Iron Fire – Dawn of Creation (Twentieth Anniversary) Review

31946109_10157403443725558_5859436604178825216_nAlbums recollecting the history of a band, especially those released by bigger bands through huge labels, are usually a rather dull matter, as proven time and time again by record labels throwing out cheap collections of the respective bands’ most beloved tracks on a CD to make a quick buck. Sometimes those are complemented by a live recording or something of the sort to have the core fans grudgingly buy an album full of songs they already own on other releases just to complete the collection with the added bonus, which is usually not worth the money of the whole package. Continue reading “Iron Fire – Dawn of Creation (Twentieth Anniversary) Review”

Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher Review

Follow The Cipher - Follow The Cipher_4000pxCan y’all believe metalcore still ain’t dead? Because that’s what Follow The Cipher are celebrating with their newest release which happens to be their debut album. I remember back in 2004-2008, when Bullet For My Valentine was the new shit, spawning a trillion of bands with the exact same sound. A lot of, eh, elite metal fans did not enjoy the pandering to the mainstream and prophesied a timely demise for the genre. What do you know, it is still prospering in 2018, albeit without innovation. The formula remains unchanged: catchy choruses, heavy riffs, growls mixed with sweet, sweet clean vocals, and an unusually dense sound. Continue reading “Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher Review”

Grailknights – Knightfall Review

1000x1000 (2)Grailknightis a band that I disregarded for all 14 years of their existence, which is mostly due to their ridiculous image and outfits. And that’s not because I hate fun (my favorite genre is power metal, go figure) but because I detest forced images constraining bands’ musical style and development, exempli gratia Alestorm, their power metal counterpart Gloryhammer and recently German power metal outfit Victorius‘s demise into Gloryhammer platitudes. I just don’t expect these bands to deliver genuine music, and in the case of the ensembles given above this stereotyped thinking worked out for me. Alestorm are just a money-making factory centered around getting shit-faced and their music has been suffering of this since the second decade of the 2000s. Due to all those all show no substance bands, Knightfall is the first album of Germany’s Grailknights I consume. The band calls it superhero metal. Arrggghh, the nemesis. Continue reading “Grailknights – Knightfall Review”

Kardinal Sin – Victorious Review

Kardinal_Sin-Victorious_CD 300 dpi 3000x3000Another melodic power metal album? Well, if you actually think about it, the genre isn’t as overcrowded as it was in the early 2000s anymore. Most people still feel the overkill from back then, but actually most bands don’t dare to go bluntly melodic power metal anymore. Instead they feel the need to add some pseudo-sophisticated progressive elements for the sake of it where it makes no musical sense.

Sweden’s Kardinal Sin are a refreshing relief from the forced sounding European power metal releases of late as they make no compromises with their easy-going melodic metal. Their debut album Victorious is anything but, even though merchandised as such. The band actually formed in 2005 as Rough Diamond and went through a name change in 2014, thus Kardinal Sin arose. Moreover, Victorious was released in 2017 already digital-only (and in Sweden), with Massacre Records grabbing the band this year and giving the album a physical treatment as well.

As you may know, I have a soft spot for European power metal and as such Kardinal Sin convinced me quickly with the cheesy opening track “Patria (Fatherland)”. High-speed, double bass driven melodic metal with an immaculate, catchy power chorus? Sign me the fuck up! To be honest, at first glance I rolled my eyes a lot going through the album; each track is cheesy, melodramatic and lofty as we are used to from last decade’s pathos-laden melodic metal. Fortunately after a few more spins the melodies really cling to your memory as you expect from the genre and the eye-rolling is replaced with genuine delight about the catchy melodies and happy-go-lucky attitude.

2014 © Savage Photography - Photo: Tallee Savage

Many would stop reading now, and they would be right to do so. Kardinal Sin is a pleasure exclusive to melodic power metal fans. Anyone who can’t enjoy Rhapsody‘s dragons, can’t forgive Blind Guardian‘s ventures to middle-earth and does not enjoy a jester laughing into their face for an hour straight ought to disregard this release completely. No-holds-barred tacky melodic metal is a very singular interest, and not many will be enlightened by Kardinal Sin‘s debut.

Next to the repetitive, uninventive and generic songwriting Victorious suffers from a terrible production. For some reason, Kardinal Sin thought this album deserved an AOR production. Listening to Victorious, it feels like Journey trying their hand at power metal. The guitars are washed out and lacking any sort of punch, the supposed-to-be epic choir parts are devoid of any impact due to the tender mixing and everything sounds incredibly softened. Guys, this is power metal. Does this album have any guitars at all apart from the obvious guitar leads? Those might as well be keyboards. This is a terrible offense and has me enjoy the album way less than I could. POWER metal. Nope.

As I said, Victorious is an uncompromising recording of the most melodious of metal genres and as such a delight to true afficionados and a nightmare for everyone else. The songwriting is generic and miles away from Gamma RayHelloween or the one obvious role model for Kardinal SinEdguy. Still the melodies and grand choruses manage to captivate the listener start to finish on this easy listening melodic metal album. Don’t expect any masterpieces from this album, but as a devotee you will find yourself at least temporarily entertained. Disregard the tacky ballad “For The Heroes” please, one of the worst I have heard in a long time.

Chris, 04/20/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 7
Label: Massacre Records
Links: Facebook | kardinalsin.se
Release date: 04/27/2018

Temperance – Of Jupiter And Moons Review

685026Ever since its first steps about a decade ago, the so called modern metal was received with high hopes and expectations: means to help reduce the musical stagnation and attract those listeners, sick of tales of dragon slayers, warriors of the Antichrist and pathological amateurs. Sadly, one cliché was only inherited by another and a couple of years later, the young style was already soaking in commercialism and subdued by labels trying to cache in on its potential.

Temperance is one of the more interesting bands of the mentioned trend, despite their late and not-all-that-original debut. However, their fourth studio album leaves all genre stereotypes behind in favour of a straightforward and purposeful sound. Of Jupiter And Moons has an intriguing Sci-Fi concept, abundant memorable melodies and impressive duets. At the same time, the compositions are also diversified with quasi-progressive elements, increasing the replayability of the record.

The best thing here is the fact that Temperance finally managed to find their own niche instead of being a clone (albeit a good one) of Amaranthe. Without any significant changes compared to its predecessor The Earth Embraces Us All, the new Italian effort has a solid core of melodic sympho-power metal without any disco influences whatsoever, with an electronic side well under control. A big part of the songs’ character is due to the impressive new vocal duo Michele Guaitoli/Alessia Scolletti. While we are well acquainted with Michele’s work in other Italian bands like Overtures and Kaledon, until recently Alessia was shrouded in mystery. Even though her voice is not as dynamic and polished as ex-frontwoman Chiara Tricarico’s, she brings a highly emotional performance to the table, towards which one cannot stay indifferent for long.

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“The Last Hope in a World of Hopes” sets the mood with balanced guitars, keys and powerful choruses – a successful combination that lasts until the very end of the album. Additional praise goes to the explosive energy of “Broken Promises”, the title hit track (better yet, a HIT – you won’t find many captivating songs of this caliber, especially in the metal scene) and the overly epic ballad “Empires and Men”. The Hammond organ and some gospel vocals introduced in “The Art of Believing” are both unexpected and pleasantly surprising, while the closure “Daruma’s Eyes” is one of the band’s bravest achievements to date with its enigmatic orchestrations, complex riffs and multilayered arrangements. Such magnificence makes it almost inevitable for one or two tracks to sound more forgettable, but this can hardly ruin the overall impression.

Of Jupiter and Moons may not be a perfect album but it sounds fresh and honest, which cannot be said for most modern releases of late. Temperance can surely be proud of their newest opus and with it, the genre’s future seems a bit brighter.

Dilyana, 04/13/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 8
Label: Scarlet Records
Links: Facebook | temperanceband.com
Release date: 04/20/2018

Judicator – The Last Emperor Review

a0750227615_10From now unto Eternity, I hereby declare every review of a Judicator record shall include the anecdote of band founding members Tony and John crossing paths at a Blind Guardian concert for the first time. Thus, Judicator was born and thus, the story will remain told in all recounts of Judicator‘s music. Myth or truth? We will never know, but it obviously makes for a good background narrative – especially when the band’s music is so clearly a carbon copy of the Guardian‘s earlier days.

The Last Emperor is Salt Lake City‘s Judicator‘s fourth album and it continues where 2012’s King Of Rome left off, combining melodious European style power metal with more thrashy US metal influences and historic/fantasy lyrics, reminiscent of ’90s Blind Guardian. 2015’s At The Expense Of Humanity was a more complex and lyrically personal album due to a loss in singer John Yelland’s life. Coincidentally, the music, written by multi-instrumentalist Tony Cordisco, coincided with this heavier theme. This year’s The Last Emperor is a callback to more straightforward power metal, displayed too by the relatively short runtime of under 50 minutes if you’re not counting the CD exclusive bonus re-recording of the track “King Of Rome”.

I mentioned Blind Guardian too many times already, so what’s up with that? Yes, Judicator very much sound like circa-Somewhere Far Beyond era Guardian. This is for one due to vocalist John Yelland’s voice, he sounds as much like Hansi Kürsch as Jens Carlsson (Savage Circus and Persuader), with the only difference being his vocals a tad higher and more soaring. Combine that with typically Guardian-trademarked vocal harmonies, “Tanelorn” style guitar leads and epic choruses and you end up with an album Blind Guardian could have released after Somewhere Far Beyond. Oh, and Hansi Kürsch performs a guest part on “Spiritual Treason”. Who would have guessed.

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when you have a fight at 8 but a photoshoot at 9

Judicator take the best of European and US power metal; grand arrangements and massive choruses mixed with slightly progressive compositions and thrashy riffage disregard the characteristic problem of generic power metal which is repetition and simplemindedness. In this regard, The Last Emperor is evocative of last year’s über power metal release “Apex” by Unleash The Archers: each song has its own style, nature and temper, but all of them form a homogenous album, a feat not achieved easily.

If you like your power metal more complex than Helloween/Gamma Ray level and enjoy incredibly melodic vocals paired with hefty riffs, splendid refrains and the occasional ’80s/’90s thrash metal gang shout callback, Judicator is the band for you. Unless Blind Guardian challenge Judicator with a new release this year, Judicator‘s The Last Emperor will surely be one of the best records in this particular melodic power metal niche in 2018 due to its diversity.

Chris, 04/11/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 8
Label: Divebomb Records
LinksFacebook | Buy the album on bandcamp
Release date: 03/30/2018

Kamelot – The Shadow Theory Review

1000x1000 (2)I used to be a huge Kamelot fan and I still consider their ’00s outputs as some of the best records released in the otherwise crowded progressive power metal genre. I love both Roy Khan and Tommy Karevik, the former being the iconic shaper of Kamelot‘s renown and the latter an adequate replacement, if at all possible. My enamorment with the band does not mean that I am listening to their albums with rose-colored earphones, on the contrary, I have noticed a steady degeneration in songwriting since 2010’s Poetry For The Poisoned. As always, this is probably highly subjective, but I’d like to deduce my final opinion on 2018’s The Shadow Theory with some more explanations.

I would love to start off writing something positive, but when the The Shadow Theory serves an opening instrumental as generic as “The Mission”, I have to mention it. The same is true for “The Mission” as for the closing instrumental, “Ministrium (Shadow Key)”. Soulless, bland, generic. With those two tracks you will discover pseudo-orchestral pieces consisting of mostly cheap samples commonly used in Hollywood film trailers by subpar componists in the stead of the yet unfinished soundtrack. All effect, no soul. With Kamelot‘s budget and production technology (Sascha Paeth!) you’d expect a more striking instrumental.

Fortunately the album is not composed only of electronic samples but also actual metal songs as well-displayed by high speed power metal hymn “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)”, fittingly used as second single from the album after the following track “Ravenlight”. When I first heard “Phantom Divine”, I was extremely disappointed. By now I realized it is the second best song on the album, yet my opinion on the song itself did not change. It tells more about the rest of the album than the track, really. Kamelot used to be known as a groundbreaking, innovative and unique band, but with tracks like “Phantom Divine” they are undermining this image rigorously. Listen to “Phantom Divine” and any other Kamelot single since 2012 side by side, for example “Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)” from 2012’s Silverthorn. I break down the formula: Speedy double bass drumming, down-tuned guitar riffs without purpose and a more than unappealing keyboard “melody”. This followed by a rather calm verse, focusing on Tommy’s vocals until the heavy riffs are reintroduced to finally culminate in a European power metal style allegro chorus. Which Kamelot single was I just describing? Right, all of them.

If the track was good at least. But if you found the composition on some mediocre power metal band’s new album, sung by someone not as illustrious as Mr. Karevik, you’d wipe it away as generic and boring without hesitation. As I said, it is the second best song on the album and that is purely because it still is what it is – a mediocre, but powerful power metal song. No innovation, no soul.

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I talked sufficiently about the second best song, which one’s the best one? That would be “Burns To Embrace”, as expected by many from the youtube trailer displaying short fragments of each song. However, it is only marginally better than “Phantom Divine”. “Burns To Embrace” is another typical power metal track, but this one at least features a sweet melody and anthemic chorus. It’s all a bit more elaborate in its mid-tempo composition than the all-out “Phantom Divine”. Again, this song is nothing special. It is certainly not worth a Kamelot song and would just be a side note, if released by a less known power metal outfit.

“In Twilight Hours”, a ballad, starts off as promising as “Abandoned” but fails to deliver a hard-hitting, emotional refrain. This one features German pop singer Jennifer Haben of fake casting band Beyond The Black. Whatever happened to talented singers like Simone Simons? Well, there’s actually one on the album, Lauren Hart of Once Human who fills a similar role as Alissa White-Gluz on the previous Kamelot release, this time sweetening tracks “Phantom Divine” and “Mindfall Remedy” with both clear and growling vocals. Sadly, she is not granted much space in both composition and mixing, falling behind despite her otherwise excellent prowess.

The rest of the album is as mediocre; when spinning it again and again I was happy to listen to actually engaging songs like the two mentioned top tracks. There are a lot of boring down-tempo tracks lacking any energy or memorability, for example “Static” and “Stories Unheard”. In the past, those would feature great compositional and instrumental virtuosity as in “March Of Mephisto” (2005), but now they are barely a shadow of greater arrangements. Granted, there are good moments. The middle part of “The Proud And The Broken” for example, for the rest insignificant as well, features some interesting, unique structures. Sadly, Kamelot can not expand on their sporadically absorbing ideas and mostly churn out bore after bore.

 

The sound of the album is a standard 2018 fast food production. Fine, extremely compressed, but crystal clear sound. Nothing to rave about and certainly nothing I hope for to catch on in the future. The drumming especially sounds artificial at best. The Shadow Theory actually saw the departure of long time drummer Casey Grillo, the animal behind the battery, to be replaced by Firewind‘s Johan Nunez. Not relevant to the album, which could as well be featuring a drum computer with its lifeless sounds.

That is my final takeaway: Lifeless. Kamelot succumb to mediocre pre-formulated tracks instead of reinstating their former glory with unique, poignant and thrilling songwriting. A less critical thinking Kamelot fan could both enjoy this and hate on me for my honest opinion, it is a Kamelot album after all. It sounds like Kamelot, only lacking everything that made the band great. Let me press the comparison again; if this album was released by an unknown power metal band, no one would bat an eye. The only good thing here really are Tommy’s and Lauren’s vocals, the rest could have been recorded by a robot.

Chris, 04/04/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 7
Label: Napalm Records
LinksFacebook | kamelot.com
Release date: 04/06/2018

 

Mad Hatter – Mad Hatter Review

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This picture was high quality on my computer, I don’t know what WordPress did to it.

Despite the seemingly generic band name, Mad Hatter from Sweden are indeed the only band bearing this moniker according to metal-archives.com. On the other hand, their music is anything but unique, drawing inspiration from 2000’s power metal greats like Edguy, Stratovarius, Gamma Ray and Helloween. All name-dropping aside, every other track on the band’s self-titled debut album will automatically remind you of one of the mentioned legends. In today’s world, this is not such a bad thing, though it won’t win you a prize for innovation.

Extreme Power Metal afficionados (an extreme afficionado for Power Metal, not an afficionado for Extreme Power Metal) will recognize the names of singer Petter Hjerpe and drummer Alfred Fridhagen from similarly underground (not to say “unknown”) act Morning Dwell, whose sophomore album “The Guardians Of Time” brought me great delight. As such, I was quite excited for this new project of the duo. I will probably mention Morning Dwell a few more times, and you should definitely check it out if you enjoy happy Power Metal.

Mad Hatter opens as one might say daringly with an almost nine minutes long track called “Mad Hatter Shine”. Luckily, the song manages to catch your attention right away with neoclassical melodies in the vein of Stratovarius and soon after with a captivating chorus. Five minutes into the catchy track we are greeted with a reduction in pace as part of an addendum which brings to mind Tobias Sammet style compositions such as “The Seven Angels”. No need to mention Mad Hatter don’t reach these epic’s qualities, nevertheless it is intriguing to listen to their rendition of what Mr. Sammet couldn’t achieve today.

Compared to Morning Dwell‘s charming, but rather subpar audio production, Mad Hatter is clearly backed by a superior recording and mixing work. Sadly, ostensibly professional mixing and/or mastering crews these days like to compress their productions to death, squeezing out every breath of life similar to a deathtrap flattening a mouse. This results in terribly mismatching walls of sound and makes a rather calm, Edguy-ballad inspired Power Rock song like “Dancing Lights” appear just as heavy and urgent as speed power tracks “Go” and “Face The Truth”, both compositionally extraordinary at their game.

Anyway, most listeners will ignore this very technical side of music production and just enjoy the clear mixing which presents singer and instrumentalists at their best. Fair enough, the tracks are mostly high speed power metal cascades which warrant the over-the-top production at any rate. Listening to “Go”, “Face The Truth” or “Vengeance In His Mind”, the olden days of 2000’s power metal beckon. One couldn’t wish for a more explicit homage to European melodies rendered immortal by HelloweenEdguy and Gamma Ray and repeated into oblivion by millions of Melodic Power Metal bands in the early 2000’s. Now, that sounds cynical but I assure you, for a devout disciple of the Power Metal scene in all its forms every tune of Mad Hatter‘s debut is a stroke of genius and joy. Even more so in 2018 where most bands seem to have forgotten the virtues of good old Euro Power and decide to water it down with misguided attempts of progressive influences to seem more distinctive and innovative. Sad! Mad Hatter don’t play pretend, delivering a heartfelt and honest Power Metal piece.

BandGranted, it is more of a piece than a masterpiece, but songs like opening epic “Mad Hatter Shine”, happy-go-lucky banger “Go” or the extremely catchy “Vengeance In His Mind” showcase the potential of the songwriting faction, which is kept in check by ferociously average, yet enjoyable fillers by the name of [all songs I did not mention in this review]. I don’t know if “Death Angel Sings (Bonus)” really is a bonus track for certain markets, or just marketed as bonus track so you feel like you got more value than you should, but in any case you should make sure to get the album with it, it is one of the best tracks and extremely fast (maybe that’s why). And a note to singer Petter Hjerpe: Do more of the squealy-screamy thing with your voice like you do with Morning Dwell. That’s the spirit of power metal.

Chris, 02/22/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 6
Label: Art Gates Records
LinksFacebook
Release date: 02/23/2018

 

Thaurorod – Coast Of Gold Review

DSbJn3KVwAEad4E.jpgIf acts like Rhapsody and Hammerfall were Italian-style oven-fresh pizza in 1997, Finnish Power Metal troupe Thaurorod could be classified as the cold pizza of the previous evening in 2018. Okay, to be fair, the pizza has at least been warmed up in the microwave. As already on their two previous albums “Upon Haunted Battlefields” and “Anteinferno”, the latter already five years old, Thaurorod play their brand of music on 2018’s “Coast Of Gold” somewhere between Power and Symphonic Metal. Corny, yet charming, the Finns refrain from imposing their own interpretation of the genre on an individual note characterized by possible prog escapades or similar gimmicks. Cobbler, stick to your last.

The opening speed banger “Power” already drives home that sentiment, and in tune with its name, it pushes the throttle from beginning to end and only reduces the double bass orgy for a brief moment in the chorus’ epic atmosphere. What Thaurorod is offering here is Finnish melodic speed metal in its purest form, as seen in Sonata Arctica songs like “Victoria’s Secret” or “8th Commandment”. Granted, the OGs of the up-tempo orchestrations are ahead in the battle of the dashing riffs with these songs and other contemporary anthems, but considering the Tony Kakko ensemble’s extravagances of today, it is no blasphemy to consider Thaurorod as superior in the genre.

991321Thaurorod don’t pretend to not be influenced by Sonata Arctica. “Power”, “Feed The Flame” and “My Sun Will Rise” could also have been released on “Reckoning Night”, “Ecliptica” or one of the albums of Jani Liimatainen band Cain’s Offering with their fast-paced riffs and wide keyboard tapestries. To be precise, atmospherically and, in this context, lyrically, the compositions do not match these examples, but they clearly draw their vital energy from the typical Finnish variety of Power Metal.

Speaking of lyrics. Singer Andrej Kravljaca, who replaced Markku Kuikka’s gruff voice with his own clean, high-pitched vocals in 2012, adds his fierce history interest to the lyrical claim of the Finns, as evidenced in songs such as “The Commonwealth Lives.” Striking as well is the noticeable development of the vocalist’s skills. Kravljaca sounded a bit weak-tempered on “Anteinferno”, which caused a lot of displeasure compared to the previous, more powerful singer Kuikka. He does a better job on “Coast Of Gold” and shines in deeper registers with strong power.

Besides Andrej Kravljaca, bassist Pasi Tanskanen also takes care of the lyrics with a slight difference in the source of inspiration. Songs like “24601” (Jean Valjean’s prison number) and “Illuminati” thematize fiction to semi-fiction. This succeeds, as can be heard quite outstandingly in the album highlight “24601”. Alongside the average, brutish numbers expected of a melodic power album, this 6-minute track was smuggled aboard and adds an extremely varied, atmospheric hymn to the album. Oh, what joy and potential this great arrangement promises! Yet it is buried beneath such generic songs! Does “24601” come from the hands of Thaurorod or Jani Liimatainen? One thing I can promise, another piece of this magnitude is found neither on “Coast Of Gold”, nor in the whole discography of the Finns.

Not every coast that glitters is gold; In addition to pleasant, easily remembered tunes and “24601” there is also the one or the other dud on the long player. In particular, these are the atmospheric, but ultimately languid “Cannibal Island”, the far too long and uniform “Illuminati” and the bland final ballad “Halla”. Anyone who dies of boredom during the latter’s runtime, however, has at least experienced the previous gems the golden coast bears.

Sure, Thaurorod do not reinvent the genre and do not seem to want that, but what they procure with typical Power Metal tracks is in line with the high European standard. It does not sound as fresh as in 1997, 2001 or even 2005, but nonetheless thrills the followers of this epic variety of metal. And then there are varied, salient compositions such as “24601”, “Coast Of Gold” and “Into The Flood” which add gravy to the roast. Undoubtedly, Thaurorod prove that they have the makings of crafting and composing to deliver larger things than mundane Sonata Arctica copies, but are mostly self-confined to just that. However, this is already enough for genre fans and thus brings a neat surprise in the still young year of 2018.

Chris, 02/20/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 6
Label: Drakkar Entertainment
LinksFacebook | thaurorod.com
Release date: 02/16/2018

Angra – ØMNI Review

24796449_1931882986827641_8548198602963311541_nWhenever a new Angra album is released, you can expect a surprise. While Angra are at the forefront of Brazilian power metal and especially the international recognition of the local metal scene, they are anything but resting on their laurels or repeat the old recipe again and again.

From incorporating traditional Brazilian sounds in Melodic Power Metal on their first two albums “Angel’s Cry” and “Holy Land”, to catchier, European-sounding records in the 2000s to prog power albums post-2010, Angra not only demonstrate endurance but also innovation and inventiveness. Despite the constantly changing lineup, which initially saw Andre Matos, then Edu Falaschi and in between also half of the founding members (who then founded Shaman) rotating out of the band, the troupe with mastermind Rafael Bittencourt never lets down and continuously releases albums which blow up the cage of Power Metal.

The latest result of this unbridled creativity is the all-encompassing work “ØMNI”, which not only challenges my keyboard, but also the auditorium. Angra continue to follow the path pioneered by the first longplayer with Fabio Lione, “Secret Garden”, and diligently create their own niche between prog, power and folk sounds. On “ØMNI”, the audience should not expect linear melodies like “Carry On”, but instead a surprising turn with every new track.

In order not to push away fans who want a bit more shallow – and I mean more catchy – sounds, the Brazilians open with two quite simple Power Metal songs, of which the first, “Light Of Transcendence”, is from start to finish Classic-European-style Speed-Firecracker à la “Eagleheart”. “Travelers Of Time” presents a somewhat larger entry barrier with its progressive verses, but the overcoming of these is rewarded by a hymnic chorus and a solo reminiscent of the early 2000s.

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After these two soothing melodies (which, by the way, were the first two singles released …), Angra let the cat out of the bag. Oops, no Power Metal? No, but in that case: All the better. “Black Widow’s Web” opens with a spooky atmosphere and a short vocal part by the Brazilian pop singer Sandy, who is probably more well known to Brazilian listeners than international. Then it goes straight into the deepest prog realms with a 7/8 beat and thick Djent-like riffs. Anyone who turns their eyes at Angra and Djent in one sentence should, however, see for themselves how well that works. And do not think so narrow-minded. In addition, Arch Enemy frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz enriches this extremely varied song with her death shouts. As a compromise, there is an ear flattering chorus that gets stuck right away. Certainly one of the band’s most daring tunes, but after the brilliant finale of it, a song remains that stands out and impresses.

Impressive as well is the opening of the following track “Insania”, which is brought by an extremely hymnic choral part in to a prog stanza, and then culminates again in a typical European melodic chorus. This recipe is also the only feature of Angra‘s that runs like a thread through the album. Challenging prog structures with 7/8 and 3/4 bars as in “War Horns”, “Caveman” and “Magic Mirror” are combined with catchy melodies. This leads to one of the album highlights in “Caveman”. Technically advanced Prog sounds, mixed with Brazilian folk influences, resulting in an euphoric chorus, which forms a striking contrast to the prog parts.

Traditional, gentler sounds are emphasized in the two ballads “The Bottom Of My Soul” and “Always More”, which can convince the listener after several rounds. Rafael Bittencourt is convincing as well with his rough, earthy vocals, of which I would have liked more in such a varied, daring album. Although Fabio Lione is a great vocalist, he is more in tune with his main melodic power metal bands, where his vocals soar like an eagle. The progressive, playful sides which Angra often show here call for a heavier singer in the direction of Russell Allen (Symphony X). Lione does a good job, but sometimes his slightly thin voice is inappropriate. In songs like “Silence Inside”, the final 8-minute show, he wants to scream out of the cage, but the music can not keep up. Here a down-to-earth voice like Rafael Bittencourt’s would be more fitting. However, Fabio Lione, for whom singing is routine in the face of thousands of bands and session vocals, does a great job as always.

Experienced, but varied and innovative Angra present themselves on “ØMNI”. The multi-faceted songs benefit from a dynamic Jens Bogren production, which increases the focus on contrast between loud and soft or virtuosic and anthemic. This contrast is the strength of the album. Angra do not make it easy and do not just press out a second “Angel’s Cry”, but continue to develop and dare real experiments. Personally, the predecessor “Secret Garden” had a lot more catchy tunes, but “ØMNI” persuades with its extreme longevity through the varying compositions, which provide many hours of listening pleasure and new discoveries. A fan of the first hour, but also listeners of other directions like Progressive Metal should enjoy this work. Angra do not show weakness and deliver a consistently sophisticated, always interesting album.

Chris, 02/07/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s
Label: earMUSIC
LinksFacebook | angra.net
Release date: 02/16/2018