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Bauda is a Chilean project that was formed by César Márquez in 2005. Initially formed as a solo project, 2012 saw Márquez bring a strong rhythm section into the fold, just in time for the recording of the sophomore album, “Euphoria… Of Flesh, Men and the Great Escape.” Having never listened to the debut album, I went into this album blind, but that’s part of the fun. Loosely listed as a folk metal slash post rock act, that label only gives the listener about half of the picture, as there are a lot of factors and influences at play here.
Imagine a mash up utilizing the acoustic guitar lines of Opeth, the vocal styling of Porcupine Tree, clean shoegaze and post-rock influences and the doomy yet rock infused atmospheres of later period Katatonia combined with a persistently impressive yet never overbearing rhythm section. It should suffice to say that there’s a lot going on, right? Regardless of the amount of influence, Márquez and crew are able to fuse everything together into an enjoyable amalgamate of genres that stays rather consistent without being boring and daring while avoiding the realms of absurdity. This album supposedly deals with the Chilean whaling industry that was immensely profitable in years past. As a side note, Chile has had a ban on the whole whaling scene for quite some time, but it’s illustrious and infamous history remains. I mention this only because some of the album’s emotional standpoints can be better understood when things as vast as oceans and as large as whales enter the picture.
Calling “Of Flesh, Men and the Great Escape” a folk metal album, would be very misleading. There are folk influences all through this album, but don’t think hurdy-gurdy, accordion or bagpipes. Acoustic guitars utilizing folk strumming take the forefront while ambient keyboards with hints of didgeridoo ride along the undercurrent. Some strong seventies prog influence is apparent during the rising and falling sections of “Oceania”, which uses some strong mellotron notes that build in and out of climbing chord progressions. During all of the folk and prog passages a strong post-rock and shoegaze element is felt. It’s tremendously unfair to lump Bauda into the same group as acts carrying those banners, but there is much more at play here.
With most tracks being genuinely sprawling affairs, there is a lot of room Bauda to stretch out and play with this rising and falling of the instrumentation as well as emotional crescendos. Take the opening track, “Ghosts of Phantalassa” for example, as it starts with a very prog inspired, acoustically driven segment that slowly builds into a melodic trem picked excursion with forceful drumming while an overarching melody connects all of the segments together. Every track proceeds in a similar vein: atmospheric post rock followed by ascending or descending chord progressions that build into a doomy, prog and folk infusion and, eventually, come back to the post-rock. This is where I let you know that I previously mentioned whales and oceans and whatnot, because the music follows suit to some extent. The spacey atmospheric sections allow the heavier sections to seem more large and looming. The play between subtlety and heaviness rises and falls, much like the tide, and seems as ceaseless as well.
The guitar lines are top notch ranging from the aforementioned acoustic strumming and prog styling to the heavy and doom laden approach that still retains the folkish melodies. The vocals lines are heavily inspired by the likes of Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree: a clean, mid-range approach to vocals that is hauntingly beautiful at times, yet strangely monotone at other times. While the vocals are enjoyable, they lack the confidence required to make them great. The true standouts on this album are the newly added members of the rhythm section. The drums are restrained and simplistic during slower sections and powerful and dynamic during the heavier sections, with precise cymbal work and fast rolls. The bass lines are thunderous and thick during heavier sections, even showcasing some rhythmic slap bass during the crescendos on “Oceania”, but they work best when the music is slower and folk-laden. The slower sections are never stagnant, as the bass wanders across the entire fret board without stealing the show or being too flamboyant.
“Euphoria… Of Flesh, Men and the Great Escape” is an enjoyable album that suffers from the “not sure what to label it syndrome”. Fans of Katatonia, Opeth and the like should dig this, as long as you don’t mind the post-rock influence. Bauda have created almost an hour of rising and falling folk, doom, prog and post rock inspired music that manages to stay vibrant and enjoyable despite the large track lengths. This is recommended to those looking for a different take on the whole post-rock / post-metal scene because Bauda is pretty much in a league of their own. With a more confident vocal delivery, Bauda could have a true landmark of an album, so, here’s to the next one…
Written for The Metal Observer:
Euphoria...of Flesh, Men and the Great Escape is my first exposure to the band Bauda, but hopefully not my last, because this thing is frankly so eclectic and exotic that nearly anyone could wrest some enjoyment from its eaves, like plucking a fruit from a rare tree with many varieties. I've seen the band defined as 'folk metal', but I feel that might be a slight misrepresentation of their sound. Sure, they use a lot of clean and scintillating guitars, and interesting rhythmic dynamics, but there's not much of an 'ethnic' or geographical constraint to what they write. For example, the band is Chilean, but you don't get much of an impression here that their sound is South American, rather quite universal in scope.
It's also not much of a 'metal' record, with the exception of some drudging, atmospheric, distorted guitars that might partake of prog or doom influences; but I'm willing to bet they've evolved out of some more aggressive roots (I know it used to be a one-man project with folksier instrumentation). Instead you've got a smattering of indie, space or post-rock influences, with grooving bass, beautiful if occasionally atonal vocal harmonies, whispers, occasional dissonance and loads of drumming. The second song, "Humanimals", one of the album's heaviest, is for me the perfect exemplar of the band's style. It's over 10 minutes in length but never once becomes boring or disjointed, and rarely shows any penchant for repetition; it's almost like Voivod meets Mew. Not all the tracks require such a staggering length to impress: "The Great Escape" itself is gorgeous acoustic rock affixed with creepy, alien synthesizers and vocals polished enough for radio; "Crepuscular" is a lazy and lovely acoustic guitar instrumental with a bit of classical influence to the picking, and once again the superb ambient backdrop.
The production is insanely clear, worthy of a far bigger budget rock band (like Dredg or Death Cab for Cutie), but the real star of this show, beyond the vocals, is the rhythm section. The bass is constantly curving, swaying and inventing subtext for any of the busier tracks, and the percussion is intense whether it's going tribal, standard rock fills, or lightly crashing along to one of the album's more soothing moments. Where the album picks up in aggression ("Humanimals or the doom-influenced "Oceania"), the guitars crash and course with abandon, often heavily affected to create a swerving level of psychedelia and fuzz. Yet somehow, despite the album's very disparate array of sounds and feelings, it all seems like a cohesive, conceptual experience. It's not always memorable, but it's ALWAYS interesting, and fans of post-metal outfits like Katatonia and Virus, or Tiamat's brilliant album A Deeper Kind of Slumber might well wish to explore this. Or, really, any person in the mood for something different.