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(57:33, SG Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Twin Babel 6:32 2. Private Fears 6:55 3. Libra's Fall 7:18 4. My Last Time On Earth 6:08 5. India 10:45 6. Hold My Hand 4:56 7. A Man That No Longer Is 7:34 8. Forever Blind 7:25 LINEUP: Marco Sgubin – keyboards Federico Ahrens – vocals Carlo Simeoni – drums Marco Firman – bass Anna Marcossi – cello Gabriele Pala – guitars, stick
Prolusion. Italy’s AZURE AGONY formally became a band in 2006, when main man and keyboardist Marco Sgubin established a project for his creative ideas. The outfit made its debut with the instrumental production "Beyond Belief" in 2010. Since that time the quartet has been expanded to a quintet with the inclusion of Federico Ahrens on vocals, and 2012 saw the band releasing their second CD "India" – as with their first disc through the Italian label SG Records.
Analysis. Azure Agony is one of a plethora of bands around that can be described as exploring progressive metal based on the Dream Theater school. They blend guitar and keyboard arrangements in a fairly similar manner, and fans of the aforementioned giants of the progressive metal genre will find plenty of familiar details. In this case we're dealing with a band that has a certain foundation in that approach and explores outwards from it though, rather than staying put to replicate the efforts of what must be described as a more than probable influence. Azure Agony has opted for an accessible variety of progressive metal for starters. They tend to shy away from the more flamboyant technical instrument exercises, and while fairly demanding at times it is so on a performance level rather than a listener one. Strong rhythms and distinct melodies are at the front at all times, with the keyboards of Sgubin a central feature throughout. All the songs alternate between various moods, styles and expression – something of a key feature that shapes the identity of this band. Harder edged, intense sequences with darker toned guitars contrasted by soft, richly layered keyboard motifs are commonly placed side by side with gentler, ballad-tinged passages sporting gentle light toned guitars with appropriate keyboards or piano to match, frequently with bass and drums catering for nerve and intensity in these gentler escapades. Occasional detours into landscapes carrying somewhat of a mystical sound are another frequent occurrence, utilizing tonal ranges and movements of the kind that will give most Anglo-American listeners associations towards Arabia, Persia and the Far East. An additional nice touch is brief movements with something more of an electrometal expression, the dark but compelling atmosphere of these compact inserts adding a nice touch of the unpredictable to the proceedings. With vocalist Federico Ahrens Azure Agony have found themselves a suitable singer too. He's got a powerful but smooth and distinctly melodic delivery, able to soar quite nicely on top of the darker toned and intense sequences with the same ease as applying a delivery of a more restrained and controlled nature for the gentler interludes. He's got a bit of an accent, but not to the extent of being detrimental, as far as I can tell. But hardcore anglophiles might find this to be a slight distraction. The end result is a compelling, well made album, accessible enough to have a potentially really broad appeal, but with enough demanding bits and pieces to satisfy the tastes of quite a few who normally don't have too much of an interest in material given the accessible description too. With A Man That No Longer Is as a clear album highlight, at least in my opinion, this is where Azure Agony manages to combine all their impulses and variations at the very best.
Conclusion. Azure Agony have made themselves a very fine sophomore production with "India". Their accessible take on the Dream Theater school of progressive metal, alternating lighter toned and fairly gentle movements with harder edged ones focusing on intensity is one that should gain this band a nice and broad audience. A very well made album that deserves a lot more attention than it has gotten so far.
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