When AGHORA first released their debut album back in 2000, one of the main reasons it created such interested was due to the presence of CYNIC’s rhythm section. One of the biggest selling points, if not THE biggest selling point was the little sticker that said “Featuring Sean Malone & Sean Reinert (Ex-CYNIC)”. Having those two on board gave AGHORA instant credibility in the minds of Prog fans, and the performance of those two on said record is just flawless and jaw-dropping. Their performance really gave life to the record, and greatly complimented the more straightforward guitar riffing and female vocals that made up the AGHORA sound.
After a six year hiatus, AGHORA have returned, with Santiago Dobles, the man behind the band, being the sole remaining member. Everyone else is new, except for Sean Reinert who is back only as a session drummer. The absence of Malone and the greatly reduced role of Reinert expose Dobles’ lack of songwriting ability. Malone has the uncanny ability to write bass lines which are melodically and rhythmically independent from anything around it, yet STILL groove with the drums and have it make sense in the context of the song while elevating it to the stratosphere (listen to GORDIAN KNOT or CYNIC to hear what he does. It’s mindblowing). The new bassist, Alan Goldstein, rarely deviates from what the guitar lines, which is correct from a technical stand-point, but utterly boring from a musical one. There are a times where he decides to go off in his own path, but they are few and far in between. The bass performance, for the most part, just seems phoned in.
Unfortunately, that little description can be used to describe nearly everything about the album. Most of the songs fall into the cliché of “clean verse/distorted chorus”, which is blatantly noticeable by the third song, and most of the distorted riffs are variations of the same two or three ones. It’s just sad, mainly because Santiago Dobles is a great guitar player, and can come up with some great riffs and lines when he wants to, like the intro to “1316”, but a good chunk of the “Formless” is formulaic, and this becomes more and more noticeable as the album goes on, and through repeated listens.
Is there anything that I actually DO like about the record? Well, despite the rhythm being as boring as hell and uninspired 99% of the time, they do show flourishes of genius every now and then. The intro and outro atmospheric Middle Eastern pieces, played with ethnic instruments (I THINK), “Garuda”, an instrumental, shows a few flashes of brilliance in the song writing department, and most of the clean verses have a melodic jazzy edge to them, most likely due to the clean guitar sound. However, these small details, plus the fact that Mr. Dobles is, in fact, a very skilled guitar player that can do all sort of crazy tricks and techniques on the guitar, just isn’t enough to warrant this album that many listens. After a while, all of the cracks get larger and larger, and all of the record’s shortcomings seem more and more apparent.
I hate to give this album such a low rating, but it was an utter disappointment.
(Online July 22, 2007)