Angra – Ømni (earMUSIC)Tuesday, 13th February 2018
Ever evolving Brazilian power/progressive metal band Angra never waver in their commitment to excellence – even as lineup changes take place. Guitarist Kiko Loureiro is now a permanent part of Megadeth, and Marcelo Barbosa of Almah has taken that second axe role to complement Rafael Bettencourt. No stranger to change though, as the last studio album Secret Garden featured the soaring Fabio Lione on vocals – proving that the band’s creative penchant for infusing Brazilian/Latin/jazz nuances into this modern power/progressive metal template still possesses mesmerizing, jaw-dropping results to off the charts appeal. Ømni as the band’s ninth studio record is a science fiction concept album: a series of short stories based on the year 2046 artificial intelligence will change human perception and cognition that allows conscious communication between present and future human beings. Heady stuff indeed – and over the eleven tracks matches up seamlessly to the dynamic versatility that has been a staple of Angra for decades.
While the band may have started as a Helloween-ish power metal outfit during the Angels Cry debut days (which pops up right away for the straightforward opener “Light of Transcendence”), it’s clear that through tracks like “Insania” and “Caveman” that progressive interplay and dynamic fluidity matters even more to diversify the proceedings while not forsaking catchy grooves and passages that aurally stimulate. It takes effort and understanding to float in djent aspects, Latin percussion, classical movements, beyond the tried and true bass solos or softer/jazzy interlude instrumental moments and keep things from not going off the technical rails – so kudos to the quintet for fleshing out this material in a balanced way. “Black Widow’s Web” opens with tranquil guest vocals from Brazilian singer Sandy, before the heavier guitar tone and stunted growl work of Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) filters in against Fabio’s mid-range to falsetto conventional melodies. It’s an interesting juxtaposition but feels like Alissa could have stepped up a pinch more to deliver something special as it sounds forced and by the book to these ears. Highlights occur in the brilliant “Magic Mirror” where the searing lead breaks and exotic groove interplay keeps anticipation on high for what transition or sequence occurs next, plus the closing two-part “Ømni” tracks, where “Silence Inside” showcases acoustic/electric Dream Theater-ish chemistry and “Infinite Nothing” broadens the group’s cinematic landscape through lush orchestration and symphonic maneuvers for a solid instrumental conclusion.
Angra deserve their status as not only a premiere metal outfit from Brazil, but a front runner in cross-pollinating sub-genres into their power/progressive comfort zone to make a style that they can own. Ømni keeps the creativity and execution on its highest levels for the benefit of their long-standing following – and you can’t say that about many bands 26 years into their careers.