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

 

Unleash The Archers – Apex Review

a2533078055_10By now, word has gotten around in power metal circles that the Canadians Unleash The Archers have released “Apex”, a grandiose insider tip that probably flew under the radar of many average listeners. This is not a big surprise, considering the history of the band, but after closer inspection “Apex” is the result of that same history.

But one at a time: Despite three previous albums Unleash The Archers could not set foot in the scene, which was probably because on their first album “Behold The Devastation”, the band in 2009 performed a relatively uninspired Melodic Death brew, only to weave more and more Power Metal into the songs on the following two albums “Demons of the Astrowaste” in 2012 and “Time Stands Still” in 2015. So the style was unstable and the music mediocre. Even singer Brittney Slayes sounded (spoiler: In contrast to “Apex”) on the first three works amateurish, which was perhaps also due to the suboptimal productions.

This genre development of the Canadians culminated 2017 in the present power piece “Apex”. Power here refers both to the musical orientation as well as to the evaluation of the long player. Listening to the three previous releases and then “Apex,” you wouldn’t think it’s the same band. The Death Metal influences have faded away and now pure Power Metal is delivered. The terrific album artwork suggests Epic Metal, but “Apex” is amazingly fast and straight on. However, with epic you are not wrong, but this is more in the lyrics than in the music again.

“Apex” is a concept album. It tells the story of an immortal being who is summoned from his mount by the matriarch, a mighty figure, to destroy her offspring. So far, so fantasy. Musically there is, thank you, no Manowar chatter and, surprisingly, no keyboard tapestries.

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The opener “Awakening” spells out where the journey is going: high speed riffs, sawing vocals, catchy guitar leads and crashing drums. Singer Brittney Slayes’ vocal acrobatics has improved by about an infinite percent compared to the predecessors, catapulting the charismatic Canadian into the premier league of metal vocalists.

Premier league, if not better, is also the sound on “Apex”. Mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen, Unleash The Archers shows all other bands in the genre how an album should sound. Incredibly dynamic for such a hard-hitting work, which captivates first with its rich sound, but rewarding the multiple listener with accentuated and crystal-clear sounds.

The same applies to the music. Right from the start, each piece persuades right away, especially the seemingly simple power metal bangers like “Awakening”, “Shadow Guide” or “The Matriarch”, but with each further run, complex structures reveal themselves in the genre-unusual songs. It’s easy to build each track similar to the stanza-chorus-stanza-chorus-solo-chorus recipe and still deliver a decent album, but Unleash The Archers do not make life undeservedly easy and enriches each song with its own structure and such its own identity. This is the salient characteristic of “Apex”: Each song is a masterpiece in itself and draws you in from the beginning to the end, but fits just as well into the overall flow of the album.

Unleash The Archers‘ accomplishment is incredible: no less than publishing one of the highlights of 2017 out of nowhere. Anyone who has not had the joy of listening to the Canadian troupe should immediately listen to “Apex”. Here, modern, innovative Power Metal is designed, which comes along without fancy bits and impresses with grandiose compositions and the best sound of a metal album in a long time.

Chris, 02/05/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 9
Label: Napalm Records
LinksFacebook | unleashthearchers.com
Release date: 06/02/2017