Brazilian metallers Angra are back with album number nine, 'Ømni'. This time, they're exercising their classical influenced prog-power metal aesthetic within the context of a concept album; a set of interconnected science fiction tales that all take place simultaneously. Apparently, it's 2046 and a newly developed A.I. system permits people to consciously communicate across time and space; between the past, present and future. A wholly unoriginal idea, of course, within the realm of science fiction, but an intriguing idea for an album in linking together its various compositions, as various characters from different time periods all bring the narrative to life.
So, just who are the Angra personnel here? Founding members, guitarist Rafael Bittencourt and bassist Felipe Andreoli, are still in the fold; ex-Rhapsody/Rhapsody of Fire frontman Fabio Lione provides his histrionic voice to proceedings once again; and Bruno Valverde returns on drums for a second recorded outing since his debut on 2015's 'Secret Garden'. However, longstanding guitarist Kiko Loureiro isn't mentioned at all in the press blurb accompanying this promo, although is credited on the disc as being featured on just one song - 'War Horns'. I'm guessing his Megadeth commitments have now overshadowed any spare time he had for his erstwhile day-job band. Instead, his live replacement in Angra, Marcelo Barbosa, now seems to also be a full-fledged recording member of the band.
Exhilarating blasts of in-your-face virtuosity are rampant throughout this utter beast of an album. It's heavy, melodic and dynamic, and with a few refreshing stylistic divergences introduced within the general Angra aesthetic. 'Black Widow's Web' is one such track, which features Brazilian singer Sandy, as well as the growled vocal talents of ex-The Agonist, current Arch Enemy frontwoman, Alissa White-Gluz. It sounds like a storytelling, refined musical piece through all of its stylistic shifts and narrative essence - totally apt for the concept. 'The Bottom of My Soul' and 'Magic Mirror' both have a similar vibe. Then there are the Latin-infused passages during 'ØMNI - Silence Inside' that provide a surprise twist, and blend with, as well as transitioning to/from, the metalled-up passages to perfection. And their are more subtly deployed Latin rhythms elsewhere, such as during 'Insania'. Not forgetting the rather wonderful closing piece, too - 'ØMNI - Infinite Nothing' - a majestically conceived instrumental number that feels like an epic and cinematically climactic finale to the tale they've told.
Elsewhere, though, it's Angra's prog-power fusion that dominates, with plenty of breath-taking virtuosic musicianship to revel in. And, on the vocal side of things, Lione shines throughout. I've always been a fan of his voice. Sure, it's undeniably histrionic with a strong sense of overblown warble in many places... but it's perfectly befitting of Angra's music. This isn't a subtle record. And he's able to tone down his overly dramatic delivery as and when songs require, so he does also exercise restraint on many occasions, too.
All in all, Angra's latest offers up over an hour of epic sounding prog-power bliss with, at times, a storytelling propensity where lyrics and music feel at one within its science fiction narrative. Recorded with the ever-reliable Jens Bogren in Sweden, it sounds incredible, too. This is an invigorating blast of South American metal, mixed up with enough stylistic variance to set it apart from scene genericism. Recommended.
Review by Mark Holmes
16th Feb 2018
1) Light of Transcendence
2) Travelers of Time
3) Black Widow's Web
5) The Bottom of My Soul
6) War Horns
8) Magic Mirror
9) Always More
10) ØMNI - Silence Inside
11) ØMNI - Infinite Nothing
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Exhilarating blasts of in-your-face virtuosity are rampant throughout this utter beast of an album. It's heavy, melodic and dynamic, and with a few refreshing stylistic divergences introduced within the general Angra aesthetic."