Label: Recorded independently through crowdfunding
Release date: 12 May 2023
Format reviewed: High-quality Digital Recording
“Agnicayana” by Hidalgo: unveiling the highest rite of Chilean progressive metal in-depth exploration.
“Join me in a comprehensive journey through instrumental álbum ‘Agnicayana’ fifth and a masterpiece by Chilean progressive metal band Hidalgo. Track-by-Track exploration of emotions, diverse melodies, and a portrayal of the evolution of Gabriel Hidalgo’s musical brilliance during last 22 years in metal music”. (by Elyna Steel).
Hidalgo is an instrumental progressive metal group that began in 2006 in Santiago de Chile, being founded by Chilean musician Gabriel Hidalgo, who works as a guitarist, composer and producer.
Current members of Hidalgo are Pablo Stagnaro (drums), Braulio Aspé (bass), Angeline Bernini (guitar and vocals) and Gabriel Hidalgo (lead guitar).
Today, I have the honour of reviewing their latest album titled “Agnicayana”, which was released in April of 2023, and was inspired by elements from Hindu, Sanskrit and Aymara culture.
Agnicayana is a very important ritual in Hindu culture where an altar is built in the shape of a bird in which a rite is performed to escape the transience of life. It should be noted that the composition of the guitars and bass were done together and not track by track as is usually styled. This detail is important since the songs have a vibe that evokes a well-recorded rehearsal rather than a perfectly commercial album, in addition to demonstrating the trust that all the band members have achieved when performing.
Having said that, let’s get right into revealing this ritual step by step in each of the ten songs that make up the álbum.
The opening track is “Melina” and lasts 06:36. It delights us with its initial progressive metal riffs and Dorian scale in C# at a slow pace, featuring a rich and powerful bass section that is perfectly suitable for headbanging. Certain sections evoke memories of Dream Theater’s characteristic sound, especially when both the drums and the bass take on protagonist roles. A surprising twist in tempo takes us towards an allegro pace, introducing ascending and descending melodic slides, as well as arpeggios in a major key. This shift not only changes the rhythm but also the emotional aspect of the composition, stimulating the imagination and leading us on a fresh journey into the unknown, imbued with energy. The melody undergoes another switch to a rawer sound, contrasting with the sweetness of Angeline Bernini’s melodic vocalizing amid intense guitar and bass riffs. All of this leads to an unplugged guitar section, followed by a return to a slow tempo, showcasing melodic diversity, including arpeggiated riffs, powerful picked guitar riffs, and an ascending solo that gives you goosebumps. Next, the pace switches back to slow, replaying the first and second sections, creating a feeling of familiarity, an acoustic section is introduced along with Angeline’s voice, giving an additional layer of complexity and innovation to the composition, ending in a captivating fusion where the guitar “sings” harmonically with Angeline. This interplay between rawness and melody, fast and slow, delivers a diverse and captivating musical experience. Eclectic, amazing track that shows the evolution and matureness that Gabriel has had in terms of composition, structure and sound. Excellent track!
The second track is called “Garuda”, running for 05:47. The title refers to Garuda, a Hindu deity, first depicted as Vahana, the mount where lived God Vishnu, being also the half-brother of several mythological creatures such as Devas, Grandharvas, Daityas, Danavas, Nāgas, Vanara and Yakshas. Son of sage Kashyapa and Vinata, the youngest brother of Aruna, rider taking the carriage of the Sun, Garuda is mentioned in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religions and also in many sacred texts such as the Puranas and the Vedas. Considering these aspects, when it comes to describing the emotions conveyed during this journey I highlight the sense of variability, of multiple textures that at the same time merge, achieving fluidity and continuity in a fusion where diversity, the meeting of different visions meet at one point, creating something new although well established in its bases. I also felt a sense of freedom, of being taken off from the ground and taking flight towards the heights amid the adrenaline that the beats, the music, the slides, riffs and furious attacks of bass and guitar produce. Special mention for Angeline, whose vocal intervention in the Hindu language in key portions of the track gives the sensation of stop and rest. It’s like driving down the road in your car in full sun and in the middle of nowhere finding an oasis, a large tree generous in the shade, that’s how the melody sung by Angeline feels.
Mid-tempo, bright, lively riffs and diverse melodic sections that captivate your ears from very the beginning, which for seconds recalls the best of Satriani in his “Summer Song”.
Progressive power metal full of different colors, is absolutely exciting!
“Kalpa Taru” is track 3, running for 05:04′. Also known as Kalpavriksha, Kalpa Taru is the wishing tree in Sanskrit mythology. According to the legend, this tree originated when the ocean of milk turned around and emerged next to Kamadhenu, the sacred cow that fulfils every need. It is believed that Indra, the king of all gods, planted and kept Kalpa Taru in his home.
The song is played at a médium, Andante tempo. It begins with arpeggiated and melodic riffs, then moves on to denser and more powerful riff and rhythm sections with a sound that impeccably fuses stoner rock and progressive metal. The guitar attacks vary between arpeggios, chords and cruder riffs. After halfway through the song, Angeline sings mystical Hindu vocalizations, accompanied by an increasing pace in the Melody for some seconds. The song ends with a stoner-progressive section featuring powerful attacks on guitar, bass, and drums, concluding with guitars playing open strings. With this track, Hidalgo takes us on an emotional journey that stirs the senses and invigorates the soul. Powerful and exciting, awesome work guys!
The following track is “Trimurti”, the fifth and the longest of the álbum running at 09:01’. Trimurti comes from Sanskrit and refers to the three most significant Hindu gods worshipped in various Hindu religions known as the ‘three forms’. This Trinity includes Brahmā, a four-headed god who is believed to be the creator of the universe; Viṣṇu, a four-armed god who is regarded as the preserver of the universe, and Śiva, a wild god who is believed to bring an end to the world. Therefore, they represent the three functions of the cosmos: creation, conservation and destruction of the world.
By the way, the song doesn’t account for vocalizations. It starts with Chilean folk-style chords played at a mid-tempo pace. What stood out to me was the melody that begins at 01:15. It reminded me of the intro section of a song called “Stop the World” by Extreme, which is very dear and endearing to me. At 01:46, the melody undergoes a sudden change, transforming into a powerful and impressive showcase of pure progressive metal reminiscent of bands like Dream Theater. The ensuing portions feature alternating speeds and paces, dense harmonies, powerful arpeggiated riffs, and a majestic rhythmic section that remains stable throughout most of the track. A magnificent bridge marks the final part of an incredible track where Gabriel Hidalgo performs an impressive guitar solo. It leads to a deep impact that comprises ascending scales, which excite you to the maximum and give the sensation of a spiritual journey of creation, maintenance, and destruction. However, the end of this journey is not final but rather represents the closing of a cycle and the hope for a new beginning. This idea is reflected at the end of the song with impressive drum rolls, overwhelming riffs, and an abrupt ending with an open string, all of which give us the feeling of future continuity.
This track is an overwhelming masterpiece that showcases the band’s hard work and evolution. It’s my favourite from the álbum, doubtlessly.
Track six on the album is “Kala” and lasts for 04:40’ “Kala” is a Sanskrit word that means time and can refer to an interval of time or a deity. It is also one of the names and shapes of Yama, the god of death. In addition, it represents the dual concept of “space and time,” which is considered as a single entity rather than two separate ones according to Yoga philosophy.
The song starts with a captivating folk rhythm section that features drum rolls and dramatic riffs at a mid-tempo Andante. Then, Angeline’s vocals come in with beautiful harmonies that appear in different parts of the composition. The melody remains smooth and stable and incorporates some progressive metal components in the second half, besides other elements such as a male vocalization that resembles a ritual dance along with Angeline’s voice, giving the sense of a mystic journey through space and time. The final section follows the general structure, ending with march-like drum rolls riffs, and open strings.
Excellent, and captivating track for it catches you so you want to listen to it again and again.
“Nived” is the track 7 and runs for 06:54’. The song is the densest track on the album. It starts with melodic riffs and elegant drum rolls, accompanied by Angeline’s harmonic vocalizations for the first few minutes. This is then followed by a bridge in neoclassical style guitar melodies at a mid-tempo Andante. After that, there is a complete switch in terms of tone and tempo. Much darker guitar effects appear, creating an atmosphere similar to that of a shamanic ritual. The following sections remind me intensely of Anathema, with impressive rolls and arpeggiated riffs that turn towards the rawest doom metal with a lot of progressive cutting, keeping the denser and darker notes and accelerating the pace in an overwhelming experience that evokes a frantic escape, as if death itself were coming for you and you ran to avoid being overtaken by it. “Nived” is a track that takes you on an incredible journey that begins brightly, with hope and light, and then takes you like a whirlwind, turning your world upside down and making you face your processes of creation, maintenance, and destruction. However, no one wants to face death, so you end up running away quickly, hoping to escape. But the cycle does not close well, and there is no possibility of rebirth. Therefore, we must close cycles even with the death of that which frightens us or that sinks us. In short: ¡AMAZING TRACK!
Track 9 on the album is called “Asathoma Sath Gamaya” and it is the shortest track, running for 03:00’. In my humble opinion, this track is the most emotional one on the album. “Asathoma Sath Gamaya” is a widely used mantra in Hindu philosophy, often recited in social gatherings, schools and hospitals. It is believed that by reciting this mantra, one can achieve inner peace and overcome challenges in life. The mantra represents the seeker’s recognition of their limitations and a plea for help on their journey towards transcendence.
The song is performed solely by Gabriel and Angeline on guitars, starting with melancholic chords in minor notes. Then is the turn of a magical neoclassical guitar solo with slides and arpeggios in ascending and descending scales, in a beautiful melody at a slow pace. The song features an emotional doom metal style with consistent tone, tempo, and sound Throughout, ending in a smooth slide after beautiful, harmonic guitar chords.
This lovely song effectively captures the feelings of nostalgia and melancholy. In my opinion, it would make a great soundtrack for those experiencing “The dark night of the soul” process, searching for transcendence. Fluid, emotional, and melancholy are guaranteed in a wonderful song, another of my favourites on the album. Excellent!
“Manvantara” is track 8, running for 05:55′. The manwantara is an astronomical measure of time equivalent to an era of Manu, the father of humanity in Hinduism, parallel to Adam in Christianity.
Echoing the meaning of that concept, the pace of this song is interesting since it reminds me of classic rock, even the Latin rock-style rhythmic base at the beginning of the composition, in fusion with flamenco-style arpeggiated guitar chords in fast tempo during the first seconds for then change into sounds alike Tool. The bass is keyly featured in this portion. Next, there is a guitar solo that ascends and descends in tone. This structure remains stable throughout, with minor changes in pace and melody. By the end, the melody turns into doom metal, ending in an acoustic section like Opeth’s sound.
This track is not as diverse in terms of music, but it manages to capture the attention of the listener thanks to the fusion of music styles. Good track.
Track nine on the album is titled “Vernishna” and has a duration of 07:51’. This track is perfect for those who enjoy dark and evil sounds in music. It starts with mid-tempo guitar chords that create a foreboding atmosphere, before transitioning into an exquisite section that is both melodic and dark, making it easy to follow, performed in mid-tempo before gradually accelerating pace into a powerful but fluid progressive drum section, followed by a melodic guitar solo in ascending tone, for then returning to the previous structure. The melody then turns into a slower and darker section, with guitar chords over a dense bass and drum riff that remains constant until the end of the track. By the end, the melody of the song turns into dark chaos, ending with a dense guitar slide and thus closing this part of the journey.
Overall, this is an excellent song, full of nuances and power, perfect for those moments when we connect with our “dark side”.
And finally, we came to the end of this trip at the turn of “Jikisinkama”, track 10running for 03:42’. The word means “see you soon” in the Aymara language – accurate to lower the curtain on this spectacular journey that Gabriel Hidalgo and company have given us. It is an adagio, slow tempo that kicks off performed only by the guitars of Angeline Bernini and Gabriel Hidalgo. Simple and harmonic chords, melancholic, riffs and solos in the neoclassical style, are very well accompanied by each other. The track gives you the feeling of an odyssey that ends and allows you to rest at the end of the melody.
Precise closing, straight to the point, putting the finishing touch to a fantastic album where Gabriel showcases how much he has grown since he began his career as a musician in the 2000s, in bands like the legendary Six Magics, and Witchblade. Fahrenheit and Delta. Today, after more than 20 years and four previous albums, “Agnicayana” is crowned as the best album of his career, progressive power with rich nuances and music of an impressive quality that leaves a lasting impact.
Congratulations guys, proud to be your Chilean fellow!!! Therefore, I rate this instrumental album: 8/10 Elyna
8/10: To Greatness and Glory
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