Brazil has long been a world leader when it comes to quality metal, both prog and power, so it’s really no surprise to see Brazilian outfits releasing steady streams of albums. A rising star seems to be Vandroya, with their fresh off the press sophomore effort Beyond The Human Mind; the follow up 2012’s debut One, which did garner some interest on its release. With this new album Vandroya has managed to evolve what was begun on the debut, dropping much of what was overdone then, and also a few things that might have been better kept. It is however doubtlessly a ballsy album, consisting of eight heavy tracks and a solid instrumental intro - though the intro doesn’t do anything the intro to the previous album did. The sometimes massive weight comes care of Gee Perlati’s dense bass lines and some fleshy drums from Otávio Nuñez, though the latter may be a tad too high in the mix.
It is the bass which carries the first part of the lengthy title track, giving a musty dark feel alongside Daísa Munhoz’s (you know her from Soulspell) melodic and introspective vocals. Unfortunately, the song trudges a little too long in this state before slowly picking up to showcase some manic riff work and slow, progressive leads from Marco Lambert and Rodolfo Pagotto. The guitarists borrow influences from across the metal kingdom, showing some penchant for Maiden-esque gallops as well as Helloween inspired leads. The solo work is generally great, with a highlight in The Path To The Endless Fall; it has a somewhat simple sound, but far more complex structure and undertones. While present, the keyboards have been toned down and used more sparsely than on the debut, giving the music a rougher edge and making it less prone to stick to the power metal epithet.
Along with this, the generic lyrics often found in power metal have been switched for a darker, more serious tone. Vandroya’s main focal point on Beyond The Human Mind is not the epic proportions one might expect from a band pulling its name from Michael Kiske’s character in Avantasia’s first two metal operas, but rather introspective and, as such, sometimes darker territories. Munhoz embodies the concept well, showing great vulnerability along with her innate power. Those who’d expect to hear her pull off a chorus such as last year’s Angel In The Ashes by Matt Smith’s Project Aegis, will be disappointed, as she instead delivers some intense melodic choruses, complete with soul chilling shouts for extra emphasis. On the other hand, the album might do well with something fast and soaring, to contrast the at times fairly gloomy - yet defiant! - mood of the music. Something akin to Change The Tide (though the lack of Leandro Cacoilo’s crappy vocals is a pretty good thing) or The Last Free Land, both found on One.
That’s not to say there aren’t parts which breathes some hopeful air; the low key piano backdrop and the upbeat drum patterns in Time After Time or the entirety of powerful track I’m Alive. The former would have done well with some layered vocals to accent Munhoz in the chorus, and as such seems to fall somewhat, but the latter grows with each listen thanks to some impressive guitar work and refreshing vocal melodies. The only song which stands out as lackluster is sappy power ballad If I Forgive Myself, flaunting every cliché you can think of, and even that still manages to be kind of interesting thanks to some solid keys work, as well as a powerful delivery from Munhoz. Beyond The Human Mind may not be perfect - quite a bit from it, in fact - but it does plenty of things right, showcasing the strengths of Vandroya’s individual members all while defying definition; none more so than Munhoz, who makes the best album of her career so far. And it does so while carrying a hard hitting, emotive punch.
Standout tracks: The Path To The Endless Fall, Maya, I’m Alive