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2010 was an interesting year for power metal. Many big name bands returned and released new material, so one would think it would be hard to choose the power metal album of the year. Well, for me it was a less known band.
The band is Shaman and they have had a troubled existence. Losing three band members after two good albums and leaving drummer Ricardo Confessori to try and resurrect the band. To make it worse, Confessori recruited three unknown guys and released a sub-par album. I wasn’t even going to give this album a try, but to be honest the cover looked nice and the story behind it sounded interesting.
Lyrically, It's a story i could relate to, about a young guy that isn't sure what path to take. His tribe wants him to become a warrior, but he feels his destiny is different. So, he runs away into a journey of self discovery.
Musically, every band member has improved a lot, the production is better, the songwriting is top notch, nice concept, nice cover, everything works fine on this record. The album starts with an intro that sets the mood for the album, as we listen the young protagonist running away from his village. Then, it merges with the first highlight of the album "Lethal Awakening" which starts with a bang, fast guitars and drums, amazing leads and a catchy chorus. Listening to this track alone you will notice how Shaman has improved. The next song "Inferno Veil" shows us the other side of this record, the progressive sounding songs filled with tempo changes and technical guitar and bass work that takes us back to early Angra.
All the elements are there, fast songs, catchy choruses, progressive stuff, brazilian tribal sounds and of course a singer that can wail on top of it all. But what makes it memorable is the story and the atmosphere of the album. Origins is a prefectly crafted album.
Oh, and to make it even better they close the album with a cover from my favorite band of all time, X-Japan’s “Kurenai”. If you like power metal, you will love this. Shaman’s “Origins” is the power metal album of 2010 and might as well be the best of the past 10 years.
I haven't a clue as to why some folks presume Shaman took a bit of a dump after André Matos left and everyone but guitarist Ricardo Confessori followed suit. I personally haven't heard the material, nor can I say "Origins" deserves to be their essential album, but I'm quite sure this must be one of Shaman's highest achievements. Shaman's similarities to groups like Angra (some of the current and ex-members of Shaman played in Angra, actually) are absolute, but musically the band is on another wavelength, channeling everything from burning power metal which flies like a rising phoenix to moonstruck numbers based on acoustic guitars and emotive might, baptized in the essence of progressive music, yet overloading with originality and charm. Everything about "Origins" is superb overall.
"Origins" almost has a cinematic feel to its progression: the album rockets into a handful of blistering power metal tunes before entering an atmospheric, ethereal void of ballads and tracks deeply inspired by progressive movements, and eventually coming full-circle on the album's peculiar themes without missing a beat. Thiago Bianchi's singing immediately clicks with the characteristics that define André Matos' voice. Bianchi's performance is pure gold, no other way to put it. As a vocalist, he reaches notes higher than the sky with ease and loads Shaman's creation with life. As I said, "Origins" takes the listener on a different path than most releases, breaking into an unpredictable mesh of uppity rockers and warming ballads, amongst the band's other tricks.
Here's another reason why "Origins" rules: phenomenal song writing. Every track is deep, layered, forceful, catchy, and whatever positive adjective you can think of. There are several fantastic riffs throughout the record, but seemingly many scattered throughout each track as well; it's just an example, but Confessori really did great finding room to keep his music interesting and fresh without looking forced or messy. The fast, heavy numbers are the album's undisputed strength, with "Lethal Injection," "Inferno Veil," and the masterful rhythms of "No Mind" splitting Shaman's MVP award. The two parts of "Ego" contribute a unique, sorrowful ballad that soon evolves into Shaman's bursting pack-a-punch of power metal magnificence; another gripping slice of greatness. That isn't to leave out the other songs, which are likewise incredible and have equal importance to the album's general success.
Shaman has climbed to one of the most highest points a band can reach with "Origins." The pristine edge of progressive music coating the band's natural relationship with balls-out power metal never looks bland or disabled, even though the album goes through a vacuum of different situations, a feat few can master. Bianchi's voice gives the record its spiritual power, and the remaining members of Shaman show compositional skills which easily surpass the basics of both power and progressive metal. This isn't a new god of the mixture which intertwines Shaman's fundamental approaches , but it's about as close to one as you can get, and if ears could talk, they'd tell you to buy "Origins" immediately.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Angra has always been an exceptional force in power metal, blending the conventional catchiness of the genre with little nuances of their folksy Brazilian culture. So when three members split after the release of Fireworks, it wasn't surprising that a beast of similar style and quality rose from the ashes. Shaman has admittedly been a perplexing beast in the past, however. When Andre Matos ditched again, it seemed as if this band would give in to extinction. That's when Origins arrived. Origins is undoubtedly the highlight of 2010 in power or progressive metal, and a remarkable release that a fan of the genre shouldn't live without.
First of all, let me just say that if you like Angra, buy this now. Don't read the rest of this; just buy it. The similarities are inarguable and noticeable immediately. The guitarists are fast-flying when they need to be (Lethal Awakening, No Mind), acoustic and sentimental when the time is right (Finally Home, S.S.D.), and melancholically neo classical in the parts in between (Inferno Veil, Blind Messiah). Vocalist Thiago Bianchi is the perfect hybrid of Angra's Andre Matos and Edu Falaschi, capable of both the former's piercing highs and the latter's low, growly delivery, all with that charismatic Brazillian accent one never grows tired of hearing.
Bianchi's performance takes the already mesmerizing choruses, which are uplifting and memorable without being too "singalong," to the next level; and my, this is catchy! Insanely catchy, almost ad nauseam, but since I just can't stop listening to the damn thing, how can I complain. This is an element assisted by the concept going on here, and though I don't care enough to really look into them like I might with The Detached, they are adept all the same. The more compelling benefit of having a concept is the perfect flow and the ease with which Origins is experienced. I never get bored with any of the songs or feel any urge to skip any. Sure, there's a couple that don't touch the catchiness of the rest (like Rising Up to Life), but even those tracks have enough variety to justify their inclusion. The "Ego" suite (Pt. 1 and Pt. 2) is the ultimate highlight of the album. I love the beauty of Pt. 1 and how it complements the energetic and introspective Pt. 2, leading to another highlight chorus.
"Please ignite the sky so I can find myself!
Give me some insight, so light can prevail
I've found my foe...
This man behind my Ego will and must go!"
Origins is, without a doubt, an astounding achievement in every way necessary. I'd dare say that this bests anything Angra has ever done, and quite convincingly. None of their albums, even the mighty Temple of Shadows, rival Shaman's consistency or cohesion on this release. There are no overt flaws, and if one can get over Bianchi's acquired taste vocals and a somewhat muted production quality, a fan of any style can find hours of joyous entertainment with this monument of power metal. Who knows; you might just find yourself.
When you look at Shaman's story, it's kind of a miracle the band still exists to put out records. They started as an escape for former Angra frontman Andre Matos and drummer Ricard Confessori, and released a pretty good debut in Ritual, which featured a great mesh of prog and power metal with oodles of catchy licks running up and down the fretboard, and of course Matos' trademark for high pitched, whiny but quality vocals. Sadly, the band followed this up with a less interesting sophomore, Reason, under the added 'a' Shaaman, and then Matos decided he was going to do his thing and leave. His was not the only exodus, so Confessori had to hire a new line-up, including Fernando Quesada and Leo Mancini of fellow Brazilian band Wizards, and new vocalist Thiago Bianchi of Karma. This line-up released Immortal, which was not very good at all, a low point for the band.
It would have been easy to just abandon this project at that point, since the band might have felt awkward and the fans might have felt the last of the magic, but no! Confessori and his crew have gone back to the studio, spent a few years writing, and arrived with the 4th full-length Origins, which is truthfully the best thing they've done since the debut. In fact, it features most of the qualities I appreciate about Ritual, with an even thicker tone, and seeing that Confessori is now back with Angra, I think it's truly admirable that he hasn't given up on this band. You don't see that level of dedication every day, especially coupled with a kick ass compensation for a rather forgettable effort. By kick ass, I mean this record is almost at the level of the incomparable Angra in its songwriting, and it weaves a unique conceptual tale of a Siberian boy, the travails of his tribe, and his eventual evolution into a spiritual icon for his people.
Bianchi's vocals might honestly be a turn-off for some, and I do feel that he's toned down a little much in the mix, but he remains comparable in style to Andre Matos and the newer Angra vocalist Eduardo Falaschi. If you appreciate them, then there's no reason Bianchi will not suffice as the torch is passed on down the line. He's somewhat shrieky and wavering, and every now and then he grates slightly on the nerve, but even he shines here in places. When I say 'even he', that's because the rest of the band kick total fucking tail throughout this entire album. The mix of choppy, grooving rhythms and anthemic eruptions is sure to sate the listeners expectations, and Mancini has transformed into this riffing god. This band has always had strong keyboards, but they're also dialed up for this, perfectly complementing the driving rhythms and often escalating into impressive atmospheres of their own.
The tribal percussion and ambiance of "Origins (The Day I Died)" intro transform into the storming epic "Lethal Awakening", where flights of fanciful and complex guitar licks are graced by a series of explosive leads, soon joined by hyper keyboards and Bianchi's ghostlike crooning. The breakdown with the mystical guitar solo and proggish, jamming synthesizer is also a highlight here, and immediately the listener is pumped for this record. This is how you start an album, folks. "Inferno Veil" follows with a great intro, drums thundering into this heavy as balls guitar segment. This is basically a Siberian epic fucking thrasher, with carefully measured levels of tension and bombastic power metal verses. My ears felt like they wanted to tear off of my fat head and forever dwell within Shaman's unraveling myth-history.
Next, a period of calm, with the gentle orchestration and wilderness percussion of "Ego Pt. I", with an emotional performance from Bianchi, counter-attacked by the raging "Ego Pt. II", with a dense, shredded rhythm passage and some of the best vocal lines on the entire album. "Finally Home" is a happier, uplifting piece which incorporates a lot of Angra to it, especially from the Fireworks era, and "Rising Up to Life" is a worthy piano power ballad in which Bianchi also gets to stretch his pipes (very similar to Falaschi here). "No Mind" opens with a big groove rhythm, but quickly abandons it for one of the most incredible little melodic speed metal licks the band has done since the debut, while "Blind Messiah" erupts from a titillating acoustic segment to some jamming, mountain walls of prog metal. I also truly love the band's cover of "Kurenai" from X Japan! What an unexpected surprise, and Shaman offer it all the love and power they can muster.
Yes, folks. Immortal represented the ashes of this band's downward trajectory, and Origins represents the phoenix, spitting fire at all the non-believers at is storms skyward from the pit of a shaky career. The composition and performances are extraordinary all around, with the possible exception of Bianchi, who could be mixed in a little better. Still, he's at his best here, and provides little distraction from the amazing guitar work and rhythm section of the band, nor the choppy but brilliant excursions into synthesizer heaven. I can't think of a single track on the album that did not grasp my attention, and this is a work very much worthy of the band in whose shadow Shaman must forever lie. Or maybe not...