|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Karim Serri|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: Brazil|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 52:23|
Blend the rugged aesthetics of groove driven hard rock, the technical leanings of the power and progressive metal segments and the piqued muscle of classic metal, all reinforced markedly but not to a fault, and the result is the independently released 2015 self-titled debut full length of Maestah. Hailing from Curitiba in the Southern Brazil state of Parana, Maestah is in its relative infancy as far as metal bands are concerned from having formed only a few short years ago. By no means, however, does this imply the individual Maestah members lack experience; rather, the opposite holds true. Guitarist Lucas Santana and bassist Eduardo Pieczarka, for instance, released the EP The Pilgrim in 2010 as part of Twilight In Time, while vocalist Celso De Freyn recorded the classic track “O Sentido da Vida” with Stauros in addition to fronting the 2010 self-titled debut of the Italian progressive rock act Seven Horizons. Jarlisson Jaty is the current timekeeper of Doomsday Hymn.
Over the years, I have maintained a love-hate relationship with the Brazilian metal scene, particularly as it pertains to lead vocal quality. I have voiced frustration (and justifiably so) to the extent of suggesting the region produces more bands than there are capable vocalist. The good news is that Maestah forces me to eat my words in this regard from possessing a very competent front man in De Freyn. If I were to invite comparison, he presents with a gruff and guttural lower register style somewhat akin to Mayo Petranin (Signum Regis) but intertwined with some raspy Dio-ish hints that bring to mind Russell Allen (Symphony X). Yes, he occasionally can come across a bit forced or strained and it took several listens to adjust to his biting style, but he also full complements the forward nature to the Maestah material, both heavier and lighter.
Opener “The Pilgrim” puts all doubts to rest, a monster of a track that does not let up its length as authoritative guitars and sledgehammer drums align with buoyant keyboards. Immediate impression is how Maestah is not afraid to flex its metal muscles in letting its raw energy and robust heaviness define the song. De Freyn belts it out accordingly with his resonant flavorings, oozing of emotion during the telling refrain when he pleads, “Lord I need you. Without Your grace I can’t find the way”.
Also of a heavier nature is this reviewer’s choice track “Gate Of Damnation”. This one maintains the firm mid-paced focus in almost touching upon the doom-like for its foreboding verses only to pick up impetus at once on the battering drum reinforced refrain. Lucas Santana lends a deft touch with his fleet lead guitar work. “Angels Cry For Me” also hits hard but in a more upbeat format. The song starts to a keyboard solo before impetus picks up at once, maintaining a barreling disposition its length as a rumbling low end (bass presence is full as it gets) joins with guitars that range from melodic harmonies to the stunningly blues. I am somewhat reminded of Narnia’s “Judgement Day” (off The Great Fall).
Approaching progressive territory is “City Of Destruction”, a multifarious piece starting in an ominous and cathedral like manner before a scream cuts in and gives way to the brash guitars (that almost touch upon the thrash-based) which dominate moving ahead. Occasional calmer passages of a sublime nature lend a lighter element. One of the Maestah strengths comes to the forefront in the process- its abundant instrumental sound. Consider how the multiple instrumental passages range from the trenchant and bluesy to the almost jazzy (I cannot say enough good things about Santana’s soloing from this standpoint).
Maestah goes full bore progressive on eight minute “Sands Of Time”. The song starts to an eerie joining of bass and howling wind prior to impelling ahead as distant piano and shouted backing vocals align with hard charging guitars. The aggressive environs tapers for a slower spoken word passage that gives way to bluesy lead guitar. Also of eight-minute length is “The Desert Of Soul” but giving rise to the more tempered and melodic tone. Guitars almost reflect a modern aspect in seamlessly joining with keyboards, allowing for a still and gentle mood (as it pertains to the ethereal verses) and added forthright proclivity (upon procuring the heartfelt refrain). Organ gives rise to a flowing touch of groove and lead guitar a fushion-ish feel.
The group also exhibits a mellower side. “Shelter” proves a classic ballad, slow and atmospheric with its airy thunderstorm opening but also moody from its lush piano, orchestration and bluesy guitar signatures. I particularly appreciate how the dig and bite to De Freyn’s voice accents the majestic scene. “Little Shining Star” takes the added bluesy heading, laid back and relaxed as acoustic guitar, slide and rhythm guitar (making this the heavier of the two ballads) combine for a moving scene. A version of the same song in Italian, “Mia Piccola Stella”, closes out the album.
Production, another problematic area of bands from the region, represents a strong point. Guitars come across thick and weighty (as they should) while keyboards texture without dominating. A full on drum sound makes its mark as well. Vocals are slightly forward in the mix but not to distraction.
Faith plays a vital role in the groups lyrics. “Pilgrim”, as its title implies, draws its lyrics from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress:
So far away from my destiny
I see a place, a great city in front of me
When I approached, I saw a lot of pollution
I am in the City of Destruction
Nobody there, nobody can here me
Alone in the streets
Shadows dancing around me
So I am scared, I hear a voice but I can’t see
Fallen in the ground, now I see Hypocrisy
A sterner tone is taken on “Gates Of Damnation”:
You live your life without knowing the truth
Masks seem a good way to view
Your sins consume your flesh behind the masks
You’re walking for death
The word of the wise says “Go to the narrow door”
Cause if you don’t change your way you will go to the
Gate of Damnation…
“Shelter” delivers a comforting message:
Waiting for a better day
Finding my Lord, my Shelter
To keep me in a safe place
Your strength helps me to carry on again
This journey is unsafe
But I have my Lord with me
“Angels Cry For Me” touches upon spiritual warfare:
God’s angels fight for me
But I can see
Everyday they protect me
Keeping evil away
The Lamb of God came to earth
To bring liberty to us all
Your Holy Blood cleared my eyes
Now I can see
Maestah equates to a fine debut from a young but talented act with a promising future in front of it. All my expectations ended up exceeded, particularly in light of how the group comes from a locale in which at times vocals and production are not up to standard. The Maestah heavier compositions stand out best proportionally, as can be found in the signature hearty vocals and deliver-a-wallop guitar sound. Which leads to the lone constructive comment: While technically solid, the Maestah lighter material lags a slight step behind its heavier counterparts in terms of overall energy and prowess (I would have preferred one ballad as opposed to two). Still, those whose tastes trend towards groove driven hard rock, the power/progressive side of things and classic metal can do no wrong by giving Maestah the time and attention it deserves.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “The Pilgrim” (5:32), “The Desert Of Soul” (7:58), “Sands Of Time” (7:45), “Shelter” (5:24), “Angels Cry For Me” (5:35), “City Of Destruction” (6:08), “Gates Of Damnation” (6:13), “Little Shining Star” (3:55), “Mia Piccola Stella” (3:53)
Celso De Freyn – Lead Vocals
Lucas Santana – Guitars
Diego Maciel - Keyboards
Eduardo Pieczarka - Bass
Jarlisson Jaty - Drums