Album Review: BANDOLIRIUM – Bandolirium

Bandolirium - Bandolirium

What’s the first thing that pops on your mind when you put “tango” and “prog metal” in the same sentence? Is it like Astor Piazzolla meets Dream Theater? For those who don’t know who Astor Piazzolla is, he was an Argentine tango composer and a bandoneon player, who revolutionised the genre by incorporating different elements including jazz and classical music. Now, I believe that everyone knows who Dream Theater is? That’s what I thought.

Aptly named, Bandolirium is a project of a composer and bandoneon player from Buenos Aires Amijai Shalev, who is joined by guitarist Marcos de Cristobal, bassist Matias Brandauer, and drummer Marcos Edwards for an unique mixture of the two mentioned music styles. The self-titled debut album was recently released, and it brings eight instrumental songs that also incorporate influences from jazz fusion, experimental rock and a bit of classical music.

Opening “Impulso” pulls no punches. The track immediately opens with a crushing riff from De Cristobal accompanied by Shalev’s “riff-work” on his bandoneon. The song only goes uphill from there; unwaveringly complex and boasting some of technical drumming. Moreover, “ES3” is reminiscent of Petrucci’s riffwork in Dream Theater (Train of Thought album, in particular), but it’s unique in that it boasts some masterful deliverance from Shalev. It’s complete with a solo interplay between De Cristobal and Shalev that gets all kind of emotions running through you.

Bandolirium in studio

There’s no doubting the instrumental ability of the band members, but what’s truly at stake here is the strength of the songwriting, which in the wrong hands could end up sounding incredibly tiring or pretentious and masturbatory. This is where Bandolirium delivers in spades; the album is deep and compelling. Songs are mostly placed between 3- and 5-minute marks, with the exception of the closing piece “Liberacion” which clocks over eight minutes. The “longer” tracks are the highlights here, each consisting of several memorable, intertwined themes that rotate around one another in between much soloing and changes in mood, pace, and tension. “La Milonga del Demonio, Part 1” ventures into mellow territory and back again, while its counterpart “La Milonga del Demonio, Part 2” features some haunting bandoneon work, which is a pleasant change from what you hear nowadays. “Sombras” kicks off with Matias Brandauer’s thick baseline and melody which is repeated by Shalev on his bandoneon and De Cristobal warm soloing, but it doesn’t take long for the riffs to take over. This piece is arguably the most experimental on the record, and it kinds of recalls King Crimson or bands from the French school of Avant-Garde/Zeuhl.

“Auto Sabotage” and “Falso Dilemma” remain in the experimental territory, but are simpler from the preceding piece, and are generally consisting of one particularly idea that’s jammed out for as long as possible, with the basic formula being improvised as the songs progress. “Liberacion” is all Shalev for about a minute, releasing an atmospheric vibe which just spreads out throughout the song which is mid-paced, but it does feature some tasty and nasty instrumentation. It also makes me feel that “Liberacion” is the most tango piece here, and it strikes me with an image of a man and a woman dancing tango in a low-light space—it’s truly a unique experience.

If you are someone who never got into tango, but you love prog metal this is an album for you to hear. If it’s the opposite—this is an album for you to hear. Overall, you should definitely give it a chance.


1. Impulso
2. ES3
3. La Milonga del Demonio pt. 1
4. La Milonga del Demonio pt. 2
5. Sombras
6. Auto Sabotage
7. Falso Dilema
8. Liberación


* Amijai Shalev - bandoneon
* Marcos de Cristobal – guitars
* Matias Brandauer – bass
* Marcos Edwards – drums





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