Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Avelion - Liquid Breathing (EP) (2013)

The life cycle of a band is much like that of a human being; we are born, naive and innocent. We grow up, learning how to manage our lives and skills. Then, at some point down the mysterious road, we die. So, too, do our bands, good and bad. But the key difference, and perhaps only difference, is the ability for a band to return to those infant stages and reinvent themselves. Avelion, having earned their toddler steps on their first EP, "Cold Embrace," stripped down and returned to the womb last year in hopes of forging a new identity. But in that second pass at birth, they gave up everything they had done on that album, and gave back any and all genre tagging as a result. Now, with five new members and a sound that is a far cry from where they stood two years ago, it is hard to imagine this band is even the same collection of minds anymore. But with the same name on the cover, and a new vision attached to it, success isn't immediate or even guaranteed. Because while "Liquid Breathing" signals a return to infancy, the music doesn't quite seem like it had enough time to gestate and evolve into it's final form.

As the title track leads things off, there is a noticeable difference in sound and structure. Gone are the soaring vocal passages and fluttering keyboard melodies, replaced by djent inspired guitars and airy synthesizers. The newly found electronic edge suits the track well, but lacks that unique quality. With each chugging movement, vocalist William Verderi uses his breathy, lower register tone to deliver what could be dubbed as a futuristic vibe. It isn't until the final minute of the track that we get the first full explosion, an eruption of growled vocals and unrestrained keys. Having established the electronic undertones, "Ain't No Down" only furthers that cause. Break beats and borderline rap vocals in the verse stand out, and your perception of them determines for what reason. While it remains a smooth transition in and out of melodic djent, those cut aways are less successful here, minus a great use of clean piano keys that provide a haunting backdrop. It fails to mix with the foreground in any meaningful way, even with a solid performance from drummer Damiano Gualtieri. Everything comes full circle in the final track, perhaps finding balance between melody and beat inspired mayhem. It isn't that "Mechanical Faces" is the best track on the EP; it can come off as slightly contrived. But it does house some of the best individual performances, particularly on chorus vocals and keys. But lost as a result is the identity of the band, falling into the trap of anonymity.

Major lineup changes are sure to alter the sound and direction of a band. But keeping the same name may be doing members, current and previous, a disservice. Avelion had begun to forge an identity two years ago, carving out a niche in the progressive metal genre that gave them a great deal of promise. But now, having replaced nearly every piece in the puzzle, they are left to try to figure out a way to make those oddly shaped parts fit together in a cohesive way, something that seem to struggle with on this EP. Perhaps it is more in the expectation that comes along with the name (like when every Metallica fan heard "Lulu"), but there is something missing here that can't be fabricated. By no means is this the end; as we said some two years ago, with time, Avelion may grow and develop into a band for the discerning masses. But having started over, they have stunted that process, and found themselves at the beginning. Much like the birth the title references, "Liquid Breathing" is in it's gestation period, with a long way to go until it's ready for the world.


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