Whenever 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.
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.