Avant Guardian – Avant Guardian
Avant Guardian – Avant Guardian (2013)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Los Angeles-based progressive power metal sextet Avant Guardian (don’t worry too much about the name, they’re not going to spook you with weirdness) is a new face in the US power metal scene that’s only very recently come to my attention. Like an increasing number of American bands (or so it seems), this one is actually more Euro-power oriented, with the possible exception of a shot of Symphony X-like neoclassical progressive nature. Otherwise, this EP reminds me much more of uptempo releases from nations like Sweden and Finland.
After the necessary symphonic introduction, we’re treated to a burst of dual riffing and rapid-paced guitar and drum display that might at first bring bands like Cellador or even earlier Angra to mind – though more varied and complex than the former in terms of rhythm, and less dense than the latter. The whole EP is pretty constant in this pursuit, and I think that both closer “Path To Vengeance” and opener “Terra Nostra” are stand-up examples of the band’s best offering, as well as its most energetic. Avant Guardian is pretty clearly a guitar-driven band, compositionally, and though there is a good bit of keyboard support, it generally takes a backseat. Vocal chorus lines are memorable, but not in the same blatant fashion as many bands, and it’s clear there’s much more to Avant Guardian than this element.
I peg this as highly capable and promising power metal that I’ll definitely be looking out for, and I only have two relatively minor sticking points. The guitar, while virtuosic, tight, and consistently interesting to follow, isn’t quite pronounced enough for me. I want a deeper, heavier, more biting tone during the rhythmic sections, which I feel would help the band avoid negative (and largely incorrect) comparisons to “fluffier” power metal, which it otherwise generally defies. Secondly, singer Collin (of the undetermined last name) has a voice that leaves me waffling. He does not struggle with range, confidence, or being buried in the mix, but I am left with the impression that these songs lack something outstanding in the vocal department to latch onto. His voice is clean, high, and somewhat hard for me to distinguish from many others singing a similar style of music. A little more energy or power would go a long way here – right now it seems a little too “by the numbers” for me.
My reservations are not by any means strong enough to prevent me from recommending that all fans of speedy, guitar-focused power metal run along to the band’s Bandcamp page at top speed to check out and support the act. This is strong, capable material that I could see manifesting into something truly special, and already has a very professional stamp of quality to it. It’s always a treat to find new bands (especially on home soil here in the US) that are playing in this style and making it their own. I have high expectations for a full-length from Avant Guardian in the not-so-distant future, especially after hearing its most recent single from last summer (also on the Bandcamp page).
3.5 // 5