Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Vandroya - One (2012)

Female-fronted bands have become a "thing", in that they have become quite trendy over the last few years.  With high-profile groups like Evanescence, In This Moment, The Agonist, Lacuna Coil and others in the mainstream, there's no shortage of bands with female lead singers.  In the metal realm it's even more pervasive, with a large number of "gothic rock" or "gothic metal" bands having women as lead singers.  Several bands led the charge in the 1990's, including Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, and The Gathering, and with the combined success of those acts, many more groups started coming out of the woodwork.  Today, the market has been considered by metal fans to have been flooded with such bands, especially in the "gothic metal" scene.  Another growing area has been female-fronted power and progressive metal bands, and that's where Vandroya comes in.

Hailing from Brazil, this quintet has been around a few years, having released a demo in 2005, but only at the end of 2012 have we seen the band's debut album, "One".  Right out of the gate the band impresses with a nice logo, cool cover art (Felipe Machado), and a professional production courtesy of guitarist Marco Lambert and Heros Trench.  The addition of vocalist Daísa Munhoz to the band has made this a band to watch, not just because she is a woman vocalist in a metal band, but because her strong voice and ability makes this more than just "yet another female-fronted band".  Daísa has a natural ability that lends itself nicely to the band's style and material, and it will be interesting to see where they develop from here.

Instrumentally, this is quite competent.  Guitarists Marco Lambert and Rodolfo Pagotto have a solid grasp on melodicism, soloing without it becoming just speedy notes playing over a background, and a good overall sense of song construction.  The guitar sound is appropriate for this amalgamation of traditional heavy metal, power metal, and bits here and there where the music drifts slightly into progressive metal territory.  This approach keeps things interesting, because they don't really exist in any of those spaces entirely, but vacillate between them, which I think they do reasonably well.  It might feel to some as if the band doesn't entirely have an identity yet, but I think it suits them.  Bass by Gee Perlati is solid, never going for flashy runs, but sort of galloping along with the proceedings when speed is the order of the day, and rumbling in the mix when things slow down.  Gee's not doing anything you haven't heard before, but it's solid nonetheless.  Drum work by Otávio Nuñez is fairly good, with interesting bits here and there, nicely timed rolls and solid double-bass playing.  There are times that he reminds me just a bit of Murilo Marc from fellow Brazilian metallers Menahem, with well executed transitions and little pauses here and there to add effect.  There are also some nice keyboard and piano bits here and there, and little flourishes that give the album a bit more depth than just standard metal, which is nice to hear, particularly in "Within Shadows" when the song breaks down nearly halfway through for a minor piano diversion.

Daísa Munhoz has a good voice that is well utilized across this album.  She has a bit of Doro in her approach, in that she brings a bit of drama as well as including a bit of grit in the vocals here and there for some added aggression.  She can really sing, though, and I think she just might be one of the strongest female voices in metal from Brazil.  Of course, the spots where her vocals are double-tracked help that along, but it's apparent during verse sections where she's belting it out, or during slower, more mellow passages when her voice is more subtly applied.  Daísa has talent and she uses it well on the record.  She does kind of overuse certain tropes, i.e. specific wavering voice inflection or short vocal "runs" to highlight the end of a line in a verse or chorus, but that's a forgivable scenario considering the strength of her performance on this debut album.

Ultimately, the album is solid and quite listenable, but fails to catch fire as much as the band would like because the songs themselves aren't quite as distinctive as one would hope.  That's not so much a criticism as it is an observation of the band just getting started and still needing to find their voice.  Using "One" as an album title is either a lazy move, or somewhat pretentious, in that, despite the overall quality of the material, it's not good enough to title the album based simply on a number rather than choosing a title track.  The biggest flaw here is that the catchiest bits are the choruses when Daísa is belting out the notes over melodies that are somewhat memorable.  The rest of the material, while well played and having solid riffing, just doesn't stand out quite enough to stick in my head after I'm done listening.  For heavy metal and power metal in particular, this catchiness is a key element, and the band isn't quite there yet.  In a sea of quality power metal, Vandroya is still a small fish needing to soak in more influences and take more time to develop their songwriting before they'll have a real opus.  As it stands, however, "One" is a good listen and a solid way to start their career, showing that they have the talent and potential to go places if they take the time to develop their songwriting a bit more.  I will give this a tentative recommendation to those seeking quality female-fronted metal, or just looking for something new.  I enjoy listening to this, but I recognize the shortcomings for what they are.  I'd say this is a "try before you buy" release.


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