Tuesday 4 February 2020

Candeiia - O Medo (2020)

Country: Brazil
Style: Progressive Rock/Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 17 Jan 2020
Sites: Facebook | YouTube

Every time I feel slightly guilty about only giving Dream Theater a 6/10 for their Distance Over Time album last year, the universe throws me yet another prog album that I like more. This time it's from Candeiia, a Brazilian band who walk that tenuous boundary between rock and metal really well. It would be fair to see them as a prog rock band who like it heavier or a prog metal band who soften up a lot. Either way, they're very good indeed.

While I liked opener Páo da Vida from its soft piano intro, I wasn't sold on the song for a few minutes. It takes a while to really move, as if it isn't sure where it wants to end up, and I wasn't convinced by the vocals, Txiago Emanoel finding a sort of falsetto croon while the backing singers seem not to be entirely convinced themselves. I'm not sure when it hooked me, but by the five minute mark I was utterly engrossed by the soloing and soon after, they ramp up the tempo for a delightful finalé with unusual vocals. There's a lot here and it took me a while to acclimatise.

And, by the end of that track, I was totally onboard. I don't have much info on the band but they're based in Parnamirim, close to as far east as Brazil gets, and they've been around since 2013, though this looks like their debut album. That makes the achievement even more impressive because this doesn't remotely sound like a debut. Every song here is complex in construction and impeccable in execution, clearly not something that the band just jammed in the studio. This took a lot of work and that work paid off.

The other thing I know is that they're a Christian band. I figured that out from the lyrics, even though I don't speak Portuguese; it doesn't take much to understand "Jesús, salve-me". Clearly that croon was singing about Jesus too and easily understandable words about saints and other terms emerge here and there to put a picture together. When I put the track listing in Google Translate, that became even more clear, and I presume the band's name ties to this too. Candeiia means "lamp" but I would expect "light of the world" would be closer in spirit.

White metal has had a fascinating history and I'm out of date about current state. The only Christian prog band that I'm aware of are Theocracy, who are a lot more power metal than this. Candeiia surely take their influences from secular bands like Dream Theater, the bedrock of their sound strong crunchy riffs, notably aided by Israel Feitosa's double bass when that kicks in, but with swirling, unpredictable keyboards out of the second wave. Check out the midsection of Salve-Me, which sees Rafael Linhares generate a fantastic riff so that Rafael Rodrigues can dance all over it with his keyboards.

There are only six tracks here, all mid-length efforts running between five and a half and seven minutes. They're short enough to do their job and move on, but long enough to allow for all sorts of musical experimentation, with something interesting showing up on every song even though the overall style is consistent. That variety makes it very hard to pick a favourite. I liked the flirtation with extreme vocals on the title track, which means The Fear so may be playing with characters, but surprisingly also the guest rapper on Saia das 4 Paredes, a title I don't understand in translation.

I found myself wondering more about my favourite instrument, for perhaps the first time. It's the voice that stands out on Páo da Vida, with my initial trepidation banished on a second listen, but every instrument in play takes the spotlight at some point, explaining why this band are lucky to have the talents of Feitosa or Linhares or whoever is foremost at that point. Edson is the one I haven't mentioned yet, but his bass stands out just as much as everyone else, like during the verses on Salve-Me or quiet moments on Posso Crer.

In the end, I think it's Rodrigues's keyboards that might just do the most to shape Candeiia's sound. They'd be a lesser band if they lost any one of these musicians but he contributes so much admirable variety to this album that it would seem especially difficult to replace him. He gets intros and outros, as we might expect, like the delightful piano run that starts Posso Crer, but he refuses to stay in the background and he often solos alongside the guitar to create an enticing double layer.

I'm on my third time through this album and it keeps getting better. I look forward to a few more and I hope it doesn't take another seven years for the band to share a second album with us. And, hey, maybe Dream Theater can take note. If they want to shrink their songs down in length but keep both hooks and complexity, this is the template to follow.

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