Release Date: February 16, 2018
Producer: Jens Bogren
Personnel: Rafael Bittencourt (guitar, keyboards), Felipe Andrioli (bass), Fabio Lione (lead vocals), Bruno Valverde (drums), Marcelo Barbosa (guitar)
It feels good to be writing again for the blog! For the past four months, I’ve been swamped with studying for a career-related certification and holding down a second job. Finally, after successfully acquiring said certification and drawing the second job to a close, I’m now able to focus some of my “free” time towards the blog – a rather enjoyable hobby of mine. Thankfully, during my hiatus, Mr. Collins has done an excellent job holding down the fort on both the film and music fronts, not an easy task, mind you, while I have been resigned to warming the bench on the sidelines. No longer.
Before my absence, I had begun to do a deep dive into the current state of music in 2018, most notably heavy metal and hard rock, and had a list of albums to review for the current year. The plan was to review a new album each week, but I haven’t quite been able to accomplish that. Rather than giving up on the newer material, I’m going to press onward! Many albums are on my to-do list, including Halestorm’s latest studio effort, Vicious, but for now, I’d like to present to you my review of Angra’s latest album, Omni. I had begun spinning the Brazilian band’s album some months ago, but shelved it for a later day. That day has come.
In the early ‘90s, metal was still riding high as a result of the underground thrash movement in the early ‘80s, which saw the NWOBHM bands inspire Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer, who in turn inspired bands like Pantera (formerly Gemini), Sepultura, Lamb of God, and Tool. Although, Pantera and Sepultura were formed in the ‘80s, they wouldn’t be relevant for a while. Life was good for metal fans, until it wasn’t. The members of Metallica cut their hair, Dave Mustaine couldn’t keep his band together, Dave Lombardo couldn’t quit bickering with band mates, and Anthrax released the hideous monstrosity known as Stomp 442. Suddenly, the titans of metal weren’t quite as relevant as they once were, and dozens of subgenres went splintering into different directions, each one seeking a fan base. In Brazil, the neoclassical metal subgenre found its fan base. Although the band’s personnel has changed, Angra’s style has stayed close to its neoclassical metal and prog metal roots.
As with any album review, I’d like to give some background on the artist, especially if I haven’t reviewed any of their prior albums for the blog. Not only is this my first review for Angra, Omni marks my first exposure to the band, so I had to do some digging after I spun the record.
Angra was formed in 1991 by Andros Matos, Rafael Bittencourt, and André Linhares. Over the past twenty-seven years, the band has gone through extensive lineup changes, although not as many as Megadeth, but still, Angra has had their share of shakeups. Today, the band members are bassist Felipe Andrioli, vocalist Fabio Lione, drummer and twenty-seven-year-old youngster, Bruno Valverde, guitarist Rafael Bittencourt, and stand in guitarist for Kiko Loureiro, Marcelo Barbosa. Since 2015, Loureiro has been on hiatus from Angra and has been a member of Megadeth, playing on their wildly successful, 2016 album, Dystopia. If you’ve heard Dystopia or some of Angra’s prior work, you know doubt realize the musical talent that Loureiro possesses. One would have to go back to the days of Marty Friedman to see just how long it’s been since Megadeth has sounded this good. Loureiro has been playing guitar since the early age of six, and has been a student of music now for forty years. Megadeth and Angra fans alike know how gifted Loureiro is, so Marcelo Barbosa having to “fill in” for Loureiro is no small feat. Omni gives us a good sample size of Barbosa’s ability, and he’s no slouch. Speaking of Omni, let’s dig in a bit into the album.
Image via Blabbermouth
Omni is in fact a concept album, telling stories of the future from perspectives of different storytellers. It doesn’t take much thought to figure out who is telling their story on “War Horns” or “Caveman.” The overall plot of the album’s story is that eventually everyone, past, present, and future will be able to communicate with one another. This includes warriors, cavemen, and time travelers. In Latin, Omni means “everything”, so essentially, everything that Angra has done has culminated into one place: Omni. It’s kind of cheesy, but c’mon, it’s metal.
My hot take of Omni had me wondering if I was listening to a Dragonforce album with the power metal feels in the album opener, “Light of Transcendence.” Then with “Travelers of Time”, I felt as if I was in the middle of Kobra and the Lotus’s Prevail I or Prevail II. After the first two songs ended, I was met with soothing, female vocals by Brazilian singer Sandy, and then suddenly hit with black metal, growling vocals by Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz in “Black Widow’s Web.” Determined to maintain the album’s consistent inconsistency, “Insania” includes some operatic singing with a backup choir.
Many consider Angra to be in the neoclassical metal and prog metal subgenres, but Angra proves that they’re not afraid to experiment a bit with their sound on Omni. Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore was one of the pioneers of neoclassical metal, as was the guitar aficionado himself, Yngwie Malmsteen. Blackmore came first, so I guess he would get credit for the subgenre, but many credit Malmsteen for making neoclassical metal what it is today, including this humble writer. As for prog metal comparisons, look no further than Dream Theater.
Although the first four tracks on the album seemed all over the place, they did have a common thread: superb guitar solos. This is one area that I feel the Angra stayed true to their neoclassical roots. Even though I’m not a rabid fan of neoclassical metal or prog metal, I’ve still got to give Angra credit for Omni’s tight play and crisp sound quality. With the mixing done well for all instruments and vocals, it’s hard to hate on the album.
While the albums starts off fairly strong in my estimation, I feel that it tapers off in the second half. Maybe it’s that I prefer metal to have less milk and more meat; however, I do get that neoclassical metal isn’t for everyone. Still, with the likes of “Black Widow’s Web” and “Light of Transcendence”, there’s plenty of killer guitar licks to keep me happy.
Although I prefer the album’s first few tracks, that doesn’t mean the rest of the album was disappointing. “Magic Mirror”, “Silence Inside”, and “Infinite Nothing” offer plenty of fodder for prog fans, while the thumping thrash of “War Horns” is sure to satisfy any self-respecting head banger. “Infinite Nothing” is the album’s final song and is a musical track that wraps up everything into a neat bow. It’s as if we’ve been on a journey, and we’ve now reached its logical conclusion.
Nothing on Omni is groundbreaking or even innovative, but as a whole, the album serves as a melting pot for metal, old and new, growling and melodic, heavy and whimsical. For metal fans with a diverse taste, Omni is worth the listen.
I’m going to give Omni a 75%.