Venezuelan guitarist and composer PAARIS (Enrique Marquez Paris) released his debut EP “Nora” on April 17th, 2020. Before that, Enrique was known locally for his expertise in producing, composition, and guitar. Now based in Los Angeles, he carried this spirit of collaboration to a solo project, with well-known names such as Anup Sastry (Intervals, Monuments), Joey Izzo (Arch Echo), Adam Bentley (Arch Echo), Rudy Pagliuca (Latin Grammy Award Winner producer), Luis “Peep” Mendez and Diego Alvarez (Latin Grammy Awards Winner percussionist). While “Nora” is mostly a prog metal EP, it has a wide variety of sounds ranging from flamenco in “Herrera” to synth-based power metal (that kinda sounds like video game music) in 2020. Though it packs so many sounds, the transition is seamless, sort of like a wave that carries you through the EP. One moment, you are headbanging to “1ra”, the next, you are playing bongo on your lap during “Herrera”. Each song has a beautiful melodic base reinforced with burning shreds. This and the upbeat nature of most songs leave you panting from all the dancing at the end of the EP, wanting another 19 minutes of PAARIS.
The opening track of the EP, called “Caric” is also the longest one. Though it is still very short for prog standards, don’t let that dissuade you. This concise nature of the EP helps set the backbone of PAARIS’s music by not wasting any time on filler materials and sections. Opening with an 11/8 (divided as 5/8 + 6/8) piano and synth foundation, the track already draws in the careful listeners. On top of it, Enrique lays some mellow guitar licks, reminiscent of Plini’s tone. Around the one minute mark, with the entrance of drums, the song sticks to 6/8 but as the layers get more intense and complicated, you don’t even notice it. As with most instrumental prog albums, the influence of minimalist composition blends with hard rock and creates a unified atmosphere that emanates through the music.
After you got hit with the opening track’s unique prog approach, you can’t help but wonder what more PAARIS can offer. The second track “Arista” instantly captures you with the atmospheric synth sounds and delay-guitar riff. Unexpectedly, the song shifts 180 degrees to a heavenly-djent sound, creating a larger soundscape- as if the song was played by a huge orchestra. The proceeding part includes a soulful-shred solo over the constantly changing bright riffs. Though the artist did not play around with time signatures as he did in the opening track, the complex syncopations of 4/4 throughout the song signifies how creative PAARIS can get with rhythms. The outro of the song has the same rhythmical subdivisions with the intro that creates a connection between the beginning and the end, which can be divided as “3-3-3-3-2-2”, leading to a “bookmark” effect.
The track “2020” is, as its name suggests, similar to the year 2020: it makes you want to stay home and jam. It is mostly a guitar shred based on a metal melody with a power metal sound. A lot of the times, it sounds like two guitars conversing with each other through melodies. The most interesting parts are when these two guitars leave their place to a more mellow, groovy bridge. The first bridge features a tom groove that acts as both breathing space and a build-up to a much more uptempo solo. The second bridge includes Guthrie Govan style melodies that once again connect to the next solo. In the end, it is satisfying to hear the synths and guitars come together to raise the tension as high as possible, and then end in a snap. The last thing you hear will be your own exhaling…
The shortest track, “1ra”, shows very different influences of Enrique Marquez Paris with the opening thrash metal riffs. It is my first time hearing this thrash-power metal and electronic synth sound combination in the modern progressive music stage. The little polyrhythmic tricks and offbeat-syncopation of drums in this song show the rhythmic trademark and signature sound of PAARIS that he utilizes in most of his songs. Even though it is the shortest, its also one of the most salient tracks from the EP – with its combination of unexpected elements and creating an end product that combines the Plini-style bright atmosphere with djent, electronic, and thrash music in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
“Apollo” starts with a tight groove that creates the main structure and the foundation of the song. Throughout the track, PAARIS explores more and more intriguing ideas. With calm and emotional melodies with the use of piano, a banger sound from the distorted guitars with exciting drumming and metal breakdowns, there is a lot going on in one song (which by now, became an expected characteristic of PAARIS’s music). While one distorted guitar is used to control the groove with a heavy sound, other guitar shreds all through the song. The performance is always something new. Sometimes hard and emotional, sometimes exciting and dynamic, sometimes pure metal, the guitar puts lots of memorable melodic lines, and the aid of the second guitar creates a dynamic in the song. To summarize, this track has a lot of things to say just like all the others in the EP.
“Herrera” is a little bit different from the rest of the EP. It is certainly an interesting choice to end this energetic journey with a more acoustic and “flamenco” way but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. After a whole bus of shreds ran over the listener(a.k.a. this ep), a little time to relax and enjoy a flamenco-inspired guitar really feels good. This track can be considered as a stranger in the EP but still, it is a creative choice to end an EP with an intentionally distinct song. The use of bongos instead of loud drums creates a sincere feeling for the listener that resonates well with the song. While PAARIS takes a step back on distortion, he doesn’t take a step back in the quality. The melodies co-exist in perfect unison and every transition is so casual yet effective. His playing style is a perfect mix of his influences and his own creativity.