Somebody call my mom, I think I got a problem. Thing is, I just can’t…. stop….. listening….just can’t….can’t……………
I have been floored by debut albums before, ones that I still listen to on a regular basis, but this time it’s different. It was a name I had glanced over a few times until I finally made that fatal click of the mouse. I heard a few notes that intrigued me, so I dug a bit further, and found a charming and sturdy song with a strong Latin vibe, all in Portuguese. Hmmm, let’s just click one more link….
H.U.C., this sound interesting…..
And that’s how it began. Within two minutes I had Amazon open and was buying. I spent the next six hours listening to it over, and over, and over. It was the soundtrack of everything I did for the next week, it was the song stuck inside my head, with such a stronghold that nothing else, nothing, could break through. I lived and breathed it, and was about as happy as a music fan can be. The band responsible for this? Brazilian progressive metal group Maestrick, who with their debut album Unpuzzle! made me happier than a five year old with a shiny new balloon and a cold ice cream bar. Riding a unicorn. With flames painted on its flanks. On Christmas day.
OK, I may be getting a bit silly, but seriously folks, this is a seriously impressive debut. Originally released in 2011 to very little acclaim or accord, Unpuzzle! was re-released in July of this year with a bit more oomph, a new cover, and the other gems that come with a larger release. The music though, it’s still the same slice of brilliance. Now let’s take a look at the gentlemen behind it. Maestrick consist of Fabio Caldeira on vocals and keys, Paulo Pacheco and Beto Vanella on guitar, Heitor Matos on drums, and Renato Somera on bass. Now, the album itself…
H.U.C. is the opener, and within seconds I was this album’s bitch, period. I was lost, hopeless, and all too happy about it. H.U.C. is arguably the heaviest song on the album, a quick roll on the cymbals and the album takes off, hitting me in the groin with some serious power chords. I brace myself, but then comes in the vocals. Caldeira’s silky smooth tenor really takes the edge off the chords, making a perfect balance. But it’s not just his tone that makes him special here, it’s his delivery. Here, and throughout the album, he pours every ounce of emotion into it, and it shines so brightly. The second surprise, the bass. Finally, a band puts the bass up front, right in my face. Somera handles this spotlight so well too, dancing from supporting the different instrumentalist to power fills of his own, such a performance. Then comes in some harmonic choir vocals, and some growls, tasteful ones, are thrown in too. For those who are skittish around the growl vocal style, not to worry, they make nothing more than a scant appearance on the album, and only for effect. As an opener, H.U.C. is a near perfect opener, though not the pinnacle of the album by any means.
The pinnacle of the album would have been the second song, Aquarela, if it wasn’t for the miracle that they close with. Aquarela takes a fairly aggressive power prog base, and paints one of the most beautiful musical pictures with it. To imagine the tears of joy springing inside of me coming from such a forceful song, it’s just brilliant. It also really is where they dig into the concept behind the album, a complex and colorful look into spirituality, as told via their almost circus like atmosphere. Its progressive modern fantasy metal, I really can’t explain it any other way. Aquarela is about the watercolors of our life, about stepping back from our darkest moments to see where that shade of darkness fits into the beauty that is life. The song encompasses soaring crescendos that just lifted me higher and higher. From there they go into Pescador, the only song fully in Portuguese, and with a strong Latin flavor to boot, but even here the harder edge sneaks in and takes a hold.
Now with the modern fantasy element, I am referring to the almost circus like atmosphere that is pervasive throughout the album. It’s laced with magic and mysticism, but not in any traditional sense. It’s a wandering carnival, a show that is colorful, yet dark and at times very serious. The Show proper begins with two songs, Sir Kus and Puzzler. Sir Kus is a brief introductory number, dripping with drama and mirth. Puzzler takes things from there, with a fiery big band flavor and full of pow and zing, it’s a ripper two plus minutes. The album proper follows here with five solid songs. Disturbia I consider the darkest song on the album, heavy and engrossing, with Caldeira pulling on the vocals as evilly as he can, a brilliant job. Then they do a complete flip around with the next song, Treasures of the world. If Disney was ever cool enough to put a prog metal ballad into a movie, it would sound like this song. Starting off slowly and with almost overreaching vocals, it takes its time letting the instruments catch up. It works wonderfully, Caldeira’s vocals carry so much emotion here, and the instrumentals do a wonderful job of slowly matching the emotional pace until both are soaring, finishing with a blistering instrumental led by a searing guitar solo. I’ve listened to this song countless times up to now, and still had to pause my writing to sing along, I’m just a silly romantic at heart I guess. Radio Active, the next tune, is fast paced and electric. Yellown of the Ebrium is a soft-shoe number, bluesy and thick. They really dug deep for some of these styles, and then hit them square in the head. Then they finish the album, in epic fashion.
By epic I am referring to both the classical term for a long song with multiple movements, but also I am referring to the straight up meaning, this song is epic. Lake of Emotions comes in at over twenty one minutes, and is brilliant for every damn one of them. It works by taking the listener from a base emotional state, breaking them down bit by bit, and rebuilding them into something more beautiful. The soulful female vocals provide the soulful pairing to Caldeira’s deeply heartfelt longing, which over the span of the song ride up and down an emotional scale to bring the two souls together in harmonious bliss. It has every trick in the book, each of them executed wonderfully, and never seems to drag or get stale at all. Throughout the tumultuous ups and downs of the album, the to and fro of its styles and sounds, Lake of Emotions brings it all back together, and finishes on the highest of notes.
We all look forward to new music, but it’s that new band, that new and unique sound, that really gets us. It’s that experience that makes all those random clicks of all those fair to good to great bands worth it. Now when it’s a sound that speaks right to the core of my being, like Maestrick has done to me this last week? One that brings in the elements of everything I love about prog music? Yeah, just call me in a week or two, I’m lost to the world at that point. You want to find me? I’ll be the guy with the headphones on, the dreamy eyes, and the huge stupid lapdog grin on my face. But if you have a heart, don’t bug me. You see, I’m in my happiest of places, and I would like to stay there for just a bit longer.