“Citadels”: Mandroid Echostar’s Magnum Opus

[Author’s note: I’ve caught a lot of grief from close-minded extreme metal fans due to my love for Avenged Sevenfold’s Sounding the Seventh TrumpetWaking the FallenCity of Evil, and Nightmare albums.  These close-minded fans seem hell-bent on ignoring the obvious musical talent and diversity inherent in the aforementioned Avenged albums due simply to the vocal style employed by frontman Matt Sanders.  I risk the same reaction by showcasing Mandroid Echostar, but I don’t mind.  Both bands are simply too talented and too melodic to dismiss.]

There’s no doubt bands such as Mandroid Echostar aren’t for every extreme metal fan.  The vocals can, quite simply, be extraordinarily alienating–indeed, the band deserves an immense amount of credit for releasing instrumental-only versions of each of their releases to make their musical brilliance more accessible to more traditional extreme metal fans.  And yet, I’ve got a confession to make: I think Mandroid Echostar’s vocals are an integral, indispensable part of the band, and my review below addresses the version of the song “Citadels” that incorporates lead singer Michael Ciccia’s extraordinarily unique vocals.

The song “Citadels” is the final track from the band’s EP of the same name.  A remarkably diverse release, Mandroid Echostar employes three guitarists, allowing the six-string slayers to incorporate a number of melodic passages while maintaining the depth and heaviness that only a third guitar can provide.  The bassist and drummer add further depth and complexity to each song comprising the 30 minutes of the Citadels EP.

While the entire EP is worth repeated listens, it is the record’s final track–also known as “Citadels”–that stands out as a hauntingly beautiful, subtly aggressive, and definitively memorable musical experience.  Beginning at approximately the 23-minute mark of the Citadels EP, the eponymous song brings an already impressive album to a chill-inducing conclusion.  At the conclusion of this review, a link is provided to the EP on YouTube that is timestamped to begin play just as the song “Citadels” begins.

VocalsAs suggested previously in this review, Michael’s vocals run the risk of alienating more traditional extreme metal fans.  Indeed, I will admit that I often subscribe to Unique Leader Records’ “no clean vocals” mantra, but, every so often, an exceptionally talented vocalist opens my eyes to the possibilities of progressive metal that utilizes a vocalist singing in tune to further accentuate the emotional brilliance of a given song.  In particular, Michael’s vocals over the last 90 seconds of the song are absolutely stellar, helping bring the song to a close in a way nothing short of legendary.  (8/10)

Guitar: Axe-mastery is where Mandroid Echostar truly excels.  With three guitarists contributing to every song, the possibilities–be they simply adding depth and heaviness or fusing in something more avant garde–are virtually endless.  YouTube features a number of play-through videos starring the three guitarists in Mandroid Echostar, and it is both instructional and entertaining to see how the trio works together to create richly complex riffs, harmonized solos, and an overall cohesiveness few other bands can boast.  (10/10)

Bass: With three six-string virtuosos flawlessly steering each song, Adam Richards’ bass guitar mastery is of critical importance to Mandroid Echostar’s sound–and, to be sure, he is more than up to the challenge.  While his bass tone is not particularly elevated in the mix of the EP, the experienced extreme metal fan will immediately note the clean, driving, and otherwise crucial nature of Adam’s bass playing.  Simply put, Mandroid Echostar would not be able to pull off the complex compositions found on the Citadels EP without Adam’s bass-playing prowess.  (8/10)

Drums: To be fair, the drum backbone of each Mandroid Echostar song is subdued to an extent, but I have no doubt this is by design.  Overpowering blast beats or incessant double-bass thunder simply would overpower the remainder of the band’s songs, particularly considering many of these tracks include acoustic guitar interludes and a softer approach to vocals.  (8/10)

As a Unit: This is where Mandroid Echostar truly excels.  No instrument–no strings, no drums, no voices–overpower the band’s music.  It is very clear the band has worked exceptionally hard to craft a delicate, balanced, and still heavy brand of progressive metal.  (10/10)

Subtotal: (44/50)

Technicality“Technicality” likely isn’t the first word that comes to mind among extreme metal enthusiasts upon hearing Mandroid Citadel.  The guitar leads, while utterly beautiful, lack the degree of difficulty found in, say, the music of Between the Buried and Me or The Black Dahlia Murder.  The drums and bass are delivered flawlessly–but, again, without the degree of difficulty many metal fans yearn for.  That said, the band manages to seamlessly blend these elements, creating a sort of complexity that comes with synchronizing a series of moving parts.  (8/10)

Originality: While the tone of Michael’s vocals might cursorily remind inexperienced listeners of more mainstream rock frontmen, there is, in reality, very little similar between the two.  Indeed, each song composition as a whole carries the mantle for a refreshing form of originality–one that is unafraid of what other metal fans may think of it.  To me, that’s worth quite a bit.  (9/10)

BrutalityThis is, after all, an extreme metal site, and brutality is a key component of virtually all of the music the MAMB staff enjoys.  Mandroid Citadel lacks such brutality, but there is no question that is a conscientious choice on the part of the band.  (6/10)

ThematicThe thematic aspect of “Citadels” drew me even closer to the song and deserves particular recognition.  Indeed, anyone with a failed romance will quickly find much in common with the lyrics of this masterful song.  (9/10)

Memorability: Only time will tell whether “Citadels” survives the test of time in terms of remaining memorable within the metal community.  Personally speaking, I haven’t been able to get the track out of my head for months, and I doubt I’ll ever forget what it was like to listen to the song, especially the final 90 seconds.  (8/10)

Subtotal: (40/50)

Total: 84/100

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