Album Review: "Paradigma" (2020) by De Souza Project
De Souza Project is the brainchild of bass player and composer Jorge De Souza. Their music is best explained as the unexpected harmony between the rooted Peruvian folklore and technical prog metal. Their main prog influences, ranging and mostly emerging from the likes of Dream Theater and Symphony X to 70’s bands like King Crimson and Rush, are only one part of the equation. The much more unique aspect of their sound resides at the heart of where they come from, Peru, and what music represents in the culture. Thus, it is no surprise that Andean woodwind instruments, such as “quena” and “zampoña”, are prominent in the record.
The band's first album “Paradigma” recounts the story of an apostolic Roman catholic turned atheist, and delves deep into the mind of this character through a dualist perspective, where two adversary voices represent the Catholic and the atheist sides. It is an intriguing subject to tackle, where religious dilemma and chaos (which is also the title of one of the tracks) are reflected in the music.
1. Hanaq Pachaq/Soy
Referring to Incan mythology's Pacha, Incan concept for dividing the different spheres of the cosmos, De Souza Project directly sets the ethereal and divine mood for the song with a polyphonic choir that uses the same chords once used in medievel Gregorian Chants—probably at this point, you can. Then their folk music influences cross over with the intro, leading to an acoustic heartwarming welcome to the album, "Soy", using the classic "Heart of the Rising Sun" progression.
We should put a disclaimer here before you try headbanging to the track because a repeating 14/16 + 16/16 rhythm can get dizzying pretty quickly. With the dramatic entrance of the drums and the guitars, you can feel the Dream Theater influence right from the start. But what would normally be played on a synth by Rudess is instead played on an actual Andean woodwind instrument! It was an unheard-of combination for us, but we dig it. To highlight the exotic woodwind's importance within a technical prog metal song, De Souza features an intricate solo early on in the song. As a whole, the track is so packed with action that, like its influences, it requires a certain mental space to thoroughly comprehend it.
3. Libre Albedrio
The combination of the synthesizer and the heavy electric guitar riff reflects the style of the De Souza Project: the inspirations from 70s/80s prog and prog metal influences have made their way into the song. The layered growls and the fast paced drum beat keeps the song at a fast pace for the entirety of five minutes. With the addition of the Peruvian woodwinds into the song, Libre Albedrio stands out amongst the new prog metal scene with its originality.
4. El Espejismo de los Dioses
Apparently, De Souza likes to dive straight into action in his music. El Espejismo de Los Dioses is an action-packed 6 minute monster. Even though the song switches between many unrelated sections, and the album features the woodwinds in each song, the woodwinds solo was still unexpected. An integration of cultural elements with mainstream prog metal always sounds exciting and unique. And when it's this jazzy, we can't stop mentioning it. In addition, the bass parts are extremely tasty, especially the break at 3:43. Adding transitions between different sections would tie the whole composition together.
5. En el Ocaso
The fifth song of the album combines unorthodox rhythmic structures, a combination of ⅞ and 4/4 near the 3rd minute mark being one instance, drawn-out electric guitar solos and ethnic musical elements (the Peruvian woodwinds again,) in a way that creates a song of many different sections. These sections are all tied together at the end when the vocals that initiated the song reappear. Although the song has a tone that is a bit similar to the previous one, it is still an interesting take on progressive metal.
6. Mascaras de Fe
Being the longest track of the EP, Mascaras de Fes shows all the influences of the band with all explicity. Harmonied shreddy guitar intro solo leads to a Iron Maiden style speed metal with high pitched vocals—the classic 80s. Altough their starting point is apparent considering all these influences, they did their authentic blend by mixing last 40 years of great guitar and synth music together to produce this special outcome. The dynamic of the drums, uplifting vocals, synth additions, bass tone should all be appreciated; however, the harmonied Dragonforce style guitar solo sections are certainly one of the highlights of the album. Peruian prog at its finest.