Track By Tracks: AVANDRA - DESCENDER (2019)

1. Beyond the Threshold: Part 1:

Helios Awakens The original opener for the album was pretty different. It was this instrumental, jazzy, chord-and-response style song, reminiscent of Plini. It then led to part two which was an acoustic piece. Even though the music was scrapped, and I created a whole new sound for it, the lyrical aspect remained pretty much the same. The idea was to follow up on Intro(spection) and Threshold of Evolution, the first two songs from the first album, Tymora, but from the perspective of the “giver of fire” that is mentioned in ToE, named Helios. In this part, Helios is awakened by the silent cries of man, which have lost their way, and lack a horizon on which to anchor their goals on. Now floating in a sea of confusion without any true direction, Helios is here as a remedy to that mystifying wound. 

2. Beyond the Threshold: Part 2:

Helios Descends The idea of waking up and walking down the mountain with a snake and an eagle is very obviously influenced by Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: A re-imagining, if you will. Their roles are aptly described within the lyrics. The concept behind this quartet (Intro[spection] and Threshold of Evolution from the first album, Tymora, and now these first two from Descender) is to articulate metaphorically the idea of the non-necessity of transcendent thought in order to live a fulfilled life, once the religious dimension has been tamed in human thought (for it will never go away, for we are homo-spiritualis, after all). Christopher De León, a Puerto Rican guitarist, guests on this song doing the first guitar solo that appears. A wickedly crazy good one, at that! 

3. A Decision Must Be Made:

I was experimenting with different tunings one evening on my acoustic, and really loved how DADGAD sounded. I didn’t play it again for like maybe 3 days, focusing on writing more electric guitar-oriented songs, and when I came back to the acoustic, I hit an Asus2 chord, only to find it sounded different, but in a great, yet nostalgic, way. Then I remembered I had left it in the DADGAD tuning. This song was created so organically because of that. Everything just flowed afterwards, even the lyrics, which were inspired by the contemplative and introspective nature of the music. Lyrically, it’s pretty straightforward: Take charge of your life. The ancient Greeks had a concept of Kairos, which translates to something like “the opportune moment.” They believed that an astute and well-ordered individual was able to see the most opportune moments to act, and hence by doing so, bringing even more order into the cosmos, both external and internal. Those who lacked this ability were condemned to a life of chaos. 

4. The Narrowing of Meaning:     

This song best exemplifies the running theme of the album, which is language. I’m finishing my master’s thesis and, while not exclusively based on language, there is a fair bit of it involved, specifically the Nietzschean philosophy of language. I’ll not get bogged down on explaining it (that’s a 500 page book right there!), but it’s about the poietic power of language and its capacity to either allow us to flourish and realize the potential within each of us (being honest and knowing our pros and cons, of course), or to oppress/suppress it (for it can be oppressed from the outside just as it can be suppressed from the inside, from oneself, many times both ways). Poietic, where the word poetry (poetic) comes from, means formative and creative, which is why language has such power. It’s only when you escape the narrow view of language that you can truly be said to have control of your “self.” This one has Richard Henshall of Haken doing a guest solo (the last solo), which is just majestic. 

5. Even//You:

This one is the most “fantasy” based, as far as lyrics go. I bought a MIDI controller many years ago, and came up with all the synth parts shortly after. I really enjoyed experimenting with sounds, as I am a huge Chroma Key and NIN fan. So I would play around with Omnisphere and some Sonar based VSTs (Virtual Studio Technologies) like Rapture and Dimension, trying to get cool sounds from them and filtering through other VSTs. I’m also a big fan of the ostinato that gets built upon method of writing music. Ostinato is a repeating pattern or phrase that sets the foundation for a song. In this case, it’s the first phrase that appears. Then I start building everything on top of that, up until the piano part, which is more reminiscent of a Steven Wilson/Kevin Moore way of writing. The solo was done by the great Israel Romero, a Puerto Rican guitarist with insane chops and just the most talented guitarist I’ve seen (next to Avandra’s guitarist Luis Javier, who is also just insane). 

6. Adder’s Bite: 

Another song which was hugely influenced, lyrically, by Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. It’s based on the chapter with the same name. Ressentiment is of major importance to the psychological explanations that Nietzsche attributes to the overly religious (specifically Judeo-Christian psychology), and a lot of it arises from the inability and incapacity to act, but only react. But this reaction is never immediate, and it slowly courses through the veins of the person who feels himself a victim until it becomes poison. They plot, become paranoid, create justifications of otherworldly and transcendental nature. They also see everything as a “trial” to get into heaven or wherever, and hence never have to act. Basically, a justification for cowardice. This is the “rivers that run deep” which the song talks about. It’s about saying what needs to be said at the moment. Let yourself be heard. Put languages poietic power to work, and do not let the ressentiment make you its slave and prisoner.

7. Derelict Minds:

Anxiety is one of those things that in today’s fast-paced, always connected world, many of us suffer from. This song is about not letting your mind get ahead of its self. There is a lot of Spinoza in the beginning lyrics, and I would highly recommend reading his Ethics. The song is also about getting to know yourself independently from what things like social media want you to believe about yourself (am I good enough even though this post or that thing didn’t get enough likes or reactions and so on?). Instrospection, though not a perfect tool, still has its place and function (as Wittgenstein so shrewdly pointed out). Once you realize that the individual is formed by “the unity of multiplicity”, meaning we are born in a community, both internally (a myriad of drives and instincts that guide us and that arrange themselves hierarchically: a soul economy, as Nietzsche would call it), and externally (we are born into a culture and a society), and that the individual is, potentially, formed out of all this, then it is time for you to realize that potential, and hence calm the anxiety of the multiple, and be at peace with your individuality. This one has Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater, OSI, Chroma Key) doing a great keyboard solo.

8. Q.E. :

The album’s closing track, and one of my favorites. Originally this song didn’t have percussion on it. It was just the guitar with an odd Axe-Fx II patch I found that I absolutely loved, and strings with some of the synth patches I sometimes use. But while I was mixing in New Hampshire with Dan from Astronoid, he asked if I had thought of adding some digital percussion to it. I said I had had the idea but wasn’t exactly savvy when it came to it. That day we worked on that aspect of the song for a few hours and now the song has some really awesome digital percussion added to it. The name itself comes from Quantum Entanglement, and it ties in with the last lyric of Derelict Minds which says “entanglements that we can’t see.” Even though we can form ourselves as individuals, we are not atomized and independent fragments that exist within our own reality but share a world with an infinite amount of other realities, and must respect each one. 

Thanks for the opportunity to explain each song!

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