Our basic mission statement here at Lady Obscure is to find the hidden gems, the bands that are just emerging, and give them the exposure that their hard work and dedication to their art so deserve. One of the very first pieces I wrote for Lady Obscure was a small snippet about Canadian band Mandroid Echostar and their self titled debut EP. I recall it opened with me saying “Ever find a hundred dollar bill on the ground?” In the time since that piece, I guess one could say I held on to that c-note, invested it, and awaited the return. I have followed the band from afar(across North America to be exact), and watched as they toured with other solid bands of their area, saw them gain some level of acclaim for their talents, and felt the awesome anticipatory glee as they structured together, bit by bit, their second EP Citadels. Now that they have come full circle, they are no longer quite the hidden gem they were when I first came across them, and with that passed time they have matured quite a bit in every aspect of their music.
One crucial thing they kept was the line up of the band, formed originally in the summer of 2010 in Guleph, Ontario by bassist Adam Richards, guitarist Sam Pattison, and drummer Matt H-K. They then added guitarist Stephen Richards, guitarist/keyboardist James Krul, and vocalist Michael Ciccia. The debut EP was then recorded over the next year and finally released in the winter of 2011. Then they did what rock bands do, they toured. They kicked ass. They unleashed themselves on the progressive metal world, all the while growing in skill and maturity, all of which is abundantly clear on Citadels.
Not to say that the debut was bad, it was a surefire quality piece of progressive metal, four quality songs that let people know about their brand of music. Though fresh, it was a bit disjointed, they still seemed to be trying to pin down exactly what they were striving to do. With Citadels, all that crap was thrown way out the window. Mandroid Echostar has delivered a cohesively written conceptual piece that is tightly structured and panoramic in its musical landscapes. The album opens up with A Death Marked Dream, more of an opener than a full track. But it’s not a standard instrumental opener that seems to be a required element of prog albums these days. It’s a very subdued piece, simply exquisite dual guitars paired with some wonderfully harmonic vocals, with the last note left hanging, and hanging, until they build it up in truly explosive fashion with the beginning of Ancient Arrows. Here they drop all pretenses of mellowness, and let the rapid fire notes fly up and down the scales. The guitars are simply amazing sounding, with the cleaner pitched guitar paired in perfect cohesion with the more raunchy and raw. The overall effect is jaw dropping, and lays the listener flat from note one. Then Ciccia comes in with his higher ranged but severely emotional and powerful voice. Now vocals can be a hit or miss depending on the individual, and his fall right into the range of what I like, as well as sliding in perfectly with the overall tone of the music. The rhythm section keeps the pace with ease, and the drumming of H-K is especially frenetic, his fills coming one after another, but never really overdoing it. But they don’t rely on just an overdose of musical wankery here; there are some stellar variations in the pace of the song that give it a wonderfully complete feel.
Many of the elements here serve as the backbone for the rest of the album, but that by no means is what it’s limited to. There is a ton of diversity in the five remaining songs to whet the appetite of any prog metal head. Haunted Vows has an edgy and frantic pace for the first half, before mellowing out into a deeply heart wrenching guitar solo. To The Wolves is a more upbeat in tone, with the band working through some tremendously melodic hooks. The Sleeper once again brilliantly pairs the dueling rhythm guitars with the deeper, gritty guitar work, both bookended by the brutally effective bass of Richards. The next song, Ethereal Dawn, opens up on a quieter note, with Richards’s funky bass and some stunning vocal work taking the lead, then the rest of the gang groove right in, developing the song into an emotionally charged stunner. This leads us to the final track, and the title track, Citadels. This one opens on an upbeat and melodic pace, drilling through a minute or two of set up work, then drops a few steps in tone, getting a bit dark before entering a dramatically effective brief middle section that serves to set up the albums finale. The band explodes once again, and Ciccia lays on one more set of powerful vocals before they wind it down in the way it all started, with the subtle and soft guitars slowly fading away.
There is some very solid work done here. As stated previously, this is an album with a cohesive purpose and direction, and a sound that they are committed to throughout. It brings in elements of rock, prog, and metal, with an overlaying of djent tone, which all together becomes Mandroid Echostar. Through hard work and a commitment to their craft, this band is becoming quite a force, and Citadels just breeds more anticipation in me for what is to come next.
Follow Mandroid Echostar at these links….