DISCovery - Valcata
The original aim of the blog was to promote discussion about all and any facet of progressive rock but from time to time, bands and musicians contact ProgBlog with new prog-related material that they want to expose to a wider audience; ProgBlog's album of 2017 An Invitation by Amber Foil was one such approach.
The range of styles ProgBlog has been exposed to through this route has helped to expand and challenge my listening habits but time constraints have meant that not all submissions have received the attention that they deserve.
The DISCovery section has been introduced to better serve the requirements of musicians who contact ProgBlog with the aim of increasing the audience for their music; without music there can be no discussion of music.
Valcata is a really interesting project in the realm of ‘metal opera’, conceived by composer Oha Cade (who wrote all the songs and lyrics) and with a huge cast of singers and musicians. It has many things that I’m partial to: it is a concept album steeped in sci-fi elements, it has an ample and varied pool of characters and the singers and musicians stem from many places around the world.
Many could immediately find a strong link to Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s AYREON project, and thematically there are indeed many similarities especially with albums like 01011001 and The Source. The pace is more sustained than in the AYREON works, in a way more akin to the rhythm of the AVANTASIA project by Tobias Sammet, and these two are the strongest references I’ve found while listening (AYREON being the strongest.)
Going a little more into details, the cast is divided between four alien entities fleeing from their condemned world (but there’s a twist in there) and three humans and an AI that confronts them.
There’s a good spread of different styles of singing between the artists that compose the cast: technically they range from good to awesome, and it was interesting that a couple of them, one being Oha Cade himself, sing in an operatic style.
There’s nothing really new both thematically and in the choice of using many singers, but everything was done competently and with style; such a complex undertaking as writing a concept album is something not to be scoffed at.
The music is there to support the singers, but don’t get me wrong: there are some really complex passages, I found some of the riffs refined and sophisticated, especially from a rhythmic standpoint, and there are some instrumental breaks that are really good. What I mean is that the music takes a more direct approach and there are not many layers in its structure, while most of the complexity of the arrangement stems from the choral sections where you can find some tasteful and refined interactions between the singers. I also loved that they used real strings and not only virtual instruments.
So, was everything perfect? There are some things that didn’t totally satisfy me, but you can argue that here we enter the field of personal tastes and you will be absolutely right.
While all the singers are good, some of the characters sound too similar to my ears: in some instances I would have appreciated more distinct voices, even at the cost of having singers not quite as good as the ones we have here. In an opera-like work like this I tend to value a more evident differentiation between the characters.
I found that most of the guitar tones were quite same-y, and to me that detracts from the dynamism of the composition. Many guitar players choose to use mostly the same tones to give a distinct and personal feel to their playing, but I prefer when there’s more variety. I also would have liked if keyboards and strings had taken a more central role more often, but they are mostly in the background. Lastly, to me the drums were a little too dry.
In conclusion, I believe that Valcata is a very competent and expertly delivered project that could find many fans between the ones that love the more metal-oriented songs from AYREON or those that appreciate projects like AVANTASIA. I have no doubt that it could achieve great success with that crowd.
Valcata - 3-2-1 Official lyric video
Valcata artwork by Andy Pilkington (Very Metal Art)