Naga “Sophia” Review and Stream: Emotional Math

Naga is:

Richard Park – guitar

Nick Popoawski – guitar

Luke Robinson – bass

Juan Franco – drums

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Naga:

(From Indian mythology) A member of a semi-divine race, part human and part cobra in form, usually associated with water and sometimes with mystical initiation.

A member of a group of peoples living in or near the Naga Hills of Burma (Myanmar) and northeastern India who practiced head-hunting until the early 20th century.

Any of the Tibeto-Burman languages of the Naga.

A Bhuanese war axe.

(From Hindu mythology) A race of serpent demons, offspring of Kaduru, guardians of the under-regions (1785). From Sanskrit naga, meaning a deity taking the form of a serpent or snake. In Naga Buddha statues, Naga surrounds and protects Buddha from rain and storms as he meditates.

(Hindu) A naked wandering ascetic, in particular one belonging to a sect whose members carry arms and serve as mercenaries.

(From Cambodian mythology) A race of water serpents that lived in the Pacific ocean.

(From Japanese mythology) A creature with the torso of a human with a snake tail instead of legs.

(Japanese) A dragon or promoted rook

Pinoy word meaning dragon, a figurehead on a ship or a species of the narra tree.

Hebrew word meaning to touch, reach or strike

A Japanese polearm consistening of a shaft and a vertically placed long blade used for stabbing or slashing employed chiefly by medieval Japanese and lower class infantrymen.

Alpha-N-acetylgalactosaminidase (NAGA) is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the NAGA gene

Acclaimed director of the Marmadesam television show from Tamil Nadu, India

Marvel Comics super-villain created by Roy Thomas and artist Marie Severin that first appeared in Sub-Mariner #9 (January 1969)

A sea creature form from MMORPG World of Warcraft

A serpent with a humanoid head from Dungeons and Dragons, races being dark naga, guardian naga, spirit naga and water naga

A slang term meaning good, but not great that can almost be replaced with okay.

When used as a name: quick-minded, versatile, very expressive, always looking for new experiences, able to create a favorable first impression, prone to procrastination, tends to be impatient; Indian and Hindu: (boy) Origin of everything, God Shankar, Lord Shiva, snakes diamond, lord of a town, best among the snakes, bearer of Sanjeevini mountain; (girl) Smiles like a pearl, mountain born, serpent maiden, protector of the land, snake goddess

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Didn’t expect a study of Etymology, did you? Sure, I could have asked the band where they got the name, but after looking up its meaning, almost too many of them fit for a number of different reasons. If they want to share, they will. Ask them. I am sure they will tell you. If not, they are an instrumental band, so pick one based on your personal connection to this truly unique album and run with that. Isn’t that is what music is all about anyway? Well, Naga (the band) was formed in Chicago, IL in February 2015 by “guitarists Richard Park and Nick Poplawski, bassist Luke Robinson, and drummer Juan Franco [who] strive to create emotionally charged writing through the lens and framework of technical music.Skip all of the glitz and personal drama, because these guys have chosen to delineate their music and band from them as individuals. Hell, they have even chosen to have no social media presence; to the chagrin and frustration of fans. When I asked why, bass player Luke Robinson simply stated: “We find social media to be over-saturating and distracting so we avoid it all together to focus on creating the music [based on] our personal relationships with each other.” After some brief back and forth with Mr. Robinson, I don’t get the feeling that this is an arrogant, grand-standing or selfish move. They simply want the music to speak to you, and for you to speak with them face to face instead of anonymously behind some damned computer screen. In the day of “friends” being counted by how many people “like” you, it is nice to see people actually still want to communicate; be it through music or through a real conversation. This is the way it was when I was growing up and much prefer it over sterile, typed out words. No smile, no tone of humorous sarcasm, no agreeable nod of the head, no human contact. Digging this vibe a lot! Naga has managed to exemplify this connection musically through their EP entitled Sophia.

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Naga recently sent us a CD to review. I claimed it within about thirty seconds. Great, guitar based instrumental Progressive Metal that somehow melds lovely emotionally charged harmonies through technically complex Math Rock/Metal melodies and rhythms, which usually tend toward being somewhat sterile in sound and feel. Simply brilliant. Naga also falls on the side of minimalism. If a note does not need to be there, it is left out. While I like the use of fuzzy, distorted bass and guitars to fill space normally held by a vocalist, musical flow is Naga’s secret weapon; undulating gracefully along a deeply thought out crevice of emotion feeding a calm lake of solstice. Ups and downs, ins and outs, happiness and angst. It is all there to behold! Sophia was recorded at Electrical Audio with Greg Norman (Pelican, Neurosis, Locrian, High On Fire) and mastered by Collin Jordan (Chris Connely, Eyehategod, Gravity Kills, Less Than Jake, Ministry, Pelican, Stevie Ray Vaughn and many, many others) at the Boliler Room in Chicago. Needless to say, production on this album is second to none and much deserving of Naga’s collective talents. As a debut EP, Sophia shows a depth and songwriting maturity usually only seen from well seasoned bands. The album starts with a positive and bouncy introduction with a song called “Ishmael”. Clean guitar, bass and soft drums eventually transition to a distorted and faster tempo, that retains every bit of the friendly vibe that started us off. Going back and forth from clean to distorted tones, the sound thickens with tension and complexity before dropping back with a resolve that rings with mild dissonance. Calvary” follows with a lovely ethereal and slower flow that smoothly opens up to a much heavier timber. With an obvious dichotomy of elation and dark moods, loud bursts of lead guitar intermingle with cleans that are eventually overcome to a rather abrupt end. Being almost conversational, “Ivory Tower” takes a darker tone. As the song builds, it becomes angry through heavy distortion before ending just this side of chaos. These two songs in particular show the deep understanding of flow, not only inter-track, but also from song to song. These transitions are just spectacular when listening to the album as a whole instead of a series of singles. Next up is “An Even Colder War”. This song is sad and introspective that explodes in frenzied guitar madness before stuttering along, trading clear and distorted resonance; a musical argument of the ages. Very complex and polymorphic bridges weave frustration through the outro. While Naga never crosses into full blown hate, this song strikes pretty uncomfortably. Really good contrast between the opening songs and the final track entitled “Metropolis”. Using a very cool and unusual picking style, a feeling of relaxation is achieved as one wakes up and gets the day started with a good cup of coffee. Frustrated with traffic and mundane tasks of the day, the track is injected with fast driving shred lines that progress to an almost fragile, crystalline sound that permeates the last half of the song. “Metropolis” and Sophia gently lands like watching birds gliding on high air currents just before settling in for bed.

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Naga’s Sophia is a uniquely emotive release that successfully integrates Rock, Metal and Math like few bands have been able to achieve. Their spectacular songwriting skills help to create an ebb and flow within each song and from song to song that is much better together than apart. This being Naga’s debut EP, growth could go in any direction. Can’t wait to see where their musical hearts take us next!

NagaSophia” Tracklist:

Ishmael” [3:24]

Calvary” [3:23]

Ivory Tower” [4:24]

An Even Colder” War [4:29]

Metropolis” [6:01]

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Keep track of offerings from Naga at BandCamp

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Odyssey

About Odyssey

I have had a life-long love of music, but from the first time I heard Kiss and Black Sabbath with my landlord's son in Nicholasville, KY in the mid 70's, I have been hooked on Hard Rock and Metal. While my tastes in music have done nothing but expand since then, Metal remains closest to my heart. In addition, I have played bass, still play guitar and have literally 1000's of CDs/MP3s, so my knowledge is long steeped and honest. I don't buy the whole splintered, sub-genres thing and choose to like bands and music based solely on individual merits. Obviously, this is always colored by my mood, what I need at any given point and time and what is generally pleasing to my ear. I also don't like to rip any music or band, instead having an open mind and ear for it all because I have a passion for it all. It is completely subjective and in a constant state of flux. Consider me a music "nerd" not a music "snob". As an extension of this love, I hope to share this passion with everyone here and learn from your passion as well! - Odyssey -

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