|Musical Style: Gothic Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Roxx Records||Country Of Origin: Brazil|
|Year Released: 2016||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 80%|
Amos is out to impress with Jade, its Roxx Records third full-length album released in the fall of 2016. And rightly so, particularly when factoring how the band has been in hiatus since 2009 when it put out an acoustic EP, Amos Acoustic, and first and only DVD (made up mostly of live tracks) entitled 9408. Previously, Amos independently released in 2006 the EP Lost Essence and second full-length album A Matter Of Time (on Bombworks Records) and debut full-length Gothic Soul (also independent) from 2005 and 1999, respectively. Amos got its start in 1994 when it came out of Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil prior to recording its initial demo offering, a 1998 custom cassette entitled Comfort In Trouble.
Amos has gained reputation for a dark and swarthy sound strongly rooted in the Gothic aesthetic. Whereas its earlier material such as Gothic Soul leaned towards the doom-like with touches of traditional metal and the Gothic, the group transitioned to a joining of melodic power and progressive metal for A Matter Of Time, albeit maintaining its solemn sensibilities. On Jade, Amos continues its musical transformation in staying true to its Gothic roots but also back from some of the heaviness and progressiveness innate to previous releases. Guitars, for instance, still play a decisive role but reflect more of a hard rock feel as opposed to metal, while individual Jade tracks are not quite as technical or lengthy as predecessors (at least in comparison to A Matter Of Time). The upshot is that in Jade we have perhaps the most Gothic influenced album in the Amos repertoire.
Helping attribute to said Amos signature Gothic sound are the somber and lower register vocals of Rodrigo Shimabukuro, whom founded the group with long-term guitarist Evandro Vaz. What I find refreshing in terms of the Amos male fronted vocal approach is how it stands out in a Gothic music scene crowded with too many female fronted groups and/or excessive extreme male growling. Place Amos alongside other Christian Gothic groups such as Saviour Machine and Sombre Holiday in this capacity, keeping in mind Amos might be heavier than the former but not quite progressive as the latter (observation and not critique either way). The point being that Amos brings its own unique take to the Gothic genre - at least on Jade - that proves every bit hard rock as it is melodic.
Opener “Still Believe” proves its worth in this regard. The song presents with its share of contrasts, playing up authoritative guitars allowing for some of the albums heavier moments but also reinforcing subtle melody that touches upon an accessible element. Quintessential Amos is the upshot, reflected in the decidedly mid-paced tempo and setting on the melancholic side of things.
Bass guitar solos both open and close “Devotion”, a resoundingly more upbeat piece that maintains the assured guitar leanings and emphasis on underlining hooks. A notable treat is the cool Hammond B3 that periodically churns in the backdrop (one of the Amos strengths is its keyboard work that, as we shall see, plays a prominent but not detracting role throughout Jade).
“Called From The Dark” gives rise to a morose mid-paced heading, with crunch heavy guitars the centerpiece to the mix and pulsating bass playing an interweaving role. Further elevating what in my opinion is one of the albums better tracks is Vaz’s tasteful lead guitar break at the halfway point, not to mention some very effective front to back riffing.
“Stranger Loves” represents another choice example of the trademark Amos aligning of the heavy and melodic. Verses yield raw aggression, almost churning with a distorted feel if you will, while refrain revels in its understated catchiness, making albums strongest commercial statement in the process. Of all the Jade tracks, this one best lends itself to potential FM radio play.
A light progressiveness defines “Lost Essence”. The song maneuvers its distance alternating between moments both up-tempo and mid-paced, with former propelled by distinct keyboards and latter gentle and airy with guitars taking a backseat in the mix. I cannot help but be reminded of the creative intricacies to Sombre Holiday.
I like to identify with “Surrender” as albums most moody and emotional. The song reflects upon a semi-ballad quality, trudging its distance with foreboding tinctures that embrace the doom-like but also reinforcing lighter moments in which a lofty setting establishes itself. I also appreciate how impetus picks up instrumentally to piano and jazzy soloing.
“Infinite” best embodies the Amos Gothic aesthetics. The symphonic keyboard solo at the start sets the portent tone, with the song slowly drifting its length to delicate piano as pointed rhythm guitars repeatedly churn in and out of the mix.
Shimabukuro’s smooth and even register comes across especially flattering here.
Ranking alongside the albums most upbeat tracks, “Jade” courses mirthfully front to back to an emphatic quality with the faintest hints of acoustic guitars layering the background. One of my favorite aspects to the albums title track is the lively keyboards that cannot help but elevate the generous sense of melody at hand.
“Prodigal Girl” wraps itself in a short (3:33) but upbeat package. The song diverges between moments that range from pounding drums and piano to others in which heavier rocking guitars play a lead role, with the gist being underlining touches of groove coming to the forefront. Also, note that this is the lone Jade track to come with backing vocals, lightly done and over the final seconds.
“Wait For You” is the least Gothic of the Jade tracks with its straightforward hard rock demeanor. Another shorter piece at three and a half minutes, the song powers its distance as brazen guitars decorate the forefront of the mix while preserving the Amos penchant for a bass enhanced low end. Despite the driving semblance at hand, the group fails to neglect melody.
The best way to experience the Jade production is to listen to the album on headphones, which allow the richly textured layering to stand out. Guitars are full and pronounced in aligning with occasional generous keyboards, which accent but not override guitars in the process. Lone complaint is that vocals end up placed slightly forward in the mix although not to the point of distraction.
Only other constructive comment to add is that I wish Amos had done more to explore the progressive side to its songwriting. A seven to eight minute epic at the end would have been interesting, or at the very least extend a couple of cuts into five to six minute territory. To lend to the Gothic sounds at hand, I also wish the group had made added use of classical instrumentation such as viola, cello and violin (in similar fashion as Sombre Holiday). Another suggestion would be to mix things up vocally. Yes, I am a fan of Shimabukuro’s performance here, but why not also include light female backing vocals or even occasional (the key word here) extreme vocals for added variety?
On Jade, Amos backs from much of the doom-to-power-to-progressive metal leanings of past releases and embraces Gothic hard rock territory instead. As noted, Jade is the most Gothic based album from Amos to date, having done a good job done capturing the mood filled and swarthy essence to Gothic music and aligning it with the melody inherent to the hard rocking side of things. Shimabukuro and Vaz perform capably in this regard, reflecting their experience and musical partnership that dates to the mid-nineties. I hope it is not another seven long years until we hear from Amos again!
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Still Believe” (3:40), “Devotion” (3:50), “Called From The Dark” (4:07), “Stranger Loves” (4:22), “Lost Essence” (4:14), “Surrender” (4:31), “Infinite” (3:50), “Jade” (3:58), “Prodigal Girl” (3:33), “Wait For You” (3:26)
Rodrigo Shimabukuro - Lead Vocals
Evandro Vaz - Instrumentation