Akb'al are a Cardiff based progressive metal band, and their debut album Of Darkness and Light is an exhilarating listen, with a diversity of musical sounds and layers.
The four musicians play a variety of instruments, including in addition to the guitars, bass and drums you might expect of a progressive metal band, tablas, djembe, violin and synths. This gives them a really adventurous and experimental musicality. It's clear their roots are in metal and progressive music, but the soundscapes the band create go way past that.
The second track The Ride is a really good place to start, with its percussive opening and trance like rhythms, interspersed with some growling metal moments.
Pacha Mama, another stand out piece, has some great harmony vocals and melodic guitar work, getting heavier guitar wise in the last third of the song, with some great rolling keyboard counterpoints.
My favourite track Light clocking in at just over 12 minutes, is characterised by the most beautiful ambient backdrop with all the instrumental passages finely understated, and complimented by some fabulous world music percussion. Halfway through the song it segues into an atmospheric dance track with lots of different instruments bubbling up to the surface. Closing with a wonderful coda of lilting bell like sounds. This is pure musical genius.
My only small qualification is that one or two of the songs on the album meander a little without the same sense of purpose and experimental intent that the rest of the album has. Perhaps an occupational hazard in the progressive metal field. On this debut album it's not a big problem, as Akb'al are clearly at the beginning of their musical trajectory with loads of creativity to offer.
This is a great debut album, especially for the musically adventurous metal fan. And you just have to hear Light, the best piece of new music I have heard in recent months.