. This is quirky and has some intriguing twists and turns, many of which coming from the rhythm section. The vocals at one point hint at death metal. They work through a number of changes. There is a mellower segment later that includes crying as sort of a theatrical element. From there we're taken into a more melodic prog rock jam with some cool keyboard soloing over the top. The vocals return over the backdrop as the keys drop to the background. This opener is almost 12 minutes long. It's epic in scope to go along with that duration. They work out to more hard rocking prog from there. The instrumental section continues shifting and turning before it drops back to segue into the next number.

Love for Centuries
Coming out of the previous one, keyboards bring this in with a pretty, mellower motif. It builds gradually, eventually powering out into some crunchy, but melodic prog rock. This is much less "strange" than the opener was. It has a way of grounding the listener after that craziness. Still, there is an inspired and powered up instrumental section later. It ends with an almost fusion-like bit.
Childhood
I'm not a big fan of this song. It has an intriguing progression and song structure. The problem is that the vocals are off-key for a lot of the tune and it seems that at least one of the instruments is out of tune from the rest at times. That sort of disharmony makes it hard for me to listen to this one. It has some intriguing moments, though. There are hints of 80s music and the guitar solo almost brings a jam band kind of thing to the table. I'd love to hear this number re-done with the tuning and key issues straightened out. I think it would be a strong piece.
Living the Fast Life
I love the hard edged riff that opens this thing. It has a real screaming rock sound that borders on heavy metal. This eventually shifts out to a more proggy movement. It's still hard edged, but the metal concept is gone. Around the two minute mark they take into a full on metal treatment for one of the most instantly accessible parts of the disc. It modulates back to the proggier movement from there. It works forward with another of those metal choruses before they take it out into a full on prog rock instrumental movement. They continue to create their brand of prog as they move the piece toward its conclusion.
High on Power
This piece has a cool crunchy prog instrumental structure. The song itself is built with some cool ideas. The problem is that the vocals are difficult to take. Without those, this would be a great tune. With it, I find this one another that I'd probably skip. It's hard for me to get through.
Mandatory Hero
An effects section from the end of the last song brings this into being. The cut fires out with some scorching hot crunchy prog. The timing is weird at times, but in a very cool way. There is a definite metal edge to this. It's a driving modern metal powerhouse. The whole thing works better than a lot of the rest of the stuff here. I like the aggressive sections a lot. I'd say that this is one of the most successful cuts. It shows the kind of thing that these guys can create with a bit of restraint and focus. There is a section that feels like science fiction music. I'm not sure if there is a theremin on it or if it's just keys that sound like a theremin. Either way, I'm a sucker for theremin. They drop back from there to a piano driven part. Guitar rises up with some melodic soloing from there.
Time Makers
The guitar that opens this is very metallic. They work out from there to some hard edged prog. They drop it down to a mellow movement. The vocals come in over the top of that and the cut works forward gradually. The multiple layers of vocals on this section work well. It remains effective as they work forward in a melodic, but powered up, progressive rock movement from there. The crunchy jam that takes it from there is another part that makes me think of Dream Theater. Some whispered, spoken vocals that hint at extreme metal come in over the top as it drops back just a little. When they move it back out to more melodic prog, it doesn't gel as well as it did earlier, but it's still effective. There is a powered up movement beyond that featuring some smoking hot guitar soloing. They drive that instrumental section through a change and keyboards soar over the top of the next movement. As that winds downward, a ticking clock emerges. That clock is the final remaining element here.
Run Out of the Maze
I dig the slightly off-kilter timing on the cool prog section that starts this cut. There is a staccato metallic jam that comes next. Keyboards solo over the top as that works through. This instrumental works through a lot of sections. There are moments that showcase how disharmony and dissonance can be done in a way that isn't jarring or take away from the enjoyment of the piece. At some points I'm reminded of some of Rush's instrumentals. They make good use of contrast between harder edged and mellower movements. This is really quite a ride. It's one of the highlights of the set.
Illumination
This cut is just a little over a minute long. It's a vocal only piece. It also shows that there are times when the vocals can be done well on this disc.
Consciousness
The title track weighs in at around nine and a half minutes. It starts with a keyboard based movement. It works forward from there to more of a melodic prog section. The number builds organically, working forward in style. That is until it approaches the three minute mark. Then they bring it way down, to almost a false ending. Piano rises up from there. A crunchy guitar joins and we're off into a fast paced, hard edged jam that's definitely in keeping with modern metallic prog rock. They take that through and then drop it down to eventually work back out into a mellower, melodic prog movement to take it forward. There is a false ending. From there they bring it in with some rather weird, but very cool jamming that's part metallic prog and part fusion. It drops back to more melodic progressive rock after a time, landing in the mellower vein. The vocals return over the top of that. As this piece continues to evolve it gets a bit muddled and disharmonious. To my ears this ending section really mars a solid effort and makes for a bad ending to a good album.
 
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