Monday, July 25, 2005

Review: Gaia - The Final Question (2004)

Gaia [ Website | MySpace ]
The Final Question

South Florida's Gaia is an intriguing band for a number of reasons, all of which one can readily hear on the debut demo The Final Question. First is the wonderful voice of Chilean-born frontwoman Dominique Garrao. Her voice is soft and heartfelt, with an almost pop star quality to it (no, that's not a bad thing in this case) that is distinctive among metal leading ladies. In addition to her vocal expression, Dominique deftly wields a six-string as the band's lead guitarist (and is responsible for the demo's creative artwork). Gaia's other founding member, drummer Mark Mandel, plies his trade with skillful precision. As the band's lyricist, Mark puts together some heady lyrics that are engaging and thought-provoking. Add to this duo the exceptional bass playing of Federico Vidal, and Gaia becomes a band overflowing with potential.

As a display of this potential, The Final Question doesn't fully deliver the goods. Everything I've mentioned above is there, to be sure, but the demo suffers from production issues that result in Dominque's voice being buried in the mix so much that the full effect of her vocals fail to make an impact. Furthermore, the band's short time playing together is evident. The songs incorporate a significant number of progressive elements which are difficult to execute seamlessly, and so there is a definite looseness that pervades each track. Time spent playing together will of course erase this issue. A final piece of The Final Question that I found to be a distraction was the guest soloing of Jean Luis Contreras. Don't get me wrong, his guitar playing is quite admirable, but his shredding solo style seemed entirely out of place with the songs themselves. The end result was as if the solos were inserted almost as an afterthought. Contreras has since joined the band as a full-time member, so again this is an issue that is unlikely to carry over to Gaia's next release.

The Final Question represents, for me, what Gaia is capable of as well as what they need to improve. Songs like "Waiting Is" (my favorite of the demo), cause me to highly anticipate the band's next release. The song opens with a majestic lead from Dominique followed by pummeling beats from Mark. He goes on to include some soft piano passages to accompany Dominique's leads, heightening the mood of the song. "That Thou Art Mindful of Him" adds a bit more flavor to Gaia's formula, including a bit of a Spanish guitar melody from Dominique and a cello accompaniment from guest Tara Ketola. Building upon these successes, and perhaps enhancing the role of Tara's cello, will certainly foster rewards for the band and I'm sure carry them forward toward their goals.

Track Listing
1 Gaia 3:53
2 Waiting Is 5:36
3 That Thou Art Mindful of Him 5:55

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