Angra – “Secret Garden” (earMUSIC)
It’s been 4 years since we heard from this Brazilian power metal band whose reputation for diversity is almost as legendary as that of their nation! As seems to befit their history yet another line up change is upon us, with vocalist Eduardo Falaschi leaving to be replaced by Rhapsody Of Fire’s Fabio Lione and new, virtuoso drummer Bruno Valverde. During the changeover and restructuring of Angra, the band have continued to write, arriving at what must be their most diverse album to date, centered around a concept of a scientist who fights to restore his happiness after a tragic accident that took the life of his wife. Besides the breathtaking musicianship that we’ve come to expect from Angra, the sheer diversity of the material is to be awed from rich, textured progressive songs like ‘Upper Levels’ along the lines of Dream Theater – except you know its Angra when hear you those Brazilian percussion and Latin rhythms – to slower neo classical pieces like ‘Secret Garden’ featuring Epica’s Simone Simon taking guest lead vocals. With Lione’s vocals predictably taking the higher sounding material, guitarist Rafael Bittencourt also has his vocal moments on the stylish, futuristic rocker of ‘Crushing Room’ where he is joined by Doro Pesch making for some of the strongest moments on the album, contrasting in both tone and interpretation to that of Lione, the punchy sound of which is undoubtedly attributable to producer Jens Bogren. This also becomes evident in the cover that the band chose to record, ‘Synchronicity II‘ by The Police, which keeps to Angra’s tradition of intentionally choosing pieces outside of metal and then showing their prowess in transforming them to their style while still keeping the original theme recognizable – just check out those blistering neo classical solos from Kiko Loureiro and Bittencourt contrasting superbly with the reggae rock rhythm and Sting like vocals! For older fans like myself used to their power metal then Angra haven’t forgotten us either in the neo classical ‘Perfect Symmetry’ where swashbuckling guitars compete with fiery cellos or the racy, uplifting passion of ‘Black Hearted Soul’, where Lione’s vocals make the song sound very much like early Rhapsody (before the fire) – along with even more neo classical guitars – super! All in all a stupendous 8th album release showing yet another evolution in a band unafraid of it while always aware of the core and essence of their roots – 23 years all told would attest to that!!