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Crossing The Border Line - 90%

Larry6990, May 11th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, earMUSIC (Digisleeve)

The very first lyric on this album is ‘Sorry!’ – and yet, a British band this is not! Yes, the brilliant Brazilians (and one Italian) of Angra return to us once more with their ninth full-length record ØMNI and prove, once again, that they are unmoved by the trends of the genre. As expected, Rafael and co. veer away onto a path only Angra could have carved; melding their brand of prog-tinged power metal with worldly influences. This band have always injected ethnic sounds into their timbre, but the fusion appears seamless on this new album. Eastern melodies, Latin percussion, shamanic chanting…and European-style upbeat power metal. I’m mentioning this for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with Angra’s style but, truth be told, they never quite do what’s expected. ØMNI plays like a direct follow up to 2015’s Secret Garden; improving each aspect of that album in every way. This new release is accessible yet complex, familiar yet refreshing, stylistically loyal yet exploratory. Put simply: damned interesting.

Fabio Lione is really cementing his place within the band’s ranks. The iconic ex-Rhapsody legend only seems to improve with age, and it’s heartwarming to hear him provide gruff aggression as well as soaringly high passages and mellow sweetness. He really impresses on the vibrant opener “Light Of Transcendence” – probably as close to traditional European power metal that this record gets. Fabio is occasionally backed by a choir which gives some tracks a huge texture, especially the fiery accentuations in “Travelers Of Time” (you’ll know which bit I mean when you get to it!). In other vocal-related matters, Rafael himself occasionally gets stuck into mic duties, and there is an absolutely stunning guest spot from Alissa White-Gluz on the deathly “Black Widow’s Web.” I’ve always advocated the use of harsh vocals in power metal as it creates an extra dimension to the music, and this is a perfect example. The de-tuned riffs and murderous lyrics, combined with Alissa’s growls make this one of the best cuts on the album – though it’s not without its melodic flair.

As usual, Angra throw plenty of complexities and rhythmic fuck-arounds to keep you guessing. Not enough to put you off or become self-indulgent, but enough to hold a music lover’s intrigue. It never feels forced. The natural fusion of South American rhythms and ethnic percussion with the irregular time signatures of progressive metal create a sound purely Angra – exemplified by the primal tribal-ness of seventh track “Caveman”. Even when overall structures are on the simpler side, like the catchy, ethereal “Insania”, there are still buckets of melodic and textural wizardry to prevent boredom at any cost (on this track in particular, keep your ears peeled for Felipe’s masterful bass work!). ØMNI is also seriously heavy. Hidden among the frenetic fretwork are some massive headbang-worthy segments, like the opening riff to “Silence Inside” or the 3:33 mark in “War Horns” to keep your neck aching.

This isn’t just a balls-to-the-wall mix of complicated timings and crushing heaviness. ØMNI flows like a smooth journey through different landscapes of sound. The crawling “The Bottom Of My Soul” and the radio-friendly mellowness of “Always More” break up the maelstrom and create an overall theatrical experience. Extra special kudos to the closing instrumental “Infinite Nothing”. Whereas most bands would include this kind of outro just to be a throwaway track or CD filler, this piece is actually an orchestral medley of tunes from all the previous songs! The more you hear it, the more recognizable the melodies. Quite an incredible concept, brilliantly executed. Every band should do this! It took a few listens to really start enjoying this LP for what it was, as well as respecting its place within the Angra discography. But I implore you, reader, get familiar with ØMNI – the rewards shall be great! The future looks bright for the Brazilian veterans.

Rebirth Pt.2 – The Italian Chapter (haha) - 95%

Tuvok, May 1st, 2018

The last decade has not been easy for Angra. Although in the peak of it's career, the band went through serious line-up changes, hiatus, talks about dissolution and eventually the exit of Aquiles Priester and Edu Falaschi, and I consider the late a great loss for Angra and Brazilian metal as well. Then the Brazilian metal press started to talk about Kiko Loureiro leaving the band to join Megadeth. Fans, and even the band's ex-members were talking about it as the band was really gonna split-up.

Fabio Lione had entered the group in 2013, and his work on Secret Garden really showed chemistry between him and the rest of the band. I wouldn't call the record a classic, but it showed that Angra had a chance to make a lasting recovery. But after Kiko's departure, I wasn't so sure the band was going on. For starters, Kiko owns the band's name with Rafael Bittencourt. And second, he was one of the pillars of the band's writing and playing style. So I was a little cautious about the band continuing without him. There were talks about Edu Ardanuy (ex-Dr. Sin) joining the group, and I was even more suspicious, because Edu's style is much more hard rock than Angra's style.

Then came Marcelo Barbosa. I didn't know his work, though he was with Almah for a long time. I went on with my curiosity and searched for his career. When I saw he was appointed by Bumblefoot to be the new guitarist of Guns n' Roses, I knew he had something going on. Than I learned he owned a musical institute in Sao Paulo, and started listening his solo work. The guy surely can play. So I was more open-minded about Angra's recovery.

Light of Transcendence and Travellers of Time were released as singles on Facebook and Youtube, and I got really excited. So I looked for the new album, and it simply sounds amazing. I would definitely call this a classic. To being with, the band made the perfect mix between sounding new, but retaining it's identity. They invited Alissa White-Gluz to perform Death-Growls on Black Widow's Web, and even Sandy, a sertanejo (a Brazilian music style kinda like country) singer very well-known in Brazil.

The vocal work — Fabio's work — is insane. He shows a lot of versatility, a very melodic voice tone, and he surely can adapt to Brazilian rhythms. And contradicting a lot of the critics, he shows a beyond-belief vocal range, reaching higher notes than i expected. Many people complained about Angra choosing a non-Brazilian singer after Edu's departure. But the choice of Lione is definitely bringing new horizons to the group.

Guitars are another thing that surprised me. I could hardly say that I felt Kiko’s absence, because the chemistry between Barbosa and Bittencourt is unbelievable. Their dual guitar solos, abuse of arpeggios and melodic tone are as good as anything Kiko would do. The duo even brought influences from other metal genres like death metal and djent to bring Angra's sound to a new era. There's even breakdown on War Horns! I never thought i would hear something like this in a powerprog song. And it fits perfectly. I could say the same about Felipe Andreoli and Bruno Valverde chemistry, because they surely make a fine duo, owing nothing to Angra's previous musicians.

Most of the songs deal with subjects that are common to Angra: deception, fantasy, feelings, overcoming barriers/problems and even war. War Horns is a song that particularly caught my attention for even bringing up quotes from the Bible, and Black Widow's Web also caught my attention for being a clever song, changing from a simple fairy-tale song to a heavy song, with a dialog between Alissa and Lione that mixes clean vocals and death growls. It's just amazing.

So, after a hiatus, a lot of membership changes, and even the departure from one of the band's creators and most important musicians, Angra is still giving us reason to believe they are one of the most important and inspired bands from the Americas. And OMNI is surely one of the best metal albums that were released in the first four months of this year. I'm definitely buying it.

World fusion metal? - 89%

Agonymph, February 18th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, earMUSIC (Digisleeve)

Change does not appear to affect Angra. They survived a massive schism around the turn of the century and now Dave Mustaine has hijacked longtime guitarist Kiko Loureiro for Megadeth, they still manage to put together another great album. Most of the current line-up already proved that the (largely) Brazilian band could still pump out great progressive power metal, as ‘Secret Garden’ was the best metal album of 2015. Now that ‘Secret Garden’ has put Angra back on the map, ‘Ømni’ shows the band stretching their boundaries a little. The results are slightly less memorable, but a very rewarding listen nonetheless.

Much to my surprise, Loureiro’s replacement Marcelo Barbosa is an integral part of the album, having contributed significantly to the songwriting. Sole founding member Rafael Bittencourt gratefully profits from the possibilities his guitar partnership with Barbosa provides as well. As a result, ‘Ømni’ ends up sounding less European-tinged power metal and more like a progressive metal album with very distinct world fusion overtones. Angra never shied away from putting their South American roots on display, but it seems like partnering with Barbosa gave Bittencourt the courage to dive deep into crossover opportunities, providing the basis of the most interesting moments of ‘Ømni’.

That does not mean that there is no place for power metal on ‘Ømni’. In fact, the album starts out with two fairly traditional, euphoric power metal numbers, with ‘Travelers Of Time’ being the more contemporary take on the genre and ‘Light Of Transcendence’ the more old school one. Even these tracks sound fresh though, as Angra always had a way of rubbing up against clichés, but never fully engaging. On the metallic side of the album, ‘Magic Mirror’ is great, but ‘War Horns’ is the true winner. Darker and heavier than Angra usually sounds, it is an intense listening experience, on which Loureiro guests.

Despite all this familiarity, ‘Ømni’ is best when it surprises. The semi-ballad ‘The Bottom Of My Soul’ has a very folky basis and some beautifully heartfelt vocals by Bittencourt, while ‘Caveman’ has some chants in Portuguese and Latin-flavored drums and percussion alternating with the stomping riff work and Fabio Lione’s mighty voice. The complete fusion of all styles can be heard in ‘Ømni – Silence Inside’, in which we can hear everything from subtle bossa nova touches to virtuosic progmetal without ever sounding disjointed. If anything, the song has a supreme build-up. ‘Black Widow’s Web’ may come across as messy, but is too enjoyable a dark progster to complain. ‘Insania’ contains some of Felipe Andreoli’s best bass work yet.

All in all, ‘Ømni’ presents quite a unique mixture of styles which leaves you wondering why this combination is not attempted more often. It is a great progressive metal album that may not be as easy to digest as ‘Secret Garden’ was, but will probably prove to be more durable throughout. ‘Ømni’ is one of those albums that slowly reveals its small secrets over repeated listens. In addition, it is the ultimate evidence that Angra still has its artistic merits more than two and a half decades into their career. Anyone who wishes to hear how versatile the guitar can be in a metal context, should give ‘Ømni’ a spin.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ømni – Silence Inside’, ‘War Horns’, ‘The Bottom Of My Soul’

Originally written for my Kevy Metal weblog