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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Angra

Rebirth

Review by Mike Korn

Most associate Brazil with Sepultura and Krisiun, but Angra proves that there's more to the land of the Amazon than nu-metal bashing and screaming death metal. Angra is a long-running progressive/melodic heavy metal band that has carved a fair little niche for itself. That niche was seriously in danger of collapsing when the group lost its much-acclaimed and charismatic frontman Andre Matos a couple of years ago. Many considered that the end of Angra, such was Matos' association with the band. But lo and behold, the Brazilians have arisen from the ashes with the aptly-titled "Rebirth".

I certainly can't knock them for choosing Edu Falaschi as Matos replacement. The man has a velvet-lined pair of lungs and sings without any trace of an accent. James LaBrie is a good comparison point, but I can hear some Dio, Tate and D. C. Cooper influences. He often sounds too "sweet" but he can put a lot of emotion in his vocals, as "Heroes of Sand" shows.

If a mixture of Dream Theater and European speed metal Ala Stratovarius and Rhapsody is your bag, you're gonna dig Angra. They fit very snugly into the current prog-power metal vibe. Too snugly, in my opinion, as the band offers little in the way of freshness. Plus, I often find "Rebirth" overproduced and so squeaky clean that it approaches sterility. Hard rock music should have some grit to it, but this has been polished to a fine sheen. So, if you are a fan of Dream Theater, Stratovarius, Yngwie and Angra's early material, "Rebirth" is a worthy purchase. I think they could do with more spontaneity myself.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
In Excelsis
Symphonic, soundtrack like intros to power metal albums are par for the course these days and this does not disappoint. It's an impressive orchestrated lead-in for "Nova Era".
Nova Era
Classical music touches are sprinkled throughout this sprightly tune. It's a fast, speed metal number but very cleanly performed. It includes some great Yngwie-type guitar dueling from Raphael Bittencourt and Kiko Loureiro, who generally excel on the whole album.
Millenium Sun
The Dream Theater influences are rather too strong to ignore on this cut. Falaschi's vocals are reminiscent of LaBrie's and the way the tune moves from gentle piano to a bouncy type guitar hook is out of the "Images and Words" catalogue.
Acid Rain
This opens with some really pompous pseudo-opera vocals, and the song is suitably bombastic. For those who like metal mixed with classical touches, this will be an appealing tune. If you like things gritty and straightforward, stay away.
Heroes of Sand
Edu Falaschi delivers some real great melodic vocals on this cut, making it the most emotional on the disc. Starting as a rather sappy ballad, it builds into something pretty strong.
Unholy Wars
Part One: Imperial Crown
This kicks off a two-song mini-concept piece and is actually the most original and different tune on the disc. The only song with a real Brazilian feel to it, this has got tribal percussion and chanting to go along with a catchy, "happy" riff. I would have liked a couple more in this vein.
Part Two: Forgiven Return
This is probably the purest speed metal track on the record and it shows these guys can cook when they want to. Great fast guitar picking from Bittencourt and Loureiro and the double bass drum work of Aquiles Priester (cool name!) is also strong.
Rebirth
After "Forgiven Return", I just knew the ballad would be next and it was. It's played with feeling and emotion but there's nothing new. Sometimes Edu's "precious" vocals just make me ill.
Judgement Day
This one has a crunching, shuffling riff propelling it along, overlaid with some piano work. A fairly heavy track, this is nothing that special.
Running Alone
This is pompous enough to give even Rhapsody pause but boy, does the guitar work kick it on this one. That's what elevates this above its pretentiousness. I can't think of many guitar duos cranking out a mid-section like Angra does here. It is good classical speed metal and add 2 points if you really like this kind of stuff.
Visions Prelude
The final track begins with very mournful, low-key piano and soft vocals from Falaschi. It never really leaves its balladic framework but it does build into something a bit bigger sounding, almost like a church-like hymn. The "depressive" chorus is memorable, as is the keyboard work.
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