Amogh Symphony – IV.1 & IV.2 [Vmbrella 2019]
Working not just in a musical niche, but the in the niche of a niche, might surprisingly be the ideal place to create unexpected work or arts, that might have been impossible otherwise. Follow the path, full of unpredictable twists and turns, that leads an oud playing over an haunting key soundscape dialoguing with a xylophone synth for nearly a minute, then all of a sudden the two being replaced by a funky upbeat disco drum that paves the road for a clean guitar playing crooked jazzy chords. Eventually wait another minute before a relaxing disco mood, prepare for a pleasant distorted solo and don’t relax too much, because all of a sudden a ferocious rain of palm-muted sixteenth notes is thrown into the fray. Now that you are at around three minutes of Amogh Symphony‘s Art of Shapeshifting, you will feel already lost and probably start realizing why this track was inspired by the concept of transformation. The mood goes backward to eastern ethnic influences, through squelching guitar bursts, microtonal intermissions and sci-fi synths howls, bouncing back to various meter changes. The oud alternates with over-distorted synth chords, double pitched or twanging guitar leads, and yet again the initial funky disco theme. Amogh Symphony finds inspiration at the intersection of multiple influences, ranging from technical and prog metal, to contemporary fusion, zappian crazyness and sci-fi soundtracks. They have developed an unique sound through a distinctive journey, with no label applied to them.
Their latest IV, released in two separate volumes, marks a gigantic leap forward for the band. It’s so full of restless and impressive forward-thinking ideas, that it’s like they are launching a takeover bid on the avantgarde metal market. Created by indian multinstrumentalist Vishal J. Singh, who takes now care mostly of guitars, drums and production duties, Amogh Symphony claimed a classification of its own since their very first releases, Abolishing the obsolete system in 2009 and The Quantum Hack Code in 2010. A mixture of metal, progressive rock and soundtrack influences, which were declined in the studio work to create conceptual and articulated, mostly instrumental, works. Operating within a niche of the metal world, out of a label signing, and proposing niche works in the niche, it is something bold. Though their 2014 Vectorscan made no compromises, going even further in direction of an avantgarde exploration. Their fourth effort, divided in two halves released at a fifteen-days weeks distance during May 2019, is even bolder. Now comprising of a line-up of four members, Singh is sided by two additional multinstrumelists, Derick Savio Gomes mainly at electronics and synth, and occasionally at vocals, and Andrey Sazonov at keys, sax and violin. Completing the line-up is the Tom Fountainhead Geldschläger. The german guitarist is one of the few musician able to mix the guitar hero standing of the YouTube era with forward thinking concepts. He developed an unique style on the fretless guitar, released two instrumental works at his own name and collaborated with Obscura, Jimmy Pitts and Marco Minnemann among the others.
IV is constantly departing from metal roots, heading towards a contemporary Zappaesque experimentation, mixing elements through ever creative juxtapositions. Lonely walk to Satyagrah‘s initial riff is a riddle of odd accents and microtones on the heavy rhythm guitar, which is perfectly tempered by lyrical solos on haunting orchestral sections and ended by a fresh ethnic fusion coda. Escher’s reality is a low hanging fruit starts with a pleasant electronic chill-out intro, moves to a weird drum programming section, eventually explodes in a table beat and in an irresistibly dancing indian-influenced lead guitar section. Again a pleasant electro pop mood and then a fierce guitar theme influenced by south-east asian music, something much in the vein of guiatrist Phi Yaan-Zek. The final grandeur orchestral synthscape is easily a reference to Canadian composer Devin Townsend. The guitarists are cleverly exploring the microtonal possibilities of their instruments, with a smart use of quarter tone bendings, like in the first very theme of Mai bhi joker banunga. This track, in addition of being a tribute to Indian filmmaker Kamal Swaroop’s 1988 “Om Dar ba dar” according to liner notes, is probably the best display of power from the guitar point of view by the band: ranging from metallic twanging guitars, to fierce and choking fretless overdriven solos and hypercomplex rhythmic lines, that take inspiration to tech metal ancestors bands such as Atheist.
Even if the album was explicitly divided in two halves with the stated objective to please all the fans due to the ‘multigenre nature’ of the songs, IV can be listened as a whole from start to finish and still retains a sort of concept album feeling, a cohesiveness across all tracks. It took me almost three years to finally come up with the right arrangements of the songs. All four of us are full time record producers as well. Because we didn’t want to use obsolete ideas, it sometimes takes a different mental state to be able to create and to get inspired –the band mentions in liner notes. Interestingly, the songs are so frequently pushing forward the writing boundaries, that even when they are starting from a clear standpoint, they are deemed to depart from that. Birds starts with an edgy riff full of astounding harmonics and slides, in the style of Steve Vai, and evolves to an asian influenced ethnic music section and then through a pyschedelic moment finally to a Cynic-like coda. No surprise that the following Enduring freedom since 1947 features the drummer of the tech metal band, Sean Reinert, as guest.
Mixing poppy stuff with hypercomplex sections is the rule for Amogh Symphony. So the simple and catchy ethereal strumming of Draining colours from the rainbow while dancing between raindrops, named after psychedelic experiences, spiritual experiences while meditating in Himalayas, Dadaism and the existence of Classic Anime, eventually becomes first a classy and involuted clean guitar solo and then a mocking cartoon-like ending theme. In a similar manner, Drone-Bomb Acharya (The Bombmaker’s song) starts with a flamenco-imbued riff accompanied by the a classic rock drum in four and eventually evolves in an unexpected in an epic metal track.
Amogh Symphony creates a work that is both uncompromising and full of creative ideas, that mixes catchy riffs with complex writing, dragging influences from so many realms that it’s almost impossible to follow the intricate path.
1. His Master’s Voice(feat. Kasturi Nath Singh)
2. Lonely walk to Satyagraha
3. The Art of Shapeshifting
4. Everything is now – in the eye of the sun(feat. Writam Changkakoti)
5. Escher’s reality is a low hanging fruit
6. Mai bhi Joker banunga
7. Farewell Father
1. Cats can in Narnia
2. Birds(feat. Deep Saikia)
3. Enduring freedom since 1947(feat. Sean Reinert)
4. Draining colours from the rainbow while dancing between raindrops
5. Drone-Bomb Acharya(The Bombmaker’s Song)
6. Third Eye Awakening(feat. Kasturi Nath Singh)
Derick Savio Gomes : Electronics, Synth, Vocals, Sound Design, Ukulele and Sampling
Andrey Sazonov : Keys, Piano, Organ, Prepared String instruments, Violin, Woodwinds, Saxophone, Electronics, Balalaika, Strings arrangement and Sampling
Tom Fountainhead Geldschläger : Turkish Oud, Fretless Electric Guitar, Backing vocals
Vishal J.Singh : Fretted Electric Guitar, Prepared String instuments, Vocals, Guitar Synthesizer, Drums, Percussion, Horns and Brass Arrangement, Strings arrangement and Sound Design
Kasturi Nath Singh : Traditional ethnic vocals
Writam Changkakoti: Tabla
Deep Saikia : Pepa(Traditional Assamese Wind instrument)
Sean Reinert : Guest drum performance