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Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Aqua' - Angra (7/10)

Peaking my interest with the single they had released some weeks before the release of this seventh studio album, I had some high expectations for Angra's latest offering. Adding some forward thinking flair to a typically recycled world of power metal, this group from Brazil easily rival some of the better known giants in the genre, and 'Aqua' only helps to reassert this notion.

A concept album based on William Shakespeare's play 'The Tempest,' Angra are certainly taking ambitious risks with the subject matter. While the music certainly still falls comfortably within the realm of power metal, there are aspects of the music that sound very special. Paying homage to their mother culture, there are a few parts that really resound of the band's Latin heritage, which provide a refreshing lapse from the typical style. Beyond that however, Angra are making music that should sound familiar to anyone that has heard the genre before. What distinguishes them however, is how well they are able to pull it off.

While alot of the album relies on speed, soaring vocals (almost operatic in nature) and the fiery neoclassically oriented talents of the band's lead guitarist, repeated listens to 'Aqua' reveals that each song does stand out on it's own to some extent. The music here ranges from a neoclassical tour-de-force ('Arising Thunder') to beautiful, slower songs ('Lease Of Life' and 'Ashes') to the dark, progressive equivalent of a roundhouse kick ('Hollow.)

The two songs here that seem to stand out above their peers are also the heaviest and most technical; 'Arising Thunder' and 'Hollow.' The first of these; I listened to when the single was released. It stands out as being the best composed track on the album, and has some of the best neoclassical madness I've ever heard from a metal band. I fell in love with it from the first listen, and I would strongly suggest to anyone considering whether or not this album is for them; to check out 'Arising Thunder.' 'Hollow' on the other hand, was overlooked by me on the first few listens, but it undeniably set itself apart once I became more familar with the tracks. It is without a doubt, the darkest moment of the album, and at points even sounds a bit reminiscent of Dream Theater's 'Awake' record.

One thing that took a while to grow on me with this record were not so much the vocals themselves, but the way they were integrated into the music. With such a melodic voice, you might expect Edu Falaschi's melodic lines to instantly paint a memorable image in the mind. Instead, the use of vocals in the compositions seems to pale in comparison to the fantastic potential leased to the instruments. After several listens however (after the songs become familiar,) the vocal lines end up feeling like they work in the mix after all.

The band has stated that they wanted to make a classic with this album that their fans would reference them by in the years to come. While 'Aqua' is not a masterpiece and doesn't necessarily set the rest of the power metal world to shame, it does set itself apart from it's peers. Fantastic musicianship, some phenomenal tracks and an interesting concept make 'Aqua' out to be one of the band's better offerings, and a great album to dive into, should the style fit your tastes.

Report this review (#294672)
Posted Sunday, August 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Strike two for Angra.

Back in the mid 90's, the album "Holy Land" was a real earopener for yours truly. At the time I wasn't a big fan of neither power nor progressive metal. Today, "Holy Land" still stands as a timeless classic as far as progressive power-metal goes. In between, Angra does have a few other brilliant releases behind them. Sadly the last two is but a shadow of former glory.

The "Aurora Consurgens" album was okay. But still, after a monster release such as "Temple of Shadows" it was a major letdown. "Aqua" follows in its predecessors footsteps. The brilliant incorporation of classical instruments and Brazilian folk themes is all gone. Progressive elements in the music is tuned down to the benefit of cheap power metal clichés that we have all heard a 1000 times before.

The opening riff on the first song "Arising Thunder" reminds me of Stratovarius. And as most Stratovarius songs, it appears as a cheap rip off of Nokia cell phone ringtone. To be fair, "Arising Thunder" does turn out okay with some hefty riffing and solo work, but it is also by far the best track on the album, and it never is much better than okay.

All over "Aqua" appears a bit mellower than other albums of Angra, but that isn't a big problem in itself. The biggest problem is that the melodies just aren't good enough. Most of them are very similar to earlier works by the band, and I catch myself losing interest on almost every song.

I might be a bit hard, as I consider myself a diehard Angra fan. Nevertheless, one should really be able to expect more of a band of such a caliber, much more. This is their second album in a row where things just don't seem to work. Another strike for Angra, and they are out of the game as far as I am concerned. Don't start with this album. If you just read about the band, pick up "Holy Land", "Temple of Shadows" or "Reborn" first, and be amazed by this, at times, fantastic progressive power-metal ensemble.

Report this review (#297972)
Posted Wednesday, September 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Aqua is one of those albums that i like for one simple reason: they're not immediate, you need to hear the songs 5/6 times before you can have a full-range view of it and i find something new in arrangements and melodies everyday i listen to Aqua... this will be a very underrated album to me.. let's start: 1. Viderunt Te Aquae: as usual, the first track in a Angra album is an orchestral piece, good arrangements though 2. Arising Thunder: this is the most power metal track on the album, it has a good vocal melody and it's the most immediate track on the album. it's also a very high speed metal riffing and soloing is just technically awesome as usual. the instrumental break is very strong and i like the samba-like drumming (this thing will strongly appear in all the album). 3. Awake From Darkness: very nice guitar intro and the riff is very strong and powerful... the rhythm guitar part on the verses is very progressive. the chorus' melody is very nice and the instrumental break is awesome. the piano solo part comes a bit unexpected but the violin part is really good. Good solos. 4. Lease Of Life: this is the ballad.. it has a charming vocal melody and grows up very well. Arrangements here are amazing. The break is full of atmosphere and good guitar work, it grows into a fired up guitar solo. one of the best tracks on the album. 5. The Rage Of The Waters: another power metal song.. great riff, it reminds me of nothing to say. good chorus and the samba break is simply stunning. the bass player andreoli plays a high-level solo. the rest of the instrumental break is very musical. Very good song 6. Spirit Of The Air: one of the most beautiful tracks.. the acoustic intro that turns into electric is great. the synth sound on the loop is awesome. great vocal melodies and chorus. the break reminds me of the acoustic tracks on temple of shadows and it's charming. 7. Hollow: the most proggy song. starts with some DT-like killing riffing. the vocals on the verse do not convince me. but the chorus is well-built and the break is awesome: the strings part is one of the most attractive ones on this album 8. A Monster In Her Eyes: another power ballad.. good song but the vocals seems to be a bit out of range for edu's vocal range. 9. Weakness Of A Man: acoustic intro on this one with oriental flavours. another great song with awesome arrangements. the instrumental break is high-leveled, as usual. Very good song 10. Ashes: another awesome song. Very well arranged and full of nice melodies. Gives an impressive ending to this very good album.

I think this album is much better than the previous one, the production is good but not awesome, but the songs are all just there and they're EXPERIMENTING which is a very good way to approach music. If you find this album awful is probably because you've listened to it in a non-accurate way. It needs, like the good quality albums, 4 or 5 listens to make your interest grow more and more as you enjoy Aqua. 8/10 (just a step lower than temple or holy land, but at the same level of rebirth surely!)

Report this review (#306391)
Posted Sunday, October 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars The most resent album from these masters of heavy metal from Brazil.

This is the first album I have ever heard by Angra. But I have heard about them since their debut album and they have a good name in the scene. I am not a fan of heavy metal though so I have never bothered to check them up until this promo album arrived at my desk (yes, I know this review is loooooooooong overdue). To put it in simple terms; heavy metal is no longer my cup of tea.

Angra stated that they wanted to go back to good old classic heavy metal sound with this album. They have achieved that with Aqua. This is how heavy metal was done before Kurt Cobain and Nirvana sent this scene underground and beyond with their revolution back in 1989. Aqua is good ole heavy metal anno 1986. The sound though is very much 2010 and brilliant. It is crystal clear and beefy.

The vocalist Edu Falaschi is doing a superb job here and so is the other musicians. Angra is a highly skilled band. Their music is a kind of a love or hate as much as the mid 1980s heavy metal scene are a love/hate scene. I am not fond of the scene. Aqua is following well trodden paths and is offering nothing new. But the songs are still good and so is the overall quality of the album. I am missing some killer tracks which would had elevated this album to a much higher level and out of, in my estimations, the heavy metal quagmire. This album is nice and does not bite.

This album is highly recommended to those into heavy metal. For me........ Sorry.

3 stars

Report this review (#497039)
Posted Thursday, August 4, 2011 | Review Permalink

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